We adjust the light just so we don’t shine too bright
but let it shine
and you will find yourself
with the right people.
We adjust the light just so we don’t shine too bright
but let it shine
and you will find yourself
with the right people.
Go to a deep place and lose yourself.
Make sure that when you come back,
nothing will ever be the same again.
Recently, I did a presentation about Putin’s Russia. It was split in two parts: the first one was about the rise of Vladimir Putin, the second was about his regime. It starts with hope, it ends in tyranny. That’s how it always starts. We always wake up too late.
My main thesis was nothing extraordinary: he’s an autocratic undermining democratic values and we must recognize him for what he is, not be swayed by his increasingly popular propaganda. I made references to the monsters and heroes of the past. The monsters we willingly voted into office. The heroes who were murdered telling us the truth about who they really were.
Examples were made. How do we recognize the autocrat? When they try to undermine the free press is a good example. Soon enough they’ll start to suppress it. In the free World they call the free press ‘fake news’ and sometimes, they dare call the free press dangerous. But the government, as far as we know, doesn’t hunt them down. And if they are hunted down, they better hope no other journalist finds out.
In Putin’s Russia, journalists are hunted down and if other proves it, Putin’s regime will say that it was the ‘Anti-Russian activists’ who sacrificed this journalist to stoke anti-Russian sentiment. There is the continues fear of disorder, memories a young spy who saw the world turn against his empire.
Watch out for talks about ‘extremism.’ The humanization of groups of people is easy to spot. The Jews have always been the target, even now. But Muslims are the more popular target now. The debate about adaptation to the Western culture or the reformation are ones we should have, but the autocrat doesn’t want an honest debate. They tell us they should adapt or get the fuck out. Soon enough they will tell us that the culture simply does not fit here and that something drastic, has to be done about it.
I told people about my own journalistic ambitions, about the moving and bittersweet sacrifice of Anna Povlitkovskaya. She knew that most of her reports would be not read by the necessary majority of the Russian people. Most minds will continually be hooked on state propaganda. You can’t blame them. They grew up in a world full of loud noises and pretty lights. It takes a keen eye and per haps life experience beyond one’s borders, to see past the facade. The face is beautifully simple. All complications nullified. The enemy is clear. The mission is to protect our culture from liberal invasion. Who doesn’t want to live in a world like that? It’s comfortable, the truth ruins everything. Nobody wants to wake up and realize everything they’ve believed in is a lie. Nobody wants to wake up and realize their God was the devil all along.
I live in an imperfect, yet relatively free world. I can doubt our leaders openly. I can cast dispersions about their character, the nature of their patriotism. If I was an infamous rapper, I can go on stage and rhyme about how the government is an evil entity, bend on destroying the foundations of our culture. A large mass will follow me and think my delusions to be wisdom. This is the free world I live in. In the free world we can share our delusions without being arrested. In Putin’s Russia, a rapper like MC Noize will be hounded by the government, suffer threats, have his career derailed by government agencies. It doesn’t matter if what he says is true or not, he’s talking about the great leader. He’s talking about the idol they indoctrinate to their kids. The kids who admire Putin, like modern-day Hitler Jugend.
In Putin’s Russia, reality is a subjective thing. The pretty lights are there to confuse the people. Some are turned mad. They wander the streets seeking for gay Ukrainians with Obama T-Shirts who are seeking to destroy Russia from within. If they hear about this reporter with a big mouth about their glorious leader, they will shit on his car. Men dress like dead patriots and sing songs about the Soviet Union. Less than Twenty-years ago, Stalin was perceived as the mass-murdering lunatic he was, no suddenly, he’s become misunderstood. In Russia, if you want to tell the truth, you better be prepared to die for it.
Soon enough some guy in the classroom held up his hand. He had a notebook with him- so he could ”watch my lies”, he told me. He told me that my facts were biased, concocted by the West. He told me we couldn’t trust Human Rights watch or Amnesty International. He was confused why I would support NATO. This is a person that lives in a free world and he is basking himself in information which tells him that the Free World isn’t free at all. The democratic institution is doubted upon. Perhaps we need a bold new leader. Perhaps we need a guy like Putin.
