Saturday, July 01, 2006

The most Annoying Cliche

Sometimes, after it has finished creating a cliche, the press will do everything in its power to maintain that cliché despite that annoying thing called reality. In the early nineties the press created the cliché of the Russian person; he or she does not have access to basic necessities, he or she has never seen a microwave or a televison. Russians live in cramped apartment buildings and basically spend their day dreaming of coming to America so they can stand wide mouthed in front of a supermarket.

I don't know what it is about this cliché, but the press just absolutely adores it. There is no force on the planet that could ever dissaude them from using. Never been to Russia? Need to write about something Russian? No problem, just stick to the cliche. Even if you have been to Russia and you saw something else; stick to the cliche.

It is no wonder that my wife is overcome by moronic questions (do you guys have TV?) when she meets new people. Today in the the local paper (3rd grade reading level) there is a perfect example of this. It was a nice story about children coming here from Belarus to get medical attention. Of course, the writer has to drive home the idea that every Slavic person would murder their own grandmother to come to America

“They stood transfixed by the throng of well-fed Americans in bright, clean clothes. Everything, from the groomed lawns on Summit Avenue to the shiny new cars parked along the street, was new to the children, who live in the radioactive fallout of the Chernobyl disaster.”

What is with all of the malnourishment stuff? My wife's family, a normal working class Ukrainian family, eats better than we do in America. Their diets are hearty, and their meals are not laden with sugar like the food here. My wife spends a great deal of time in supermarkets trying to find food that isn't synthetic or loaded with sugar. White bread, as we eat it here, would be unheard of in Ukraine. If I took a loaf of Wonder Bread to Ukraine they would probably think it was a joke or some mistake made by a novice bread maker. However, you will never read anything like this in an American newspaper. If this writer did an expose on my wife's family, he would write “this family has American flags hanging up all over their house. They haven't eaten in days. On top of their TV is a picture of a Pop Tart that they worship. They have yet to see an automobile, though they have heard of the horseless carriage. When they do get food, it is food that they have grown themselves without pesticides, and horrible bread that is dark and heavy.”

This has broader implications. Americans think they are more free and richer than anyone in the world. On paper we are richer than England for instance, but in England they have universal healthcare and college tuition that they won't be paying back for the rest of their lives. According to this weeks Economist, America is one of the most unequal countries in the world. But the average American does not know that. The average American truly thinks that they don't have cars in Italy, and that anyone would kill to get to this country.


Andrew Gabriel Rose said...

It might be a good idea to send this to the newspaper's editor under a psuedonym.

SteveG said...

Not only is the distribution of wealth unequal, but there is the strange effect that those who will never reach in the top of the pyramid mistaken think they already have or that it is merely a matter of time.

B. Kriplur said...

Or if they don't get there it is because they have not worked hard enough...

Durov said...

Hi, my name's Pavel Durov, I live in Russia, St. Petersburg.
All you say here is very interesting and helps to understand why almost all the articles about Russia in U.S. press are so full of bullshit.
Would you mind if we discuss your post in our discussion board? It's the largest students discussion board in Russia. I'll a post a direct link to this post and start a discussion, if you don't mind.