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August 08th 2017 print

Michael Galak

The Blessing of a Soviet Education

Growing up in a totalitarian state where 'truth' was whatever the authorities wanted it to be, I grasped early in life that a mere grain of salt was grossly insufficient to deal with the daily deluge of falsehoods. Here in Australia, well the lies are different, but they are still lies

believe IIWhen I was living in the Soviet Union I did not believe the state’s newspapers when they told me Americans were thirsting to conquer the USSR. I did not believe Khrushchev when he said it was the Americans who triggered the Cuban missile crisis. No, I thought, if they are telling me the Americans are to blame then it must have been the Kremlin’s doing because lies were our leaders’ stock in trade. I did not believe Pravda when it said the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich was a legitimate blow against the oppressors of Palestine, which I knew didn’t exist. I did not believe them when I was told Israeli commandos who rescued the Entebbe hostages were instruments of a Zionist plot to take over the world. Most of all I did not believe that the Western proletariat was groaning  in poverty beneath the chains of capitalist bloodsuckers, whereas the Soviet workers lived and worked in freedom and prosperity. That one was a no-brainer. I could look out the window and see it wasn’t true.

The commissars of approved thought were such clumsy liars I did not believe them, even when their claims might indeed have been true. The reason was simple: they were way overdrawn on credibility and I was not going to advance them any more of my trust.

Then I came to the West and found more lies, but of a different sort. I was told civilization would end soon, that it would be destroyed by DDT, by resources exhaustion and famine, by global cooling or global warming (depending on which way the research grants were blowing). If those perils were not enough, well there was always the Y2k bug to knock planes out of the sky, Ebola to make my eyes bleed, swine flu, bird flu, the imminent extinctions of bees and frogs … the list of threats never stops growing, in case you haven’t noticed.

I was busy building a new life for myself and my family in Australia and didn’t follow the purported experts’ debates about how much time we had left before all the food and oil was gone and the world population could no longer be sustained. According to the Club of Rome it was just a question of time, but my anxieties were banished by delicious apples and oranges and all the other foods of which there was no sign of shortage. We were told that humanity was on the road to ruin unless we all agreed to be a bit less picky about preserving our freedoms — freedoms, for example, like the right to decide with my wife how many children we would have, rather than allow the state to set the number for us and for our own good, as they were doing in China.  I’d grown up in the Soviet Union, remember, and was therefore an expert in recognising lies.

While the prophets of doom told their fanciful tales to gullible reporters, I thought instead of how the public can be led to believe pretty much anything if enough effort is being put into the marketing of the idea. The food, oil and coal scares still flare up from time to time but have mostly fizzled out, leaving behind no trace of substance other than the buzz word “sustainable”. But what does it mean? Different things, apparently, to different people. South Australia’s leaders think it means embracing “renewables” and plunging the state into blackouts and penury, pursuing that policy even as the economic base wilts beneath the weight of factory closures and electricity that is just too expensive to use.

In 1975, a nine-paragraph squib of a story beneath the byline of a man called Peter Gwynne, then the science editor of  Newsweek,  started a new scare — global cooling. The story was not a long-lived, but it was enough to capture the public’s imagination. Then the fearful spectre switched to global warming, which has been paying its leading advocates’ mortages ever since. Cooling or warming, I wasn’t worried, not at all. My early Soviet training in spotting lies and scare campaigns once again stood me in good stead. I happily ignored all the anguished cries of impending perdition, not believing a word of it.

These days, I’m still finding catastrophic chimeras to dismiss. I don’t spare a thought for the “sinking” islands of the Pacific, for example, because they aren’t sinking. Let Age readers and ABC aficionados fret about that; like my former Soviet fellow citizens, they need something to fear in order to feel simultaneously virtuous, put-upon and, well, emotionally complete. Each to his own, I guess.

Does this little story have a moral? Well, there is my observation that G_d must love suckers because he made so many of them. Let them continue to enjoy the perverse pleasure they take in dark prognostications, which actually does the rest of us a favour: while they focus on the confected threat du jour, they are not causing trouble on other fronts. Take away their climate-change obsession and they will soon be saying the world will end unless the consumption of sugar, alcohol, red meat or whatever is limited by government decree.

