Sunday, May 4, 2014

National character -- American and Russian

During this sad period in Russian-American relations, I cannot help but speculate on the "national character" of our two countries.

Of course, "national character" is an antiquated term, dismissed (if not despised) by "objective" social scientists without a sense of humor (dare I say subtlety?).

So I am stepping into dangerous academic waters.

But, as some Italians say, "Chi se ne frega?"

But allow my non-linear mind to wander, based on my down-to-earth experience living in these two countries for many years, in the case of Russia, perhaps too many years ago (1973-74; 1998-2001).

The USA and Russian Federation are both multi-ethnic geographical expressions shaped by their location on the extremities of the space on the globe known as "Europe," some pedants would generalize.

Well, common sense does suggest that Russia and the United States have significantly similar -- how about different? -- mentalities. Or should I say phobias?

OK: A few generalizations, including similarities and differences:

--The worst thing Russians can endure is being "insulted" by other countries. Americans, mostly unaware that other countries (including Russia) actually exist (but watch out for 'em Mexicans, wherever they're from south of the border), don't care that much about being "disrespected" by the "global community."  For them, the outside world, being the Atlantic and the Pacific, simply does not exist, except as H2O.

--Both "average" Russians and "average" Americans want to be considered "all" -- all-Russian, all-American. Of course the "intelligentsia" in both countries finds this dreadfully "lower class."

--Proletariat-designed Russians still care about a good homemade meal, but "working class" Americans just want fast-food cheap crap at 7-11. Well, at least until McDonald invaded Russia, way before Russia aspired to take over Ukraine.


I've run out of stupid, simplistic comparisons. Maybe in the Putin-era Russia and America are totally different worlds. Or maybe not.

Viva globalization?

Bring in the social scientists!

But, at the risk of being serious, now that what we Americans and Russians can no longer pretend to "running the global show" as we thought/pretended in the Cold War, don't we better grow up, as we should have done all along?

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