I was born in Leningrad (now again Saint Petersburg) in 1974 when the Soviet Union was at its peak. My hometown was built by Peter the Great back in 1703. In 1712, it became the capital of new Russia, that was being modernized by the Czar at a very fast pace. When the Communist coup d’état happened, the Bolshevik government fled from Peter (the nickname of the city) to Moscow, fearing the German invasion, in 1918. With its move, the capital has also been relocated to Moscow. Plus, due to the Bolshevik economic policy, Saint Petersburg has lost about half or so of its population that moved into the countryside or simply left the country, both for economic (lack of food) and political (the Red terror) reasons.
Ironically, during the Soviet time, it was called not the ‘Peter’s city’ but ‘Lenin’s city’. When Lenin died in January 1924, it was officially renamed Leningrad.
Thus, the biggest fall as a person and as a symbol during my lifetime was the fall of V.I. Ulyanov, aka Lenin.
…I remember back in 1979 when I was four, Lenin was something like a God. Actually, he was the God of the Communist religion, perfect and sinless. My dad was calling him ‘Grandpa Lenin’. By the way, I was growing up in a very pro-Communist family, born and bred to admire Lenin. My father was a true Communist, who was deeply sorry of the break-up of the Soviet Union and, I suspect, the fall of the Communist regime itself. I believe he thought it was the fairest one and the best thing the humankind has produced.
Lenin was the best man in the world, the founding father of Soviet regime, itself the best state model in history. At school we’ve been taught countless tales, stories and verses about the good man. He’s got all the best qualities you could only dream of: smart, kind, generous, whole-hearted, you name it. You could’ve seen his portraits and bronze or plaster busts in stores everywhere.
The Grandpa Lenin ruled this world just like Zeus ruled the Olympus.
When that world came crashing down, the Grandpa Lenin stood longer than one might think. Stalin and his regime were condemned once and for all but Lenin was like the last bastion of the Communist regime. Its bright side. He was still the good one, unlike the bad one, Stalin. The untouchable. Officially, and this was supported by Mikhail Gorbachev, Josef Stalin has actually twisted and even betrayed the true Lenin’s deal.
By 1987 it was all done for ‘Uncle Joe’ but Lenin was in good shape till 1990. Partly it was because Stalin has already been condemned in 1956 but Lenin was the shining star all the way. Gorbachev was taking endlessly about ‘Lenin’s true principles’, his importance as a theorist still in demand today, a source of inspiration to reform the country and so on. His inability to finally break with him, to admit that Stalin was just Lenin’s pupil, that the guy has become the reason for the Red terror, the Civil war and the millions of victims of famine was one of the reasons he lost power in 1991. By this time Gorbachev looked old-fashioned and completely outdated with his Lenin addiction, never condemning him, in sharp contrast with the empty shelves and food stamps, his true heritage…
To me, Grandpa Lenin was the God. Luckily for me, I left his religion as a kid so his fall from grace wasn’t a drama to me, like it was for my father.
Kiss it Goodbye…
If something has fallen, that’s past tense… It already plopped. My topic is something that is falling and we all know it but most don’t really understand what we are seeing: You can kiss a free and open Internet goodbye. And get your smooch on now because it will be gone in ten years.
While we are all know about Internet in North Korea and China, many are unaware of the numerous nations around the world working to follow suit. Indeed, it may be easier to keep track of who doesn’t want an open Internet to disappear.
For example, Articles 13 & 15 in the EU will effectively stop virtually all small content creators on YouTube from releasing any videos that contain music or images. Copyright violations have nothing to do with it.
Let me explain: Most YouTube videos get the majority of views within about 48 hours or so of release. Hit ‘em with a complaint right away and you destroy their income stream.
Now, if one of these content creators uses any music or an image created or controlled by a major corporation, YouTube and all content host will be the ones getting sued. Understand: YouTube gets sued if someone else breaks the law. Their computers will scan for things that may be copyright and remove them.
You’re making a videos about computer repair? Forget it, you’re out of business. The images of these computers will be owned by corporations. The fact that you should be exempt under fair use is immaterial. Once slapped with a complaint (filed not by people but by computers, by the millions) the income from your video will be given to the Corporation. You can appeal but remember what I said about that 48-hour thing.