But an observation is not a moral in and of itself. So, if there is a moral to my ramble, let me state it thus: yes, it’s sad that so many simpletons heed the warnings of those with deep financial interests in filling their heads with terrifying nonsense, but it is even more sad that those accomplished manipulators of the public mind are mostly funded by the taxes of the very same people they mislead.

Without begrudging the credulous the perverse joy of their perpetual pessimism, let us also call on our elected representatives to make the fearful fund their own alarums. Meanwhile, enjoy life and rejoice in the next big meal — the same big meal the alarmists of a several scares ago insisted would soon be no more.

Michael Galak came to Australia with his family from the Soviet Union.

Comments [26]

  1. Jimbob says:

    Michael

    I may sound quite cynical but how can the state control the masses, if they are not in a perpetual state of fear? Whilst the masses live in such a condition, the “deep left state”, now marching its Satanic way through all our institutions including the main stream press as chief dispensers of the “deep left state’s” mass hysteria can then mould the masses into the Devils’ image…..oops…I meant “utopia”!

  2. ChrisPer says:

    I dont like the term ‘the masses’. Likewise ‘sheeple’ is contemptuous of our neighbours, and as soon as you pick out the people you respect in the community we realise its just another way of virtue signalling.
    In a democracy we need to rely on a broad level of rationality of ordinary people, and if they don’t care about our pre-occupations, well either we persuade them ourselves or accept our differences.
    Belittling others for believing bullshit is fair, but of no help. That’s how they got Trump.

    • Bill Martin says:

      The whole world, but particular the USA, is extremely fortunate that they “got Trump”, even if some people, including yourself, it seems, are unaware of their good fortune.

  3. Bill Martin says:

    Michael Galak’s experience of growing up under Soviet communism is familiar to me from my own childhood in Hungary, also under the same oppressing authority. Our attitude towards any information dispensed by the government was not simply that it wasn’t true, but that in fact, the opposite was true. Things may not yet be quite as c!ear cut here, at least not yet, but definitely trending in that direction.

  4. Warty says:

    Both Michael and Bill have had a slight advantage a good many of us in Australia haven’t had, in that brute force, overt intimidation and ponderous repression signals intent even to the slow witted, though, believe me I’m not suggesting either Michael or Bill are anything other than intelligent.
    It is just that things are not ‘as clear cut here’ (as Bill confirms) for a number of reasons. Take the SSM issue I’ve been rabbiting on about of late. As we all know, homosexuality was illegal back in the late 1960s, through the seventies, but nowadays there is a perplexing level of indifference, not about SSM, but homosexuality itself. There was no homosexual uprising akin to the October Revolution in 1917 Russia, when blind Freddy could see the Bolsheviks coming. There was no homosexual equivalent to the bloody suppression of a Hungarian Revolution back in 1956, which Bill knows like the back of his hand; nor anything like the Czechoslovakian invasion in 1968, which seems almost like the other day, in a way. The gays instead quietly began to colonise the universities, the MSM, the advertising industry, the arts, high schools, primary schools, the judiciary even the very police force used to break up the inaugural gay mardi gras.
    No people didn’t suddenly find themselves no longer reacting to public displays of men holding hands/kissing and the lesbian equivalent, it was far more subtle that this, and the social engineering had been underway for decades before the indifference, the catalyst being that endearing Aussie sense of ‘fair go’.
    This is just part of what we now know of as Gramsci’s slow march through the institutions, and the gay issue was indeed driven by the left in its inception. I hate to be hoodwinked, and as a society we have indeed been hoodwinked over the whole SSM issue, and not content with that, the left are now working away at identity politics, gender fluidity and ensuring we remain compliant; silent.

  5. padraic says:

    The other way of controlling the masses (as per Jimbob’s comment) other than through creating endless fears (vide 1984) is to take away a citizen’s ability to control their own day to day activities and privacy. The driverless car is one such activity. So much of our daily lives depend on the Internet. That can be hacked so our driverless cars can be stopped, bank accounts emptied. Ditto aircraft, water facilities etc and this has the potential to create more fears as we wait for an IT saviour to come and fix everything. Sending a letter to a friend or relative allowed you to express your views in private. Today, with facebook etc everything you type is monitored. So we are embracing a new form of Marxist type control where the State has outsourced its totalitarian tendencies to private organisations.