There are heroes like Anna Politkovskaya, heard across the world, years after her untimely death. Her death on 7th October 2006 was a birthday present to his glorious leader. On this day I honor her, while her culprit still roams free. Perhaps he’s even running the country she gave her life for.
Political theatrics aside: Putin is an old monster dressed in modern clothing. He’s nothing special, old tricks but written in computer code. A reboot, a remake. The new playing field of information-warfare in a globalized world, where its adherents are addicted to tiny screens and get a jolt of dopamine whenever someone liked their comment. We are in it together but we pretend we are all alone. We have all the means of connecting with each other, yet we decide to isolate ourselves.
All Putin is a series of managed photo-shoots. A good enough photo-shoot can make you the leader of your own religion. Some are highly susceptible to the cult of personality, the nationalistic parasite. Perhaps they’ve always been waiting for that one person that tells them who to hate and who to kill. Perhaps there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for that true believer. Maybe if you give him everything, you just might reach it.
At the end of the presentation, I asked my audience: ”how do we destroy the monsters we have cultivated for so long?”
And I didn’t really have the answer. So I either made one up or stole it from someone smarter than me: ”try to remember the heroes and the monsters. Try to remember the ones who reminded us about the heroes and the monsters. Live the story of the hero.”
I knew one of them wouldn’t listen. To be honest this drives me crazy: the story seems so obvious to me. Why can’t he see it? Why can’t he see the difference between the Free world and Putin’s Russia?
I don’t have an answer to that now. Several come to mind but I want that answer that will convince him. I don’t think I can think of one. And this worries me.
A group of people were holding a huge sign that, what they believed, was an aborted fetus draped in his own gore. In truth this picture comes from pro-life propaganda sources, a fetus doesn’t like that.
There was a man and a woman standing by a rack full of Jehovah pamphlets. A sign next to it asked: ”do you want to know the truth?” They have no truth, the only truth they offer is self-delusion.
There a rally, people screaming ”Allah Ackbar”, with a picture of a noted politician who now has a Hitler-mustache. In truth, he’s nothing like Hitler, false equivocation. They should mention that his party is bankrolled by Russia.
A girl on the street is wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke and Benicio Dell Torro as Dr. Gonzo. The words: FUCK REALITY stands above this picture of these two madman looking back at us.
There’s talk about people being white but feeling black and thus they can be black. There’s talk of exotic genders. Media can’t be trusted. There’s cultural appropriation. There are men’s rights activists. Politicians are supposed to be shocking now, not insightful. Someone on the TV says something disturbing: ”there is no truth, the truth is relative.” A native Russia tells me that our system collapsed, just like them. ”So give up and give in to the New World order.”
There’s a superhero and its comforting, the clear cut distinction between right and wrong, hero and foe. It used be like this. It makes me breath and I wish I didn’t have to leave the cinema. I wish I could stay here.
There’s nowhere to hide. The bum with the dog shares the dog with other bums to elicit sympathy from passersby.
There’s music on the street and its awful.
There’s a sign that says NO EXIT.
I don’t want to go home. I want to stay right here.
Sometimes, if I really look, I can see a glimpse of myself. It never lasts.
Nobody ever wants to wake up, certainly not during a revolution.
Suddenly you’re not lonely anymore, because you have each other.
Suddenly you are not powerless anymore, because there are thousands of you and more and more keep coming.
There was a time when you could only watch while they stole from your people, imprisoned them, silenced them, even made them disappear. Sometimes you would hear a whisper of dissent and you would stifle your ears, wishing not to be infected by something that could get you killed. There was something about those who listened, their feet would take them to the street, they would chant in unison. You admired them but you wanted to live, you didn’t want to rock the boat.
I’m nobody, what can I do?
I’m nobody, please leave me alone.
