Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Between the men and the women…

Kim Zigfeld has an interesting article on Publius Pundit which was also covered by the BHTimes. Kim Zigfeld brings us the La Russophobe blog which every day has five or so merciless articles about Russia. I have yet to truly figure out where Ms. Zigfeld gets either her perpetual rage against the Russian Federation or even what the story was on how she started. I guess I need to ask about that.

In any case this week she posted a story about Russia and how statistics have shown some rather negative things about Russia.

    I n 2002, two years into the "presidency" of Vladimir Putin and three years after he became Prime Minister, Russia had the world's third-highest rate of suicide among teenagers and was one of only four countries in the world with a teenage male suicide rate above 30 per 100,000. Recently, with nearly a decade of rule by Putin under its belt, a study confirmed that (based on 2004 data) Russia and its sister state Belarus are in the top three in the world for overall suicide rate in the general population, with a rate of suicide per 100,000 people three times higher than that in the United States.

    Russia also has a divorce rate over 30% higher than that of the United States, placing it in the world's top three in that category as well -- once again right next to sister state Belarus. The Russian divorce rate isn't surprising if you know that Russia's rate of domestic violence is also stratospheric, with one Russian woman being murdered by her husband every 40 minutes for an average of 14,000 such killings per year -- whereas in the United States, with twice the population Russia has, the figure is only 1,200 per year. This means Russia's rate of spousal homicide is nearly 30 times greater than America's, and makes it suprising that Russia's rate of divorce isn't even higher. The explanation may be that it's somewhat difficult to file for divorce when you are six feet under.
When I first got here in 2002 one of the first things I had noticed is that there was in fact a real problem between the men and the women here. I could call it passionate hatred and this would not be too much of an over statement. Pretty much any conversation with men, and this is true especially single men but does not necessarily exclude married men, the conversation inevitably turned towards how worthless women were. According to the line of thought, there was simply no purpose in trying to please them, all they wanted was money and even if you had any money for them, which nobody did, they still would never show you the time of day, much less any respect. The woman on the other hand would go on and on that there were no real men left in the world; all of the good one's had gone a away and all that were left were interested only in getting drunk.

I think the reason why this struck me as being as prevalent as it was is because of how completely opposite this situation was from only five years earlier. At that time, and I am speaking only of Belarus of curse, people were so well behaved and connected that even being any thought of social discord would have seemed absurd. And as far as how men and women were together, well, as far as I could see promenading along the river on a warm summer day seemed to be the height of fashion. And it was not only that they went walking together, it was HOW they went walking; hand in hand, posture perfect- it was like a ballet really. I know you don't believe me but frankly I wish I was exaggerating because it would have made what has become of the place much easier to take.

But why things went from perpetual honeymoon to weekend in Vegas is not so hard to understand. It was the money. In 1998 there was second, massive economic collapse that rocked the former Soviet Union. People lost all of their savings in the banks for a second time, an unstoppable inflation reduced what money people were making to ashes and though property was not particularly touched, there was a time that paying even the 98 percent subsidized prices for hot water and electricity (maybe $20 a month total), was hard to pay out of $25 a month pensions and payments for work- when there was any. Even as recently as 2002, people were only up to $40. This was exactly how much my partners in the bike school were making and my Tanya was lucky to have $60 from the book store.

Before going on I think I ought to stick in here that the "subsidy" that everyone in the west so loves to speak about didn't really kick in until about spring of 2004. The wages and pensions only then started to come up and it wasn't until the summer of 2005 that the landscaping got paid attention to and the potholes started to get filled in. It was also only within the last two years that the stores stopped selling only base necessities and began to offer "variety". They also stopped selling sour cream from a can, ladling it out into bank jars that you brought from home. If one were to check the price of gas and oil at that time, you might find that it was substantially less just before then and a hell of a lot more just after. Having been here fore this uplift is probably why I refuse to look down on Belarus or buy into the subsidy argument at all; I remember helping support a bike racing team without a budget and no bicycle newer than 20 years, I remember living off of my farm when there wasn't even enough money for cooking oil much less a weed whacker. To my eyes, when the money finally started to come, it was spread around pretty evenly.

