PostAmeriKa * 2007 Love Story * Write Directory *
Folks, everything is in transition. This is the old text, not intergrated in the new frame.
The Possessed 2003
WRITE : nonfiction
SummaryMarxism and Media
2004 & After
October 7, 1997. NEA talk on censorship. (I have no allies, not even friends).
COMMUNISM: GOODBYE -- HELLO!
They don't know that I was there, in their future. For over a decade I was a member of the Communist party. First, I was a pioneer and komsomol youth. I lived nothing else but the life of an ideological citizen. Political correctness was the law of the land. For a single politically incorrect act people were send to prisons and labor camps. My post-war generation got it easy; before us the politically incorrect were executed without trials. We were the third miraculous generation of utopians, we were tamed. We all knew what is right and wrong, and we all knew that it's a bullshit. Nobody was expected to believe in communism, only to behave as if one who does. You get up when everybody raise. You had to applaud when everybody did. The law of the law is that the law is for all. Once it's broken, it's not the law anymore. No, the law knows no exceptions, if it wants to remain as the law.NOTES
We didn't have to be censored, we did it ourselves because we knew the consequences. One incorrect move and your career will be over. Forever. In private we had a lot of room to be "anti-government" -- in private we all were "anti-Soviet." The whole world around me was engaged in this game which seems to a young mind a pure hypocrisy. At party meetings we could whisper on how ridiculous were the rules and then we voted for them..... I better to save my thoughts on American soft communism for other chapter...The light paradox. In a free society could I be against freedom for a censorship? Constitutionally? But of course! Now try it. Could I say that I have no interest in wealth-fare of this or that ethnic group? Can I say that I am indifferent to the fate of Turkey or Bolivia? Women's rights? Could I state that I am concerned with my own agenda? Not in the open. Not if I don't intend to provoke. One would think that in the land of freedom whatever I have to say would be my opinion. I believed that I won't be corrected. Ignored -- yes. Laughed? Perhaps. But why the anger? I remember the flamed speeches of indignation in the Communist Moscow. It was almost two decades ago. Now I see it on the Internet.
My fellow Americans, you don't have to have a marxist party in power to live under communism. State is only an expression of society; as long as society exercises political correctness, we have no need for a state to correct us.1 That's how the culture acts. In a super-cultural society even a thought becomes an act. (...) Do you think it is impossible to silence a (different) voice in the democratic society? You think it's possible only in totalitarian states. I guess, you don't know that in pre-historical times the customs dictated much more strict rules of behavior. Traditions make it unthinkable. That why the progress was slow during those pre-historical times. They no state, no separate power, no written laws, nothing was alienated from everyday life. That's our future.
When communists talked about the bright future, the end of alienation of man from himself, disappearance of the government in favor of self-organization, they talked about a new culture and New Man. The one who will be in full harmony with his environment, who will be happy with what he got. He would think that he lives in the best of the time and the nicest society ever existed. When he looks around and in the past, he is proud of his position. His future is a continuation of what he has but better. Of course, he is patriot of his history. Do you think it's impossible?
Do you think, if we could tell the Germans in 1930 what is ahead of them, they would believe us? And who knew? You think that we are not there yet, that we live in democracy and have our freedoms. Since the emergence of the theory of convergence in the mid sixties I think about how actually it would take place. Marx thought that peaceful transition to communism is possible. But how would it go? What has to take place in order to change the habits and attitudes? Unfortunately, the marxist spent most of their mental energy for revolutionary theory. Non-marxists do not believe in an inevitability of communism. Perhaps, that is how it will take place, unnoticed. Little by little, without blood and revolutions, without street protests....
How did any tradition is born? Lets say a hand shake. It's not a law, it wasn't officially institutionalized, there is no single inventor of this social innovation. Oh, there is a logic in it, we know. Of course, behind our new traditions I can see the reasons. It makes sense to have tv news before/during the supper. Absolutely! Instead of prayer? A communal. Instead of the family conversation at the dinner table? Extended family! A collective meal with the human race? Reinforced humanism. How about that! The finality of my public day? The bounding through the circulation of information.... Well, one way or another the television day is structured, and, take a notice, nobody forced me to by a tv set. Nobody orders me to turn it on. It makes sense to have it. It makes sense to have a Saturday after Friday. Culture is always popular (not art), it sneaks on us without decrees. We want it! Did you hear about the phenomenon of fashion? The spearhead of the popular!
