Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

On Sovokery.

by poemless Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 03:03:45 PM EST

"What's in a name? That which we call a dustpan by any other name would smell as bad."

"You really must write that sovok diary. It's so true. And all the signposts are there, complete with the Brezhnevian corruption and mediocrity..."

--redstar.


Promoted by Migeru


This comment was a response to my remark that I had been planning to write a diary entitled, "America: We Are All Sovoks Now."  But then I didn't write it.  And while I was busy not writing it, Matt Taibbi did.   At first I was shivering with ire at the great injustice which had been committed.  How dare he steal my own personal thoughts right out of my head (probably while I was asleep, like a cat steals your breath, because, you'd think I'd notice him if he attempted such a violation while I was awake...) and publish them as though they were his own!  The nerve!  Then I realized that such an explanation relies too much on a phenomenon for which there is no empirical evidence.  So I decided to instead commend him on his awesome powers of telepathy or esp.  But that's just the obvious explanation and everyone knows that when you are talking about Russia, you must avoid the obvious at all costs.  If it looks like duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, chances are, it is a horse.  You're just not looking at it right.  You want to see a duck, is what's going on, and the Putins and Surkovs and Churkins are all like, "Why are you Americans so difficult?  Why can't you just accept it is a horse and leave us alone?  Why do you think all horses have to look like the horses in America?  Maybe you need to spend more time fixing your own horse problems instead of telling us how to fix ours..."  Then they take some ducks, fix 'em up and sell them to Europeans as horses.  And the Western Press gets all het up about Russia trying to start a Cold War with their Russian duck-horses.  And a handful of us brilliant minds in Russia-Expert-o-Sphere write 10 point articles explaining that Russia has the right to call a duck a horse, and how, actually, Russian horses are a little different than ours, and how the West is really just using this issue to badmouth Russia because we resent how they've made all this money off us, and oh did I mention Putin's 70% approval rating?  Then everyone gets infuriated and someone accuses someone else of supporting the genocide in Chechnya and someone else puts their fingers in their ears and says, "lalalalala. I can't hear you. lalalalala..." and nothing changes.  

And that is really how it happened.  Two brilliant minds in Russia-Expert-o-Sphere made the same observation at around the same time.  Check it out.  Within weeks there will be an eXile feature story on it, a power point presentation by Dmitry Orlov, and 2 books, both with the same title, both hailed as masterpieces by The Economist, on the topic.  Everyday NPR will air a story on it.  Kremlinologists will rise from their graves and drunken stupors to weigh in on the topic.  "Yes, all Americans are Sovoks.  That's a given."  "No, this whole Americans are Sovoks story is overblown.  If the people writing these stories bothered to remember what a Russian sovok is like, they'd realize the current situation in America is hardly comparable.  Yes, Obama has a cult of personality, and that is cause for some concern.  But that doesn't mean  all Americans are sovoks."  And a year from now, when there is no news, Moscow bureau chiefs will say things like, "well, we can always do a piece on American sovokery..."

-Poemless!  Shut up!  Just tell us, what is this "sovok" of which you speak?  Is this a Russian horse?  Or duck?  I don't understand.  I am so confused.  And I don't even care that you had the same thoughts as Taibbi.  Do you think that makes you some kind of genius or something?  Hmph.

-Look, I am an American girl.  I am really not the person to be asking about these things.  I don't even understand my own culture.  You think I understand Russian culture?  That's madness.  Not to mention the fact that the little time I have actually spent in Russia I was getting drunk with intellectuals, and artists!, fer christsakes.  I'm talking about honest to god Intelligentsia.  There is a strict manual of protocol for these people and I am pretty sure they aren't even allowed to sit next to a sovok on the subway or they lose their Union of Artists card.  I once had the following conversation about a mutual friend who was a Russian dissident writer, a protegee of Allen Ginsburg and Joseph Brodsky, he even had the mandatory bushy Russian Intellectual beard.
A: "What do you think of K-?"  
Me: "He's brilliant."  
A: "He's very cultivated isn't he?"  
Me: "He's hot."  
A: "Exactly.  He spends and hour in front of the mirror each morning, cultivating himself."  

