The previous weblog regards Corruption in Brazil - pertaining to the same causes, symptoms and cures as elsewhere in the world – was posted for three weeks to ensure the strength of a very important message.
No sociological system, from neighbourhoods to entire countries to unified econo-political blocs can survive if the everyday actions of its member-stakeholders seek self-serving, short-termist exploitation over the values behind basic decency.
The paradoxical distant history of Russia - one divergent between the archetypical hardy, hard-drinking, village peasant and the 'Arcadia' created by the Czars in their Fabergé Egg, bubble-like world - is thankfully little more than a bad memory. And the dire authoritarian personal restrictions of the supposed antidote...Communism..even with its positives of mass high-culture, a now long failed ideology; as is possibly being re-played again today with the landmark talks between the USA's President Trump and N.Korea's leader Jong-Un Kim.
Russia, like the other BRICs, experienced the creation of new economic opportunities, much assisted by sector and trade liberalisation, FDI, and even the re-routing of enormous locked state-owned funds to generate a new era. One that saw the emergence of a new middle class as soon as a decade after Gorbachev's Glasnost and the Perestroika restructuring programmes began in the mid 1980s. Much assisted by Reagan's then still relevant previous silver-screen persona as meld of the honest pioneer and frontier-lands sheriff – so setting the perception of 'responsible capitalism' - the Iron-Curtain became dismantled and a new world was born for millions.
It was not easy, especially for the older generations given the disappearance of the previous engrained certainty, but a new entrepreneurial spirit emerged that lawfully replaced and so contracted much of the previous 'black-marketeering' that had existed as part of everyone's life, from food to tractor parts, though never acknowledged.
As also well documented, the transition was not easy, as those in immediate positions of administrative power were inevitably approached by those with money and/or threats, to ensure much from enormous national commodities operations down to local licensing rights were gained by those who wanted things to go their way to themselves exploit the new opportunities for commercial gain.
President Putin is today revered by his people, precisely because although inevitably connected to such 'business-people' through his rise through the ranks, his origins were very humble, an upbringing which demands responsibility at an early age, which together with the study of Law so requiring critical thinking, and service with the KGB in foreign intelligence before entering politics. Essentially a background which made him very serious and essentially conservative. This mirrors his mass electorate; as seen by the mass applaud for the repulsion of the deliberately provocative 'liberal invasion' of the 'Pussy Riot' episode disregarding the sanctity of the Church.
To those outside Russia in the West, the mass of the agricultural, industrial and services employed middle-class and the balance of their lifestyles as progressive traditionalists, is seemingly an anathema; even though that stance be the norm for all EM middle-classes, and so arguably today the 'new global norm'.
That Russian 'New Wealth' amongst the Oligarchs and their 'clans' (family and business), was inevitably strategically spread around the world, and given the size of that wealth running to millions and billions of Dollars, it went into property assets (so altering the character of upscale locales), new foreign businesses and luxury trinkets.
So, it is no surprise that the average European and American who has either personally seen, but more likely watched on Lifestyle TV - view “Russians” and their accompanying status symbols as either unwanted nouveau-riche cultural interlopers (ie the old residents of Knightsbridge), or paradoxically far lower down the socio-economic ladder, as the new arbiters of luxury (ie the media-fed, high-lifestyle influenced youth).
Robbie Williams was the star performer at the opening ceremony of Russia 2018 World Cup, and for good reason – he juxtaposed that schism in his own vocal and visual 'artwork'.
His song and video of 'Party Like a Russian' summed-up both the oppositional antipathy and aspirational envy of those who view the Expat 'Russians', whether from a corner table in Quaglino's (of St James's) or from a day-trip to Harrods from the suburbs or provinces.
In that song video Williams mimics, mocks and praises this actually rare, but seemingly archetypal, 'New Russian'. He illustrates the ego-driven mentality that uses agenda-centric ploys and tricks for the gain of 'big money', together with the assistance of well-dressed 'heavies' for the ultimate influence of physical intimidation.
Essentially, a “don't give a f**k” attitude about anyone else to obtain their aims, which will in turn again feed the ego through the belief of others' admiration.
All the while, seeking to both enter the sphere of high-society whilst also deliberately illustrating their greater wealth. The perplexing element being the cultural recognition that true high-society does not treat anyone of any standing with disrespect. The innate paradox is the re-moulding of an ego and attitude created upon the effective diminishment of others to have one's own way, to the need to be thoughtful and considerate to those supposedly 'beneath you'.
This was the brilliant sub-text of the 'Party Like a Russian' video - in which Robbie is besuited in bling, whilst surrounded by his all female entourage of balletic maids, and allusion to the marrying-game of as 'this seasons' debutentes offer themselves as prospective new wives.
It was filmed in the stairwells, library and Great Hall of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire; the seat of the Marquis of Salisbury, and early home of Elizabeth I; where a portrait of the Queen shows “eyes and ears” on her dress, illustrating a spy-network that operated in a panoptican and all-knowing manner – much like any form of institutionalised power; and of course akin to the methods of the old KGB.
And almost as if life follows art in a subtly orchestrated pattern, the Russian World Cup opens at the same time that Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visit the town of Salisbury, where the Russian nerve agent attack took place.
Given the tensions between the UK and Russia over the last 5 years or so, ultimately which way international relations go, is yet to be seen, but as the USA puts itself first within the context of international trade, the 2018 World Cup offers the opportunity for the UK to operate as true global diplomat, a role it will obviously require as BREXIT (in what ever form) is pursued.
But for now, for the remainder of the majority outside the 1%, whose lives are far beyond the all-consuming concerns of gaining or losing portions of enormous wealth as the economic and political tides sway, beyond the need for cultural balancing acts to climb the slippery pole, and beyond the intrigue of spy-networks that inevitably comes with the 1% territory, the 'common' global citizen, whether young, old, male, female or even a football fan or not, can enjoy the atmosphere and original intent of international camaraderie...an ideology that the TV cameras and commentators of the 2018 World Cup will themselves project around the world.
And the very fact that President Putin saw the innate humour in having Robbie perform, given the mocking tone of his video about oligarch Russians, illustrates that even though Putin is officially required to convey power and impressive status, his head and heart are amongst the common people.
And lastly, just to inform of an 'in-joke', the reason Robbie gave a seemingly offensive - but actually cheekily-meant 'single finger' during the performance - was to echo the end of the video itself, an intended parody of a parody, a meta-physical circular in-joke...or to quote Churchill... a humouristic “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.
It seems that Vladimir and Robbie enjoyed the joke.