Collective Consequences

I want to present this without too much commentary (though I have added a bit for clarity). This was published yesterday by the journalist, Dmitry Gubin. He writes:

One of the most significant topics discussed this summer has been our collective responsibility for the affairs of state. Or if you prefer, collective retribution.

The key word is “collective” because many people are thinking about personal responsibility in Russia, and the more the TV repeats the word “stability” the more alarming it is. It’s like melting ice, one day the river will be revealed, but nobody knows when.

And when the break-up happens, many will be charged, from the Church hierarchy to the major tv programs.

Russians have seen and experienced this before, he writes,

“…in the early 1990s. But then the question was only about personal responsibility. Yesterday’s teacher of Marxism-Leninism were without work, selling pastries in the metro, but the collective responsibility of all of the members of the Communist Party was not discussed. We did not have decommunization similar to the denazification of Germany, where every German was forced to face Auschwitz and had to admit that the war and the Holocaust was not only [the responsibility of] Hitler, Himmler, and Eichmann, but himself. Just because he lived in Germany, where it happened, and was silent.

For us, I repeat, this is a new thing. The idea of collective responsibility looks wild.

Gubin moves to the doping scandal that played out in the lead-up to the Olympics in Rio this summer. Some Russian athletes who had been caught using banned steroids were barred from competing in the games. And the International Paralympic Committee banned the entire Russian team from participating in the Paralympics.

Therefore when the Paralympians (and to some extent the Olympians) experienced collective responsibility, there arose sincere indignation, why?!

The obvious answer is: but precisely because you – the citizens of a country where the falsification of doping tests has been put on the State tap [the government allegedly conducted the doping program]; it is for this reason that you are in this situation of blaming the West, but not your leaders, and it is precisely for that reason that nobody wondered whether Putin was aware of [the situation]… – but very few people gave this answer.

There is some good news, though, Gubin notes. This subject is finally being discussed in the media.

Read, for example, in “Slon” the text of the journalist Andrei Arkhangelsk. He writes that the collective punishment applied to the Russian athletes is the logical continuation of the process where Russian athletes (and fans) have rejected the individual in favor of the collective. For a long time, it has been “Russia won” and not “Imyarek [a formal or ironic substitute of someone’s name] won”. So not “Imyarek was doping” but “Russia was doping”. But Arkhangelsk comes to a frightening conclusion: if people reject the “I” in favor of “we” then they perceive collective responsibility not as punishment for abandoning individuality, but as a humiliating mockery. We have arrived at a dead end.

Gubin then brings up another recent article on collective responsibility:

Another conceptual text can be found on LJ by the researcher of this hybrid regime Vladimir Gelman. He, responding to the question: “Why do good people have to pay because of their affiliation with poor institutions,” recalls the long (even in the 1970s) schematic of the American economist Albert Hirschman, in which the behavior of an individual in a “bad organization” is confined to three possibilities: voice, exit, loyalty. These are your choices – either protest (voice), or withdrawal (exit), or silence, which means consent (loyalty). Most choose silence because the costs of shift work (not to mention changing the country), as well as the costs of the fight, exceed the cost of silence. It is reasonable to minimize the risks: we quietly sit, and they won’t bother us.

However, to start a conversation about collective responsibility means that now the cost of silence for whole groups (e.g. for athletes participating in international competitions) can exceed the costs against, for example, struggle. Refusing entry to the Olympics for a person who has been preparing her whole life, and therefore shut her eyes to everything – is the highest possible price for an athlete.

He then moves from the Olympic doping scandal to the everyday lives of Russians:

I draw attention to this important change in the assessment of costs precisely because every day in all Russian classes this anxiety increases. A year ago, I was asked in the province, “What do you think, how is it all going to end?” But this year it is “What do you think, will there be war?” The war is seen as the culmination of collective responsibility for belonging to Russia today. It is clear who will lose. Russia is for the first time in history on its own against all, with no allies – and for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union is not a country with a powerful economy.

The suspense of the war – the total anxious anticipation, is collective retribution. This means that the potential costs of silence increase many times, especially for those whose profession is to speak.

Gubin concludes:

Our shared anxiety grows because we – individually and collectively – again, as in the late 1980s and early 1990s, find ourselves at a crossroads, in a situation to review and reassess strategies.

But this means that it is time to reconsider and reevaluate.




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