2013-10-02T17:32:52+01:00

Did I not understand that culture did not just filter reality, it also made reality?

Here are my notes from book Beyond Perestroika by Gary G. Gallopin

  • pxiv Did I not understand that culture did not just filter reality, it also made reality?
  • pxv Some felt I was a hero for successfully defending myself and foiling the robbery, implying the thief was no hero. Others felt that North Americas in general historically exploited South America, and their wealth really belonged to the hoodwinked South America, so it was okay to steal from North American tourist.
  • pxvi ...the later Dr. Robert S. Hartman, for giving all the moral sciences a chance to become just that, sciences instead of forums for competing ideologies.
  • p2 This book adopts a partial definition of culture as "the cultivation of values" in order to focus attention on the related topics of value, valuation, and evaluation as they pertain to a cultural milieu.
  • p6 The interplay between the necessity of surviving and a certain devil-may-care attitude to life gave the Russians I met an unusual spiritual dimension.
  • p8 I spend a considerable amount of time discussing the theory behind the HVP in this chapter because it is new to anthropology and somewhat unique in its claim to be culturally neutral.
  • p23 Stripping away the tarnish put on the Russian work ethic by Western journalists and Sovietologists, I found that the Russians I met were, by and large, not adverse to hard work; nor did they lack in creativity or ingenuity. As one informant would say, "We are the only people who work for nothing." As a whole, they could be characterized as a very pragmatic and materialistic people, hardly the romantic idealists or lazy workers they were alternately described as being. They were also slowly learning to work from their own initiative after years of being told what to do and what to believe.
  • p31 A sense of chivalry was involved here: Russians generally were suffering from a cash shortage. To ask for cash payment was like asking for the shirt off of someone's back. Seryozha did not want to corrupt his code of ethics by taking advantage of a foreigner even though other Russians saw nothing wrong in asking for money from foreigners.
  • p42 Nobody else seemed to give them a second thought. That was the way that Russians seemed to react to unusual events - as if there was nothing at all amiss.
  • p71 My impressions competed with each other. The military, encroachment of nature and the the gloominess of the people spoke of disillusion and decay. The Soviet system of rule was weighing down the people it was supposed to protect and for whom it was meant to provide.
  • p79 On this and subsequent trips, I was treated to a variety of Russian foods produced on private gardens and in rural areas. The different foods were much fresher and more flavorful than I was used to eating. After coming home from my trips to Russia, I found most American food bland by comparison. Much of American food is processed and packaged; much of Russian food is picked or eaten fresh.
  • p85 I mused about the place and thought about a danger beyond Pavel's imagination. He had been concerned with Finish tourists. I thought of America and its fast food places and resort monopolies. I thought that here was a place that did not have and did not need McDonald's, Burger King, and Resorts International. I thought that, if there was any social compensation for years of bloody dictatorship, this was it, a place uncrowded and not commercialized, far off the beaten path, and away from the prying eyes of ambitious businessmen. A reciprocal compensation for the semi-poverty of this half-tamed place was peace of mind and a kind of untamed freedom that is difficult to find anymore in America. In America, even remote places are under some kind of management or off limits. Freedom in The United States is a matter of a set of laws protecting individuals, and how these laws are interpreted in different situations. Though it was not officially permitted because the Soviet Union nominally owned everything, freedom did exist here. It came from a tacit understanding that you would not be bothered in this place, partly because commercial development was prohibited, and partly because the state at that time was not interested in oppressing everybody within its domain. In the cities, towns, and villages, authority presided. In the countryside, authority could look the other way, and its representatives took the time to relax. I reflected on the hard work required of me to get to this place, the hurdles overcome. I felt lucky to be sitting on this piece of granite in Karelia. Lost in thought, I suddenly became aware that I was experiencing a mild euphoria. The shimmering water distorted the rocks, and they appeared to be moving in a wave like motion. I climbed out of my deeply relaxed meditative state shortly before Ilya came back to fetch me. I marked the rock I was on with a piece of gum to leave a little bit of my presence in this place to which I had little chance of returning.
  • p89 Also present is the Latvian sense of life, which is Western-oriented and fast paced in contrast to the heavy and depressed spirit I saw in Leningrad at that time.
  • p111 Eva seemed unsure about the idea of freedom. I told her that I believed that having a choice about what sort of life you can have is crucial. Eva was not disrespectful, but let on that this was not her philosophy. She believed in fate.
  • p131 For people to be in a hurry, they need something of value to hurry to.
  • p157 In Russia, I became keenly aware that which group you belonged to made more of a difference than any sort of market or court system.
