“Putinism is perhaps the first regime in history where the official ideology is deviant behaviour,” writes Russian independent journalist Arkady Babchenko, publisher of the Iskusstvo Voiny (“Art of War”) magazine.
If you asked me to characterise the “Russian World” (Russky mir) in one word, I would not hesitate to call it infantilism. This term best describes the current state of Russian society.
Infantilism is, first and foremost, the inability to take responsibility for one’s own actions; the inability to draw causal links and to understand that such-and-such actions lead to such-and-such consequences.
It is an infantile directness in perceiving the world. The world of an infant is utterly simple:
“The Americans let the price of oil fall. The Americans organised a revolution in Ukraine. America hates Russians. Because of this, they sent us Jews and liberals. And the Jewish Rotenberg brothers stole all the money. But Putin is good.”
There is no place for any semitones or complicated intellectual constructions in this world. Its main characteristics is primitiveness.
Its cruelty is equally infantile. Usually, adults do not reach to such levels of hatred, aggression, and willingness to inflict damage, hurt, or do wrong without cause.
In the adult world, — with its families, children, and responsibilities, — such behaviour is not customary. There is a system of checks and balances. Such deeds are excesses. Only infants can fall into such a state of cruelty and change their target of hatred so suddenly.
The absolute lack of understanding of the value of life is just as infantile.
It is not acceptable for adults to inflate a frog with a straw, to decapitate a puppy, to pound residential neighbourhoods with weapons of indiscriminate destruction, or to shoot down passenger jets with surface-to-air missiles while thinking:
“What difference does it make whether it was a passenger jet or not? The birdie is down, hooray! We did warn them not to fly in our skies!”
The failure to grasp the value of life, including one’s own, is perhaps the main characteristics of an infantile person. In addition to the lack of any logical thinking.
That is a world where causal links are broken, where actions and consequences are not related in any manner, and where throwing eggs from the window and a cuff on the ear are two totally unrelated developments — just like the occupation of a part of a neighbouring country, sanctions, and the collapse of oil prices.
That was all just because “the Yankees hate everything that is Russian,” and not a due penalty for one’s idiotism.
Note that this mass infantilism is by no means a class-specific phenomenon. And that is very interesting.
Yes, if you are a hereditary alcoholic whose neural synapses have all been damaged by generations of ethanol consumption, it is obvious: You are beset by an absolutely crystallised, varnished, and generational primaeval stupidity. An adult personality simply has nowhere to grow on. This is all quite clear.
The thing is that in Russia, this infantilism has permeated the whole society, from top down, regardless of social rank, income, or caste. This is what is so astonishing about it.
Here are just some manifestations of Russian infantilism:
Throwing a cloth over a lamp in the maternity clinic and burning newly-born babies in the fire. Abandoning one’s own burnt child.
Refusing the adoption of an disabled baby to a German family just because he could theoretically end up with a gay couple.
Publishing videos about a crucified boy and believing in them. Showing support for robbing the weak.
Talking about “Eurofascism,” “Bandero-Fascism,” “Turko-Fascism,” and “Liberal Fascism.”
Killing “Banderites” because they persecute the Russian language and doing television shows about it.
Distributing election leaflets at one’s own hospital. Trampling food products and then picking up the quashed food.
Expelling Turkish students from the university. Sacking a professor for an article he wrote.
Recognising the priority of national legislation over international law and then taking Turkey to court.
Signing sycophantic odes to the authorities.
An adult person has something called “dignity.” It is an absolutely immaterial concept which does not generate any profit. A child is capable of doing demeaning things just to get some candy. The child’s personality — the basis for his/her dignity — is still lacking.
An adult, on the other hand, is an individual — a person whose consciousness has already formed a personality — and will not make an idiot of him/herself for personal gain. A strong personality ascribes higher value to this abstract notion than to material wealth.
An adult person will not trample tomatoes with a tractor and will not bulldoze geese confiscated from a village store. Because it is shameful to do so. That is yet another abstract notion that does not exist in an infantile world.
One can see why it is impossible to explain to a three-year-old child why one cannot shoot the sun with a slingshot or to explain to the rabble why it is bad to ride a tractor over tomatoes.
Yet the fact that it is equally impossible to explain to a professor, a writer, a doctor, or an engineer why one cannot take something that belongs to someone else is simply mind-boggling.
Let us say that there is an adult man standing before you. Let us say that he is an intelligent one. Yet some part of his brain has been utterly consumed by an infantilism driven to the extreme by television. The moral imperatives accepted in any normal adult society simply fail to penetrate his consciousness.
It is impossible to carry on a conversation with such a person. Impossible to discuss things. He is like a capricious child who has fallen into a state of hysteria:
“Why did you take Crimea away from Pete? It is wrong to take something that is not yours. Give it back. You have to follow the rules.”
“No! I won’t! It’s mine. My Crimea! I want it! Not gonna give it away! It’s my toy!”
That is all there is to it.
To go to war in eastern Ukraine to pay off debts is not the behaviour of an adult. To disown one’s fallen husband in exchange for money is not the behaviour of an adult.
To serve in the special forces of military intelligence, to enter the enemy rear as part of a group of saboteurs, and when caught, to bleat that I am not me, the horse is not mine, I did not know, I was set up, — is not the behaviour of an adult.
To yell, “Putin, send in the troops!”, and then be surprised at Ukraine’s use of artillery, is not the behaviour of an adult.
My god, what can one say when the Commander-in-Chief renounces his own troops, claims that “they are not there,” sends in his army to fight and die without insignia, and dispatches his aircraft without colours.
This is infantilism elevated to the level of state policy. I think there has never been anything like it in history.
