Not Your Mirror

On the subject of the penultimate post, the narcissistically wounded Americans will assume that this is about race. They project their hangups on the world and can’t imagine anything existing outside these sad little obsessions.

But it’s not about that at all.

One of the things I enjoy watching are Russian talk shows that demonstrate the cultural abyss between the Westernized urban bourgeois Russians and the provincial non-Westernized Russians. Both groups are obviously very white. But the ways they understand the concepts of a child, a rape, sex with children, incest are just as different as that of the “babies in cages” and the guy from rural Huehuetenango.

“How could you rape your underage daughter, sir? It’s horrible!”

“Me? Never! I’m not one of those perverts! I’m her dad so I [bad word] her! Who else is supposed to [bad word] her? Some other guy? I’m her father so of course I [a graphic description of sex acts] her!”

The Westernized urban audience faints.

The incomprehension here happens because the concept of a child as you and I understand it was invented by European Enlightenment thinkers in the 18th century and then exported to 5 square centimeters of the planet’s territory. Everybody else is doing things exactly as they always have and thinking you are a damn fool.

This is why I feel guilty because I once talked “in a not very kind voice, Mommy” to my toddler while a woman who grew up ten miles from where I did goes on TV to explain how it’s a good thing that she brutalized her child with a broomstick and the audience goes, “yeah, totally, kids get so annoying. Good for you!”

There’s also another aspect to this which is that a fertility that works as it should (first pregnancy at 16 and then one every year after that) produces a completely different value of children and women.

The moral of the story is that other people are not a mirror you can look in to admire yourself. The world is complicated, and diversity is very very harsh. Especially on people who are incapable of understanding what I just wrote about.

8 thoughts on “Not Your Mirror”

  1. This sounds terrifying! I don’t watch Russian talk shows, and don’t know much about the customs of provincial Russians – I guess I’ve always implicitly assumed that incestuous acts between fathers and daughters were things most Russian (former Soviet?) people would agree were wrong.

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      1. I was being naive. I lived in a big city, and, I suppose, most people I knew were what you would describe as urban and bourgeois. It makes sense that people who sexually abuse their children don’t think of it as wrong – we generally don’t like to think of ourselves as bad people.

        I still don’t know how to square this with the fact that the incest taboo supposedly exists in most cultures, but there’s only so much research I can do on that online.

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      2. \ Even in Ukraine, the rate of child sexual abuse in the family today is 40%.

        Are you sure that 40% of kids are sexually abused? Till which age is somebody defined as a kid for those statistics? I had to type that to unsure I understood you correctly.

        May be, it is mainly done by not biologically related men to children of women they start living with or dating, including for children in their teens.

        The rates of divorce and of being unmarried with kids from a not serious relationship are high in those circles (and in general society).

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          1. \ A violation of bodily integrity and sexual boundaries, even by a mother or a grandmother, has an identical effect on a child’s psyche as an actual rape.

            I think both MT and me understood you in a literal fashion, as in actual rape, not psychological violations of boundaries which is a quite vague, elastic term. I am unsure what falls under it and what not.

            I was probably overprotected in childhood, and you described your sister as not receiving sufficient privacy and moving to live with you because of that. I do not think you want to compare any of us with rape victims.

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            1. Oh no, I’m not talking psychological. I’m talking physical stuff. A couple of years ago, we had here on the blog a guy who took showers with his daughter as she was starting puberty. He explained that he was divorced and lonely.

              I’m talking about grabbing the children’s genitals for purposes of sexual titillation, kissing them on the genitals, walking naked around pubescent children, sleeping naked together, bathing together, and not infants, I mean big children who definitely don’t need help getting washed. Divorced parents, lonely grandparents do that kind of thing a lot, especially in cultures where they don’t hear that it’s wrong even on TV.

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              1. And by the way, children know from a very young age when things cross boundaries. Klara was 1,5 when she stuck one of those bath tub crayons in her genital area. I almost had a heart attack when I started changing her diaper and found clumps of something dark red and looking like blood clots in her diaper. Thankfully, I have an abnormally strong sense of smell and I realized that it smelled like a crayon, not blood. I started cleaning it out, and she knew immediately that this wasn’t a normal diaper changing routine, telling me, “Don’t go there, mommy!” I had to explain for 15 minutes why I had to do it and how I hope never to do it again if she stops sticking crayons there. We haven’t had that problem since. But the point is, even very small kids know at some level what isn’t part of regular hygiene.

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