If you looked up K- in the Who's Who of Snooty Russian Intellectuals, the entry would read "Has written many love poems, but has certainly never been within 15 km of a sovok."  There are probably more than 6 degrees of separation between me and any Russian sovok.  However, I did grow up here:

Rite of Passage in Brighton, Illinois

As far as he could tell nearly a week had passed, basing his assumption solely on his neck scruff, bodily odor, and the amount of beer he noted to be left in the refridgerator last night as he half-heartedly searched for a miraculously un-raided morsel of something edible.  Today, he thought, was as good a day as any to bathe and begin experimenting with his newly discovered attitude.  He felt the hard floor beneath his feet as sat up in bed, lazily allowing his feet to fall to the sole clear patch on the floor, a floor otherwise covered in a hodge-podge assortment of abondoned books, papers, and clothing that even he couldn't remember when had been actually worn.  The weight of his body seemed more than he was accustomed to, partly due to the amount of pot left in his blood and partly due to the fact that he hadn't been completely prostrate for an unknown number of hours.  Sleep, while a welcomed change in his recent life, did have its way of exacting a toll, after all, he thought.

The languid trip to the shower took him on a guided tour of the house, the self-same house that he was having a harder time feeling at home in.  An eclectic assortment of ill-gotten yard ornaments mingled throughout with empty sacks and packages of snack foods.  An un-noticing cat sat square in the middle of the galley-style kitchen, lazily licking its ass as though it was a pre-requisite to living another day.  The smell seemed different in the house this morning (little did he know it was, in actuality, approaching two o'clock), something he attributed to some form of late-night cleaning binge that had been embarked upon by one of the other residents of the house, most likely out of the desire to present the semblence of responsibility for the special audience of a newly found, and completely un-initiated, girl from one of the nameless nieghboring rural towns that seemed to orbit Brighton in the same way a moth spirals fatally into a flame.  Dishes were done, trash had been, for the most part, placed into the open garbage bag that hung on the pantry door handle.  But despite the noble attempt at bringing order into the house on Edwin Street, the familiar chaos still resided front and center.

He cautiously crept down the basement stairs, using only the diffuse daylight that filtered throught the sheets used as curtains to navigate the empty beer cans and ash trays, ever careful not to wake any potential hangover that could very well be sleeping on the pile of dirty clothes at the landing of the open staircase.  Such had his friends become to him, he thought;  Angry obstacles on his way to bathe.  He couldn't risk the possibility of having to talk to the likes of anyone that would be found in the house now.  The survival of the new outlook he was trying to foster depended on sheer avoidance at this point.  He knew, as was always the case, that any attempt at bringing about any kind of personal change would be aggressively sniffed out by the residents of this house through even the most subtle of clues.  Bathing without having to actually go anywhere in particular.  Removing used and spent party paraphernalia from one's room without expecting a new girl's visit.  Watching news on the television.  Listening to music that was not on the approved list of drinking music.  Requesting silence throughout the house to attempt to sleep a good night's sleep.  All were signs of some form of inner existence that could foster an end to how things had become.  

What saddened him most about this reality was not the fact that the other residents resisted change, rather it was the fact that he knew his resolve to change could not survive conversation with any of them.

So I guess I'll try.  Also, that was written by a friend of my brother.  Isn't he a brilliant writer?  Yes, he is.    

 Urban Dictionary Definition of "Sovok":

A person who assembles a packed lunch of hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, salted herring, and tea in a thermos, all of which are to be unwrapped in a public place atop a copy of PRAVDA and devoured noisily, preferably while in ones yellowing undergarments, to a combination of anti-semitic palaver, garbled recordings of Igor Sklyar emanating from a rusted red Lada parked by the artificial river, and the putrid smoke of Prima and Belomor-Krai.

Also:

  1. A profound and tangled philosophy concerning the soviet hoi polloi and its industrialized, tractor-crushed soul.
  2. One of the faceless masses residing in the USSR or CIS:

  • The vendor in the local meat or bread store with her excessive make up, flamboyant shoes, and a heart full of pure hatred.
  • The burly old men in hats and arms behind their backs pausing to argue about anti-semitic conspiracy politics and the football match, in angered tones.
  • The woman who cuts into a 3-mile long line for imported Czechoslovakian boots, knowing that she will incite a loud, violent riot, while claiming her actions were still somehow fair.

  1. A state of being wherein an objective reality based on complete absurdity and idiocy triumphs.
  2. Soviet trash
  3. The modern Soviet expatriate residing in Brooklyn, New York.
  4. whimit  "Is it man...beast...or sovok?"

