- Все равно (It’s all the same to me.)
- Меня это не интересно (It doesn’t interest me)
- Меня это не касается (It doesn’t concern me)
- Меня это не волнует (It doesn’t concern me)
- Без разницы (There’s no difference)
- Мне без различно (For me there’s no difference)
- А мне какое дело? (What is there for me to do?)
- А мне-то что (What am I to do?)
- Мне все до лампочки (I couldn’t care less)
- Ну и что (So what?)
Yesterday my Russian language class began a chapter on how to talk politics. On my list of political vocabulary phrases, a little more than a quarter of them meant “It’s not my problem”. This list reflects the level of political apathy that is, has, and will continue to destroy Russian society.
It’s been said that “with freedom comes responsibility”, but Russians have never really had freedom, and have never successfully made an effort to control their own fates. In the words of historian Kluchevsky, “for this national apathy, for the thoughtless silence of the whole land, the country is punished”.1
Only in the educated strata of Russia society do you meet anti-Putin democracy-loving people. The other 99% of the country is happy with the current government, political assassinations, censorship, mock elections, mafia rule and corruption, all of which is common knowledge.
I’ve asked many people: “if everyone knows that what is happening is wrong, then why don’t you all do something about it?” The answer:
- “It is not so bad”.
- Stalin is good. Putin is good. It is the foreigners who are poisoning our country.
- “What am I to do?” [or another among the above list of apathetic answers]
- “As long as I can put food on the table, and subsist on meager week-to-week wages, I am content.”
This is the response of a thousand years of serfdom. Up until the 20th century, Russians have been ruled by divine monarchs and believed fully in their Tsar as “the fixed point, the sun, the source of all beneficence and light”.2 The peasants believed that their bad lot was the result of the evil boyars coming between the common people and the Tsar—with this myth, the Tsars were able to keep the respect of the people and use the boyars as their scapegoats.
Combine this belief in the Tsar with the deep-rooted, Russian-Orthodox inspired Jesus-complex, and there you have 900 years of complacency and slavery (with occasional exceptions, all of which were brutally crushed by royal armies).
Thus, it no surprise that when, at the turn of the 20th century—at long last—the myth of the divine Tsar was dispelled and communism came into full swing, Russians did the only thing they knew how to do, which is the only thing they have ever known: they installed an Almighty totalitarian patriarch, who once again quickly ascended to the point of divinity.
That’s the whole difficulty with freedom: to have freedom is also to have the freedom to self-impose slavery. This is why the Declaration of Independence stipulates that “when a long train of abuses and usurpations…evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Most Russians don’t feel a duty toward their country or their fellow man. They are unwilling to accept the responsibility necessary for freedom and have chosen time and time again the familiar bonds of slavery to the unfamiliar duties of freedom. And sadly, when, by chance, the sort of leadership that can galvanize the people pokes its head out of its hole, the hammer of the mafia-government is ever smashing it back into oblivion like some tragic game of whack-a-mole.
News headlines note the assassination. Nobody cares:
“А мне-то что? (What am I to do?)” the citizen asks, “Выбирать тут не из чего; Хрен редьки не слаще (There is small choice in rotten apples)”.
There is a reason that the Russian word for “ballot box” [“урна” (“urna”)] also means “trash can”.
Каждый народ имеет то правительство, которого заслуживает.
You get the government you deserve.
1 Vasili Klyuchevsky, The Rise of the Romanovs, translated by Lilian Archibald (London, 1960) p.87.
2 Edward Crankshae, The Shadow of the Winter Palace: Russia’s Drift to Revolution 1825-1917, (New York: Viking Press, 1976) p.18.