    • Jimbob says:

      Padraic your statement about the state outsourcing its’ totalitarian tendencies to private organisations strikes chord with me. I think what you say is profoundly true. One of the ways to exert control is to stifle any dissent through blocking as many avenues of free expression as possible.

      Just as an example: My “home” page whenever I switch on the net is MSN both at home and at the office. The “news” as we are all aware is little more than fabrications that we can’t verify from any independent source and the non-news is anything that is weird and wonderful (in the worst sense). But, what I didn’t mind, was the fact that there were readers comments at the end of the so called news items. Granted many of the comments reflected rather sick minds, but be that as it may, they had a physical violence free means of expressing whatever it was that bugged them. If I didn’t like the opinion expressed, I could just switch off! Most of the opinions expressed showed that many people just didn’t buy the preferred world view dominant in the so-called “news”. So what has been MSN’s response? This;

      “MSN has temporarily removed commenting on our websites while we explore better ways for you to engage in discussion on the issues you care about.”

      So now the conditioning flow is all one way and the dissenting voices are silenced in this mass market news forum.

      I can gladly say that I never partook in these verbal street fights on MSN. I felt it below my dignity but I do admit, I enjoyed making comments on the erstwhile opinion pages of the “Drum”. Even on their ABC, there were many voices like mine – totally in opposition to the fashionable commentary. So what happened? You guessed it – no more comments on the ABC!! And to think my taxes contribute to keeping this monstrosity in existence!

      The ABC is the same as MSN – a tool to silence any voice that might be contrary to the neo-Marxist agenda this allowing Marxist infiltrated parties (even in so called Liberal democracies) to spread totalitarian control.

  6. AlanIO says:

    So refreshing to read another view. Our life in Australia(This country born of WC Wentworth c1801 and ratified 1/1/1901) and yet now 60% owned by the indigenous.I have found the present hysteria hard to believe when my ancesters lived 28000 years hence in the Toureg world. Should I go there and claim some of that land and culture? I like Australia. AlanIO

    • padraic says:

      Good point AlanIO. Perhaps those Australians whose ancestors sent out as convicts against their wills should ask the British Government for an apology, plus a hefty compensation and membership of a special constitutional body to advise the British Parliament of their current cultural needs.

  7. gardner.peter.d says:

    Well tried formula of bread and circuses. Except that the activists in power and their supporters these days have no sense of humour and only ever laugh when laughing at their opponents.

  8. Jody says:

    Actually, a friend of mine who is a Head Teacher of English at a local high school said she received a first class education in the old Yugoslavia. The did her Masters Degree there and she said that compared to Australia there was a lot more rigour in the degree and they taught ancient texts like ‘Beowulf’, which Australians virtually know nothing about. Not bad in a country which isn’t an English-speaking one.

  9. Keith Kennelly says:

    I’m sure there was a lot more rigour but not our western rigour.
    The Old Yugoslavia was a society riven with suppressed ethnic and cultural and religious hatred dating back hundreds of years and all controlled by a socialist despot. Josef Boz.

    Beowulf… really. Quite minor and mostly irrelevant when compared with the greats of our literary history. And really it should have been studied within that context … but you’ll find, if you probed, it wasn’t.

    See this is what is wrong with Australia m. Our elites keep suppressing the things that are important to us and insist on telling us anything foreign and irrelevant to our heritage is better than us.

    Ask your friend if she knows anything if Louisa and Henry Lawson.

    She’d ask why bother?

    • Warty says:

      Beowulf was an Old English classic and as such every bit as the Middle English Chaucer and Modern English Shakespeare (indeed Shakespeare is classified as ‘modern English’). Beowulf is anything but ‘minor’.

      • Jody says:

        Exactly. My friend knew it intimately and she commended the old soviet style education system as being one of real depth and rigour – and that that’s the only thing communism had going for it. She knows a lot about the Australian system from being a H/T, English and, like me, deplores the sloppiness and propaganda which passes for education. The bright kids will always succeed, no matter how bad things are. They usually follow their own lines of enquiry.

  10. Keith Kennelly says:

    Indeed why not ask her if she studied the great mythical stories of mythical creatures and their conquests from … ah Homer.

    She’ll probably ask who?

