Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Circles of Hate

Kirill Pankratov wrote a review of Gary Shteyngart’s book “Absurdistan” in eXile. Here are some of his thoughts about peculiarities of American hate that I fully support:

There is a strict differentiation in the American media and cultural space con-cerningz whom you can hate or despise and how. One must be very careful with anybody non-white, of course. Blacks are strictly off-limits. Asians are too, for the most part. You can't say anything truly bad about Jews (you can criticize Israel's policies as much as you'd like to, but you risk being labeled an anti-Semite). You can make fun of Germans, but they are so neutered and inoffensive these days it's like making fun of pigeons. It is pretty safe to hate and mock French. But then again, how much can you milk tired jokes about "surrender monkeys" and rude garcons in Parisian restaurants?

But it is totally permissible to hate and despise Russians. It is as if a huge sign is flashing over the media landscape: "Here you may shit as much as you want!" There is a very small number of roles that Russians can play in American popular art vicious mafia thugs and their molls, obnoxious fat apparatchiks, half-starving babushkas, raving alcoholics, pitiful girls exploited for sex trade, or the occasional brave pro-Western dissident or a spy. Any kind of "normalcy" is simply forbidden. There are a few objective reasons for that:

1) During many decades of the Cold War the West conditioned its own plebs to hate and dehumanize the "savage Russian enemy," so this line produces automatic brand-recognition and little mental resistance; there is no "Russian lobby" in the US, but many ethnic anti-Russian lobbies (e.g. Ukrainian, East-European, Jewish, Baltic) were nurtured for decades;

2) Russians are essentially white Europeans (even if alluded to as "Asiatic despotism" on a proper occasion), so hating and despising them is safe from the dreaded "racism" label;

3) Russians are not known for mobs rampaging through streets because of some prophet caricatures published in an obscure newspaper, nor they likely to issue fatwas to kill offending authors, or actually cut their throats; so it is safe in a cowardly way.

It was a real shock to meet several people who were extremely tactful and delicate when talking about evident cases of black racism but at the same time feel absolutely free to make spiteful and malicious generalizations about Russian ‘chicks’ or Russian “rudeness”. And they knew that I am Russian and that I am insulted by such remarks. Nobody knows how much hate brawls in souls of always friendly smiling PC talking people. В тихом омуте черти водятся.


Anonymous said...

1. Cry me a fucking river, why downtcha?!
2. I’m a Russian, and I’ve lived here for 17 years. And yet, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Hate Russians? Most Americans have either never met any Russians, or if they have, then only briefly and in passing.
3. Hating Russians is not racism (clearly). So what is it that you’re protesting? Generalizations? Really? Let’s be honest, majority of the Russians (more so, waY, WAY, more so than Americans) are racists. They hate pretty much anyone (which is pretty self-evident in their policies, and daily life).
4. And lastly, what exactly do you disagree with about “Russians chicks” or “Russian rudeness”? As generalizations go, these are among the more correct ones.


Anonymous said...

For those who can read in Russian- here's an interview with Anna Kurnikova in "Argument i Fakty" weekly.
For those who can't than here's my free translation of what she has mentioned in passing:

" For now and over it is still dominated in America an image of Russia as an "evil empire". Especially it is pretty much visible in their movies. Russian always is portraited as dumbasses, bloodthirsty savages and gangsters. Although the number of such a movies have been reduced but anyway they still afraid of our country. And let it be! In my opinion, fear — is one of the attributes of respect. At a subconscious level they feel, that we are strong, but cannot explain why. So that is why they hang on Russians not clear labels."

It it is obvious 'blondy' Kurny is not silly, she has brains (unlike crybaby Dmitry). She has made millions of $$ in America and she is free to express her opinion unlike the looser Dmitry who had burned all the bridges and who everyday appease and gratify himself with the only one idea that he has made a right choice 17 years ago that left for Greater America from ugly, немытая Rushka.

