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Grigory Pasko: Russia Loves its Rules

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The Public Chamber of Tomsk Oblast is proposing for broad discussion a project under the name of «Code of the Tomich» [A “Tomich” is an inhabitant of Tomsk in Russian–Trans.] You can acquaint yourself with the text of the code on the Oblast administration website.

“We consider, – writ the authors (for some reason with a whole bunch of mistakes), – that the given project deserves the attention of all inhabitants of the oblast center and the population of Tomsk Oblast, because in it are reflected… the moral norms of behavior of every person, irrespective of his political, religious and other world-view preferences. In it are gathered norms of behavior that can and must unite society in the name of the development and prosperity of our little motherland [i.e. Tomsk and environs–Trans.].”

The objective, as we can see, is noble: the unification of society and the prosperity of the little motherland.

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True, two things, at minimum, immediately come to mind: the moral code of the builder of communism (younger readers will probably not recall what this is – look here)  and Jerzy Lec’s famous quote about how you can always find Eskimos who will write rules of behavior in the tropical heat for the inhabitants of the Belgian Congo.

Rules, of course, are a necessary thing. Especially – good rules. Ofthose, Tomskan ones, I liked the section «Out in nature». The touchingpoint “I take away the garbage remaining after myself and just a littlebit more garbage, left by others” really hits home. And also one likethis: “Food remnants I also take away with myself, thrown in naturethey accustom wild animals to food unintrinsic to them and destroy theecological balance“. Or here: “If I see a person who is causing harm tonature (is breaking branches, burning plastic, setting fires and oth.),I will politely explain why this ought not be done.” (Here I recalledthe joke about the reaction of the housepainter Vasya, on whose head acolleague dropped a bucket with paint).

Of course, some of the points from the rules are hard to carry out.Here’s one of them: “I cross the street only at a pedestrian crosswalk,if the crosswalk is not equipped with a traffic light, then I willstart movement only having convinced myself that all drivers areletting me pass.

Recently I was crossing the street at a pedestrian crosswalk. Iwaited a long time, when the automobiles would stop. They didn’t stop.I took a step into the white lines. They keep driving. I managed to runto the middle. They keep driving. I wave and make signs that it wouldbehoove them to stop, I’m within the white lines, after all. They keepdriving. I went further along the white lines. The screech of brakes, ahefty and fat guy jumps out from a car and yells at me. I, quietly andpolitely, as the rules for the inhabitants of Congo advise, explainthat it is he who is not right, I’m in the crosswalk after all. Hedidn’t understand my politeness, started to grab me by the lapels. Itended badly. For him. Even though he was hefty and fat, but on my side,in spirit, was a huge army of pedestrians. Well, and the rules for allEskimos and inhabitants of Congo: PDD, they’re called [Abbreviation of”Rules of Road Traffic”–Trans.].

In short, in this situation, politeness didn’t work even in one item.But there’s plenty more of them in the section «On the street».

There are items that are knowingly unfulfillable. «I park the caronly in places designated for this». As an example, I know neighbors inthe building who truly don’t like to put their automobile on the lawnor by the entryway. But the fact is that there’s no place else to putit: there are neither parking lots nor garages in the district…

There are «Congolese», there are rules, but there are not conditions for their peaceful and literate coexistence.

The weakness of the section under the name «In interaction with thepower» is not surprising. It’s a weak section because few of us knowwhat a polite and responsive power is. And the item about how «paperinteraction – a guarantee of a response to your request» is extremelydubious: they could not answer for months or not answer at all. Andnothing will happen to them for this.

But Heaven forbid you don’t observe THEIR rules, even idiotic ones, andobviously not such modest and polite ones as in the «Code of theTomich»! The consequences – all the way up to and including theinitiation of a criminal case for extremism.

Because they – are the Eskimos, while we – are the inhabitants of Belgian Congo.

Or, more precisely – of Russia. And this isn’t likely any better.