I’m Productive

I did so much work today that I’m scaring myself. This is what I did:

1. Created a syllabus for my literature course next semester.

2. Created a schedule for oral presentations in the literature course.

3. Gathered all of the readings for the literature course.

4. Created a final exam for my Culture of Spain course.

5. Created a study guide for the final exam.

6. Planned tomorrow’s lecture.

7. Conducted oral exams for the students in Russian 101 (this is a service obligation.)

8. Discussed the final grades for the Russian students with the instructor and submitted them.

9. Worked on my research. OK, it was only 20 minutes but that’s better than nothing.

10. Sent out exit questionnaires to our graduating seniors.

11. Graded the presentations by my independent researchers and sent out individual feedback.

This isn’t everything I needed to do but it’s a lot.

Why Are People Unraveling?

We have talked a lot on this blog about the importance of taking into account cultural context when analyzing events in other countries, so when I saw a table of Soviet salary statistics on a blog, I decided to use it to demonstrate this important point. Of course, I could have easily just taken the table and published it here without attributing it to the blog where I found it. But I’m kind and honest, so I linked back to the original post.

Do you think that the linked post’s author came here to thank me for sending some readers his way? Not at all.

Do you think he held his peace and occupied himself with the important stuff I’m sure is going on in his life? Nah huh.

He came here and attacked me in an aggressive and completely unwarranted way. As you can easily see for yourself, I didn’t say anything even remotely unpleasant about his post, his blog, his opinions, or himself. I just used the table and linked back. And in return, I got attacked. Normally, bloggers are happy when somebody links back to them. I know I am. But some folks seem to dislike getting linkbacks from popular blogs like mine.

This is the second day in a row when people throw completely unprovoked tantrums on my blog. What is this? Avitaminosis kicking in? Why the sudden massive bout of hysteria?

Soviet Statistics

Here is a small illustration of why the statistics produced by Communist countries cannot be taken at face value. Please look at this table of changes in the monthly salaries that different groups of Soviet people received between 1965-1973:

soviet salaries

What you might conclude from this table as a person unfamiliar with the Soviet reality is that the government made efforts to ensure that bureaucrats’ salaries didn’t grow as much as those of the working people. You might even admire a system that prioritized the interests of the working people over those of the Party’s paper pushers. If you conclude that, however, you will be completely wrong.

The actual salaries of the Soviet apparatchiks (meaning the amount of money they were paid every month) were not that huge. However, money in the USSR was kind of worthless anyways because there wasn’t anything to buy. What made the positions in the state apparatus so coveted was the great number of perks that accompanied them and made higher salaries unnecessary. Free high-quality housing, a free car with a driver, regular food packages with all sorts of delicacies that you couldn’t buy for any amount of money, free stays at resorts, free travel, good books, free country houses – all of this was provided to the Soviet apparatchiks by the government.

This system allowed to ensure that an apparatchik would be prepared to stoop to the most disgusting behaviors in order to preserve his job. Losing it would mean having to give up the entire lifestyle provided for free by the state. The bureaucrats who lost their jobs would discover, to their extreme amazement, that they owned absolutely nothing. Losing a job would not just mean the loss of a salary. It would entail the loss of everything the apparatchik had become used to enjoying.

Numbers mean nothing by themselves until you look at the reality that produces them.