Was There Anything Good About the Soviet Union?

People often ask me why my vision of  life in the USSR is so uniformly negative. “Is it possible that there was nothing whatsoever good about that country?” they ask me.

If you consider the way I am as a person, you will see why I can’t find anything redeeming about life in the USSR. I’m an intensely private and unsociable person, so the constant forced socialization in the Soviet Union made me profoundly miserable. The idea that “the collective” had the right to intrude upon your personal life and berate you for your sexual choices during public meetings disturbed me. The forced medical procedures that invaded my body against my will and for no reason other than humiliating me traumatized me.

I’m also very independent. I need to be able to make my own choices and I’m more than prepared to bear responsibility for them. I don’t want a guaranteed job on graduating from college if that job is assigned to me by somebody else and takes me to a city, region and company of somebody else’s choosing. Being forced to leave my students and my office several times a year to go and sort rotting cabbage or gather cucumbers in the field because somebody has decided that this is a better use of a professor’s time than teaching and research makes me angry. I want choices. I love choices. And I can’t feel anything but hatred for anybody who tries to “improve” my life by removing my right to choose whatever I want.

I like consumer goods and I’m not ashamed of admitting that. The system where I work, make money, go out and buy whatever the hell strikes my fancy is far more comprehensible to me than the system where you get a guaranteed pittance in exchange for not working and then spend your free time hunting for the most basic consumer goods on the black market.

I’m a reader. Without constant intellectual nourishment, I wilt and die. Living in a place where good books are impossible to find, learning foreign languages is suspect, and expressing your thoughts freely is dangerous is torture to me.

Even small things made me suffer. I’m very sensitive to sounds, especially the ones I haven’t chosen to have around. So the constant drone of the radio that could never be turned off and kept communicating the amazing socialist achievements in the fields and factories at all times of day and night drove me to distraction.

The lack of bright colors, the constant aggression of everybody against everybody else, and people, people, people everywhere, invading your life all day and every day – and what would I get in return for all this in the USSR? The security of being guaranteed a miserable handout in lieu of a salary, an access to a doctor who would humiliate me and treat me like crap (possibly even beat me), an access to the sad, pathetic joke of a Soviet education, the knowledge that I could always blame the mess of my life on the government?

No, that’s not for me. But I know quite a few people who look back at their infantilized Soviet existence with nostalgia.

Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

Christian Smith defends Mark Regnerus, an author of anti-gay and anti-women rants, but forgets to mention his personal connection to Regnerus.

Zombie nouns.

Farmers’ Market Etiquette.

A response to my post about the New Russians and their gymnasts.

Another post on how homeschooling messes with your mind and stunts your development.

On Romney’s distasteful activities on his visit to Israel.

It never ends well when someone tries to compare or match my lived experiences to something that they read about in a book . . . Because almost inevitably, they ask me to account for a variation between what was described in their book and what goes on in my life, or they immediately take control of the conversation about the topic away from me and my life and put it into theirs, when they haven’t ever actually lived these experiences, except vaguely vicariously through a medium which may not be 100% accurate and may or may not have been written without a particular agenda to push.” What can I say, except that I know exactly what this blogger is talking about? Reading is great. I’m all for reading. But I can’t begin to tell you how obnoxious people sound when they start to insist that their readings about my experiences are more valuable than those experiences. This happens especially often when folks start lecturing me about the history of my country.

The Republican look.

Do you love quinoa as much as I love it? Then here is a recipe for quinoa-stiffed tomatoes.

Father’s rights breached by mother ‘too upset’ to let him see children.” Are the journalist who come up with these titles on drugs? What does this idiot mean by “father’s rights breached”? How about the miserable children of this disgusting harpy of a mother? Isn’t the violation of their rights worth mentioning? This entire article sounds like we are talking about poodles, not actual children who have rights and feelings of their own.

Ideological positions as marketing strategy.

I don’t know why anybody would eat the garbage sold by Chick-Fil-A (Burger King offers gourmet meals in comparison with Chick-Fil-A’s nasty fare), but now we have a great reason to stop patronizing the chain altogether. Let the invisible hand of the market destroy these homophobes, eh? That will be a fitting punishment, indeed.

Here is another good post on the Chick-Fil-A debacle.

What not to say in a phone interview.

Another reason to love Amazon (its support of gay rights.)  Should I repeat my Spiel on the invisible hand, or are we clear in this point?

A collection of quotes on Romney’s gaffes. The guy is seriously lacking in the charisma department. I’m not sure this should matter but the American voters tend to believe otherwise.

If an academic conference’s organizers give the major speaking slots only to men, are those who attend the conference complicit in denying opportunities to women? That’s the question two male philosophers have posed in declaring that they will not accept invitations to such conferences, and inviting other philosophers to similarly pledge to boycott “male-only events.” What do you think?

I keep coming back to a simple thought. If you stumble across a corner of the internet that bothers you, why not just move on? I mean, I wish that more people would be open to feminism, queer activism, fat positivity, anti-racism, etc, but if you are outright opposed to these things, why even engage? Why bother? If you think we’re so wrong, just see yourself to the door. Seriously! When MRAs pick up my blog, I don’t go over there trying to teach them a thing or two. It wouldn’t end well for anyone involved. I just. move. on.” Exactly.