Happy New Year!!!


2014 in Review

Everybody is doing “2014 in Review” series, listing the subjects they blogged about in the departing year. But I post so much that I can hardly remember any of it. So instead of the regular year in review, I will remind you of some posts that, I believe, represent each month of the passing year.

January 2014: The year started with a discussion of what makes immigrants so successful (yes, as I said many times, “immigrant” is the only collective identity I value and am proud of). I also shared a very painful thing students did to me.

February 2014: Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimea. I had trouble convincing people that it was important. N and I started looking for a house to buy and I discovered how hard it was for me to let go of my Ukrainian peasant origins. I was also reading Tony Judt and discussing racism and xenophobia in the USSR.

March 2014: We did our self-care and happiness challenge and it was fun. I visited Montreal and fell in love with beautiful, doll-like Lola. And people kept offending me with their incapacity to understand what was happening in Ukraine.

April 2014: I started my Bildung series that were wildly popular with readers. There was also a funny pro-Russian protest in the city where I was born. And I also met the Happy Hedgehogs mansion for the first time ever.

May 2014: I got my driver’s license and met my very first car for the very first time. I also discovered that Gen-Xers are total squares when compared to the wild and spoiled boomers.

June 2014: We finally moved and I almost died of exhaustion but still created a beautiful first dinner at the new place. And I started my endless series of posts on the collapse of the nation-state with this post written on a sleepless night between bouts of feverish packing.

Jule 2014: The blog’s readers helped me figure out what TPing a house was all about. I was supervising my contractor and engaging in profound philosophical talks with him. And N forced me to erupt in a string of ““WTF STFU LOL KGB FSB USSR but WTF???

August 2014: I threw my very first party and it was a great success. The party made me think about social graces a lot. I also wrote about the disease of patriotism.

September 2014: I tried to get in touch with Anastasia Stogova but it didn’t work and tried figuring out the collapse of the nation-state.

October 2014: N and I attempted to celebrate Halloween but failed abjectly. But I also analyzed Putin’s extremely important speech and excelled. We also had an interesting discussion of corruption.

November 2014: I suffered because of looking like a vampire. My new phone was starting to learn my language and Kuzechka explored Amsterdam.

December 2014: I started answering questions on the USSR and shared the uplifting story of the heroes of Donetsk Airport.

This was a great blogging year. The blog readership grew by the standard 40,000 hits this year (that’s how it is every year since I stopped doing any self-promotion or commenting on other blogs), reaching 693,000. We gained some really great regular readers and commenters and lost a single reader to a ban. But this is something who had been asking for it for years. Smug, condescending folks without a trace of self-irony annoy me. 

My blogging goal (not for next year but eventually) is 1,000,000 hits per year. We are at almost 700,000 as it is, so it’s definitely doable. I’ll try to think of ways to bring that goal closer.

I’m sure the next blogging year will be even better. Happy New Year!!!

Attitudes Towards Immigrants

I have a cool party trick. I can guess how people vote based on the way they relate to me. Right now, Ukraine is constantly on the news, and there are two kinds of reactions I get when people hear I’m from Ukraine.

1. “Ah, you are from Ukraine! Can you tell me what is going on there?” (This person always turn out to be a Republican).
2. “Ah, you are from Ukraine! Of course, what’s crucial to remember is that. . . [a long lecture ensues.]” (And this is usually a Democrat. If the lecture is especially long, loud, and obnoxious, it’s a Libertarian).

This started back in grad school. People who treated me like a regular human being all voted for Bush. And people who either ignored me or condescended to me all didn’t vote for Bush. This was a complicated situation for me since I detest Bush.

In general, Republicans are more comfortable with me as an immigrant. I can’t think of a single insult I got from them as an immigrant. But there have been many insults – and I mean, many – I got from Liberals. Strangely, the more Liberal they are, the more aggressive their insults get (“You are trash,” “immigrants like you are infecting the water supply in this country,” “you are a mail order bride,” “go back to your country,” “we didn’t ask you to come here,” “you are a tool of capitalist overlords,” “you don’t understand anything,” “it’s because of people like you,” “try to read something to get educated about our history,” “people in your country keep breeding without any concern for the environment*,” and my absolute favorite “you have no idea what things were like in the USSR” from somebody who obviously never visited the USSR or even the continent where the USSR was located).

