Posted 22 сентября 2021, 14:23

Published 22 сентября 2021, 14:23

Modified 25 декабря 2022, 20:57

Updated 25 декабря 2022, 20:57

Risks vs Benefits: Why the Russian middlebrows do not vote against the government

22 сентября 2021, 14:23
Марина Шаповалова
Election of the centralized power of a large state is always a performance "about democracy", but the electorate is only a spectator in it.

Marina Shapovalova, writer

People in Russia treat the Putin regime and performances "about elections" as they do, because they are not idiots and are guided by normal common sense.

All other, derogatory and offensive explanations for their "electoral behavior" are a way to flatter oneself, so clever and allegedly only because of that it ended up in the opposition minority.

If this were not so, if an ordinary and not too educated man in the street were not always guided by common sense, then not only the idea of forming power through elections would never have arisen, but in general no human activity and communication would have been possible. And they, on the contrary, constitute the entire content of human history and are the driving force behind development over the course of millennia.

People always act rationally, well assessing the possible risks and benefits of their actions. With a slight exaggeration of risks, this is an evolutionary feature of self-preservation. The rest depends on the conditions in which the personal behavioral strategy is formed. It is worth considering them in order to understand why the probability of risks is assessed as maximum, and the probability of benefits is so illusory that a sane person does not take into account.

Let's go back to the late Soviet times. When there were enough people who wanted to bury the Soviet power for its collapse, and those who wanted to defend it were not at all found among the 250 million. This was the choice of the overwhelming, almost universal majority. In conditions of obvious risks from the destruction of the state, at the very least, but fulfilling its social obligations. Outweighed the assessment of the possible benefits of its destruction. Because before my eyes there was an example at times, ten times more prosperous and free West. In comparison not only with the USSR, but also with the part of Europe controlled by it. And if the Germans "under the Council of Deputies" live much worse than the same Germans in capitalist Germany, then only one conclusion is possible: the reason is socialism. Damn him!

Today, an ordinary citizen of the Russian Federation has much more reason to consider the risks from the collapse of the state unacceptable. Firstly, everyone, even those who are now successful, have a negative experience of zeroing the state in 1991. Secondly, the standard of living today is incomparably higher. It's true that Russians have never lived as well as in the past 20 years. The shelves of all shops have never been so packed, there have never been such roads, so many houses have not been built, etc. It doesn't matter if they feel grateful to someone for all this, it is important that they have something to lose. Everyone, and no one is ready to lose "for nothing".

Since then, it has become clear to everyone that the destruction of their big state means new borders. Not the same as they were at the "scoop": through them "theirs" are released from here, but I can not let "theirs" in there. Where is the profit if the borders without the USSR have not disappeared, but only new ones have appeared? Hence it is clear that the only profit for all the post-Soviet years is "Crimeanash", yes, yes. Don't count on the urge to give it up.

What are the possible benefits? How to evaluate them?

By themselves, fair and free elections, as I have already said, are an empty phrase. Without them, as it turns out, you can live. And even better than when they were. What are they for? Change power? And for what?

By the end of the 80s, it was clear what to change for what: co-power with its endless construction of impoverished socialism for "capitalist, like everyone else." But this one, which is now just capitalist! And all the other candidates besides the communists promise the same thing - capitalism. "So what the fuck?"

Here you could ask literally everyone who confidently asks about hell, does he like everything now, under Putin. And find out that almost everyone doesn't like almost everything. And that it keeps getting worse. But the assessment of the causes of negative phenomena and trends goes beyond common sense. This option, sorry, democracy does not provide.

It is the task of the intellectual elites and politicians to explain the reasons and indicate the landmarks, especially in the absence of obvious “foreign models”. Explain and indicate clearly. In a democracy, this should be the case. Alas. Because if we explain about the investment climate, the need to reform management and the notorious "fight against corruption" will not come. Better to promise to hang someone - they won't really believe it, but they'll like it. Populism, after all, did not arise from a bulldozer - it is a birthmark of democracy. Not like Gorbachev's, but for the whole head, when you have to lift your head too high.

And then, the question arises, how to explain to a sane electorate that they need another candidate to replace the president and deputy of parliament, instead of the everlasting and familiar clowns?

But in no way. Because the president and the State Duma are not about their lives. This is about "national pride" and other fiction. For hundreds of millions, the president is also a "god from TV" who will fulfill an orphan's prayer if it reaches him. There are chances - some were lucky to visit a fairy tale. In this sense, the familiar "god" is better than the new. You know what to expect from him.

Election of the centralized government of a large state is always a performance "about democracy". Talented and artistically persuasive or mediocre, disgusting farce - depends on the performers. But the electorate is only a spectator. In his own way, he correctly evaluates the spectacle in any case. And he reacts to it - weighing his own risks and benefits with common sense.

We are back to where we started. To poke a finger where the response is usually different at the same level of risk. Local elections. On which, if not benefits, then direct losses from the outcome of the performance directly affect everyone. And everyone at the same time feels that his voice has at least some weight. And when something concerns thousands of neighbors, acquaintances and relatives, this is already the weight category that allows you to enter the fight with the hope of winning.

They know that this hope is illusory, that all the power of a huge state is against it, but they do not lose it, despite all the defeats. They do not even need to agitate for the investment climate and reforms, they do not need to promise to put anyone in jail. Because at the level of local communities, common sense works nowhere better, independently exfoliating in a practical sense uninteresting populism. Democracy was conceived for such communities. That which usurps their rights and builds up over them is imperial power. Under any costumes and make-up - imperial in essence.

Original is here.