It's a pity but I met such a morons a lot.

P.S. Konstantin, respect!


twicker said...

Oh, Konstantin! Of course!

And, not only is everything you've said -- and Kirill said, absolutely true, but:

a) Americans are never stereotyped in Russian films. Ever. Never have been, never will be.

b) Russians are the only people in the US that it's ok to attack. There was never any Tom Clancy novel called The Sum of All Fears, it isn't still sold, it doesn't still sell well, and, oh -- the movie adaptation didn't include good Russians and bad Germans. Right. Good luck with that one.

c) Oh -- for something more up-to-date: There were no non-Russian bad guys in MI:III. No, say, bad Americans. No bad guys in China. Nope. None of that. Trust me: I, and everyone else who saw it with me in город Краснодар (that's in Россия, by the way), noticed that all the bad guys were Russians. And no bad Americans in The Omen -- definitely none that would, say, raise the Anti-Christ as their own child. Very Russian, that Italian-born, American-bred Anti-Christ. Absolutely.

d) And, in X-Men III, the American government didn't pretty much suck. Just like it doesn't at all suck in most American movies. We never stereotype ourselves, or use ourselves as the bad guys.

e) For that matter, we never use Brits as the bad guys, either. Yep: I heard all those Russian accents in V for Vendetta. And in Кода ДаВинчи. An in The Omen. Definitely no evil Brits. Or Italians.

f) And the bad guys are always white. Oh, yeah, definitely. Lots of bad whites in ATL, United 93 (they made the Saudi hijackers into Russians, right?), Lucky Number Slevin (Morgan Freeman was just ... misunderstood ... yeah ... ), etc.

g) And we Americans never beat up on ourselves, with, say, documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11, or An Inconvenient Truth, or the upcoming The Road to Guantanamo (I'm sure that one will be just incredibly positive towards Americans -- and really anti-Russians. The Russians having such a large part to play in the Guantanamo Bay horrors and all. Um, right).

h) The TV series 24 has never had any, say, Turkish terrorists. Like last season. Never.

i) Nor has it, say, had Chinese government espionage agents. Or Russian separatists. Or ...

Well, you get the point.

I'm sorry that you had crappy experiences with some Americans, Konstantin (personally, I found Russian women to be nice, and the Russian people to be nice -- not in the same way as Americans, but it's a different culture, so I wasn't expecting it to be the same). Sure, deciding that all Americans must be Russophobic makes for a nice, easy solution, and declaring that Russians are the only people we can hate does produce a tidy situation -- very Occamish, that. Too bad the world is way more complex than that, eh?

Anonymous said...

Dmitry the yankee bootlicker, guess where did I learned the words:

Micks, Spicks, Wops, Niggas, sand Niggas, Kikes, Towelheads, Jihad Joes, Wetbacks, rednecks, souvlakis, beaners..


twicker said...

Curiously, Pietari chooses to refute what Konstantin says.

In that I don't see a single of the epithets mentioned that involve, say, Russians.

Oh -- sorry: am I being factual again? Bad American -- BAD American!

Next, y'all will be accusing me of being from the Caucasus ... like the photos in the major-political-party ads that had to be banned in Moscow ...

Not that Russia has any hate crimes or anything. Or that Dmitry ever said there wasn't any racism (or ethnocentrism) in America. But, then again, you'd have to actually read and understand what Dmitry wrote to be able to get that (saying there's more in location A than location B is NOT logically the same as saying there's none in location B, any more than saying that Ana Kournikova has more $ than Dmitry is the same as saying that Dmitry doesn't have any money).

Then again, Pietari doesn't seem to be trying to argue from those pesky "facts." S/he seems much too interested in making unsupported, but apparently wishful, statements about her/his countryman (e.g., "had burned all the bridges and who everyday appease and gratify himself ... " etc.).

