Global Citizenship and the Problem of Russia
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Dear (Hopefully) Increasing Number of Readers,
I had planned to write about the idea of global citizenship, about how we could begin taking steps to bring more harmony to the world. I figured I would say a few words about rogue states like Russia, North Korea, or Syria before proceeding.
However, just as I sat down to compose a draft, I learned of a protest starting at various cities in Russia. It began hours ago. According to The Washington Post, a “wave of unsanctioned rallies swept across Russia to protest corruption in the government of Vladimir Putin…” Wow, these are brave folks. Why brave? Because protests, activism, criticism of any sort against the Putin government is, quite literally, lethally dangerous.
Consider the fate of these regular people who, to humanize them, I introduce by their first names: Boris, another Boris, a couple, Stanislov and Anastasia, Sergei, Natalia, Anna, Alexander, Sergei, and Yuri. Ten persons, speaking out against the Russian government, now dead.
Perhaps a year ago, I read a book entitled Winter Is Coming, by Garry Kasporov. You’ve probably heard of him. He was the chess champion who considered running for president in Russia. He relocated to New York a few years ago, wisely fearing for his life. I found his book is a page-turner. He recommends that, if you want to understand Putin, don’t bother reading Machievelli’s The Prince or similar political narratives. Instead, read Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.
Since Putin took control of the Russian government, he has run the country like a mobster. If he likes you, and you are close to him, you will exceed in business, become wealthy, and enjoy a relative, if temporary, sense of safety. If he dislikes you, well, you’re likely to end up dead. Here’s what happened to those persons I just mentioned:
Boris Nemtsov had been one of post-Soviet Russia’s “young reformers.” He rose to become deputy prime minister, and, possibly, a presidential candidate. He was shot to death near Red Square in 2015. Boris Berezovsky, a self-styled tycoon who became instrumental in Putin’s rise to power, was killed in 2013. Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were murdered in 2009. Mr. Markelov was a human rights lawyer known for representing Chechen civilians in human rights cases again the Russian military. He also represented journalists who found themselves in legal trouble after writing articles critical of Putin. He was shot by a masked gunman near the Kremlin. Another journalist, Ms. Baburova, was fatally shot as she tried to help him.
Sergei Magnitsky, a civil rights lawyer, died in police custody in November 2009. He had been brutally beaten, and subsequently denied medical care. He was arrested after uncovering evidence of police corruption. Those brave Russian citizens protesting as I compose these words are protesting corruption by the Russian government, e.g. Putin. Another journalist, Natalia Estemirova, investigated abductions and murders in Chechnya, was kidnapped outside her home, shot several times — including a point-blank shot in the head — and dumped in the woods. Yet another journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, wrote a book about abuse in Chechnya, accused Putin of turning the country into a police state, and was murdered in 2006. Yuri Shchekochikhin, a journalist who dared to write about crime and corruption in the former Soviet Union, was gunned down outside his home in Moscow in 2003. A former army colonel, Sergei Yushenkov, who had just registered his Liberal Russia movement as a political party, was also shot outside his home. Yushenkov was gathering evidence he believed proved that the Putin government was behind apartment building bombings in 1999. Also, Yuri Shchekochikhin was investigating the same, likely government-caused bombings when he contracted a mysterious illness in July 2003 and died suddenly. He was supposed to depart for the United States within a few days. You probably saw the wasted-away still-living body of Alexander Litvinenko who was killed after drinking a cup of tea laced with polonium-210 at a London hotel, in 2006.
The idea of global citizenship occurred to me because it comports with the theme of integration I often discuss when writing about psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Depth psychotherapy strives to integrate parts of your mind, such as your internal critic and your ego suffering at its withering attacks.
By extension, countries would be well served by such integration processes. We all are, after all, fellow members of the global human family. We have limited resources–energy, water, air, land. By joining together, perhaps we could conserve these resources, share them, and learn to live in relative peace. We could aspire to a type of tolerance allowing varieties of religious groups, ethnicities, races, etc. to live in harmony with one another. Do I sound like a contestant to a beauty contest?
Perhaps, but consider that international corporations transcend individual politicians, and entire governments, in their power and influence. It makes sense that a mobster like Putin would become so powerful by serving as both politician and global capitalist. It is incredibly disturbing to hear of investigations into Russia’s interference in our elections. Of course, Putin would want help in ending the sanctions placed against him by rich countries like the United States. Rumor has it, and only time will tell, that perhaps Trump himself agreed to a financial reward if he worked to end those sanctions.
Interestingly, Trump has said many positive things about Putin. He either has not read about him or, more likely, admires his financial success. Rising from the KGB to the President of the Russian Federation, Putin is estimated to be worth $200 billion, making him the richest man in the world. Perhaps Trump wants to be even richer.
Depth psychotherapists serve a revolutionary function for individuals. They use their various methods to help patients uncover and alter denied, disavowed, or other unconscious elements of their minds. No time remains to pursue ideas about global citizenship, about gathering together as a family of hominids to avoid killing our host planet.
You get the idea. It’s hardly original. But just like brave patients eager to learn about their self-destructiveness, ready to stand up against their own internal demons, ordinary Russian citizens have turned to the streets in protest against their governmental oppressors. Let’s follow their journey. Let’s find inspiration to confront evil in ourselves while these regular people, literally our relatives, try to foment change in their country. Meanwhile, if thugs like Putin, or the ridiculous Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, can be removed from power, a significant step in creating meaningful, self- and other- interested international dialogue will have moved forward.
With those Russian protesters in mind, I send my best wishes for your personal integration and, some day, for a world where the amazing diversity of humanity can live in harmony with one another.
Kasporov, G. (2015). Winter Is Coming. New York: Perseus.
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