The main distinctive feature of an adult person is the ability to bear responsibility. Responsibility for others, responsibility for one’s country, and — most importantly — responsibility for one’s own actions.
Even the Soviet Union taught us to do so. Even the Soviets, while suppressing any demonstration of individual personality, still taught us to be honest, not to lie, and take responsibility for our own deeds.
Putinism is perhaps the first regime in history where the official ideology is deviant behaviour.
The quintessential manifestation of this is, of course, the war in eastern Ukraine. I suppose only the war in Congo, where 11-year-old children chopped off the limbs of local residents with machetes, may compete with this war.
“We took part in a referendum and voted in the hope that Putin would take us in like he did Crimea. We voted mostly for Putin.”
This is a quote from Radio Svoboda’s interview with refugees from eastern Ukraine who were now being evicted from a hotel in the Russian city of Pskov.
I kept staring at this phrase for several days and could not find an angle to make a comment. Because the phrase, “we hoped that Putin would take us in,” from the point of view of an adult person, is devoid of any common sense at all.
It is an absolutely incoherent jumble of words that have no meaning whatsoever. What does it mean to “take in”? Do you mean that you would like to live in Russia? Then do buy a ticket and off you go! What is the problem?
Or maybe you wanted that the military forces of a neighbouring country occupied part of your country, overthrew the constitutional order and state authority, organised armed groups of bandits, and began to destroy cities with weapons of indiscriminate destruction, killing tens of thousands of people?
If so, then it is called something completely different. It is quite far from “we just wanted for Putin to take us in.”
It is collaboration, treachery, and high treason. It is participation in a terrorist organisation. It is crimes against life, against humanity, against public safety and civil order, and against the constitutional order and national security. It is terrorism.
It is planning, orchestrating, initiating, and waging a war of aggression. It is 20 years in jail, in a best-case scenario; in the worst, being liquidated with deadly force.
You are common criminals. Do you even realise this?
What you are now experiencing is happening for the very reason that you “simply took part in a referendum.” It was far from “simple.” Do you understand?
No. Not in the least. All I can see in your eyes is absolute incomprehension.
I have seen the phrase, “take us in,” many times before. What does it mean to “take us in”? To one’s arms, is that it? Children. An absolutely immature consciousness.
I can see the very same bewilderment when I watch YouTube videos of the interrogations of combatants of the “Donetsk People’s Republic.”
“Why did you come here?”
“I fell under the influence of propaganda.”
What influence of propaganda?! Are you living in the Germany of 1933? With just one newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter, and no other sources of information?
Well, we have the internet. We have Radio Echo of Moscow, RBC, Novaya Gazeta, The New Times, Dozhd TV. We have Pavel Kanygin, Timur Olevsky, Andrei Piontkovsky.
We have Alexei Navalny, for Pete’s sake. You do know who Navalny is? Do you know what he is talking about? Then what the hell, you idiot?!
This is what: There was no “influence of propaganda.” These people were the first to cry out on internet forums: “Thank God someone whacked that liberal journalist bastard!”
They have all the sources of information they need. They all know it. It is just that when they receive some piece of information, they are unable to utilise or analyse it.
They lack the ability to think logically or to draw causal links. They have a primitive view of the world: “Aunt Valya told me on television that the Banderites are bad.”
So now you can mount divisions of undeveloped personalities and send them to slaughter people in a neighbouring country.
In fact, this “aunt Valya on television” is at the root of it all. It did not begin with propaganda. Propaganda fell on a stage that was already set.
No [television propagandist] Dmitry Kiselyov with his talk of “turning America into radioactive ash” or of “incinerating the hearts of gay people” would be possible if idiotic talk shows and television series had not prepared the ground over a period of ten years.
If there was no uninterrupted “Big Brother” show on all television channels, there would be no occupation of Crimea. I am absolutely sure about this.
Do you remember the now forgotten idea of “dumbing down the population”? When 99% of all television content, including the advertising, sold just one single bestial pattern of behaviour: Moral idiocy.
When all programmes on television reduced the variety of human emotions to just two primitive reflexes: Clamour and hysteria. In other words, the very same infantilism; the very same capricious child who has fallen into an uncontrollable state.
All I can say is that we can confirm that the experiment of dumbing down a whole nation has been brought to a successful completion.
For the umpteenth time, the most dreadful weapon that Russia has are not its ballistic missiles, submarines, or nuclear arsenal. Russia’s most dreadful weapon is the “idiot box.”
I had better say nothing about online comments. If you care to read them, you realise that you can only reply to them if you begin from the very basics, from the formation of planet Earth four and a half billion years ago. Otherwise, it is impossible.
I have to admit that this round-the-clock existence in the online remedial class for people with arrested development 24 hours per day and 7 days per week has turned out to be damn difficult.
You begin to value the possibility of meeting a person who still has his brains intact very high indeed. They represent a new species in a ghetto of absolute absurdity.
An entire country of aggressive, brutal, developmentally challenged minors. A country where white trash is the hegemonic class. Make no mistake: Putin the street urchin has made it!
However, such constructions cannot last for long. They are incapable of self-organisation without external control.
How will all this end? It is quite clear how: With flunking the class and going through the course material yet again.
Life is the best teacher. It knows how to explain things. You learn the hard way. Life knows how to teach and educate each and every one of us. It puts our brains back in place.
It will pull your ears, stand you in the corner, and whip you with a belt. But it will teach you how to behave in a society of adults, and it will teach you the bounds of what is acceptable without fail.
No matter how much you cry out that “I don’t want to.” No matter if you are completely incapable of learning. You will grow up — no matter what. But it will be very painful.
* The text was published with the permission of the author as part of the project, “Journalism Without Middlemen.” The original article in Russian was first posted here.
Translated by Kerkko Paananen