And, yes, we have people like Pietari -- people who hope for the worst for their countrymen, people who want to take glee in the pain and suffering of others -- in America, too. I just try not to associate with them.

Oh -- and, Konstantin, don't worry: I've met and talked to far too many friendly, pleasant, hospitable Russians to think that Pietari is representative of anything but the worst of your country.

My point is not that America is great: it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination (we have books about how broken American democracy is, too -- we're equal opportunity that way). It's just that we neither think all Russians are "dumbasses" (quite the contrary: the assumption is that education is better there), "bloodthirsty savages" (see education point, above), or "gangsters" (though the Russian Mafia, much like the Chicago Mob, the Sicilian Mafia, etc., does get a fair bit of play). I have no idea who Ana Kournikova is hanging out with, but I've never talked with anyone who had these opinions of Russians. I've known Russians who thought that all Americans were idiots (also not true). Maybe I need to hang out with other people, eh?

Then again, if they think that Russians are idiots or savages, I'd really rather *not* hang out with them. I'll leave them for Pietari to enjoy ...

-- twicker

twicker said...

I take it back -- I shouldn't say "y'all." The actions of Pietari aren't yours, Konstantin, and I shouldn't have used such a broad brush. My apologies: on occasion, when trying to defend my homeland, I can, indeed, be overly defensive and accuse those who are not actually at fault. Mi apologia. Mea culpa.

-- twicker

Anonymous said...

Aaaaa, you make laugh.
Hey, for those of you who don’t like it here, unlike in Russia, you ARE free to leave. Please, if Americans are so bad, why don’t you just leave? Go back, and work on improving your country, God knows there’s much to do there.

All you can think of is Kournikova? – Is this the best you can come up with?! Try Sergey Brin or Maxim Levchin.

P.S. Pietari, keep on learning English, you’ve got ways to go. Perhaps focus on some less offensive and more constructive concepts.


poemless said...

Wow, I tell you to come back and you are met with this barage of feedback? Sorry.

I don't think we should compare the racism experienced by African Americans to the whole Russia situation. Russia is more likely to be the subject of double standards and patronizing. And to be fair, you have to look for it. But it's there. Not so much with Russian Americans. We generally welcome those poor souls fleeing the evil grip of communism with open arms. Plus, your being here means we won.

But the average American's idea of Russians usually falls somewhere between Boris & Natasha, sexy wives for sale and helpless orphans. Mostly it is just a matter of ignorance.

It's the people who should know better: the journalists and politicians and such, who continue to treat Russia with suspicion and annoyance, who really dissappoint me...

Pietari said...

You are sick-brain, emigry. How many 'tongues' do you know? I haven't a perfect command of an 'anglicky tongue', but on the same level I know German, Swedish, Finnish. Howbout you?
And I live in Russia and my handle Pietari is St.Petersburg in Finnish.



Anonymous said...

Yep, I got me, Pietari. Poliglot ty nash.

Pietari said...

Poli-глотай свой или чей-нибудь ещё. ;) Suga av n?gon, riktig f?rlorare.


Anonymous said...

One can argue about specific instances of American bigotry as a defence against general American bigotry against Russia and Russians... one can but it is not a good arguemnt, nor does it say much for the state of American tolerance.

But the point is well made that there is a pretty clear set of 'approved hates' and these and their gradations are accurately portrayed. It is really quote strange to see, by those who might in US terms be seen as tolerant and open minded, words applied to one group that if applied to another would bring down approbrium upon the author. This aspect of American 'tolerance' is both distateful and disturbing as it tends to indicate a fair degree of hate but the target is disguised.

twicker said...

One can argue about several things, which have been argued above.

For example, one can argue that, "There is a strict differentiation in the American media and cultural space con-cerningz whom you can hate or despise and how. One must be very careful with anybody non-white, of course. Blacks are strictly off-limits. Asians are too, for the most part. You can't say anything truly bad about Jews (you can criticize Israel's policies as much as you'd like to, but you risk being labeled an anti-Semite). ... But it is totally permissible to hate and despise Russians. It is as if a huge sign is flashing over the media landscape: "Here you may shit as much as you want!" There is a very small number of roles that Russians can play in American popular art ... "

One can do that. But one would be wrong.

