Ideas that add up #161

“The Russian is completely confused and disorientated by modern life,” Nikolai Naritsyn, a Moscow-based psychoanalyst who has written on the subject, told me. “Where do financial crises come from, what do the laws they pass in parliament mean, why has my salary been halved? To find his solutions, his truth, he heads to witches and wizards. Maybe they know what is going on and can help him?” Naritsyn also believes the Soviet past – when “we were taught not to take responsibility for ourselves, but to allow the state to do so” – has shaped the modern Russian psyche: “We became used to other people solving our problems for us.”

Marc Bennets, ‘Black Magic on Red Square’, New Humanist, Spring 2015

Soviet statism certainly would have had that kind of effect on people over the three or four generations that it prevailed – “teaching” the citizen to believe state-run institutions are responsible for satisfying all important extrinsic needs in life: jobs, accommodation, schooling, health care.

Does the welfare safety net of the average European liberal democracy do anything similar? Yes, if you’re a Reagan-Thatcher libertarian. No, if you’re anywhere on the “left” of the Western political spectrum – and anathema to even suggest as much. And yes, guardedly, if you tend to see us, regardless of battle lines supposedly separating “left” and “right”, as flabby, domesticated creatures: Labrador Retrievers severed from the old wolfish soul.

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