Alexander Zhelenin (Source: Youtube.com)
Rosbalt columnist Alexander Zhelenin is critical of the decision to relax the quarantine. This decision ignores the fact that the rate of newly identified coronavirus cases still hovers between 9-10,000 a day and that the virus is spreading throughout Russia's 11 time zones from Kaliningrad in the west to Chukotka in the east. This policy diverges from the practice adopted almost in every other country. Zhelenin's explanation, as confirmed by his personal observation of consistently lax enforcement of the quarantine in Russia, is that Russia has opted for a policy of survival of the fittest and is willing to have its citizens die rather than spend money on keeping them safe and alive. In choosing such a policy, Russia's leaders are imitating the policy of Belarus' President Aleksander Lukashenko. Lukashenko at least declares this policy openly, while Putin camouflages it with television appearance to tell the people how much he cares for them. Zhelenin's article titled "Where Has State Power Gone To?" follows below:
"The question “where is state power?”, which many Russians are probably asking today, is not as safe for representatives of this power as might seem at first glance. Because if citizens begin to show such interest at a time when this very power does not fulfill its main function, for which it was established in the first place (the function of protecting the people) people will start asking even more seditious questions. For example, why do we need a power that does not protect the people when people need it the most?
"These are the kind of questions that citizens are beginning to ask or will ask in the very near future, since there is really no state power now. We see it [representation of state power] mainly on TV. State power is present in media, showing care and distributing money: let’s allocate three thousand rubles for this, five thousand for that, and to someone - even ten thousand! That is, virtual state power in our country is, as usual, active and efficient.
Enforcement Of The Quarantine Was Half-Hearted
"However, in real life, state power became small, shrank, almost shriveled up. Although at the height of the epidemic, it appeared that the moment to utilize it [state power] for the common good had arrived.
"... A department of a well-known telecommunications company was opened in a large and also well-known supermarket. Five employees lined up [at the opening]. None of them had masks or gloves. Well, it is true, that in a city of 12 million it’s difficult and not necessary to control everyone, but it’s quite feasible to do this in the most dangerous stationary places like large supermarkets. So where is the very same police, which so zealously dispersed the opposition’s protest every year? – it’s nowhere to be found.
"[I can provide] more examples offhand: There is large playground near our house, on which two dozen children and teenagers hang out (naturally, without any masks and gloves). Obviously, they do not care if they going to infect each other, and then go home where elderly and not very healthy relatives await them, but this should bother representatives of authority! Sending at least some of these children home, and fining their parents would be a reasonable and legal measure under the current conditions. But there are no cops or volunteer militia nearby.
"The very same night, a drunken bunch partied under my windows in the courtyard until morning. This [disturbance of the peace] is even in normal times an administrative offense, and this goes double for now [during the quarantine] Needless to say, I didn’t hear any police sirens either.
"Meanwhile, if we look at the dynamics of the coronavirus spread in the world (which is provided daily by two reputable international sources: Johns Hopkins University and the Worldometer website), then we will see, that Russia takes second or third place among more than 200 countries in the total number of infected with COVID -19 (as of May 14 there were 252.245 infected in the Russian Federation). But there is another problem too: in the last couple of weeks, Russia has been among the leaders in the growth rate of new cases. And something tells me, that this is caused not only by the fact that we have a most brilliant procedure for identifying new patients in place. I seriously doubt that developed European countries or North America has the worse procedure for diagnosing of a new COVID cases, than Russia has (considering our dilapidated medical sector).
"And exactly at this moment, Russia is softening the quarantine measures. In Moscow, where half of the country’s infected are located, industrial enterprises and construction projects are being opened. And this means that the number of people’s contacts will sharply increase. And I’m talking not about the parks, which were not worth closing, since fresh air walks have always been one of the measures for preventing any viral infection, but about public transport and enterprises, since it almost impossible to maintain social distance there.
"The authorities’ instructions on how to work in order not to get sick, how to observe 'social distance' and how to use masks with gloves, of course, are all great, but, first of all, for the authorities themselves. With times are bad, such pretentious concern helps to save a face. Despite the obvious fact, that all these instructions are purely formal and in reality, they will inevitably be violated.
Russia Has Decided To Imitate Belarus
"The 'gradual' exit from the quarantine, when there is a massive increase of new cases that currently exists in Russia, is only explainable by the fact that our rulers no longer can and want to be the representatives of the entire people. The authorities do not want to spend money on them. This step once again demonstrates that state power primarily advocates the interests of capital, which no longer wants to go bust for the sake of common interests.
"In fact, the propertied classes, which are being represented by Russian (and not only Russian) authorities, are now frankly transitioning to a policy, which was benignly formulated the other day by the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: 'How can one survive? With a weight of 135 kg, the heart does not work, this and that [organ] does not work either. The virus attacks the weak!'
What coronavirus? Lukashenko goes ahead with victory parade despite the dangers (Source: Belta.by)
"This is the policy of Social-Darwinism in its purest, most sterile form: let the fittest survive, stop spending money on the weak and sick. So those, who say that the Russian government is now embracing the very same things that Belarus did from the very beginning of the epidemic, are correct. Russia is betting that old and sick people will die, business expenses on social policy will decrease and as a result the nation will become strong and healthy.
"The only problem is that being physically strong and healthy does not mean being smart and talented. Ancient Sparta, for example, where physical strength and health were primarily cultivated (weak Spartans were thrown off a cliff), unlike other Greek city-states, left almost nothing to the world: neither masterpieces of architecture or sculpture, nor the great philosophers, scientists or writers. Nothing. The only advantage of the Spartans was that they knew how fight on foot, heroically defending their oligarchic political system ...
"Unfortunately, in the modern world there is a need not only for very strong warriors but for people who are creative, educated, and capable of self-development. The very increase in the number of such people determines today and will determine tomorrow society's scientific, cultural and technological progress.
"Take for example, Chechnya (our modern-day Sparta, where there are many strong lads), the deputy chief physician of the republican ambulance station died of coronavirus. Is there a worthy replacement for this specialist in Chechnya and will it be of much use if he is replaced by a muscled mixed martial arts practitioner? And how many talented, educated, useful to society (although perhaps not very healthy) young people will die as a result of the current Russian policy? Will there be a worthy replacement for them, considering the collapse of not only the healthcare system, but also our educational system?
"These are all rhetorical questions ...
"The real policy regarding COVID-pandemic in the Russian Federation is already defined. Of course, Putin will not openly say what Lukashenko told to his people from the TV screen. In his last TV appearance, the Russian leader neatly shifted all responsibility for anti-epidemiological and economic policies to the heads of regions saying: 'act according to the situation'. However, as mentioned above, the process of canceling anti-quarantine measures in the country has already been launched.
The Psychotherapeutic Effect Of Putin's TV Appearances Is Wearing Off
"Naturally this transition from a so-called paternalistic policy to a frank Social-Darwinism in Russia will be compensated by the right words and the fatherly warm look of the president from the TV screens.
"However, the psychotherapeutic effect of Putin’s weekly television appearances will inevitably decline. Everything gets boring eventually. The ability of the high priest [Putin] to manipulate the consciousness of the masses cannot be exploited infinitely. Whether the Kremlin understands this or not is not yet clear. It is possible that the president’s entourage completely and sincerely relies on the strength of his “tele-magic” as the main means of control over the situation in the country. The only problem is that any, even long-playing, device has an expiration date, and the unemployed and half-starved existence of millions will increasingly grab them by the throat. And no television psychotherapy sessions will be able to compensate for this."