In both the media and in cultural space, there are individuals of a variety of backgrounds who get hated and despised. And that was my point. Now, depending on the source and how public the hating and despising is, there may be some attempt to focus the hatred and despising on a particular individual or sub-group, and not on the broader group, but that's not the same as saying anyone is somehow "strictly off-limits."

As far as "approved hates," I strongly disagree. First, I really don't see much American hate against "Russians" -- against particular individuals, sure, but not against the entire population. Maybe I run with an odd little group, but I just don't see it. The reality is that most Americans really don't care one way or another about Russians any more. To feel an emotion like "hate," you have to care -- and Americans just don't. Don't believe me? Check the news on a regular basis -- see how many stories, especially feature stories, actually deal with Russia. They're few and far between -- not because the media is trying to hide something, but because, when they look at what people are interested in (and, thus, will sell their product), they see that people just couldn't care less.

And if the argument is that Russians are acceptable bad guys, but others aren't (which is part of what the argument was), then pointing out specifics of non-Russian, non-white bad guys is perfectly reasonable as a way of addressing the topic as given.

As to the "approved hates," I'm really curious about who's doing the approving. We have major demonstrations by illegal immigrants, and plenty of people giving them support and angrily attacking anyone who hates illegal immigrants. We also have a loud faction that hates illegal immigrants, and is happy to let everyone know. So -- which set of approvals are we talking about; the illegal-supporters or the illegal-haters?

Are we talking about the people who drive around with bumper stickers attacking Christianity, or the people who scream at homosexuals that they're not Christian?

Are we talking about the people who loudly -- in books, blogs, newspaper articles, and radio and TV programs -- declare that we need to racially and ethnically profile Muslims, or the people who just as loudly declare that this is anti-American?

All these groups exist, and they're all loud. Frankly, I'm happy with the way the "hate" has to be tempered. First, it forces people to have to try to defend the potentially indefensible (e.g., there's no reason to stereotype all Russians, or all blacks, or all Jews, etc. -- trying to find a way means you *have* to open yourself to the "specific instances" that disprove the universality of the stereotypes). Second, for the hypocrites like Konstantin referred to at the end of his posting, it opens the possibility that they have to be confronted with their own hypocrisy, and can hopefully have their "hate" (or, from what Konstantin said, their apparent smugness and inflated self-worth) challenged and changed.

Yes, there's something nice about knowing, in absolute terms, where an individual stands as far as "hating" or being prejudiced; in the past, there have been plenty of articles about how some African Americans preferred the South to the North, simply because, in the South as a black person, you'd quickly *know* where you stood with another person. Example: in the South, they wouldn't give you a seat in a restaurant. In the North, they'd seat you -- and then ignore you until you left. Either way, you didn't eat -- one just took 30 minutes to an hour.

However, having a society where such prejudice is widely considered to be wrong is, IMHO, a very good thing, for the reasons alluded to earlier. It forces discussions like the immigration debate to focus on the law, and not just on the color of a person's skin. It forces people to think about what is morally right, and not just what their personal prejudices are. And it gives leverage to people like Konstantin to attack the ridiculous prejudices, prejudices like the ones his American aquaintances have.

Is it the same way it's done in Russia? Honestly, I have no idea: I never got into a deep discussion of these issues when I was there. Is it better to have a society that is tolerant of blatant prejudice, so you know what you're dealing with, or one that codifies, and enforces a code, that says blatant prejudice is wrong -- meaning you don't necessarily know where a person stands, and that person may not treat you the same as s/he does someone else, but you have no idea why? Personally, I'll go with the second option -- because, though you may not know what's happening at first, you have societal pressure you can use once you discover it. Tolerating intolerance, accepting open prejudice as a good thing -- not something I have any desire for.

