Ringing Out the Old Year on a Lighter Note

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Category: Interview
Ringing Out the Old Year on a Lighter Note
Published 25-12-2012, 08:41

US-Russia.org is dedicated to the cause of improved relations between Russia and the West, with special focus on US-Russia relations. Unfortunately, 2012 has witnessed rising tensions between the US and Russia owing to conflicting views on the situation in the Middle East, the anti-Russia rhetoric heard during the US presidential election campaign and Western concerns about internal developments in Russia following the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency.

US-Russia.org has striven to provide news and high-quality analysis explaining the source of these tensions, with a view to helping find common ground. We would like to thank our Panel contributors and hope that they have found their participation rewarding. We look forward to continuing to work with all our experts in the New Year.
We believe that deeper cooperation between these two major countries will benefit not only Russia and America but the entire globe. For this reason we will intensify our efforts in the coming year, offering constructive criticism of both sides’ conduct and making actionable proposals on how relations can be improved. US-Russia.org hopes that you will support these intensified efforts.   
Christmas, however, is the season of peace, goodwill and, not least, relaxation. In keeping with the seasonal spirit, let's forget about politics and have some fun. Instead of our usual panel discussion, we publish below some jokes mainly on the theme of Russia and/or the US. And to start with, one of our regular panel contributors shares his personal reminiscences related to this theme. 
We wish you and your families all the best for the festive season and a Happy and Healthy New Year! 
N.B.: The invitation to take part in the next Panel Discussion will be sent out on Wednesday, 9 January 2013.    
Ed Lozansky, Vlad Sobell, and Ira Bubnova
 
------------------------ 


How Relocating to Russia Can Heal One’s Fears and Neuroses 

By Dmitry Miheyev

Watching National Geographic, History and Discovery Channels in my Moscow apartment, I get the impression that all of America is caught in the frenzy of irrational fears. So, in the aftermath of the Mayan end-of-days, which we have just survived, I have a few cheerful words for the Americans.
 
I have known political fear and terror first hand. When I was released from a KGB prison camp in 1976, I was afraid of strangers, of open spaces and dark places. During the first hours after my release I couldn’t even cross the street out of fear that a speeding truck might run me over. For months I was afraid to enter my apartment building, fearing sudden attack from the unlit corner under the stairway, so I kept a bunch of keys in my right hand, ready to defend myself. I was afraid of strangers approaching me because I thought they might be KGB provocateurs. I felt uncomfortable in open spaces because there was no place to hide. So I didn’t respond to strangers; I ran through swaths of open space, and I loved to go to the forest where I could hide from people. Those fears turned out to be phantom and in a year or two they dissipated. But other fears such as being followed and spied upon by the KGB stayed with me till the very end of my life in the Evil Empire.
 
When in May 1979 I stepped off a plane in Vienna I thought I had found paradise. Sunny, beautiful Vienna was filled with kind and friendly people, flowers and musicians playing Mozart. Those were the happiest days of my life. Another soul-healing episode was in March 1980 in New York. During the transportation workers’ strike, I was biking to Manhattan from Queens when I was stopped by a policeman. He sternly lectured me on the rules of biking in the city traffic and then, to my greatest surprise, he warmly said, "You take care of yourself, sir. Good luck!” He was a black guy and I was a blond, blue-eyed "Nordic type.” Yet I detected no trace of either hatred or servitude toward me. His genuine cordiality had a tremendous effect on my wounded psyche. That disoriented and frightened "poor wretched refugee” has never felt a stranger and an outcast anymore or anywhere. On that bridge I became a "born-again” American.

Now, while America cured my complexes and liberated me from unfounded fears, something very ominous has happened to her, and long before 9/11. This most optimistic land of brave adventurers and fearless risk-takers has become a land of despondency and paranoia. To grasp how pervasive her fears and scares are it is enough to look at the titles of books, movies and TV programs: Apocalypse, The Death of the West, We Are Doomed, Paranoia Strikes Deep, The Twilight of American Culture, Civil War II: The Coming Breakup of America, The Last Days of the American Republic... [1] America used to be the chief believer in unlimited progress and a bright future. Not any more. Now she looks and sounds like the land of gloom and doom. She generates and spreads around the globe practically all contemporary fears and horror fantasies which contaminate humanity’s mind. [2]
   
Nuclear war, ozone hole over the Antarctica, acid rain, radon gas, Ebola virus, AIDS, the Y2K catastrophe, mad cow disease, the avian and swine flus, global warming, nuclear and biological terrorism... Hollywood, economists, politicians, journalists, Pentagon and CIA, media entertainers, insurance brokers, and pseudo-scientists  all seem to be in the business of peddling perils, mortal dangers and catastrophes. [3] A deluge of television programs, Hollywood movies, and literature incessantly spreads viruses of fear around the globe.
 