Another, from SovokoftheWeek.com:

A 1992 article in one of Russia's newspapers, Nezavisimaya gazeta, described a sovok as a person with "a crazed thirst for equality, a deep hatred for the success of others, and a flourishing laziness." As true sovoks, the founders of this site could not have said it better themselves -- so we simply lifted the definition without permission and pasted it here...

...here is a short list of the essential Sovok qualities:Sovok: cheap,always mourning for the good old times, most certainly coming from the former/present communist countries (but not necessarily since Sovok is a state of mind rather than a nationality), loud, obnoxious, fond of dispensing advice, pretentious, in love with causes (either Communist, Saving the Whales, Organic Foods Only, etc.), loves to engage in questionable enterprises with a predictable outcome, etc.One does not have to have ALL these qualities at once to be a Sovok.

Take a quiz!

A Modern Day Example.

How "Sovok" looks written in Cyrillic graffiti:

Some ravings of a madman lamenting his lost sovokhood.  ... no, really.  Was nuts.

So, hopefully you are getting a picture here.  You're probably comparing them to some strata of your own society.  Maybe, "East Enders," or something.  You are probably focussing on the class aspect (or, rather, distinct lack thereof, on numerous levels) or the perverse dedication to Soviet life.  But if you are - you are totally missing my point!  Start over!  

Americans don't eat herring or belong to collectives or bemoan the demise of the Soviet Union.  Nor are they lazy or possessors of tractor-crushed souls.  (Crushed, yes, but not by tractors...)  Look under the hood of nationality, ideology, social class, ... fashion.  And what do we find?  The same fucking engine.  Regardless of the nationality, they are unflinchingly patriotic, not because of national accomplishments, but because, well, why would you not want to be?  Wouldn't that be bad for the economy, for moral?  Regardless of the ideology, they've never seriously entertained anything but the one they were fed as children.  Maybe they haven't even seriously entertained that.  Or anything.  Regardless of social strata, they are all working class heroes.  Sure "loud, obnoxious, fond of dispensing advice, pretentious, in love with causes, loves to engage in questionable enterprises with a predictable outcome, etc." is a valid description of most Americans (myself included), but this "sovokdom," it's something more nefarious.  It is some weird combination of blind belief in the goodness of and - yet - mortal terror of the powers of your government and fellow citizens.  It is the bliss/shame of ignorance that doesn't consider knowledge a tool for formulating ideas and opinions but for use solely to establish ones position among ones peers at any given moment.  That can mean not letting others know how much you know or have even thought about something.  It's caring far too fucking much what your neighbors think.  It is the illusory freedom of submission and acceptance.  It is the idea that if you are a victim of the system, it's you who needs to change, not the system.  It's inappropriate humility.  It's righteous indignation over petty injustices and obliviousness to serious ones.  It's why the Ivans quarrelled.  It's Oprah Winfrey.  It's everyone who makes between $300,000 and $15,000/yr believing they are "middle class."  It's Zinov'ev's "silent acquiescence."

It's a community standing around a horse and speaking of it as a duck and no one, no one, saying, erm, guys, that's a duck, because you don't want to appear to not be in on the joke - and that's exactly what they are counting on.

It's the fear that nothing good can come of trying to change things, based on the fact that you've never actually seen any evidence that it can.

These are not the ideals the United States of America was founded upon.  ... Neither was the Soviet Union.  America and the Soviet Union were the results of megalomaniacal, (overly)optimistic experiments based on the idea that together we can change the world - make it prosperous and fair!  They sure as hell weren't the work of people resigned to their own mediocrity and suffering.  And yet, and yet...  Here we are, in the same psychological place where people are resigned to their own mediocrity and suffering in the name of their country.  Why?  Maybe it's just what is bound to happen when you place too much faith in an ideology and instead of the ideology being the foundation on which you build practical infrastructure, faith replaces the foundation, and practical infrastructure stops getting built.  Invisible hands and dialectical materialism are fun to believe in but they don't get shit done.  And while Democracy or Communism were supposed to save us (well, no one said it wouldn't hurt a little), we're rather broke and hungry and clinging to what shred of dignity we might have left.  What we believe and what is real come driving headlong right into each other and the cognitive dissonance the ensuing derailment creates gives rise to some brilliant absurdist literature and biting satire.  (omg SovLit.com is my new favorite website ever!)  And sovoks.  Lots of sovoks.  

