Every society that is based on installing a gatekeeper between all the good things that nature has for us and, um, us–which, by the way, does not preclude the ability to live very well if you are in the right place at the right time with the right mindset–comes up with a clever
and sometimes legally enforceable way to ascribe the good things that nature has to offer, to itself and its ability to funnel. It is very cute.
For instance, in the Soviet Union (that was supposed to be a system run for the people by the people), patriotic slogans were especially designed to transform the pleasant emotion that comes from having good relationships and being in nature, into appreciation of the communist system.
People were supposed to feel patriotic (with a special shoutout to the communist party) because they had loyal friends (who, of course, also had that special warm feeling toward the Soviet ideology… a feedback loop).
And of course, the sacred Soviet symbol – the birch tree. The birch tree was instinctually a symbol of the ancient Slavic land and all the complex history–but somehow, on the neuronal level, first and foremost, it was supposed to evoke a sacred love for the Soviet system. Because the land did not have a soul but the communist party did. And evidently, if not for the communist party, all birch trees would disappear in an eye blink, and people would no longer have friends.
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In the words of a famous folk joke from that time, ‘The spring is sweet, and summer’s near. Let’s thank our communist party dear!’ (I am very proud of that translation, by the way).
Obviously, the trick is as old as our species. I see it everywhere around me.
And no, I don’t feel authorized to judge because we are all living in the same grinder, different flavors. The communal emotion, no matter who or what drives it, is powerful, at times it is easier to just accept it.
But due to individual luck, I have seen many good-hearted people believing passionately in all sorts of ideologies, and I know that it is possible to bond and be decent to one another across the entire spectrum of nationalities, and political / religious faiths. Underneath it all, there is a human being defending one’s inner space, and that’s that.
However, I cannot help noticing. The ‘nature-to-flag transformation’ is happening over here, too, served to the beautiful, strong people with good hearts.
Unlike in the Soviet Union, the official ideology of the American culture is not about relationships, it’s about individualism and financial opportunity. A particular kind of expression. And somehow, the beauty of having the personal space to create financial wealth is ascribed to the political system, to the flag and to the anthem, and NOT to the fact that the young (and still young) American economy got a initial ‘investment’ in the form of ‘freeing’ the land of most of its original population, and then using forced labor to create a fat cushion of wealth–the cushion that eventually spread because if it didn’t, there would have been a revolt (don’t forget the impact of the very bloody 1917 revolution in Russia upon the world; many people who held financial power elsewhere, got inspired to please the less fortunate and less opportunistic folks a little better, so as not to share the faith of the dethroned Russian aristocracy). And even so, at least based on what I read, up until mid twentieth century, not too many people in American cities lived respectably.
I know Americans who went to Moscow in the 90s because that’s when the ‘in-between-systems’ Russia walked into a ‘Wild West’ situation, and its natural resources and the real estate space were very much up for grabs. And even in the good ol’ Soviet Union, there were people who lived lavishly, even though the path to wealth was wrapped in ‘communist’ rhetoric.
So, reality is far more nuanced that patriotic slogans. Birch trees grew in Russia long before communism, and people lived well off the generosity of the land long before America.
And again, I respect the individual emotion that people feel. I am not an owner of anybody’s ideology, it’s not my business, not my job, not my ambition. Furthermore, as a first generation immigrant, I don’t feel entitled to coming to somebody’s home and then telling everybody what to do. I am grateful to be where I am. I don’t believe in mythology but I love the land and the people.
And even when I say nothing out of politeness, my heart weeps as I look around and see people who are being lied to just like people are lied to everywhere, and who fight, fight, fight with each other over emotional associations that anybody should be free to choose if anybody really means freedom.
‘My tummy’s full, my speeches count. Let’s thank my noble bank account!’