But if we are speaking of domesticity even the most diehard romantic eventually comes to understand that the ability to at least pay for that bedroom is a bottom line for any sort of marital bliss. This of course is even more true for diapers and formula. You can say all that you want about Putin and Lukashenka, but if there isn’t anybody who can generate more than $3 a day at work, forget about good men or fine women, you would be hard pressed to even find any people. From an outside perspective, especially one where one doesn’t feel this argument particularly themselves, it must be easy to point fingers and make more jokes. But from the inside, when you never know from day to day how you are even going to find enough to eat will absolutely have an adverse effect on one's personality.

A high suicide rate? I believe it. I know that the life expectancy in general for men is less than sixty years here and for a while there it seemed to me to be even less. Imagine if you will, finding yourself at the age of retirement but yet there is barely enough coming in to support a loaf of black bread. What can you do but stay at work? And more, you had to do double duty if you wanted to eat anything but porridge and potatoes. When I say that farming your dacha is a base cultural activity, you understand why.

A high rate of domestic violence? I believe it. Yoked together with a woman who hates the site of you because you cannot be a "real man" and pay for the house, the light or food for the baby is not a situation that runs towards happiness. Stuck together with a drunken idiot who can't keep a job and won't stop drinking up any money he does earn- out of depression, out of hatred, out of isolation, out of misery… Who cannot understand how hard the world was for people here. And even over the last couple of years, when only the slightest rise in the economy came in; when people finally had about enough to eat, when they could afford to buy something interesting and not just worry about the pennies, even then they have to find that they get slapped for it BOTH from Moscow and from the EU.

I am sorry of I am becoming a bit too repetitive but "The Life" is very, very, very hard here. I do agree that the things Ms. Zigfeld speaks of are real and that they are huge problems. On the other hand, I refuse to believe, just as I have since I started writing about Belarus, that it is appropriate to place the blame solely on Lukashenka or Putin. Whether or not you agree that the word subsidy was appropriate, to my eyes whatever profit there was from the oil and gas business was spread around pretty evenly. I hear accusations of corruption all the time but I will need to see some pretty hard evidence that Lukashenka has been squirreling it away before I believe he screwed the country over. This is not to say that the man is a saint: HE IS NOT. But I cannot demand his head as if he was Saddam Hussein just because he followed the genuine will of the people and disallowed carpetbagging and demanded only fair deals from Europe.

It doesn't take a genius to understand the social problems of poverty, but it does take a certain kind of human NOT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. That the world is obviously not populated by too many of these is exactly and really why the problems persist.

More soon…


Blogger politiques USA said...

I lived in the eastern countries when I was a kid during the soviet era. Life was pretty tough back then, and lots of people were blaming the CCCP for their problem, especially food shortages. But I had no idea that life was even tougher than before. I've never been to Belarus though so I can't really tell for this country.

I heard lots of political issues lately between Belarus and Russia about a gas pipeline. I just keep an eye open for this countries.

Thursday, June 28, 2007  
Anonymous Jenna said...

I am not sure there is ever a justification for either domestic violence and especially not for murder.

Thursday, June 28, 2007  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...


I agree with you there.

Thursday, June 28, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

Domestic violences happen all over the world. In the US a man beats a woman every 9 seconds. In the US I would say it happens for different reasons, and it happens especially when couples bankrupt.

For the case of Russia, sociologists often talk about a "suicide nation". The population gets older, people do not want to have kids anymore, and I believe their population is around 137 million inhabitants now. Even the suicide rate in the russian army is way higher than any other nations in the world, and it has been higher since Putin was President.

We just don't really hear very bad negativity in Russia from Europe because politically the guys from the right in Europe are not very critical from Russia's past and present compared to the guys from the left or far left.
The inflation is still very high in Russia, and for a cup of coffee you have to pay around $6.35. In fact Moscow became the most expensive city in the world (#1) but for this country it is mainly due to a weak dollar.

I bookmarked this blog.

How's Mary Ellen doin'?

Thursday, June 28, 2007  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Hi Steve!

I'm doin' great...good to see you here.

In the US a man beats a woman every 9 seconds.

Gee...who is this guy and why haven't they caught him yet? ...ok bad joke.