If this were being published by the CATO Institute, I'd add, "The sociological generalization I have stated is intuitively compelling; something like it must be true."  But really, I have no idea if there is a grain of truth in anything I've written or not.  In fact, I have no idea what I am talking about.

Here's what Matt Taibbi recently wrote:  I don't know if it is true either.  But it is intuitively compelling.

So instead of talking about the fact that Barack Obama once introduced a bill to give a tax break to a Japanese company whose lawyers donated fifty grand to his Senate campaign, we're freaking out for five minutes about the fact that Obama's pastor thinks America spread AIDS on purpose in Zambia. And instead of talking about the fact that Hillary Clinton took $110,000 from a New York food company she later helped by introducing a bill to remove import duties on tomatoes, we're ranting and raving about Gerry Ferraro's paranoid ramblings about Obama's blackness. We can't keep our eyes on the ball and really think about the serious endemic problems of our system of government because we're too busy freaking out like a bunch of cartoon characters over silly, meaningless bullshit. And then forgetting about that same bullshit ten minutes later, so that we can freak out all over again about something else later on.

That's just the way we are, and maybe it's time to wonder why that is. In Russia they have a word, sovok, which described the craven, chickenshit mindset that over the course of decades became hard-wired into the increasingly silly brains of Soviet subjects. It's a hard word to define, but once you get it -- and all Russians get it -- it's like riding a bicycle, you've got it. Sovok is the word that described a society where for decades silence and a thoughtful demeanor might be construed as evidence of a dangerous dissidence lurking underneath; the sovok therefore protected himself from suspicion by babbling meaningless nonsense at all times, so that no one would accuse him of harboring smart ideas. A sovok talked tough, and cheered Khruschev for banging a shoe at America, but at the same time a sovok would have sold his own children for a pair of American jeans. The sovok talked like a romantic and lavished women with compliments, but preferred long fishing trips and nights spent in the garage tinkering with his shitty car to actual sex. It's hard to explain, but over there, they know what the word means. More than anything, sovok described a society that spent seventy years in mortal terror of new ideas, and tended to drape itself in a paper-thin patriotism whenever it felt threatened, and worshipped mediocrities as a matter of course, elevating to positions of responsibility only those who showed an utter absence not only of objectionable qualities, but any qualities at all.

We're getting to be the same kind of people. We can't focus for more than ten seconds on anything at all and we're constantly exercised about stupid media-generated non-scandals, guilt-by-association raps, accidental dumb utterances of various campaign aides and other nonsense -- while at the same time we have no energy at all left to wonder about the mass burgling of the national budget for phony military contracts, the war, the billion dollars or so in campaign contributions to be spent this year that will be buying a small mountain of favors for the next four years. And we... shit, I don't even know what I'm saying anymore. I'm just tired of this tone that's always out there when these scandals break, like we can't fucking stand the existence of this Wright fellow for even a minute longer, not a minute longer! -- when we all know that come Monday, or Tuesday at the latest, Jeremiah Wright will be forgotten and we'll be jumping en masse in a panic away from the next media-offered shadow to fall across our bow. What a bunch of turds we all are, seriously. God help us if we ever had to deal with a real problem.

  1.  Bookmark that page, because over here at ET we've been mewing about not knowing where to find Taibbi.  That's his blog at Smirking Chimp, and it seems to be consistently updated with his writing from RS, etc.

  2.  Er, what he said.

  3.  Taibbi seems to be a bit of a Sovok scholar.  Back in 2001 he wrote, Operation Enduring Sovok.  

  4.  Bookmark that page, because over here at ET we've been mewing about not knowing where to find old eXile articles.

  5.  He repeatedly makes the observation that sovoks 1) cannot talk about matters which require much thought but 2) can't be silent because that might imply they are thinking, so 3) they blab about nothing all the time.  That sounds very American to me.  57 (hundred) channels and nothing on...  Just a lot of people on talk shows and reality shows and op-ed shows giving advice and spewing opinion as if it were gospel.  

-Poemless!  Shut up!  I get it already.  But why should I care if Americans are the new sovoks?  You guys elected Bush ... twice.  The fact that you're a country of dolts is not exactly news, ya know.

-Look - those elections were stolen!  