Oh, you, paranoid Russian! It's communications, not communism! Advertising, not propaganda! Entertainment not brain-washing! How could you equate communism and democracy? Go to the super-market to see freedom of choice! I did. I write it after seventeen years of experiencing it all -- communications, advertising and shopping. I tried different channels, cities, movies and products. Don't you know that in the USSR were many "different" movies about the revolution, many Soviet cities, many ideological products, many different holidays to celebrate the SAME! Don't you understand that in order to have the great (blind) Pepsi Challenge its taste must be damn close to Coke's? You tell me about the DIFFERENCE between the three networks nightly news coverage. I know, I know! The anchors have different faces! So did the members of the Politburo. Don't I the difference between my Soviet and American life? I see it and that's why I see the direction my American experience. I can compare, I remember my yesterday and today. And I can imagine my tomorrow.
Also, I remember too well that nobody in Russia expected the end of it. Not many even had understand what was wrong with the status quo position. The majority never understood the few, the dissidents; whatever was wrong with the country was fixable, the life was getting better every year. The national dept? Or the collapsing educational system? Political process disconnected from the population? (What country do I talk about?) Nothing was so bad that people has to go through any radical changes. There were reforms all right. All the time. The problem was that those reforms had no results. The country was celebrating the achievements but nobody could see the difference.... After three years of Republican REVOLUTION and five years of Clinton's great CHANGE -- what did change in your life?
You heard that the country (USA) has the best economy in twenty three years, that the unemployment is the lowest and the stock market is the highest. Our living standards are raising, quality of products are improving, more countries in the world join our system (USSR).... You know what is missing in such statements? The ability of critical evaluation. An understanding of the process, interpretations of the facts. Why? The reasons? The absence of any real opposition, the lack of DIFFERENT positions. We do not see it, we all have the same mind set, same attitude and the same position. My American situation is even worse than the Soviet. What an alternative do we have? What other system could be instead of what we have? Didn't free market proved its superiority?
The collapse of the state communism proved its own insufficiency, not our effectiveness. If my drunk neighbor broke his back trying to jump higher than me, should I be proud of myself? Do I have to think highly of American democracy watching troubles in Africa? I thought that I should measure my achievement against what I had, have and should have. I thought that freedom is needed for a freedom of mind, for breeding new ideas and discussions of those ideas.... What ideas do we have?
After so many years listening to voices advocating restoration of the original intends of the U.S. Constitution, I became deaf -- I remember the restoration ideas in the USSR. The original Marx, the true Leninism, the real principle of communism.... You see, there is nothing in the American Constitution about the Internet, Stock market and the global village. I refuse to measure everything against the Bible no matter how wise the books is. I believe that we, the contemporary, must write such books too, which could be cited for another century and millennium. I think that the Constitution is a promise for such an intellectual drive. And I believe that when the nation stops generate new ideas and dreams, it the begining of the end.
I have to stop here and explain myself, my rejection of the communist ideal. What's wrong with the desire for paradise, with the world populated by good people, and non-conflicting social universe when any changes are directed at the goal of having no changes? Perhaps, it's personal, just my own convictions. I have to have my plans for the future. I believe that a living society should be like a child with his sweet dreams of tomorrow. Tomorrow, tomorrow -- you do not have to a futurist to celebrate today and yesterday, because it brings you to the future. For generations the communists were driven by the promising grand future. So did the little American with his own personal "American Dream." And this silly dreaming brought us that far. The thoughts about your own house built the house. We have airplanes because we fly in our dreams. What are your dreams nowadays, America?