The corporations want money… but they don’t provide a way to get paid in advance. Really, you cannot pay these guys even if you want to. So what will companies like YouTube do? They simply take down anything that anyone, anywhere complains about. If you’re a major corporation, you will complain about everything, everywhere. Let YouTube sort it out and wait for your check.
Is the word Microsoft registered? Oh please! Hell yeah! If I wrote a Blog and use the registered trademark in my text can it receive a take-down notice? Duah! If you host that website are you going to remove the offending Blog? Yes, why should you pay for Dean’s use of the word Microsoft. Faster and simpler to simply remove the Rusuk Blog.
Think it doesn’t affect you? Wake up! Every meme on Facebook is an image for something. Yes, you will break the law: some professional photographer somewhere took it… and sold it to Getty Images for pennies.
So-called liberal, democratic governments support this. Consider the US elections that were not interfered with — except they were. Now several governments expect private corporations to police their platforms, not only for interference but also for fake news. Do you think Mr. Trump would love the chance to define the word fake?
Russia is about to become a world leader in closing off its Internet. I’ll not even try to explain this except to say that everything (printers, computers, phones etc) on the Internet has an address. If you can wrestle control of these addresses then you can control who is on your internet. Force all servers to move inside your country and you can control who sees what in your country.
It’s not just strongmen and dictators who are interested in how this will work in Russia. Most former Soviet countries want it (all those -stan countries). India, Israel, Singapore, Ukraine, Brazil, are a few of many working to close their Internet to the outside. Their motivations vary: South Korea and Israel are interested in security, Singapore in the control of citizens.
So we see the Internet under attack from Liberal Democracies, and Totalitarian Governments; from major corporations and companies that host content. Thus the Internet is about to fall. Kiss it Goodbye…
George Best and Alex “Hurricane” Higgins
I’ve chosen two of the best sportsmen to come out of Northern Ireland. Both, in their heyday, were arguably the best ever at their sport, and both became the first real media superstars of football and snooker. Sadly, both descended into an alcoholic haze from which they never really recovered.
George Best was easily the most talented footballer of his generation. In the 1960s, his flamboyant personality, (both on and off the field), his ball control, his dribbling, his goal-scoring exploits all left millions of supporters in raptures. Remember, this was a time when the ball itself was heavy, and most pitches upon which he played resembled farmyard tracks on a rainy day! His record for Manchester United, who became the first English team to win the European Cup, speaks for itself. 179 goals in 470 appearances, including a marvellous solo effort in that European Cup win at Wembley.
But from the end of the 60s, his discipline worsened, and so began the long and bitter decline. Best was an alcoholic for most of his adult life, leading to numerous controversies and, eventually, his death.
He never really accepted that his lifestyle was unsustainable. “In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol—it was the worst 20 minutes of my life”, he once said. He eventually underwent a liver transplant at the turn of the century, using the National Health Service, but still kept drinking – Best died at the age of 59 as a result of a lung infection and multiple organ failure.
The tragedy of the end of his life was that he was despised by many of his previously adoring fans for abusing the free treatment offered by Britain’s enviable health service.
His fellow countryman was every bit as flamboyant. “Hurricane Higgins”, as he became known on the snooker circuit for his incredibly speedy way of playing, reached the pinnacle of his career in winning the World Championship for the second time in 1982. His charismatic performances saw a huge upturn in the appeal of snooker, particularly on TV.
In those days, players often smoked and drank during the matches. Higgins was a heavy smoker, and some 16 years after those wonderful exploits on the snooker table, during which he became a shadow of his former self, he had major surgery for throat cancer. Sadly, he was only able to whisper in his last few years.
And it got worse – he lost his teeth after intensive treatment for his cancer, and wasn’t able to eat anything other than liquid food. He continued to smoke and drink heavily, and died in 2010, bankrupt, weighing just 38 kilograms.
Two very sad stories of once great heroes – maybe, today’s superstars get far more help and guidance at a much earlier stage of their careers, but Best and Higgins were both pioneers, and nothing like them had come before. At least they both provided, with their sad demise, a stark warning to all top sportsmen and women of what can happen when fame, stardom and of course money, goes to your head.
And at least, thankfully, they both left a legacy of utter brilliance in their sport, which may perhaps, at a future time, eventually mask their dreadful downfalls.