I just finished reading Midnight in Siberia: a Train Journey into the Heart of Russia by NPR’s David Greene.
I read it because I’m very curious about Russia and plan to take the Trans-Siberian Express, St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, next summer. Turns out it was a good choice for a read that concluded on election night.
Greene talks about the longing for the good old days of the USSR. Not by everyone but by what seems to be a substantial percentage of Russian citizens. And why, even though the general public doesn’t appear to be that fond of Putin, they continue to support him.
It’s all about the complications of change. Russia tried that briefly with Yeltsin; the economy tanked and no one knew quite what to do with all those complicated choices and their uncertain results. Meanwhile Putin is limiting choices and passing out the simple answers. Which seem to boil down to ‘shut up and do what I say.’ He’s the strong man on the white horse—bare-chested and with a big gun to boot.
It is complicated, isn’t it? All over the world. It’s why so many countries are veering right. The far right and the far left always have the simple answers. But as one tilts to either direction from the middle—it seems to me—in the US at least—the answers get increasingly simplified as one moves right and ever more complicated as one moves left.
I believe everything is extremely complicated. Can you honestly give me a simple solution to the problems of climate change, radical Islam versus the rest of the world, fanatical Christianity versus the rest of the world, immigration, poverty, disease, xenophobia…?
But a bunch of (mostly) white people, many with big guns, none bare-chested so far though, have put out a lot of the ‘shut up and listen to my simplistic answer’ verbiage. A whole bunch of them won yesterday.
Hey, we’re all a lot or a little bit scared. And in a world that values education less and less we desperately need simple answers. I am a Democrat because we believe more strongly in the value of education and can deal with a little more complexity. And I’m not that crazy about Putin. And I’m pretty sure the good old days aren’t coming back.