So the other night I was over at the men’s hangout where every night a few village elders, including my host-dad, get together drink wine and tea and talk about whatever. I normally don’t go since most of the time they speak Azeri and I end up just sitting there. But, when I do go they sometimes include me by speaking Russian and asking me a bunch of questions like how much a BMW costs in America and whether or not I like Georgia. This gets old after a while and I find a reason to excuse myself and go home.
But the other night for some reason they decided to have an actual debate with me about the state of the world and America’s involvement in that state. I was with three old Soviets and one guy who’s about 30. Two of the older men and the younger guy are Muslim; the other older guy is Orthodox Christian but not practicing. We’d probably call him Agnostic in the States. And then you have me a Christian which they quickly established on our first meeting a few weeks ago. These aren’t your Arab Muslims these are Muslims who lived under Soviet rule and aren’t that interested in practicing so much as believing. You kind of need to know this information so you can understand where these guys are coming from.
Now, you’ll have to bear with me here because I actually don’t remember how it all got started, but I do remember at one point one of them asking me why we ‘Americans’ stole all the land from the Indians in our drive to the west. I told him I wasn’t really up on the policies of Andrew Jackson, but that it was indeed something we all weren’t that proud of, it just happened through the course of our expansion as a nation. Because my Russian is good but not the best, I simply closed my argument with, “It’s all about the money, only money.” That’s where it all really got started and I opened a door to an hour long debate.
“So that’s why you guys are in Iraq right?” one of them asked me immediately.
You all know my stance on the war and how much I would agree with that statement, so I responded “Well yeah. We’re not fighting terrorism; we’re fighting for control of oil supplies.”
This drew silence from the crowed since I guess they expected me to defend the policies of America to them.
“So that’s Democracy then?” another old Soviet asked me.
“No. That’s Capitalism.” I responded.
Again silence. I was having some fun with this because they did not expect me to agree with their views so quickly. “Look, America is run by corporations and a few small groups of people that have enough money to influence the government. The people of America do the best they can to keep their heads above water. Most of them are hard working and good people, it’s not the people’s fault that the government it faulty. I think you could all agree with that right? You all believed in your system before it collapsed and you didn’t blame the people, you blamed the leaders who mismanaged the system right?” I tried to make some comparison here between America’s Capitalistic drive and a subject I knew would strike a cord with them.
“No!” the agnostic Soviet said with a pound of his fist on the table. “Socialism works and we all had jobs, we all had homes, we all had a good life. If you weren’t working then, a man would come to your home and ask you why. He would then find you work. Everyone was busy and everyone helped out their neighbors. Do you in America help your neighbors if they are in need? Do you stop each other on the street and ask about your days? No. Socialism is a system that works.”
“Socialism sure.” I responded, “But what about Communism? Was that not the mismanagement of your Socialist system and way of life?”
I don’t think he ever really answered my question but he did go on to tell a good story about he and one of Stalin’s brothers growing up together. It really was a good story and believable since Stalin is from a city only a few hours away from here and none of the other men seemed to contradict him. This went on for some time with other side stories about the ‘glory days’ of the old system. At one point one of them demonstrated the draw backs of the American ‘capitalistic’ loan to Georgia because the president here just used the money to pay the army and police instead of giving any of it to the people and social programs. I don’t know enough about that to make an argument, so I simply told him that was the president’s business and ‘we’ only gave what we could because it was asked of us.
A long pause for a long toast and more wine to be brought. I won’t bore you with the details of the next debate we entered into; I’ll simply list its conclusions:
One, there will never be world peace because there is no money in peace. “Pure” Capitalists will never allow it to happen and the common interests of people around the world will never be able to be agreed upon.
Two, there are only two ways to achieve world peace. The first is through a one world Socialist government. (I didn’t agree with this point, based on the previous conclusion that the world population’s interest would never match up, but let it go as a theoretical argument.) The second way is if there was one religion in the world. We all had a good laugh at this since between the five of us there were three very different religions represented. Thankfully the religious debate did not continue very far and we all agreed that talking about it would get us nowhere.
After that there were only a few points of interest and I won’t go into them here. Overall though it was a slightly entertaining evening and I was actually quite impressed with my Russian. I need to work on a little vocabulary though because at times I had to over simplify my arguments to get my point across.
Any American that has spent some time with some former Soviets who truly believed in their system has had a debate similar to this one and I’m sure this won’t be my last. I just enjoy them because it’s different than the normal BMW pricing and how much do tomatoes cost in America conversations.
Yep that’s what I’m up to over here in my free time. Yapping away with a bunch of old guys passing the time waiting for school to start.