Sunday, November 1, 2009

Taco-flavored kisses

If you click over to Briullov’s website in the near future you’ll see his take on this same phenomenon.

I think.

At the very least, I’m writing it because he’d said it would be cool for us both to have our interpretation up on the ‘webs.

Gosh, it sure smarts to be manipulated into doing something, ma.

I may quite briefly have talked about this in a previous post on Russian linguistic registers most of you probably skimmed over.

Good. This gives me a second chance.

Here’s the deal: since the dawn of time (and/or Peter the Great) there have been two stereotypical philosophical umbrellas in Russia. Under one crowds the group of Westernizers – who, as the name implies, assumes that Europe and the West in general is more advanced than Russia, and tries to copy every achievement, the end goal being to catch up and/or to overtake Europe by riding its coattails. (I’m speaking ochen’ grubo [very rudely, in the sense of oversimplifying].)

In the red corner, under their own umbrella, are the Slavophiles. As the name, again, implies, Slav – meaning Russian – and –philes – meaning likers/lovers/addicts (there are so many way to translate Greek-root morphemes! So exciting). Anyway. This umbrella group of philosophers likewise anticipates that Russia will pursue and overcome Europe advances, but following its own path, looking to its own cultural models, not copying Greek/Roman classical forms, Englightenment philosophies, etc. Stands to reason that nationalists and ultra-nationalists fall into this group.

(Although I’ve always wondered – if skinheads are Neo-Nazis, but they’re Slavophiles…how does that work? Ved’ [After all] fascism is not homegrown in Russia…any way. It’s safe to say that the general population of skinheads is not deep enough to have realized that contradiction in their raison d’être.)

There’s a new tendency of global-nationalism. On City Day back in September we were out on a walk (this was me, Briullov, Jude, and Madame de Pompadour) when drunk young men around us started chanting nationalist slogans like, “RUSSIA FOREVAH!” or “Ole! Ole! Ole!” (notice the lack of italics/translation. This is what they were chanting.)

Just last week, at a dinner party, a guy studying English at a technical institute turns to me and starts asking how the West treats Stalin in history classes. By taking the position that Stalin was evil and rotten, he expected that I would have to attempt to be a Stalinist apologist, and then he’d either win because I’d argue what he wanted me to argue, or because I wouldn’t be able to say anything. Unfortunately this kid didn’t know that I study Neoclassical architecture built under Stalin’s reign, so I talked his ear off about the engineering and constructive feats accomplished, and the general lack of oppression that took place in the architectural community.

And then when he pressed the point I refused to play. When he paused for breath I asked, lightly: A ty vsegda tak ser’iozen? [Are you always so serious? Or – in a more loose translation – WHY. SO. SERIOUS!?] Every one who had been watching our conversation (another American and five girls – to whom I had multiple times given a “How ‘bout one of you native speakers come to the foreigner’s aid?” look) started laughing, and we moved on.

Later, this same kid started talking about American cartoons. He refused to believe the two Americans in the room when we told him that South Park came out when we were in fifth grade; it only came out in Russia five years ago. Likewise, he talked about how he looked up the Simpsons on Wikipedia and discovered that the producer named all of the main characters after his friends, except for Bart. “Because, you know, if you switch the r and the a, you get brat [the Russian word for brother]. And he is the brother!”

We tried to explain that “brat” means something different in English, but he refused to believe us.

So we have these Neo-Nazis who have adapted fascism to their cause. We have drunken teenagers who are screaming nationlist propaganda in essentially any language other than Russian. We have very friendly and easy-going guys who nevertheless want to get riled up at a foreigner bad-mouthing Stalin, a Slavophile who spends his time watching the Simpsons and Family Guy and Futurama and South Park.

Somewhere there’s a disconnect. I think Briullov wanted to see my interpretation, but for now I can only present the data. I don’t know what it means.

P.S. I know I've been bad about putting up pictures. I'll try to get some up in the near future. Hopefully one will include my Halloween costume. :D

1 comment:

Justin said...

Mr. Sir!

So is it a big deal over there that Medvedev vlogged a condemnation of Stalin?