But here is why you should care.  History is repeating itself.  Yes, there have always been sovokish people here.  But they're becoming the mainstream, and we are well on our way to this.  Fine, you don't care.  Well you should.  We have nukes and give no second thought to attacking countries just cuz we feel like it.  Also, when history repeats itself, it's because we didn't bother to learn something the first time around.  The lesson we took home from the fall of the Soviet Union was this:

Russia was wrong.  We were right.  Communism can't work.  Capitalism is the one true path.  You lost, we won, what do we get?

We see names of countries and ideologies and assume correlation equals causation.  But if Capitalist America is sliding on its ass down the same path of conformism, mediocrity, corruption and collapse that Communist Russia was plowing along last century, and which was certainly carved out by numerous empires before them, maybe the who and the what have less to do with our fate than the WHY.  Sovokism isn't a characteristic of a nationality or ideology, but of a humanity which has forgotten what "dignity" means and why the concept is instrumental in keeping societies operating effectively.

Human Dignity. According to Wikipedia:

At the philosophical level, following Kant, the expression human dignity is used to indicate that persons should always be treated as ends in themselves and never merely as means. Kant presents "dignity" as exactly the opposite of "price": while "price" is the kind of value for which there can be an equivalent, "dignity" makes a person irreplaceable. Therefore, dignity can be explained as a requirement of non-instrumentalization of persons. According to this anti-utilitarian approach, there is nothing, neither pleasure nor common interest of society or science, nor other good consequences, for which it is morally acceptable to treat persons merely as a means.

A prize to the first person who can tell us what the ideologies of both Communism and Capitalism have in common which might result in the mass production of cultural sovokery.

 

Display:
This is brilliant and should be recommended. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 02:55:00 PM EST
It was so brilliant, I recommended it halfway through. You have to give people a little more time!

Capitalism and communism are both ideologies, to get the obvious out of the way, which in their practical implementation (actually existing -) concentrate power in the hands of an unaccountable few (in communism, the government, in capitalism, the super-rich). The few then take ownership of public discourse through the media.

Unfortunately that is not an interesting explanation. But it may still be true!

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 03:20:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or intuitively compelling!  lol.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 03:24:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I even read it.

I knew it was going to be good...and it was.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 03:52:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a critique of this and Matt's piece in which I will throw you and Matt under bus for being breathless middle class blogosphere bloviators.

But it will have to wait until later, because right now, I have to bask in the awesomeness of being better than that fat, beer drinking, lower middle class fuck in rural Ohio with his 10 second attention span.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 07:18:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair it was Matt's piece that pushed all my buttons, not yours.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 07:29:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I didn't know any better, I would say you hadn't actually read what I wrote.  Sure, it was Matt's piece that pissed you off, but you're willing to throw me under the bus with him.

To conflate my definition of "sovok" with "fat, beer drinking, lower middle class fuck in rural Ohio with his 10 second attention span" suggests you stopped reading before

So, hopefully you are getting a picture here.  You're probably comparing them to some strata of your own society.  Maybe, "East Enders," or something.  You are probably focusing on the class aspect (or, rather, distinct lack thereof, on numerous levels) or the perverse dedication to Soviet life.  But if you are - you are totally missing my point!  Start over!  

Americans don't eat herring or belong to collectives or bemoan the demise of the Soviet Union.  Nor are they lazy or possessors of tractor-crushed souls.  (Crushed, yes, but not by tractors...)  Look under the hood of nationality, ideology, social class, ... fashion.  And what do we find?  The same fucking engine.  Regardless of the nationality, they are unflinchingly patriotic, not because of national accomplishments, but because, well, why would you not want to be?  Wouldn't that be bad for the economy, for moral?  Regardless of the ideology, they've never seriously entertained anything but the one they were fed as children.  Maybe they haven't even seriously entertained that.  Or anything.  Regardless of social strata, they are all working class heroes.  Sure "loud, obnoxious, fond of dispensing advice, pretentious, in love with causes, loves to engage in questionable enterprises with a predictable outcome, etc." is a valid description of most Americans (myself included), but this "sovokdom," it's something more nefarious.  It is some weird combination of blind belief in the goodness of and - yet - mortal terror of the powers of your government and fellow citizens.  It is the bliss/shame of ignorance that doesn't consider knowledge a tool for formulating ideas and opinions but for use solely to establish ones position among ones peers at any given moment.  That can mean not letting others know how much you know or have even thought about something.  It's caring far too fucking much what your neighbors think.  It is the illusory freedom of submission and acceptance.  It is the idea that if you are a victim of the system, it's you who needs to change, not the system.  It's inappropriate humility.  It's righteous indignation over petty injustices and obliviousness to serious ones.  It's why the Ivans quarrelled.  It's Oprah Winfrey.  It's everyone who makes between $300,000 and $15,000/yr believing they are "middle class."  It's Zinov'ev's "silent acquiescence."

