27 April 2007

on Vladimir Putin

Previously I mentioned Boris Yeltsin and the Russian view. However, when I was in Moscow, it was Vladimir Putin who was in power. I have always found Putin creepy and scary. After all, he is a KGB man. But on listening to some speeches by John F Kennedy, I formed a different view. I think that Putin is to the Russians, what Kennedy was to the Americans. Tough they are completely different people, Russia and the USA are completely different societies. In this I mean that he is The Man of the Times.

Russia has always had a desire (I think foolishly) for strong man leaders. Also with the tumult of the fall of the Soviet Union, they are now pissed off and lost in a similar, but by no means the same, manner to what I saw in England in the late 1980's. There is a loss of empire. However, the Russian reaction is different. In this way, Putin is a return to the world they knew in the days of the Soviet Empire. They seek a return to the good times, which were not really good, but what they are seeking is a return to the things they know and hence things that they are comfortable with. In a way it is a returning to the hearth.

In a way this may be necessary for the Russians themselves, even though it represents the two steps back in the of three steps forward two steps back scheme of life. They need to reinvent themselves and the direction they were heading was probably wrong in degree and precision. The Russians need to invent a world that works with the way that they view themselves and their place in the world. I think that the creation of mega industries, while a very soviet thing to do, was a mistake. I know that when in China in the early 1990's there was discussion on how to prevent the creation of such monsters and the Chinese as a result were much more successful at avoiding this mistake. Now Putin finds himself having to destroy these monstrosities. But will it lead them out of the wilderness? This I do not know. I must admit that I was surprised by the British response and their success in digging themselves out of the mire. The have been reinventing themselves and their perception of their place in the world, which is much more in tune with the reality of the situation. Perhaps Putin will turn out to be their equivalent of Margaret Thatcher.

25 April 2007

Boris Yeltsin

Just a short note: Boris Yeltsin died. One of the things that I found surprising when traveling in Russia is just how much the Russians love the fellow. In fact, the view of Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev in Russian and in Australia are opposites. In Russia, Gorbachev is seen as a traitor to the Russians, he is the man who oversaw the downfall of the USSR. He brought about misery, suffering and a loss of pride. Yeltsin is seen as the man who oversaw a new beginning in a land devoid of hope and pride. I often wonder how the two views of the two men can be so diametrically opposed. Also I wonder about the media outlets that manage to create such appearances. Is one view correct? I wonder. In science they say that if there are multiple, and very different theories then the multiple theories are usually all wrong. This is because a correct theory will prove itself to be reliable in the longer term and the incorrect theories will generate incorrect predictions. However, in this case, I suspect that it is simply the opposite sides of the same coin.

on ANZAC day, asians and the RSL

A little rambling commentary as it is ANZAC day today.

My grandfather was a fitter and turner in the RAAF in WWII. He is considered a hero. My father lived as a child in Ipoh during the Japanese occupation. The assistance of these people against the Japanese occupiers is completely unrecognized and he is instead one of those Chinese people who came to this country. I still always think of Bruce Ruxton when I think of the RSL and ANZAC day. Which is of and in itself probably biased. But you see, I lived in Melbourne. I remember how much they Asians immigration. After all, how can you hate those people over there if that nice fellow Hong from down the street is one of them. I know that I have both Malaysia and Australian parentage. I despise the fact that one side is considered heroes and the other maligned.

But on the RSL. One of the strange things about NSW (and Queensland, but here I speak of my experience in NSW) is the existence of RSL clubs with drinking and gambling. The clubs originally started at the end of WWI. I know from my grandparents that there was some bitterness in Australia at the end of the war (WWII) about the treatment of service people. The government, as it always does, wanted to limit the vast amount of money it was already spending on the war. So it came up with a bunch of schemes like the soldier settlement scheme my grandfather was part of. It seems to me that the RSL clubs are another non monetary method of reward. If you are a returned soldier you can have some special privileges in return for potentially putting your life on the line in combat. It also works as a self help group for a government than cannot or does not want to afford the medical cost of the mental effects of the war by creating self help groups. What I do not understand is why in QLD and NSW the clubs went on to become over-sized pubs.

Of course these wars (WWI and WWII) were a long time ago. And the conflicts since then have been mercifully smaller. As a result, these clubs are now a bit anachronistic and in a few generations hopefully we will have no wars and people will wonder why they exist. Society always contains this type of flotsam and jetsam in it's psyche. The clubs mean while start to branch out into new fields of endeavor to keep their clients. For example some around here run singles nights.

ANZAC day is also a hang over from WWI. It has done an amazing job of reinventing itself, but I suspect that much of the original significance about a country finally realizing the brit's are a bunch of self interested gits and that it should go on it's own way are mostly lost in the fog of time. In fact I know it is lost, because we choose not to realize, that at the end of the day, the prime driver of USA policy is self interest. Or perhaps we are wise enough to know a good thing and to ignore the downsides. Now ANZAC day is all about pomp and ceremony (which interests me not) and that surprisingly easy task of killing people to protect yourself seem like a noble thing to do. I do not think that it is noble, but I accept that it is sometimes necessary. Better to kill than be killed. Better to conquer than to be conquered. Even better to live in peace, but.

11 April 2007

international days

While having a hot chocolate at McDonald's on the weekend (I cannae believe that I said that laddie!), we were discussing the fact that the international years are very limited in their scope. Here are some new suggestions:
  • International year of the bogun.
  • International year of the westie (well we were out past Blacktown).
  • International year of the aspiring middle class.