Add to this the huge army of missioners who wish to save you and enjoy your company in paradise. I encountered these well-wishers on my second day in Vienna. While strolling downtown, I was approached by two charming American women who invited me to attend a Bible study group. They were so personable, so friendly that I couldn’t resist. Besides I needed to practice my English. Oh how charming, I thought, they are preaching Christian love instead of the class struggle, kindness and unity instead of enmity and vigilance. I was flat wrong. It turned out these people were preoccupied with the Apocalyptic Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I attended the gathering but only once because I felt God had already raptured me from the clutches of the Evil Empire and transported me to paradise. 

That was my first encounter with the strange American obsession with the Apocalypse but not the last. In fact, if you live in America you cannot hide from the prophesies of the imminent apocalyptic end of time. Even if you don’t go to church, preachers will catch you on cable TV, on the street or even knock on your door. Evangelicals, fundamentalists, some mainline and liberal Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and several thousands of apocalyptic sects all push their versions of the end of time.

My dear Americans, in keeping with the seasonal spirit, I want to cheer you up. Don’t fall prey to fear-mongers who want your money: not only will you waste your money on useless shelters and emergency supplies; chronic fears damage your immune system causing allergies, heart disease, stroke and depression.[4] Believe me, most of these fears and prophesies are figments of  the sickly imagination of the neurotic or  the cunning minds of greedy salesmen, pseudo-scientists and clergy.

But if you are not convinced and still believe that America is really heading toward catastrophe, I have a better idea still for you. Sell your bunker in Montana and relocate to Russia. If you are afraid of viruses, the Siberian frost kills them off. If you are scared of super-volcano (a la Yellowstone) eruptions, in Russia they are safely located in Kamchatka. In Russia you will forget about floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. Russia will help you rid yourself of fears about global famine or running out of natural resources, which were planted in your mind by the Club of Rome in 1972. There will be plenty of food, oil, metals, drinking water and energy for your Russian speaking great-grand-children. If you are afraid of global warming, in Russia you will fall in love with it. If you are afraid of meeting armed psychopaths in American shopping centers or schools, in Russia you will worry mostly about drunkards. If you hate American Robocops, on Russian streets you can always outgun AK-47-armed policemen with a 5,000 Ruble bill. And if you keep an arsenal of assault rifles and grenade launchers in your home because you are afraid that Obama will take away your human rights, Russian Topols and tanks will protect you better.  

Finally, a piece of expert advice about the real danger you are likely to meet in Russia – namely, her proverbial beautiful girls. If you come across one, tell her that you are a poor American who lost his job in the latest downsizing and his house through foreclosure. Tell her that you came to Russia in search of true romantic love with a Turgenev girl. She will coddle you – "Oh, my poor John-chik, come here dorogoi . . .” Just don’t mention to her that your dearest hope is to be raptured on the eve of Armageddon. She’s not likely to appreciate the idea of your sudden disappearance.
 
So, follow my example and move to Russia. Here you have a good chance of recovering your mental and physical health, rationality and optimism. 

Merry Christmas and Happy 2013!

[1] Elaine Showalter, Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture (Columbia U. Press, 1997). 
[2] Barry Glassner, The Culture of Fear (Basic Books, 1999)
[3] Marc Siegel, False Alarm: The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear (John Wiley, 2005) 
[4] Peter Stearns, American Fear: The Causes and Consequences of High Anxiety (New York: Routledge, 2006). 
The author is Former Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, teaches "Leadership in the 21st century” at various business schools in Moscow


A Selection of Jokes (Courtesy of Edward Lozansky) 

Lenin in Poland
An artist is commissioned to create a painting celebrating Soviet-Polish friendship, to be called "Lenin in Poland". When the painting is unveiled at the Kremlin, there is a gasp from the invited guests: the painting depicts Nadezhda Krupskaya [Lenin's wife] naked in bed with Leon Trotsky. 
One guest asks, "But this is a travesty! Where is Lenin?" To which the painter replies, "Lenin's in Poland."

