It is very easy, especially for someone who has been online 24/7 for the past two weeks, to fall into the trap of the collective excitement presently sweeping over the Russian-language Internet.
After some ten years of yackety-yacking by the few bold (or craven) enough to vent their frustration online, words are finally turning into deeds. For anyone with even a semblance of civic-mindedness and some sense of social duty, these are thrilling times indeed. Personal news has disappeared from Facebook to be replaced by links to opinion pieces that travel at the speed of light.
At times like these, the Internet becomes a drug-like addiction; the physical longing for the latest scoop of “who said what” can be insurmountable. Especially since the number of voices partaking in the discussion across various platforms is growing exponentially. Even those public figures who’ve preferred to stay out of politics for whatever reason are taking up prerequisites to Revolution 101.
The minutiae of the moment suck you in. What? When? Where? The white ribbons, the flowers, the OMON riot police, Medvedev’s Twitter, Prokhorov says he’s running for president on Facebook, writer Boris Akunin will speak at the rally, lifestyle journalist Bozhena Rynska was arrested at Triumphalnaya Square, oh, and what’s the best thing to wear to a riot?
The two camps are going at each others’ throats: “We don’t want a revolution, we want peace and a recount, beware of the provocations!” say some. “Revolution means blood, it is the only way for change, for our voices to be heard, let’s turn it into f****ing Baghdad out there!” say others. “You are nomenclature-oligarchic-liberal-criminal-Westernized filth and muck,” the regime’s supporters repine. “Oh my God!” say the rest, and gently rock with the boat.
But it’s become noticeably harder to pause from all the talking and chanting and take in the bigger picture. A wave of protests seems to be sweeping across the entire world, from Wall Street to Vladivostok, and despite all the devils in the details, they all seem to divide down to a common denominator: self-respect.
Both in the United States and in Russia, hard-working, middle-class people are speaking out against the brazen cynicism of the regime, the shameless, barefaced manner in which the elite few stuff their pockets at the expense of the many, the loss of all sense of decency, however illusory and artificial it may have been when it was still there. When you’re openly told that who your next president will be was decided ages ago, that’s outrageous. When you count the number of zeros on the bonus for the bankers bailed out with your tax money, that’s outrageous. It makes one feel like a fool.
Much was said at the latest protest on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow about personal dignity. For now, the protests in Russia are more about ethics than they are about politics. Few are holding their breath for some form of political restitution. The grievances vary, and it may be a while before the list of demands is crystallized by all the movements in the opposition. But one thing is clear: people want to be recognized as human beings with rights. They want their dignity back.
For Russia, this point is critical. For what is – essentially – a collectivist society, the past decade, in which most Russians were left to fend for themselves, to fight for survival, to outdo and to outrun, was more of an aberration than the norm. The one feeling that comes across at the protests is a stark longing for a sense of camaraderie and community, the sense of belonging to a group of kindred spirits. As Russians start to shake off the isolation, bitterness and all-encompassing suspicion that’s gripped them for years, they reach out to others in the crowd. They start laughing at jokes told by passers by. They go out of their way to be polite. They smile at strangers and smile to themselves. They recall the value of self-respect and respect for others. These protests are the construction sites of a new civil society.
What’s emerged after the parliamentary elections in Russia is a movement for civility, and respect is what stops an intense discussion from deteriorating into a brawl. Even though I’ve never been one to think that Russia has its own, unique way (in the sense that regime changes sweeping the world have been far from peaceful), this movement has a fair chance of succeeding. And if we first have to topple our self-defeating mindset, I am down with that kind of revolution.
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- DjRevolution20:57, 19/12/2011Its really a mystery to me and my friends,why are these young russians protesting against Putin?He restored your country from a brink of an a abyss,humiliation of the 90s when entire world watched Russia in chaos.And i cant escape noticing that the only people cheering are those who hate Russia(Madlin Albright,Clinton,Berezovsky,Sakashvili..
- BazookamooseThanks from a guy in the US06:33, 24/03/2012It's nice to know that in other countries, people still feel the same every where you go. Thank you for some insight on what's going on there. We all fear a little censorship these days, and I like people who say what's on their minds.
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