  • p176 I had to take some kind of stand at some point. Life is messy. Standing up for yourself is not something that can be scripted.
  • p178 Manipulating the Soviet system of distribution of resources was key to success in the Soviet Union.
  • p181 Something beyond the cost made Dmitri fussier about books than I. For him, purchasing books carried more weight, as if it was a religious decision.
  • p188 "No one is alone in the Soviet Union. It [is] not possible [to] live [as] one."
  • p194 This practice of getting favors turned out out be a specialty of several of my subsequent Russian hosts. They had status and influence without the apparent wealth associated with these things in the United States.
  • p194 The dark side, hidden from view, that made these riches possible involved a moral inversion that placed material possessions over human life. Russia's experiment with communism was supposed to reverse this injustice. How ever, the experiment only succeeded in replacing the aristocratic elite with a new more base elite. The common Russian remained a slave for all practical purposes. Nostalgia for the past remained strong. The past held an aesthetic experience that the modern industrial state could not match.
  • p195 In this case economic conditions affected the spirit of the nation. Hence the look of weary resignation on so many of the faces of the older generation. Had they struggled so hard to become poor.
  • p199 In Russia, you had a lot or nothing at all.
  • p210 ..., he arrives at the conclusion that how you interpret an event plays, a larger role in your emotional response than the event itself. ... "Both fleeting and sustained emotional responses have in common the element of 'What does this event that I am responding to mean to me?' "
  • p211 Without values, accounting for changes in culture becomes impossible. The heart of social dynamics is change, and change is motivated by human goals that revolve around values and consequent priorities. Culture entails the process of growing value. The achievements of civilization, such as monumental architecture, attest to this. The involve the expenditure of energy over time, which is a kind of cost. They involve social change as well. As technology and art progress, new social forms come into being.
  • p214 I was discovering a vast new landscape of the underground Russian economy, where favors were exchanged much like stocks are traded on Wall Street.
  • p221 Cultures differ according to the values they cultivate. Since time, saving it, is do highly prized in the United States, a wayward "crazy man" holding up traffic is especially annoying because no reason is evident for his behavior. But primary concern in Russia was for public order. Everybody held a position in the vast state bureaucracy. Some Soviet bureaucrats seemed to specialize in putting up roadblocks to simple activities, such as entering a hotel. Others like Vasili (or the ladies in the Polish Church, the man at the church concert in Latvia, and the man on the train from Pushkin) were more keen on admonishing perceived incorrect behavior.
  • p223 Ultimately, women ruled in Soviet Russia, while men had ruled in the former aristocracy.
  • p245 Social networks, especially informal networks, are groups just as corporations are. The world has reached a stage today where connectivity is the rule instead of the exception.
  • p251 Values and stress are associated concepts. They are associated through the concept of loss or cost. Values by their nature, concrete values such as a prized possession or a secure environment, entail the expenditure of energy, and their loss represents the loss of the energy invested. This kind of investment is basis to life. Stress is a biological and psychological condition associated with the threat of loss of acquired values and so the loss of a piece of life itself.
  • p253 Alex explained that, in the Soviet Union, individuals are not expected to be satisfied with themselves.
  • p267 From speaking with other Russians, I had gathered that things like nonsense and madness were not automatically dismissed by Russians as being necessarily bad (as it might be by Americans). Many Russians not only associated madness with genius but considered it to be the source of genius.
  • p285 Comparing Russia to America, units of economic production differ along social lines. In America, the ultimate unit is the individual. In Russia, the ultimate unit is a connected group with an associated "group ego".
  • p299 Dmitri and Alisa had a plan before I set foot in Russia. They were Russian entrepreneurs. Coming from the West, with its superficial popular view of the Soviet Union, the last thing I expected to encounter was "go-getters." As mentioned before, a little study would have prepared me for something like what I encountered. I was prepared to meet scholarly people like me. Friction might revolce around ideology, and academic topics like philosophy, religion, socialism, and international politics. I was not prepared to meet a Russian version of American used car salesmen.
  • p311 Services were non-existent or, if they did exist, often rude. I recall commenting to Dmitri after one such experience in a post office. He explained that clerks were "tired of foreigners." This was odd. A service should welcome tourism as added business. However, the idea of making a profit in a state enterprise was antithetical to the principals of the Soviet Union and the ideals of socialism. The system required obedience and not profit. Doing your duty was necessary but smiling was not.

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