And that you pretty much ignored everything thereafter.  This was not a self-congratulatory exercise in which I pat myself on the back for not being part of the riff-raff (uh, I actually implicated myself on two occasions) but tried to explain how our economic system of valuing humans only as "means" - which slowly rubs away at our dignity, and an ideological foundation which favors faith in our destiny over actual control over it - which places us in a psychological situation in which the absurd become the mundane, creates this "sovok" existence.  I have a hell of a lot better things to do than sit around and disparage those who are less well-off, educated or intelligent than I.  But at some point we have to accept that our resistance to critical thought and change in tactics is a factor in the creation of our currently fucked up situation.  I don't see our leaders saying anything radical.  Or acknowledging reality.

Also, I, middle class?  Hardly.  Poor people can blog too...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 12:13:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Everything that I have read of yours is stunningly brilliant, poemless.

I am hopelessly in love, woman, man or sovok.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 08:57:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you want? ;)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 01:18:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Moi? I ain't picky. As a single middle-aged prof, for whom relationships are illegal, I can but quote Elmore James: Crazy, dumb, crippled or blind. (Is old blues tune).

I think your writing is great.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 09:03:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"for whom relationships are illegal,"

???

I thought I had it bad...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 11:03:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, I was being imprecise. It is not strictly illegal in the sense of contravening any law established by humans.

It does seem to be against the will of The Universe, however. Laws of men I could always break. Laws of Nature, well, can't seem to :(

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 03:01:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Too bad for you.  I have a thing for middle aged professors...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 03:29:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is brilliant, and I'm not frequent with praise :-)

One question:

the class aspect (or, rather, distinct lack thereof, on numerous levels)

What do you mean by that? Because I had a faint suspicion that "sovok" has a class aspect -- in being a middle-class stereotype of working-class people unable to accomodate to and prosper in the Yeltsin Era 'free world'.

Regarding K.: I was reminded of a Russian writer very en-vogue in the late nineties/early zeroes, but just can't get my brain to remember either his name or the title of a novel of him. But, maybe another information I seem to recall helps: did he for a time reside both in New York and in Paris?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 11:59:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, everyone has a different idea of what a pancake is, and probably the same applied to "sovok."  Certainly it can refer to a class of people.  It can even just refer to pride in Soviet kitsch.  Like a lot of derogatory words, it's been co-opted.  And yes, we're not talking about CEOs or the destitute.  But the reason I wanted to skirt the class issue was -like has already happened- I didn't want people to get hung up on this classist stereotype, or think I was singling out one particular income bracket.  Because that didn't really have anything to do with why I wrote this.  I wrote it because I wanted to explore the psychology, and think about what kind of society engenders such a psychology.  I was really hoping people would think about that.  

Another reason for avoiding making this explicitly about class is that in both instances, there is some illusion/delusion about class. Whether it is an ostensibly classless society or one in which 99.9% identify as middle class, there seems to be some cognitive dissonance about the matter.  A perverse pride in one's "every man"-ness and a desire for the material trappings of the elite.

Re: K.  Hasn't every dissident lived in Paris at some point? ;)  No.  I'm sure I'm talking about someone else.  But there is an archetype here...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 12:32:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
everyone has a different idea of what a pancake is, and probably the same applied to "sovok."

That indeed transpired when I read your links and contrasted the descriptions therein.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 12:40:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your writing is much improved by the elimination of the KGB cheesecake.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 03:07:40 PM EST
Au contraire.  Putin is my muse.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 06:27:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Très amusant ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 03:49:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Plus, the diaries with hot Russian guys in them seem to get more recommends...  Huh.  Wonder what that is about.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 02:20:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Statistics and damned lies. Ignore it.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 06:06:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know.  Next time I try to be intellectual, I think I'll have to throw in a photo of Vovka romping around the Siberian outback shirtless just to get people to read it.  It may compromise my reputation, but it's a sacrafice I'm willing to make... ;p

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 06:14:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But you always try to be intellectual. It's part of the charm. Emotion recollected in ventriloquy, to quote the lakeside stand-up poet.

