Should the October Revolution Be Celebrated?

Most of my readers probably didn’t notice that yesterday was the anniversary of the October Revolution. Around every November 7th, the Russian-speaking blogosphere explodes with discussions as to whether this date should be celebrated. My answer to this question is an unequivocal yes.

Regular readers of my blog know that I hate the Soviet Union with abandon. Unlike many of my compatriots, I fail to find a single redeeming feature to this horrible, repressive, monstrous country. The October Revolution, however, was a progressive, profoundly transformative event that initially* destroyed all of the remaining vestiges of the hopelessly outdated and degenerate Empire of the Romanovs.

Whenever I read late XIXth and early XXth century literature by American authors, I always feel stunned by how much freedom women in North America enjoyed compared to the women of the Russian Empire.¬†The October Revolution bridged the gap in women’s rights between the countries of the Russian Empire and North America overnight and allowed women to move very far ahead on this issue, overtaking every other country in the world instantly.

The Revolution also liberated the Jews of the Empire from the pale of settlement and allowed them to become integrated into society easily and in any form they chose.

The decade of the 1920s saw an explosion of artistic production in Russia and Ukraine. The Russian Modernists of this decade created outstanding works of art and started the Silver Age of Russian literature.

Of course, later Soviet Union transformed into a repressive totalitarian state. The Russian Modernists were silenced. Their Ukrainian counterparts were exterminated. Soviet Jews rediscovered antisemitism in the late 1940s. Women were persecuted by puritanical ideologues for any suggestion that they can be sexual beings and not just productive workers and efficient baby machines.

Any good idea and any hopeful event can be perverted to the point where they turn into their exact opposite. This is what happened to the October Revolution. The society it ended up creating was structured very rigidly in terms of economic and social classes. Inequality was shocking. Artistic creation was stifled. Ethnic minorities were oppressed and subjected to genocide.

Still, even knowing what I do now about the results of the Revolution, if I happened to live in 1917, I would have fought for the Revolution. For a woman, a Ukrainian, a Jew, a peasant and a descendant of slaves, there was no other legitimate course of action.

* Stalin reestablished quite a few of the traditions of the Russian Empire in late 1930s.

Policing Kids

On the rare occasions I watch television, I’m always shocked at how unapologetic people often are about treating their children with utter disrespect for their privacy and personal space. Parents confess to doing things to their teenagers that they would never admit to doing to other adults. Going through the teenagers’ pockets and cell phone usage histories, controlling the music they listen to and the books they read, spying after them online, invading their Facebook pages, installing controls on their computers are just some of the measures taken against children and then gleefully discussed as examples of good parenting.

All of these efforts have no practical purpose except giving parents an illusion of control over their children. There is no actual possibility nowadays to control what anybody does online, talks about, reads or listens to. Every instance of spying on children and trying to prevent them from exploring the world the way they want to pushes teenagers further into despising their parents and destroys any form of legitimate human contact.

If you are a parent bent on controlling your teenager or if you know a parent like that, please read this great post on strategies a smart teenager used to fool her controlling parents. Read the post and ask yourself whether there is really any pressing need to force a kid to develop all these mechanisms to protect their privacy from you. If you are a teenager who is controlled “for your own good,” this post will show you how to escape from the unhealthy behavior of your controlling and disrespectful parents.

When I was raising my teenage sister, I knew that the most important thing was to preserve an honest human connection between us. She’d leave her diary and her backpack all over our apartment and she never deleted her ICQ (this was in the late 1990s) history because she knew that I would never stoop to policing her. She also knew that whatever happened and no matter how much she messed up (that’s what teenagers do, they mess up. It’s an important part of their growth), she could always share with me and expect to be treated with respect. This is why today, thirteen years later, we have a very profound, close relationship.

Snuggling at a Conference

Here is an interesting query via the FSP’s blog:

If you were sitting in a conference session trying to listen to Professor Z present her latest research results and to Dr. Postdoc’s inspiring attempt to impress potential employers, and you saw a couple of entwined twentysomethings sitting in front of you, snuggling and sniffing each other’s hair and necks, would you:

A. Think it was cute, sigh at the romance, and say “Young love, how special!”?

B. Avert your gaze and focus on the talks?

C. Snort in disgust and be very grateful that these young people were not from your institution?

D. Poke them and/or ask them to go somewhere else? (alternatives: toss something at them or do something else unobtrusive but possibly effective, without disturbing the session)

E. Other.

I’d think it was beautiful and I’d say to myself, “God, I miss N.” Then I’d think how great it was to see people who are not uptight and permanently miserable in an academic setting. After that, I’d write a post on the encouraging trends in academia.

What would you do?

Beware of a Scam!

Maybe everybody is aware of this type of scam already, but I just discovered it recently and decided to share it with people in case there are those who don’t know about it.

The scam works as follows. You get an officially looking letter saying that you owe a certain amount of money and it’s been sent to collection. Alternatively, you are told you are being taken to court for this debt. I got two of such letters already. I knew immediately that I didn’t owe anything to anybody, so I just threw the letters into the trash. There are many people nowadays, though, who are drowning in debt, so they might not know whether they really do owe this particular amount.

The sums these letters claimed I owed were quite small. Once it was $78 and the second time I believe it was a smaller amount. A person who is overwhelmed with debt might just pay the amount in order to get this particular piece of debt-related unpleasantness over with. If these letters continue to be sent, it means the scam must be working at least some of the time. So beware, everybody! Con artists abound and are quite inventive.