I wonder if there are any studies that show that men are more likely to commit suicide because of money problems than women? Are women more apt to just do what they can to survive and men give up because of their shame of failure? I wonder if that is also evident in the numbers of men who committed suicide in the US during the big market crash? I never read anything about women killing themselves at that time.

Just a thought.....

Friday, June 29, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Wow, $6.35 for a cup of coffee. I can get a plastic cup of Nescafe over at the renok for about 50 cents with a dollop of condensed milk. In fact, I don't think I pay 13,000 for a can of coffee. Maybe a half or a third of that. I don't think it is even that expensive in Minsk.

Friday, June 29, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

There are 2 things that I can't explain: suicides and violence.
I don't think suicides are linked to the conditions of social life, social life may emphasize suicide attempts, but from a biological point of view, it had been proved there was a correlation between suicide rates and the serotonin level in the brain: the less serotonin there is, and the higher people are able to commit suicide.
I would say that suicides are preventive if people are able to afford to go see a doctor. And I think, but we should look at a case study first, that suicide may be more prevalent at the poverty level because people cannot afford to go see doctors. This is why it would be a mistake to link it exclusively to the poverty level first, and secondly without taking into account external factors.
Oh hold on .... I just found an interesting link but it's more related to India, although they talk about the US:
In the US, whites have much higher suicide rates than blacks. Teenage suicide rates are spiralling in the US despite rising incomes. There is no obvious link between suicide and poverty or oppression.
And that is all I found.

They also say, for the case in India, I don't know if we can apply that for the US, that teenage stress can cause more suicides than financial stress. At least we know that suicides occur sometimes when people are stressed, but basically I don't see any alternatives than preventive missions and consulting a doctor.
For the case of the US, the highest suicide rate was in WA state (Seattle) 8 years ago, and it is possible that this case of figure may have changed. Studies also showed that suicides were connected to weather conditions. People who are located in poor sunlight would be more exposed to suicide. Otherwise, sorry I don't know any stats between M and F in the US or any other country. These are the kind of things that make me phreak out, suicides, and even death.
Do you know what's wierd? Technologies do not make life easier on people, but they tend to stress more and more people, particularly when we look at the US. In the US I had read a study a while ago and it stated that around 75% of people feel stressed at their work. It would be interesting to compare globally these datas with other countries to find out if people are emotionally stressed in a technical environment compared to another environment. I would say that people are more stressed in big cities than at the country side, but I'd love to put everything on the back of technologies :)

BTW ME I have to finish my little essay about the State and the Church. That's not an easy essay, I think i should have started with messianism first but oh well.

Hi being had, howdy?
For Moscow, they were ranked the most expensive city in the world at the 3rd place in 2005, and today they are number 1. Usually asian countries are top ranked but new changes happened since 2006 with Russia and Latin America. There again people think it comes from the weakening dollar, which is half true, it may be an indication that other countries try to diversify their financial basket with other currencies, and Moscow did not follow this economics measure yet. For sure there are more millionaires in Moscow at the square mile compared to Manhattan, but less billionaires in Moscow than in Manhattan.

Sorry no link to support these numbers, I hope my memory did not betray me.

Friday, June 29, 2007  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Hi Steve

I do agree, the rate of teenage suicide is high and it really doesn't have much to do with poverty. There are a number of factors, like you mentioned, it could be do to a chemical imbalance within the brain and add to that the stress involved in teenage life in the US is tremendous. It also seems to be more prevalent in the more wealthy areas. Teenagers who seem to "have it all" are running into problems with the law for theft (even though they don't need to), destruction of other peoples property, and date rape. They are also dealing with depression which brings on eating disorders and suicide. There are studies going on now with the study of processed foods and wheat and what the relation is to chemical imbalances in teens. All I know is, I feel a lot of empathy for them, many people write teens off as just spoiled brats, but I don't think they realize how difficult it is to be a teen these days. The peer pressure is tremendous and the pressure from society for them to succeed and go to the best Universities is overwhelming. I could never do in school, what my son is doing. They are far more advanced in education than we were waaaaaay back when I was in high school.

