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Dmitry Glukhovsky: A dog’s life

Dmitry Glukhovsky: A dog’s life
A Russian intellectual’s reflection on what is happening in his country

How can this be?!

My motherland is rapidly changing. Throughout a course of several months it has gone from a stuck in the interim period almost-market almost-democracy with ruined civic liberties but untouched personal freedoms into a horrid, angry, paranoid, rabies-infested North Korea, whose vision is constantly tinted red, with hunger, fever, and drool dripping from its fangs. Into a country where political enemies are fed to dogs. Where there are nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, but there is never enough rice to feed the scared people who have not seen anything else for half a century.

We have our own North, described by Shalamov and Solzhenitsyn, and it should be remembered, it should make us afraid; but we are being drawn to it, why?!

What are all my compatriots, no less than 87 percent of them, are so enthralled by?

I ask myself why the Russians are so happily willing to refuse freedom? Why do they fervently applaud while being banned from gathering in more than groups of three and when they are going to be jailed for five real human years for reposting critical posts on social networks? When they implement passport access to the Internet? Why are they tearfully glad when they senselessly attach Crimea to us, even though only half a year ago nobody ever wanted Crimea in the first place? Why do they so childishly trust the most untalented, crude, basic untruths from TV, as if the late USSR never taught them not to believe state lies? Why are they ready to fight to the death for the pocket banks of the President’s friends? Why do they celebrate the fact that the President prohibits us from eating as revenge to his enemies? Why do they want a fight with the West so much, where did such hatred towards it come from, where did such mistrust and such a desire for revenge come from? What are we supposed to avenge? And why are we ready, for the sake of this revenge, to rescind our freedom to say what we want and travel abroad, and simple food, and coins that just started clanking in our pockets?

When I talk with my neighbors, my friends from school, with fellow train and plane passengers, with grannies at the front door, I ask them: have you gone bonkers? I understand very well why this group of people in power needed this New Cold War: to remain in power even further. But why are the people whose life in impending North Korea will be hungry and unfree are striving to go there so much, why is the icy and gloomy world beyond the barbwire fence calling out to them?

I talk to me neighbors, grannies, policemen, businessmen, finance experts, patriotic writers, propaganda activists from TV and I understand that I am an idiot. It seemed to me, the idiot, that my beloved country will profit should the state take the collar off the people. If everyone is entrusted with their own fate. If they allow the people to live, create, provide for themselves and their close ones, and, by building their lives as well as they can, to build a new state as well, a free country that cares for its citizens, because it consists of them – and a powerful one.

And I understand that the people had it bad in market democracy. The people were bored without some sense that would be a million times greater than the sense of life in their short sofa-garden existences. The people were scared of making their own decisions in the bubbling world of consumer capitalism. The people were seeking a Chieftain, in the primal sense, and in the aboriginal one, and in the communist one, because they could not find their own path. Finally, the people needed an enemy, because it is as difficult and complicated to live without an enemy and a Chieftain, as without a sense of life. Because our democracy, though made in Vietnam, and our freedom, though coincidental, desperate, like that of a stray dog that broke from its chain, and our market economy, though it came from the rotten Cherkisovsky market – they were still huge, scary and empty for the people, like space.

We ran around the tundra, and returned to our yurt by sundown and sat down at the entrance. We had nothing to do with this freedom. We did not ask for it: the rope simply wore out. But since we were running around, we are ready to accept the whip and look guiltily into our master’s strict eyes, and accept the whip’s hit and fall on our back and turn our bellies for him to show mercy, to pity us as a master would. Because we know we deserve it. He will beat us and then forgive us and everything will be as before. We missed our master when we ran around the tundra senselessly, we missed his benevolent hand and his whip, between which the narrow and comprehensive world of our options lies. We want a master, and we want a leader, and a common chariot, and for the wind to howl in our ears, and over the tops of our heads, and to rip wolves to pieces, and to fight for frozen fish, and to have a warm friend’s side next to us and to run without stopping towards the icy sunset.

I thought we were people. It turned out we were huskies.


[hr]Source: Snob, translated by Mariya Shcherbinina, edited by Alya Shandra

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