Not a lot at this time.
Once it was, at best, united, extremely tolerant and very well-mannered. Except now, Britain is broken, completely divided, and an extremely angry place. As I write this missive, the Conservative party is in complete disarray, has just lost its leader, who in truth was totally useless, but nothing in comparison with the mostly untalented bunch of toffs who are trying to replace her. (That’s a complement, by the way – the bunch of toffs are actually far far worse than that…)
To compound this misery, the main opposition party, Labour, is equally ineffective, led by an IRA -sympathising layabout who has achieved absolutely nothing when faced with the weakest Tory party in living memory.
So what will happen in the Euro elections and subsequent British elections? Probably the same thing that happened to America in 2016 and in Britain the same year, and in most of mainland Europe in recent years. A protest vote that will enhance bigots like the fundamentally flawed Nigel Farage, and the populist Brexit party, which doesn’t even have a manifesto. But people won’t care about that. Let’s upset the applecart, and let the two main parties know what we think of them. Even vote far-left or far-right; it doesn’t matter which – and bugger the consequences.
So it’s hard to think well of my country of birth at this time – the fact that I haven’t lived there since 1981 says a lot methinks. We are the laughing stock of much of the world at this time, and most of it is well-deserved derision.
But hang on just a moment – let’s look at the much bigger picture.
I was born, historically speaking, very soon after WW2. If it were not for the British bulldog spirit, and of course, the help of several allies, I could easily have been brought up in a Nazi -occupied country. But I have known only peace. I was raised in a country with superb values, had a really good education that was free, and was allowed to work unhindered, using whatever talents I could muster to make a decent living. How privileged. Even in retirement, I can live a life of which most of the people on this planet can only dream.
My parents, persecuted by the Nazis, came to Britain as refugees, and were welcomed, and given the chance to make a new start; to make a new home in which to bring up a new family. My family. What a nation! And part of a continent whose countries were previously at loggerheads with each other over centuries, who now formed a union of countries to make sure that would never happen again.
Maybe that is why I am so bitter at this time; so pissed off with the state of British politics were some of the its people back in 2016, they voted, albeit by a tiny majority, to leave that union and the economic and other protections it provided. Yes of course that union was corrupt in places and wasting money galore – just like FIFA, EUFA and most other large bodies. So what?
Just look at my country now. Broken, completely. Instead of Europe being at loggerheads, it’s the British people who are at war with each other. And the only people that can fix it are either so wrapped up in their little public-school bubble, or completely unable to take control and steer the country to where it should be, that we only have complete gibbering idiots to try and extract Britain from the abyss.
On the crossroads…
For centuries, since Peter the Great times, Russia has been trying to solve the Main question: are we East or West?
This fundamental thing tears the country apart to this day. We’re living in a strange brew: our envy to the West’s achievements is mixed with our sense of ‘spiritual superiority’, which is claimed by the authorities and shared by many of my compatriots. For God knows what reason.
I am proud to be Russian but it is painful to see what’s going on right now: a group of people, initially coming from the KGB, has grabbed the power in the country, controlling the media and, of course, all the main financial and natural resources. Some say it is called junta. I would agree. Looks like a Third World story for a country of Anton Chekhov, Yuri Gagarin and Maya Plisetskaya… what a shame…
Moreover, some of those in power call themselves the ‘new nobility’, just like in feudal Russia. It is very funny but these people truly believe in it. They think they have a mission to save Russia… To save from whom? And, if you’re busy saving Russia from enemies whatever they might be, how did it happen that you’ve become in control of the country’s resources? As reward for your bold and relentless efforts? What a fancy job, to be a self-proclaimed and, of course, highly-paid patriot.