You could see through their lies, even though you even tried to hide this from yourself.
The same music, the same speeches, the same faces plastered on the walls and government buildings and TV.
It’s all so obvious but they keep telling me to pretend it isn’t.
They have nothing but contempt for me, but I’m supposed to love them.
He’s only a marketing ploy for the party; a dull, heartless, selfish ghoul.
I knew it was happening then, somehow I got the bug:
Leave them alone, they deserve their voice!
Why don’t you feed the children?
Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland!
I know why you are not telling us the truth, but tell us anyway…
Everything makes so much sense when you’re fighting a revolution. It doesn’t matter what they do to stop us. The pain belongs to all of us. If I must die, I won’t be dying alone.
There’s an initial worry about what happens to this country after we tear it all down. Everyone before us seems to to have failed, so why shouldn’t why?
But such a rational voice quickly dies in the mob.
Look at your bloodied comrade, look at him smile. It’s coming true. It’s all coming true.
There’s a long way to go. You can wake up when you get there.
There’s the story about he ran from the police officer, that we will never get to know. The police officer who shot him, denied that he ran away from him. The moment he pulled him over, on a random traffic stop, the victim supposedly rambled obscenities in a threatening manner and lunched at him. ”He gave me no choice” the officer said pleadingly, ”it was either me or him.”
This story was later recanted when a dash-cam recording from his police vehicle, got leaked into the public, telling a wholly different story. The victim did ran away, but in no shape or form, was he lunching at him. The victim simply turned around, ran, and the officer shot him in the back, approximately eight times. The audio was not clear enough, only the firing of the gun could clearly be heard and the officer speaking to his dispatch ”Suspect is down, he took my tazer.” The officer then walked to the corpse, dropping his taser next to the body.
There was a national outcry, people marching on the street with signs detailing the abuse of law-enforcement, the tragic of loss of life within their communities. The signs said; ”our lives matter,” ”My humanity is not up for debate,” ”He asked for a dream, we gave him a nightmare,” ”demilitarize the police,” ”the dead cannot cry out for justice, it is the duty of the living to do so for them,” and many of the protesters mouths were taped, on which were inscribed the words: ”I can’t breath.”
The media was split. Some called the outcry justified. Many shared it. Various celebrities wore t-shirts with the words: I CAN”T BREATH. Some called the protesters terrorist. The response of the police was vindictive, repeating how they were being marginalized. A tape surfaced of the suspect shoplifting, which many saw as a clear smear on the victim’s character- despite the fact that he never had been arrested for any crime and was never known prescribe to, as police officers would call it, ”thuggish behavior”.
It was only a matter of time before things went out of hand. The anger continued the rise. The president preached serenity but to little avail. People were afraid the officer wouldn’t be tried fairly and the refusal by his department to denounce his actions only worsened the relationship between the community and the police. The protesters kept multiplying, the response became more vigilant. Any time there was no news involved, people seemed to get hurt.
The police who murdered the young man, never gave a clear indication about what happened. Referring to his lawyer all the time. The man was eventually fired and pleaded guilty after some time and would face 25 to life. Yet he never said why, refused to answer, to tell the story of his victim and why he had killed him.
Despite his sentencing, the lack of an answer on the reason of his death, prompted massive riots. People were beaten, tased, blinded by mace. One group of people screamed for justice and peaceful protests, another for revenge on their fallen brothers and sisters and another group called for order on the streets. None of this came to be.
Eventually the parents of the victim were questioned, they asked them; ”why do you think he ran?”
”I don’t know,” said the mother, ”I just don’t know.”
”There are many like them,” his father said, ”many like them and they’ll never have justice. We will never get to know their side of the story.”
The victims have stories they’ll never be able to tell. The living will make the case for them, tell the story that was forever lost.
”Maybe there’s nothing worse than that,” a protester once said during an interview, ”if you die with your story having been told, you can rest. There’s a special kind of loneliness for the souls who never were able to tell their story.”