Article / I ponder the reasons behind the absurdity of Russian societal behavior.
As individuals, there is a lot we have to come to terms with about our own behavior. All too often we catch ourselves performing acts of self-destruction (binge drinking, reckless driving, promiscuous sex . . .), inexplicably falling into seemingly inescapable dark periods, unwittingly hurting our loved ones, and browsing the Internet instead of working. The list of things we wish we didn’t do or think, but find ourselves doing or thinking, is endless, and it is not uncommon for us to feel that life has slipped completely beyond our control.
Certain societies, in fact, seem to base their collective philosophies on this notion. Take my birthplace, Mother Russia, for instance, a culture so steeped in superstition and so in tune with the potential consequences of slight atmospheric shifts (weather patterns, lunar cycles, solar storms) that there is always a host of external factors deemed responsible for our emotional mindset, our physical health, and even the root of our greater fortunes and misfortunes.
We Russians are keenly aware of how a rapid temperature switch might affect our blood pressure, how a thunderstorm can trigger our arthritis, how a solar eruption might disturb our emotional well-being. And for those things that cannot be attributed to these tangible changes in our universe, we have all sorts of superstitious explanations. Basically, we hold ourselves hostage to a variety of obsessive-compulsive acts: every time we think we might be tempting fate, we look over our right shoulder and spit three times (akin to knocking on wood but practiced much more prevalently); if we happen to notice that our shirt is inside-out, we automatically rip it off and stomp on it (failure to do this, it is believed, will result in someone harming you physically); and, if we we forget something and return to the house to get it, we have to look in the mirror before we leave again (I don’t even remember what happens if you don’t do this, but I do it every time). These are just a few examples out of thousands, but they demonstrate a societal tendency to treat life as if it were happening to us, rather than something in which we have active agency—a trait that has resulted in a literature that thrives on suffering and a political culture of manipulative and unaccountable leaders.
Read the article in Construction.