The worst is that anybody who does not agree with them is immediately marked as ‘traitor’. Today, being against the current regime in Russia has become like being against the country itself. This is BS but so many of my compatriots, even young folks, which is sad, believe this. They don’t understand how you may not support the current president and still love your country. Ok, no problem, I can wait: taking into account Russia’s 20th century’s history, full of blood and tears, I know it could have been far worse…
I believe, in an ideal world, we’re something like Japan: not being precisely the West but keeping our own values in a good harmony with the Western values. I don’t see any contradiction here: being unique and accepting the progressive, universal ideology. After all, each country is unique. And, though we’ve, unfortunately, gotten lots of Mongol-Tartar heritage, I still don’t see my country being friends with China or Iran as opposed to the West, historically, alien civilizations.
To me the real question is: are we choosing to go up, into the First World, or down, into the Third World? Are we going to be a ‘normal’ country, after all, or, again, will we continue to slide into some ‘unique’ crap, like the Soviet Union used to be? Remember, before 1917 Russia was a part of the Western civilization, a bit of the sideshow, but still…
In the early 1990s we’ve seemed to decide to go up. Then, in early 2000s when the junta came to power, we’ve decided to go archaic, with some nice stuff attached such as the leader being the symbol of the state, the priority of the state over the society and the mighty (and totally corrupt, just like the state itself) Orthodox church, as another pillar of this newfound prosperity.
Now the oil prosperity, the junta’s biggest achievement, has turned into the long-lasting economic depression and rising social unrest.
The junta, too, has no obvious solution for it, as otherwise any economic and political freedoms would eventually end up pretty scary for them, just like for any junta: I’m talking about real jail terms. They keep things frozen and this is no game: they wish to keep power in Russia till they die, as they hope, from natural reasons.
The country is still at the crossroads. And I’m not sure that we’re not sticking with another ‘greatness’ and another duce, following the present one.
Still, I dream of the ‘beautiful Russia of tomorrow’, as Alexey Navalny, the opposition leader, puts it.
We the People…
First, let me be clear, I do love America and consider myself quite loyal to my country. That may be a surprise to regular readers of these pages.
I regularly bash Trump – with cause. It’s disconcerting, how people can claim to love the country, then embrace division and hate. None confuse me more than Christian Evangelicals. Really. The guy who screws porn stars is your champion? Whatever… By the way, there is this man named Jesus, you should check him out sometime.
Sometimes I truly have mixed emotions about my country: the ideas laid fourth in the founding documents are nothing short of brilliant. A line from our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Great stuff and I believe every word of it. Jefferson was a genius! Except…
The truth is it was born a dream and remains one. We are not equal and the current ruling junta wants to ensure we never are.
However, we are certainly closer to the ideals of equality than most. Example: three weeks ago, here in my new adopted home of North Cyprus, a Court ruled that home owners could not meet to discuss forming a Home Owners Association in our complex. You read that correctly: peaceful people wanting to form a legally recognized group are not allowed to meet by force of law.
Why you ask? Because there was a complaint filed by a millionaire. The man who currently has the maintenance contract doesn’t have to compete for the business. As you would guess, we pay over double what other complexes pay.
So the courts say we have no right of assembly. One of the reasons listed by the Solicitor was that if home owners form a Home Owners Association it would cost the millionaire, Ali Safa, money. Apparently that’s a legal argument here and was accepted.
Court decisions like that would make one appreciate having the Right of Assembly baked into the founding documents (Bill of Rights). There are a number of other cool rights in the document too. In fact, the thing is so utterly dazzling that Vietnam has the exact same Constitution, word for word. And a number of countries have our flag, slightly changed.
However, we have messed-up too. Over the last thirty or forty years we have developed the bad habit of going to war, but not. No declaration of war, no votes in Congress, nothing. Just go blow stuff up. Oh, and put it on the kids Master Card. When we get away from the power of Jefferson’s writings and lean on guns and money, we inevitably fail.
And that Jefferson boy could shape a phrase as well as Shakespeare. Think I’m joking? Whenever I’m in Moscow, my blue Passport gets passed around the room, without fail. And they read those words: “in order to form a more perfect union…” Oh how we strive for these ideas; and how we often fail.
In the end, I firmly believe the good we have done far outweighs the bad. At several points in our history, we have done some really bad stuff too. But, unlike citizens of most countries, I can say that without fear.