Hey, let’s do some research of the enigmatic Russian soul. What is so quintessentially Russian that we can talk about?
Vodka? Yep, to some degree. But many people in the world love drinking vodka. And the Polish would argue that it is Poland where it was invented. The Swedes would have a word or two on this issue, too. See, I’m not going to write the vodka blog. Plus, I personally don’t really like it. Any single malt would be my #1 choice in this case.
But let’s get deeper.
Take a look at the world map. If you’re not blind you would notice this big and long spot on its right upper corner. This is Russia, the vast land with unbelievable nine time zones. We’re incredibly big – and the Mercator projection helps Russia to look even bigger. Actually, bigger than Africa. In fact, Africa is much bigger but looking at most of the world maps you wouldn’t say so.
For centuries we’ve been enlarging Mother Russia’s limits, pushing back the surrounding peoples: the Tatars in the south, the Polish, and other Slavic or Baltic nations in the West; the Bulgars in the East; the natives of the Caucasus and the various ancient peoples of Middle Asia; the natives of the vast land beyond the Ural Mountains of Siberia, all the way to the Pacific Ocean and even further, to Alaska…
Yes, we’ve always been the landlocked nation, surrounded by more or less aggressive peoples. Plus, it is all about agriculture: more land meant more food. Land or soil has always been a precious asset.
Enlarging the Motherland, expanding the boundaries has become a sacred thing for any Russian ruler. The mission. You could be very cruel as a ruler, like Ivan the Terrible or Stalin, but it was OK as long as Russia was getting bigger and bigger. This would be the ruler’s most important KPI. This is one of the reasons why so many Russians greeted the Crimean comeback in 2014. Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin gave us a chance to become a normal country but… Russia is coming back to its ancient ways.
It is very deep inside. It is the most valuable resource. It is something that… it is Quintessentially Russian.
Expanding the country’s territory.
When my dear mother-in-law went into labour with her first child, (Mrs B) back in 1952, my late, great, father-in-law was up to the task. With unflinching responsibility, and total control of the situation unfolding before his very eyes, he announced, quite calmly and with great assurance: “Let’s have a cup of tea!” Sod all this rushing to hospital in an ambulance malarkey, let’s do what the British do best – make a cup of tea.
And there you have it. Tea. With milk, of course. It stops a multitude of sins. If you are waiting for somebody, or something to happen, have a cup of tea. It takes time to prepare and helps the waiting process.
Like father-in-law, if there’s a crisis, a cup of tea, well, it just makes things seem a little less frantic, a little less stressful.
I have at least three cups every morning. However much alcohol I drink in the evening, I always conclude proceedings with a cup of tea. There are even times, though my friends and acquaintances won’t believe me, when a cup of tea is better than a glass of wine. Occasionally.
Mrs B and I never travel anywhere without a kettle, tea-bags, two big mugs and long-life milk. So wherever in the world we are, even in far-flung places where tea is not the norm, we can always have our precious cuppa.
Why are we Brits so fond of tea? Historically, tea became more popular than chocolate, coffee and alcohol at the time when the British East India Company had its monopoly over the tea industry in England. It was seen as inherently British and of course the government of the day promoted tea drinking as it gorged in the huge revenue earned from the taxes on tea.
But why add milk? Apparently, three or four hundred years ago, tea was served in delicate china cups, that would crack from the heat of the tea. Milk cooled it down, and also reduced somewhat the bitterness of the tea, and the staining in china cups.
There’s weak tea, which is very strange, and builder’s tea, traditionally very strong, just as nature intended. My big brother pours boiling water onto his tea, and then sets his kitchen timer to exactly four minutes. Woe betide anyone who gets the timing wrong.
So there we have it – although tea is grown many kilometres away from Britain, it’s us Brits who know how to drink it properly. And in great doses. Long live the cuppa! I’m just off to make another one.
Incidentally, I’ve just worked out that during my lifetime, I have probably consumed some 100,000 cups of tea. That makes me a fantastically sophisticated bit of machinery for turning tea into urine. Yes, a quintessentially British chap.
I guess this week people with Passports covered in Eagles are allowed to only speak on one subject: Presidential Politics. I don’t plan to lower myself into that cesspool (again) but there is a related subject that is worth a visit.
As you know, the United States is the oldest democracy in the world. History books are all the same; they speak of Great Men contemplating grand ideas in a deliberative process. Bullshit.
The truth is these guys were down at the bar getting pissed, in both the UK and US definition of the word. They were in fact, making it up as they went along. The only model they had was from Greece… 2000 years ago. I have no idea how much was actually known from that period but I guess it would have been a small percentage of our current knowledge.
So they were living in a world ruled exclusively by Despots and Kings and they wanted to invent democracy. Not because they wanted democracy, but because they knew they would swing from a rope if they failed to get the population behind them.
OK, I may be overstating my case a little. They were idealistic men who wanted something better. But they were certainly aware that 1777 was called the “Year of The Hangman” and THEY were the ones who were going to swing. To paraphrase Mr. Franklin: We must hang together or we will surly hang apart.
So here sit confirmed members of the one percent; they must do something or they will die. So a plan was hatched: It’s not a Democracy, it’s a Republic and we will not have direct elections. The idea was brilliant, actually.
You get to vote for a President, but not really. You are voting for Electors (representatives) to something called an Electoral College and they would elect the President. As always, the one percent feared what these men called “mob rule” and they wanted to make sure they could always rig a vote that turned out in a way of which they didn’t approve. They needn’t have worried, the mob always elected qualified one percenters (Gentry).
So here we are, reading on our computers almost two-hundred fifty years later, still saddled with a system designed for a world run by dictators. The result is what you would expect; during the current period about every third or fourth President gets into office after having lost the election. Unfortunately, all the losses that resulted in wins have come from the same Party.
The predictable result is that this party is now against the US becoming a democracy. The idea is so important that a friend, Jeff, once told me that if we did away with the Electoral College, there would be armed insurrection. The US is a Republic, not a Democracy.
This is a quirk, quintessentially American among Western powers, that is one of the drivers in the hyper-partisan politics killing America: Minority rule.