  11. Jon R says:

    Jody was fortunate to receive the now dispised in academic circles, classical” education. I am sure she is more acquainted with the English classics than any of the current crop of Marxists being churned out by the Australian Unis. Our universities have become degree mills churning out qualifications for full fee paying students. They have rorted the affordable houseing scheme by building student accommodation for overseas students. The overseas students being already well quainted with propaganda, just get on and get their degree.

    • Jody says:

      Bravo, sir. My students (the bright ones in Extension English) took great pleasure in my lessons in Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” in the preliminary course I created for them. We started with Ovid’s “Pygmalion and the Statue”, in an excellent translation, and we used that as a springboard to look at “Appropriation” (don’t confuse with the execrable, cliched and completely fallacious ‘cultural appropriation’) such as the Rameau/Quinnault OPERA “Pygmalion” (18th century text!), then “Pygmalion”, then “My Fair Lady”, then Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”. They loved it – and I loved them!!

      • Jody says:

        PS: I cannot remember which book of the Metamorphoses Ovid’s “Pygmalion” came from.

        • padraic says:

          Good on you Jody for teaching the present generation some appreciation of the Classics – both ancient and modern – better than some of the books set for Year 12 these days. The Pygmalion poem was from No 10 of the 15 book poem Metamorphoses. It would have caused a stir at my school if it had been set for the Leaving Certificate. Throughout Secondary School Latin we had boring ones like Virgil’s Aenid, Cicero’s “De Divinatione” and “Verres in Sicily”

  12. Ian MacDougall says:

    Then I came to the West and found more lies, but of a different sort. I was told civilization would end soon, that it would be destroyed by DDT, by resources exhaustion and famine, by global cooling or global warming (depending on which way the research grants were blowing). If those perils were not enough, well there was always the Y2k bug to knock planes out of the sky, Ebola to make my eyes bleed, swine flu, bird flu, the imminent extinctions of bees and frogs … the list of threats never stops growing, in case you haven’t noticed.

    You came to a liberal society, Michael, where anything can be said publicly, and with legal sanctions only for a few contentions, like defamation. So one needs a good crap detector in order to sort the convenient lies from the never-to-be-dismissed truths; or alternatively, the convenient lies peddled by special pleaders from the inconvenient truths.
    As the old Chinese proverb has it: “let the waters recede, and the stones will emerge.”

  13. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jody

    Following your logic then th magnificence of the soviet and Yugoslavian education systems produced Putin and a murderous ethnic war.

    Whereas the ‘sloppy’ education system if Australia has produce a somewhat more benign society.

    Note also the now domination of our academia by irrelevant and ineffective learned people.

    The thing now common to Soviet, Yugoslav and Australia society is Barnhams ‘Managerial Elites’.

    I tend to think education in the three regimes less the influence you give it.
    I think the values of entrepreneurs and wage earners are what give us we have, despite the efforts of you elitists who try to equal these three disparate cultures.

    Beowulf has little relevance or impact on Western Liberal thought. It may have in some distorted look alike system that doesn’t work.

  14. Keith Kennelly says:

    Now ask your friend if she’s ever read Burke to Mills.
    Or the 20th century writers Russell, Barzun or Burnham?

    In fact have you?

  15. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jody

    Is that the best you can come up with?

    You try to tear down our western traditions with equalivance. You try to distort our great literary traditions with your profound knowledge of some minor scribbling.

    And you accuse me of being defensive.

    Mate you are like the Troll Ian.

    You won’t answer direct questions. And you launch off into stupid, really stupid diversions.

    Mate you are one of those Managerial Elites Burnham wrote about.

    He wrote of your demise at the hands of wage earners and entrepreneurs.

    Why don’t you read him?

    Do you realise you show you lack any connection with our society and can’t possibly add anything constructive. Do you realise you show you are stuck in the things you’ve been taught because you have never ever learned to think for yourself.

  16. Keith Kennelly says:

    JonR

    Sorry but the classical education you refer to was in fact called the
    English Liberal Education.

    It required Latin, study in Maths, Chemistry, Physics, and English.
    The Classical texts were written in and studied in Latin.

    Mate that course taught people to think and not to merely mouth off and show what they had been taught.

    I think you’ll find that is the difference between intelligence and real intellect.

    I’m sure Jody is intelligent but I know she is far from intellectual.

    In fact she had great difficulty in recognising or understanding intellect. Obviously her astrocytes are not often activated.

    Her ravings about music and obscure texts show that. As does her relativism and cult elitist beliefs.