Global Voices Online
Saturday, October 27, 2007
The U.S. president's recent comments about "Russian DNA" did not cause as much of an uproar as did race comments by James Watson, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA - but, they did not go completely unnoticed.
The Washington Post chided George W. Bush for "portraying the neo-Soviet backsliding as inevitable, as somehow genetic" in the Oct. 19 editorial (which has received 52 comments):
[...] Mr. Bush has spent the past six years insisting that no country, culture or religion is inhospitable to democracy. [...] But at a White House news conference [...], Mr. Bush questioned "whether or not it's possible to reprogram the kind of basic Russian DNA, which is a centralized authority." In so doing, he echoed the laziest thinking of cultural determinists -- those who said that South Korea could never be democratic because of its Confucian culture, and were proved wrong; who said that Indonesia could never be democratic because of its Muslim faith, and were proved wrong; and who say today that Russia will never escape its czar-serf history.
Russian bloggers and forum dwellers, too, reacted to the U.S. president's statement - and, surprisingly, some seemed to almost agree with his judgment.
Below are a few responses, translated from Russian. (A GV translation of the Russian-language comments on the James Watson controversy is here.)
Irina Alksnis/LJ user alksnis, political scientist and daughter of the notorious Russian politician Victor Alksnis:
Strange that everyone's got so excited about the innocent remark by our George Bush, Jr. Because there was nothing in what he said that's not mentioned in any Russian history textbook, beginning from middle school. Namely: the geopolitical conditions - a giant territory with bad infrastructure, an extremely long border, hostile neighbors from practically every direction - determined the state politics that attempted to deal with these challenges to keep the country intact.
And the result of it was harsh authoritarian management - because it was taking so long for the monarch's orders to reach Irkutsk or Khabarovsk, or even Perm or Yekaterinburg, that the level of harshness of its implementation was likely to diminish due to the banal geographic remoteness of the central authorities. Even serfdom was nothing but a forced measure of the state that served to prevent depopulation of the country's central part through migration of the population to the east. This was unacceptable in terms of the country's economic, political, military and any other securities.
And this century-long policy has affected the population's mentality. As a result, Russians tend to [require] care from the state, sway from one extreme to another - from total obedience to spontaneous rebellion and anarchy, don't really believe they are capable of self-government, et cetera.
[...] Bush's DNA comment is a bit over the top, of course, but the mentality - we have what we have. And that he said it with an obviously negative attitude, it's his problems, not ours. And, judging from historical experience, national mentality is capable of changing. It just requires certain effort over a long period of time. So, if we will it, we'll have it all. If we [bother to will it]...
LJ community ru_politics:
Unfortunately, he is right ((
And what did you expect from Bush after [Vladimir Putin's] trip to Iran and the statements and agreements he made while there? [Americans] are shocked. So [the little Bush] bit the way he could. As for re-programming the DNA - let him try - he'll [fail spectacularly].
Putinjugend [Nashi youth movement, for example] must be experiencing a cognitive dissonance right now - on the one hand, they can't resist their urge to [...] obey "a centralized authority," while on the other, this is Bush, right, [...] the man who is buying up Russia through Kasparov, and there's nothing valuable that he may say. [...] Putinjugend! Stop being Bush's rug! Stop supporting centralized authority!
A medical disscusion forum, DrugMe.ru:
[...] Medical professionals, please comment on this [Bush's DNA] statement! :))
Despite genetically predetermined stupidity, he said a clever thing. But not a correct one. What we have in the government is the fruit of political technologies [spin doctoring], and not what the carriers of the [nation's] genome are willing.
[...] I do not completely agree. Spin doctors don't appear out of nowhere, they rely on certain inclination of a specific nation, etc.
Something that appears to be a science fiction fans' forum:
Genetic and biological basis for democracy? Cool.
This is an excuse, next they'll say that if it can't be re-programmed, it's got to be deleted.
It should be noted that the majority of Russians do not accept democracy themselves. [...] Excuse me, not the majority, but a big enough segment.
Yekaterinburg city forum:
[...] He's got some of it right... [...]
Fraktsiya zabanenykh - za MEDVEDA:
It hurts twice as much when [an inept person] says the truth about you.
[...] Sad as it is, Russia thrived only in the absence of democracy. As soon as a kind czar appeared, there was either decline, or, worse, a revolution.