There is this common misconception that Liberals support immigrants. The thing is, though, that many of them only support those immigrants whom they see on TV weeping at the border crossing. They don’t like us if we can’t be pitied or lectured to. And if we are confident, mouthy, successful, and unlikely to work for them as maids or gardeners, then they don’t really like us. And this is precisely why the cause of giving work visas to graduates of Master’s and PhD programs is championed in the Congress by Republicans

I’m a citizen of Canada, so I don’t vote in the US. But if I did, I would obviously vote Democrat. What is sad, though, is that many among the people I’d vote for and with have a visceral rejection of me and my way of being as an immigrant.

* Birth rates in Ukraine are lower than in the US.

Commenting Policy

Dear friends,

here is a little problem I keep having with the comments. I see comments on this blog from either my app or my WordPress Dashboard.

I don’t see them nested the way you do when you go to a specific thread. As a result, I have absolutely no way of knowing what it is you are responding to when you post things like, “What do you mean?”, “Are you serious?”, “Can you explain that?”, etc. I don’t even know who the question is directed to.

So if you want a response from me (which you might not, and that’s perfectly fine), put the words you are commenting on in quotation marks.

As for the commenting policy on this blog, there is none. And I think that’s a good thing.

Thank you for commenting and have a really amazing New Year’s Eve!


Oral Traumas

By xykademiqz‘s request.

An infant can’t get her own food. She is totally dependent on whether a nipple (artificial or real*) will come from nowhere and feed her. She has no control over the nourishing nipple. Every time the nipple walks away, the infant faces the terror of it never coming back. The nipple is the center of the infant’s world, the only possibility for it to survive. 

If the nipple behaves badly (doesn’t arrive when needed, offers too little food, or too much), this has an enormous influence on the way the infant learns to relate to the world. For the rest of her life, she will unknowingly repeat her relationship with the all-important nipple.

In stressful situations, she will self-soothe by using an equivalent to the nipple. She will suck on a cigarette, bite her nails, eat her hair or paper, stuff her mouth with food and / or alcohol, etc. because they will be her “kind nipple.” This kind nipple will be controlled by her and will never abandon her. The panic of a smoker who is out of cigarettes and can’t find a place to buy a fresh pack is the panic of an infant whose nipple went away.

Oral traumas are all about dependence. The infant feels completely dependent on the goodwill of the nipple. This dependence is unpleasant and painful but it is the feeling that is the most familiar to the infant. And as we know, human psyche values nothing more than stability. In adulthood, a person with oral traumas will develop complex methods of depending on others**. She will feel heart-broken, demolished, and miserable at the smallest sign of rejection because, to her, being rejected in a professional or personal context is a way to relive the situation where the capricious nipple subjects her to the emotional roller-coaster of losing it forever and then recovering it.

There is also a curious way of deriving power from manufacturing such situations. For example, an academic submits an article she knows is subpar***. When the article predictably gets rejected, the academic experiences extreme pain (“My nipple went away!”) but she also knows she will survive the situation (because what adult doesn’t?) and will finally demonstrate to the mean, nasty nipple that she is not destroyed by its abandonment.

*It is entirely unimportant whether the nipple in question is real or artificial since the infant is not equipped to distinguish them. 

** People or physical objects, it doesn’t really matter.

*** Falls in love with a man who will dump her, develops an attachment to a friend who will betray her, etc.

How to Attract Immigrants

Since we started discussing immigration in the comments, I want to place the discussion in a separate thread. As everybody can imagine, the topic of immigration is of a great interest to me, a two-time immigrant veteran.

Sweden* tried to lure in immigrants in a variety of inventive ways but ultimately failed. The reasons for the failure are mostly two: the language and the closed, snobby, supercilious culture. Sorry, Swedes, but I’m hearing you are very unwelcoming towards visitors.

Since normal immigrants refuse to come on these conditions, Sweden is forced to bring in “refugees”. The only way to attract them is through payouts. And the result is not pretty.

Sweden is a country I’d never consider emigrating to because of the hatefulness of the locals and the system that is specifically set up to prevent talented, resourceful people (as opposed to rich, lazy locals**) to succeed. I have no interest in working as a dog only to keep the locals in their ridiculous social handouts. And that is the only reason why Sweden even wants immigrants: to take and take and take from them to keep afloat a system that is not working.

Refugees are being brought in (into Sweden and other Western European countries) precisely so that the women would stay at home, wrapped in their burqas, never leave the house, and procreate, creating crowds of future taxpayers. The last thing Sweden needs is women who will go out into the workplace or anywhere else. It already has such women. Sweden is trying to solve the problem of falling birthrates. Immigrant women who see their own worth as anything but an incubator on legs are an anathema to the Swedes.