Friday, June 29, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Hey Steve. Cool blog. I like howdy.
I think the teenage years in general are hard for anybody. But I think that I do think that poverty makes things harder. I mean, certain people adapt more easily than others. But life is hard out here and frankly, they like it tough. Belarusians and Russians are close to the earth which is another way to say without a lot of sophistication. I think during the USSR there was a lot more pressure on young people to be good citizens. This was true for everybody but for sure it was on young people and the extended family pretty much included everyone who even knew your name; it was very hard to hide. With the moral and ethical breakdowns over the last fifteen years, here is combination of more freedom/less interest or power to control kids from grown ups but at the same time, the same social realism i.e., lack of religion or other moral barriers. The results can be fairly horrific at the worst. I guess I could call them first generation losers, those kids who fall out and unfortunately, as a new breed, there really isn’t bureaucracy of councilors to take the place of family in friends. No where to go, nothing to do, nothing to look forward to and momma is as depressed as you are. Add vodka: and presto… coffin al la cart.

Friday, June 29, 2007  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

being had

I have to wonder if there is some kind of gene in humans that knocks out their survival gene. I don't think I've ever heard of any animal that will commit suicide if they are struggling to survive. Even when they are ill or in extreme pain, they try to struggle on so none of the rest of the pack or another animal will kill them off. With humans, things get too tough and we do ourselves in. I'm sure there must be some king of study about that somewhere....

Have a great weekend, Adam!

Saturday, June 30, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

There are studies going on now with the study of processed foods and wheat and what the relation is to chemical imbalances in teens.
I had heard, but I should look into details to be 100% sure, that the fact of only drinking carbonated drinks or Coca-cola would lead to a mental deficience in the long term, and the same thing goes for fast-food, because there was not enough vitamins and nutriments to develop/grow the brain normally. In french mentality I remember in the past that lots of people mistrust american food, they blamed it on their hormones. That was a belief deeply anchored in french mentality, without real proof, and new studies showed that processed food with hormones might be a problem in fecondity (for once they were right on this one). Although we can't deny new technologies (my professional fields is into new technologies), sometimes I feel like I want to go back to more natural ways of life, a sort of ground to earth experience. In life secondary needs cannot be accomplished if we can't face our primary needs such as eating, sleeping, digesting, but I would prefer to be entirely responsible of my primary needs first if I could allow it, and it's not the case anymore nowadays.

In the eastern countries, I remember the time during the communist youth. It was essentially important for kids if they wanted more priviledges from the State. Westerners were not very welcome in those countries (we were called imperialists) especially when there were the Soviets hanging out in the pubs, or in the Soviet ghettos: they did not want to talk with us in many cases.

Putin rises the price of Vodka in Russia, and it allowed people to install alambics to counterfeit it. It's already bad to drink a bottle of vodka everyday, and many vodkas are not pure and they add different products. In the end lots of people become all yellow because they catch a liver "hepatithis" (not sure of the spelling). To top it off, it does not add anything good to the depressing vicious circle, the more alcohol you drink, and the more depressed you feel. Vodka belongs to the russian culture, like wine belongs to the french culture, that's another screwed up belief.

... etc

Gotta skeedaddle, ttyl yall.

Saturday, June 30, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

I should have not said "screwed up" because it is a cultural belief, so it belongs to them, but I'm against alcohol. I was myself an occasional drinker, I was drinking only beers, and i was so afraid to become alcoholic that I quit drinking. In the US lots of people think that if you only drink beer you won't become an alcoholic, I preferred to get rid of my drinking habits instead of finding this fact that could have turned out untruthful.

Sunday, July 01, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

There is another article about this in the new BHTimes called "Capitalism is bad for men's health." I guess this is becoming a popular point of discussion.

Sunday, July 01, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

Capitalism is worse for men's health than women's. Women's DNA protect them from heart attack until they reach the stage of menopause.
This is one of the reasons why I am a defender of socialism: the human being during his financial or emotional fall needs some kind of mental comfort to avoid him all the stress he suffers from.

Monday, July 02, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

The age difference in terms of average mortality in Belarus is 61 and 76. Having lived in Belarus with a Belarusian woman for the last four years, I think I can understand this.

Monday, July 02, 2007  
Anonymous Steve R said...

You better not let Tatyana here that you said that or she is gonna crack that whip!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007  

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