Tuesday, March 19, 2019

‘Russian Officials Consider Themselves to be Gods and the People Bugs,’ Shcheglov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 19 – Lev Shcheglov, a sexologist who is rapidly assuming a role as a social commentator like the one Igor Kon occupied at the end of Soviet times, that the scales are falling from the eyes of Russians and that they now can see that “Russian officials consider themselves to be gods while they view the rest of the population as little more than bugs.”

            In an interview with the Znak news agency, he says that it is wrong to use the term “elite” to describe the situation at the top of the Russian pyramid.  They may be the rulers of Russia, but they are in no way a genuine elite of the most talented people (nak.com/2019-03-18/seksolog_lev_cheglov_o_psihiatricheskom_portrete_elity_i_naroda_rossii).

            The several dozen people at the very top are “completely unconcerned about the future of the country. They are typically short timers.  They have an insane amount of money, and each has property abroad.”  As a result, they have no reason to think about the best interests of the Russian people or its future. 
            Such people, Shcheglov says, are concerned about only two things: keeping their power and then monetarizing it. When the economy was expanding, they sought to get more money; now that it isn’t, he suggests, they simply engage in intrigues intended to get money from others who have it and put it in their own pockets.

            The whole system is based on negative selection with “unprofessionalism the most important characteristic for an official [because] it allows him to fit into the structure of power.” There are more bureaucrats than ever before, and their incomes have risen, at the expense of the people.

            Because of this, “any individual who is attached to the powers that be feels himself to be special,” and “beginning from the very lowest level … these officials consider themselves to be divinities and to view ordinary people as microbes.”  Such an attitude is so widespread as to be openly acknowledged.

            Under the current system, the fewer commitments an individual has to honor, conscience, reputation and so on, “the greater will be his chances for career success.” And as a result, those who steal something from a store will be punished as shoplifters but those who steal from the country will be rewarded.

            While it is true that this reflects the principle that “existence defines consciousness,” he says, in this case “consciousness in passing form one generation to another has gradually formed a reverse influence: consciousness is beginning to define existence,” Shcheglov argues.

            “Beginning with the Horde and the victory of Muscovy over democratic Novgorod the Great, cruelty, justice, servility, and lies have been passed down by inheritance.” Modern Russian history, especially in Soviet times, has only exacerbated this process, the sexologist and social commentator says.

            Muscovy’s victory over Novgorod thus froze the development of society and kept it at the patriarchal level.  And that quality continues to dominate Russians. Some younger Russians were detached from this during the 1990s, but at the same time, Shcheglov says, some older Russians held on to it all the tighter in the face of change.

               If Russians are to avoid seeking yet another “’father of the nation’” after Putin passes from the scene, the social analyst says, there will need to be very deep transformations “as in the time of perestroika; and they will have to be kept up rather than undermined by a declining standard of living, the growth of banditry and a declining interest in freedom.

            What must Russians do today? Shcheglov recommends three steps: the introduction of serious term limits, the creation of an independent judiciary, and the bringing to justice of the most obvious thieves whatever their nominal position.  Moreover, parents must assume responsibility for raising their children in a non-paternalistic way.

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