So, to address the original, original points:

1) Non-whites are NOT off-limits in America (see my first post), even if the book being reviewed does suck (the two are not related).

2) Most Americans really don't care about Russians enough to hate them, and, even when they're portrayed in the media, they're not *that* different from the American portrayal of Americans.

3) Though I can understand a preference for tolerance of open bigotry, hate, and prejudice, I strongly disagree.

4) No "hates" are "approved" -- it depends on who you listen to. Last example: the writers of The Bell Curve had plenty of defenders -- in America (I, personally, think it's crap, but that didn't stop others from thinking its racist message was perfectly valid).

'nuff said.

cp said...

Films and books do include stereotypes,but they are not my source for learning about cultures.
If I wrote a crime story that happens in Southern Europe, I'd use all the stereotypes I could think of, because that's what makes my characters recognisable and gives them enough depth without my having to write whole pages of character descriptions. It doesn't mean I believe what I write or that I accept those standard images of people in my real life. If someone uses my book as a Wiki for Southern Europe, then it's not my fault.

ambarwarrior said...

This is getting hilarious! Pietri is simply showing prejudice the other way around. From my travels, I have learned that prejudice and racism exists in every country. Let's just say while I was in Asia, the Asians could not believe I was American because I was so skinny and wore fashionable clothes. They called me Russian. I also did not make fun of the food and could cook. So opposite of the American stereotype that American women cannot cook, are fat and sloppy, and overly sexual. I have shocked Russians by cooking homemade food as well. So, people are racist and ignorant everywhere. So what? An American made a vodka joke or said something offensive about Russians. Oh my goodness! Let's declare war!! So silly!!

Anonymous said...

ithate russians,i dont hate russia,or russians in general.I hate the american government that allowed russians to immigrate to american soil.russians are just looking for a better way of life,right? america is just easy folly for them,an easy system to use and take advantage of. wasnt it krushev who said we will destroy you from the inside?. well' here you are,taking american jobs,putting american money into your russian orthodox church,the church that is the personnel and privte bank that funds only russian immigrants and gives nothing to the american community it sits in.And its good to be a russian immigrant over 65,my illustrious us government will automatically give you social security that i will probally never see.thanks again to my us gov.way to go russians,you will destroy us from within afterall.

Anonymous said...

I find the conversation interesting: I am an American. I don't have any animosity toward Russians. In fact, I attend a Russian Orthodox Church. But, what I do find offensive is when people project their misunderstanding of some ideology they really know nothing about as fact.

I have many Russian friends, and many of them are as dismayed as I am about the politics of both, the United States and Russia. As far as this presumption of hatred; I agree there are a few people who hate Russians. And I am sure; there are plenty who hate Americans.

From my friendship with my Russian friends, I and they as well, find much of our basic politics are similar in what we want, what we need and what we dislike. We also usually come away from political discussions with other Russians and Americans; with an understanding of great importance. If it wasn’t for our political leaders and the politics each country finds itself in with other countries; Americans and Russians very well could be on the same side of politics, and would be able to form strong friendships with each other.

Anonymous said...

To twicker:

Listening to you, it makes the American government or those 'sub-groups' just some fluffy angels who defend their wings. Than simply proves other points made here - Russians are hated for being unique, and attempting to preserve their humanity, which some American 'subgroups' really do not understand. That's why it's easier to demonize something that the one does not know. Voodoo attitude.
For you, to realise where the hatred is broiled - go study international law and how it was acquired.

And read at least one reference about what colours American mainstream media is describing Russia: –To Russia, with hate.

Not every American hates Russia or every Russian hates America(ns) but it is an illusion with bitter taste, that Russians are loved or experience neutral attitude. Unfortunately, it goes both ways. Love, hate, or 'undecided.'

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