Monday, May 2, 2016

Teeter on Obama, U.S./Russia

JB Note: In my modest opinion, Mark Teeter is one of the best observers of Russia today. Unlike many USA commentators about this complex country, he actually lives there and speaks the language professionally (and I'm not talking about Americans saying "do svidaniya" after a polite "public diplomacy" meeting between citizens of the two countries). Here's a recent of his many elucidating Facebook entries:
4 hrs ·
'OBAMA OUT': Who Will Miss Him & Who Won't
-- My generation of U.S. Russianists has seen an odd convergence around this man: while a considerable segment of our own population (the Whacko-Americans) has spent 8 yrs conjuring pretexts for loathing their president, an even larger segment of the Russian population, unbeknownst to the W-A’s, has concluded that they are right, but there's more to it: Obama is not merely the Great Satan, he specifically has it in for *them.*
If you’ve been watching the Russian and American bodies politic react to each other’s principals for a half-century, you find yourself at a loss: there’s nothing with which you can compare these parallel states of unconnected, widespread and rabid antipathy for one leader of the two entities. Their only common element is racism – as publicly unacknowledged in one polity as it is taken for granted in the other – yet somehow the notion that two otherwise dissimilar groups of white people *can* jump to the same nutbar conclusions seems too easy. Or too frightening.
The convergence will diverge, in any case, and relatively soon. On the US side, something like two or three years from now – when, for one thing, the numbers comparing 2008 and 2016 will have settled into the public consciousness (to the extent that they can) – BHO will be taken by most Americans, W- and otherwise, for what he is: the final third of a triad (w/ FDR and LBJ) that reconfigured the country’s social landscape sufficiently so that while not everybody reveled in happiness (by a fur piece), enough of the majority perceived enough of a chance for its pursuit that they were willing to suspend disbelief and give it a shot. This state of relative equilibrium between great expectations and the American Dream is what passes for civil society in our tradition. And it’s pretty good.
Russians, for their part, will have no such reason to look back and Get It. There is no conceivable way – conceivable to my cadre of Russianists, anyway – by which the Russian public at large can uproot the image, expertly media-sown in already fertile soil, of Barack as all-purpose, all-powerful Boogie Man. Not simply because this POTUS cannot shed his skin, but to a greater extent because the desperate need for such a monster-cum-scapegoat will continue, indeed deepen, over the time period in question.
This country’s crude but long-profitable fossil-fuel/strip-mining economy is atrophying, and cannot get better before it gets worse. No one here wants to – or is going to – admit that the failure to diversify it, to open the country to domestic and global investment/development insured by a rule-of-law judiciary, is their fault. It’s someone else’s fault; with the exception of a very few segments in time, it has been for a thousand years. The fact that this particular Someone Else did not actually have it in for you – or indeed do a great deal of thinking about you one way or another before you promoted him to Prince of Darkness – will prove neither easily demonstrable here nor, in fact, worth trying to demonstrate: no one else, in the end, will care very much what the Russian vox populi will be voxing.
This is particularly saddening, of course, to American Russianists who have spent their adult lifetimes assuming two things: the intrinsic value of studying, learning from and spreading the culture that has grown out of successive societies here; and second, more naively, that the greatest and most unnatural impediment to doing our job, to sharing this culture with our own and others – the edifice erected around it after the disaster of 1917 – had been suddenly and irrevocably removed in 1991.
It hadn’t. An American president elected less than two decades later, one whose parents had actually met while taking Russian 101 in college, could become the locus of evil in the world for a generation of Whacko-Russians who, in remarkably short order, could no longer imagine otherwise.
The socio-psychological landscape of Russia had become so alternately Dugin-ized, Surkov-ized and Putin-ized that a great people could perceive neither the fatal weaknesses of the anti-culture that was defining its terrain nor, any longer, the traditional strengths that might save them from it.

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