For a long time I had this file on my hard drive -- Dystopia. I myself is an ex-utopian citizen and I understand the horrors when the future turns against you. In fact, I got a reputation on campus as a postmodernist. The skeptic of the unquestionable goodness of the modern, new, next. Postmodernism is not a party affiliation, it's a recognition that the mode of modernism is not working anymore for our hearts. Do I need to read Baudrillard and Virilio to recognize the signs of the over-aged modernity? Do I have to talk about virtual reality and cybers to understand the difference between THEN and NOW?
Go the specialty store of dreams -- bookshop or movie rental joint -- check the futurist shelves. All our SF movies are far from the humanist utopian visions of the past. Us: apocalyptic narrative of Before and After. Only the after-the-end narrative; reversed futurism, scary tomorrow -- yes, the dystopia at its best. Very impressive, very believable. St. John would be proud of our tales. No one today besides the political candidates would dare to paint a bright picture of the future. World's future? The global future based on the present American model. Extrapolation of the present day America. Are we pregnant now with this tomorrow?
Wait, what is it -- a culture or an industry of the science fiction and the horror stories? I don't think that our sense of apocalypse is so trivial. Do we enjoy the visions of the catastrophic tomorrow? For some reason the happy ends and the chances to resolve the conflicts are also enbeded in tomorrow, not today. The comedy is reserved for our today's life. Should we even talk about tomorrow? Do we play with an idea of the dark future? As in pre-modern times? Did we run out of heroes? The Soviet writers, including myself, tried so hard to bring them in, and we couldn't. There were no heroes around in real life. Look, our sport celebrities can't survive even the test of the present.
.... To those who wait for the year 2000.
In many ways the century and the millennium are over. You can sense it everywhere. I understand that there's a great and not fully predetermined distance between the domestication of animals and our cloned cows. I know how far apart a stone tool from PC tools, but I also see that the idea of a tool will move us from one level to the next. I believe that electricity age was pregnant with electronics and our computerization is a first step of total integration of men, nature, space and time. I think that modernism is in shock with its own success. We weren't ready for this smashing triumph, the achievements beyond our imagination. Modernity got buried under it wonders. The postmodern is the great After, after the everything we knew. We overcame the earth, we are out there, in space.
The future? Does it make sense to start calculating from zero? Not in eternity. The postmodern is endless.
Why 2000? I'm serious -- why not "0"? What is this 2000 years of Christian chronology? Let our computers go zero -- they know what they are doing. They are without any religion and even history: they are from the future. Spear the future generation the troubles of going back and reinventing the zero count. I know that we need an event to mark a begining of a new calendar. How about the year of Apocalypse?... You think it didn't take place? Well, well, that's what the Romans and the rest of the world thought 2000 years ago. Historically, Christ's birth was a non-event. I think that Apocalypse is a historical event of a significant magnitude. What do you think?
(p. 3. "Me Generation")
Slaves weren't humans, so it goes for the Jews, rich -- and in reaction our democratic humanity without borders (inhumane behavior to environment) totally lost the core values and the sense of the core. Eating meat or having a dog on a leash is not human! Perhaps, that is the most radical rejection of humanism when we made humanism total (abstract).
We are the communists without a party. It's only looks like we are sub-humans. We are outside of humanity, beyond it. We saw it in Germany: Nazis were not below but above humanity. Two generations later we don't have to have a collective support to feel as super-humans.
Don't expect that I, who raised under communism, would advocate additional suppression of individual. Of course I grant him the final judgement. Let him put limits on himself. Oh yes, I am an angry man. I come back home broken and depressed after a few hours on campus. I travel that far for that long and traded Moscow for Fairbanks and paid a high price to be in a different situation. Not to see multiculturalism in place of internationalism, to provide the number instead of minds and worry about productivity in per cents. In Russia I thought that committees are the product of the state communism. What do I do on so many committees now? Why there are endless meetings Monday through Friday? We watch each other, comrades, the breath of the collective in every room. We don't trust teacher and student, we don't trust our own choices in hiring and firing. We all are commissars and party members.
Endnotes are lost. [Oh, we know it, Anatoly! You lose things. I am lost!]