What you have to compare with is: would Jérôme's arguments be amplified by a bikini shot of a prominent female investment banker or not?  Personally, I prefer your approach, but then again I've been at an art gallery opening tonight for which some mysterious investor picked up the tab - including several hours at a fairly cool restaurant.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 06:42:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
more recommends...

Forgot.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 03:13:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Plus, the diaries with hot Russian guys in them seem to get more recommends...  

Huh.  Wonder what that is about.
 

Talk of ignoring the obvious!  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 07:03:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was working on the theory that users with mythic powers can  reccomend more than once.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 07:17:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just conversing with a friend about why I could not understand corporate culture.  I was having difficulty trying to find a way to explain what I found offensive about it.  I kept coming back to the word, "poshlost'."

Then I thought, How could I have left this out of my sovok diary?!

Except I just wrote one whole entire diary trying to explain one untranslatable Russian word and explain how it manifests itself in America today.  I'm not going through THAT again.  So here's a link.  Knock yourselves out!

http://doggo.tripod.com/doggposhlust.html

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 04:15:48 PM EST
Isn't this at least somewhat translatable by the term "decadence"?

I'm betting in the old days, this word got given as "western decadence" when describing this phenomena in "the west (tm)"

Sovok though I thought right away of corporate drones the first time you used it. MBA school teaches new political cadres to be assigned by more experienced political cadres (also known as managers) to the various private enterprises, to pursue the interests of shareholders (also known as Capital). And a whole class of sovokopniy who labor on, oblivious, under their direction.

With the difference that one is made moronic by choice, the other by necessity, assuming it is simply coping mechanism for the less than brilliant.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 04:39:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think in the old days it just meant "passe" or "crap."  Maybe.

There is a connotation of decadence, yes, but it is a perfectly sovokish decadence.  A low class pretending to be high class, or a fake pretending to be sincere decadence.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 04:56:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's Kitsch, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 08:35:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a better discussion of the concept of poshlost'.

"banality, self-satisfied mediocrity, phony sentiment" seems to be an adequate definition.  For starters.  

(Nabokov had an agenda behind his use of the word ("poshlust") so I'd ignore his definition.)

Anyway, I'm trying to explain one untranslatable word with another and yet others come up (meshchanstvo, zhlobstvo...)  The problem is that one can't really convey the aesthetic or moral connotations of these words...  "One" being "me."  

Hm.  Maybe in a few years we'll have proper English words to describe our current reality.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 04:47:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I quite like 'fucked.'

Possibly not loaded with intercultural finesse, but still - not a bad word, overall.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 09:53:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since you reside in Chicago, Poemless, do you think this Rezko fella is a mobbed-up Sovok?

I really enjoyed your brother's friend's writing. Inspired.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 06:37:28 PM EST
Sovok? No.  Mobbed-up? But of course.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 11:11:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.. capitalism and communsim have in common that a small group of people control the military industry... and the media, just in case.

I want my price...

and fast...

Sovok. :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 04:24:18 AM EST
The correct answer is : they...

...treat persons merely as a means.

Was a rhetorical question.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 10:54:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like reading poemless' diaries. That's really the gist of my appreciation, for I am not sure whether I can contribute to the intellectual discussion behind it.

But this diary resonates deeply with my discomfort when I hear most politics discussions at my university, when I come across a TV... That what is said bears no connection to any kind of reality, but instead integrates itself into the ambient media noise.

Oh, and the duck and horse parable is ... magical? Most people's inability to comprehend how normative their opinions are is bewildering. But I have to say, i encounter it most in political science papers... witness the hype surrounding the importance of the middle class for democracy, or institutions, or civil society, or property rights.. whatever. the idea is alway the same: they can become like us too! just give them the tools and human nature will finish the job.

Anyway, thanks.

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine

by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 09:51:34 PM EST
Finally got around to catching up with this. Fabulous stuff and excellent writing. Do we now need a chav diary?
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 5th, 2008 at 07:29:35 AM EST
Thanks for the promotion, Migeru. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 06:04:58 PM EST
Thanks for the good content.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 06:07:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I enjoyed every bit of this diary like a delicious and sophisticated dinner...

Thanks for this piece of literature, poemless!

And many 4s for quoting Aleksandr Zinovyev

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 06:48:11 PM EST


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