Aleksandr Podrabinek: Candid Times

posted 15 May 2017, 05:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 May 2017, 05:17 ]
9 May 2017

By Aleksandr Podrabinek

Source: Radio Svoboda

Candid times are upon us. It’s not that the regime has stopped lying altogether but that it has ceased to be self-conscious about lies. Or disclosures, either. It used to be, they stormily objected to reproaches of corruption; now they keep impersonally silent. When Dmitry Medvedev, far from the most hard-boiled of corrupt politicians, was shown from his unattractive side, and for the regime it was like water off a duck’s back. Not a word. Silence. “Yeah, whatever!” Previously, when they heard accusations of criminal activity, the regime would try to justify itself (“that's not even to our advantage”); now they grin mockingly. Aleksei Navalny directly accused the presidential administration of organizing the attack on him—and the regime hasn’t said a word. Take that however you like. That is, take it like this: yes, we don’t deny it, you’ve guessed correctly, and that’s how things are going to be from here on out.

Smugness and cynicism have become the norms of political conduct. They ripple out in circles from the presidential administration, modeling for officials the “correct” attitude toward society. Officials are mastering these new manners with ease. Moscow’s Basmanny court has not issued a decision on Zoya Svetova’s complaint of infractions during the conduct of a search. The issue is not even whether Svetova’s arguments do or don’t have grounds; the court simply refused to consider her complaint. Legal justice? That’s not for you! Forget it.

The prosecutor in the trial of the case of Ruslan Sokolovsky, who was catching Pokemons in an Orthodox church, accused the defendant of not respecting the State. “An expression of disrespect for the State is inadmissible,” Prosecutor Ekaterina Kalinina stated. Moreover, she accused Sokolovsky of “anti-constitutional attitudes” and “ridiculing the Russian president.” What does any of this have to do with the law? The law does not prohibit failing to respect the State or having anti-constitutional attitudes, and as for ridiculing the Russian president—that’s old news. Why is a legal professional in court accusing a defendant of something that does not fall within the framework of the law? So that everyone clarifies for themselves that this is not about the law. He is being tried for his attitude and disrespect. It’s all perfectly clear and candid.

Moscow City Hall, having announced a housing renovation program, is not bothering to follow laws or observe the decencies. Not only is the fate of the five-story buildings slated for razing going to be decided by an illegal vote, but the votes of those who did not take part in the voting are going to be considered in favor of razing. Why not vice-versa? Because it’s simply more convenient for City Hall and no explanations whatsoever are needed. They are informing us in no uncertain terms, bald-facedly.

Political cynicism, rippling out in circles, shields not only officials but also those who simply get their salary from the state budget. Showing loyalty by falsifying election results from time to time might not be enough. Tatyana Ageyeva, deputy director of Vladimir School No. 15, threatened those eight-graders who attended opposition rallies with “removal from their families” and being sent to orphanages. This instance raised a stormy public reaction and for now can be considered an outlier. But what is an outlier today could easily become the norm tomorrow. Just as accusations of false denunciation against those who expose police and prison personnel for the use of torture have now become the norm. You’ve been tortured? Sit there and keep quiet. If you complain, you’ll go to prison.

The candor of the regime’s repressive policy has clear sources. The veiled nature of the repressions and their explanation by lofty goals and strategic necessity require a certain ideological construction with the help of which a lie can be wrapped up with a bow. The regime has no such construction. It has no ideology. When the goal of political life consists of enrichment by means of theft and corruption, what kind of ideology can there be? They have not come up with anything appropriate. They lack sufficient intellectual capacities, and it may be that you can’t put the public through a second Bolshevik-type threshing. And coming up with anything new is beyond their abilities.

Therefore they have to commit their evil candidly, without bothering about laws and rules of decency. Which, of course, simplifies for society its transition from submission to revolt.

Translated by Marian Schwartz