What an immigrant wants and cherishes is an opportunity to integrate. But such an opportunity doesn’t exist without the effort on the part of the locals. You will only see an immigrant who makes an enormous effort to integrate if there is a chance such an effort will be met with reciprocity from the locals. The US is such a great destination for immigrants precisely because the locals do make an effort and it is quite easy to get integrated into the new society. 

Immigrants also need the kind of economy where they will be able to ascend fast on the strength of their hard work and motivation. Equalizing economies are not attractive to immigrants because they are not seeing the fruits of their labor if most of what they make goes towards the taxes.

This is the new liquid world, remember? The success of every economy will hinge, to a significant degree, on whether it manages to attract the best, the most mobile (I don’t mean just physically, obviously), productive, motivated immigrants. And to lure us in, you need to create an attractive environment.

* As much as I love Quebec, I have to say that, while not nearly as extreme as Sweden, it has many of the same tendencies that make it frustrating to an immigrant to be there.

** Rich and lazy from an immigrant’s perspective. To themselves, they might look poor and hard-working.

Russo – Ukrainian War: An Analysis

The real significance of the Russo – Ukrainian War  (2014-?) is that it has demonstrated the weakness of oligarchy as a system of power that has been in place in the post-Soviet territory since 1991.

First, Ukrainians said, “Enough of this suicidal transfer of everything the country has or produces to the oligarchs.” And now there are isolated voices in the traditionally much more conservative Russia that are questioning whether it really makes sense to keep holding on to this system.

Ukraine has been blessed by having no oil or natural gas. Its oligarchs weren’t able to reproduce the trick that their Russian counterparts are using so effectively. They couldn’t throw enough crumbs to the plebs to keep it from questioning the system.

The reason why oligarchy has been so successful in the post-Soviet space is that it provided a cushion from the capitalist and democratic realities. In a way, this system follows the Soviet model in that it allows the majority to take no responsibility for their lives while the tiny minority lives in the lap of luxury.

The greatest war the Ukrainians and the Russians are fighting is the war against themselves. Their real enemy is the passivity, the fatalism, the meek acceptance of corruption that were inherited from the USSR and promoted by the oligarchy.

Handling Rejection

Reader Crystallizing Chaos asked the following question:

It would be great if you could share your thoughts on how you handle failure. I know you’re amazing at what you do and a very successful academic but you must have faced failure or rejection (professional) in the past. How did you deal with it?

First of all, thank you very much for the compliments I greatly enjoy them. 🙂

Rejection is a staple of an academic’s life. Can’t handle rejection? Don’t become an academic. 

Have oral stage traumas? (Smoke, drink, overeat, etc.?) Prepare for every rejected article to feel like the people of the world have unanimously agreed to kick you off the planet for being a total waste of space. And then experience the collective kick of 7,5 billion people.

I’ve worked very hard on this with my psychoanalyst and I’m happy to report that these days rejections feel like only half of the people in this world have agreed to kick me off the planet with the rest abstaining. Give me a few more years, and maybe the number of the kick-offers will be reduced to 1/3 of the planet’s population.

No, seriously, it gets better with time. By the time I turn 92, I will have gotten so many rejections that I will be totally jaded to the whole process.

I’m sorry if this isn’t too helpful but at least we are all in the same boat, suffering from rejection. That’s got to be somewhat comforting, right?

Some resources that you might find marginally helpful:

Here is Jonathan’s post on handling rejection with some useful suggestions.

Here is something really helpful my husband once said to help me deal with getting an article rejected.

Here is my old post from when I was getting nothing but rejections.

Bill Gates and Open Access

It is finally becoming clear why our state’s universities are being forced into the open-access model:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a major supporter of health and development research, is to introduce an open access policy next month for the studies it funds that goes further than most other research funders. From the start of 2017, researchers funded by the foundation will be required to publish their scientific papers and underlying data in publications that allow immediate free access without subscription or payment. The material must also be reusable without permission or fee.

Bill Gates and his offensively stupid foundation must have bribed somebody (or everybody) in our state legislature. The foundation has long been striving to destroy research in this country, and this is simply another step in that direction.


The Sarcophagus in the Red Square

It’s like Putin is trying to freak everybody out on purpose. I’m sure you are familiar with the following famous image of the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin:

As the clock strikes 12 on the most important night of the year (the New Year’s eve), the people of Russia and the Russian-speaking immigrants all stare at this image.

But this year, the famous tower looks like this:

There is a whole variety of conspiracy theories explaining that scary sarcophagus. My theory is that Putin wanted people to concentrate on something even uglier than him during the festive season. And he is succeeding.