 ***
 Poland’s view of the construction of Communism
Q: What is Communism? 
A: The Poles say it's the longest and most painful of the roads to capitalism.
***
America at War
America is fighting two wars: one with terrorism and another with obesity. It’s double luck when it comes across a fat terrorist.
***

 
Want to play a game with Putin?
In Russia there’s a new TV show "Who wants to be a millionaire?”. Its host, Vladimir Putin, invites all Russian billionaires to participate.
***

 
A couple of  "Bushisms”: Democracy building in Iraq . . .
George Bush secretly visited Iraq. The level of secrecy was unprecedented. Only five people knew about it.  Lora Bush was informed only an hour before the flight. George Bush wasn’t informed at all.
***
. . . and Georgia
George Bush visited the State of Georgia and met its governor, Mikhail Saakashvili.
***

The Orange Revolution
Ukraine is a free democratic country at last. Before its president was elected in Moscow. Now he/she’s elected in Washington.
***

 
The Tulip Revolution
After the democratic revolution in Kyrgyzstan,  its new government stated that it would be as warm and friendly toward Russian subsidies as before.
***

 
Capitalism Russian-style . . . 
A Russian fisherman is sleeping on the shores of the Gulf of Finland with his hat over his face when an American walks up to him. "Why are you sleeping?" the American asks. "You'd be better off catching fish!"

"Why?" asks the Russian.

"If you catch some fish you can sell them and buy yourself a boat. Then you could catch more fish and sell them and buy yourself a trawler. Then you could catch more fish and buy yourself a fish processing plant. Then you would be rich and could spend your day sleeping by the water."

The fisherman closes his eyes and says, "But that's what I'm doing now!"
***
. . . and culinary delights Soviet-style
Three tourists are sitting in a restaurant in Moscow. The waiter approaches the table and asks for their orders. "I'll have a steak, medium-rare, with a peppercorn sauce and a side of baked potatoes”,  the first man says. The second man says, "I'll have a breaded veal cutlet with mixed vegetables." The third man says "I'll have roast beef with gravy and mashed potatoes." 

The waiter writes down the order. "Vanya!" he shouts to the kitchen. "Three meats!"
***

The ever-vigilant KGB
 A man goes to Lubyanka [the KGB headquarters] and says:
- I am a spy, I want to surrender.

He’s asked:
- Whose spy are you?

He says:
- I am an American spy.

He’s told:
- Well, then, you need to go to room #5.

He goes to room #5:
- I am an American spy, I want to surrender.
- Do you have weapons?
- Yes, I do.
- Please go to room #7.

He goes to room #7:
- I am a spy, I want to surrender, I have weapons.
- Please go to room #10.

He goes to room #10:
- I am a spy, I want to surrender, I have weapons.
- Do you have communications equipment?
- Yes, I do.
- Please go to room #20.

He goes to room #20:
- I am a spy, I have weapons and communications equipment, and I want to surrender.
- Do you have a mission?
- Yes, I do.
- Well, then go and execute your mission. Stop distracting people from their work!
***

The US Navy: Democracy is in safe hands . . .
The following is allegedly the transcript of a radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995, as released by the Chief of Naval Operations:

Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES' ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, I SAY AGAIN, THAT'S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call. 
***

French-US relations
A Frenchman in Paris asks a tourist:
- Do you want to hear one funny story about stupid Americans?

The tourist responds:
- Hey, guy, I'M AMERICAN!

To which the Frenchman responds:
- No problems, I can tell this story twice, if you don't understand at first.
***
 
Russian-US cooperation in space
- Why do Russians take Americans on space flights?
- It is necessary that at the time of landing at least someone will be sober
***

Strongman Putin

- Have you heard the news that Putin has broken an arm?
- Whose arm?
***

Oil found in Antarctica: The ‘Ice Revolution’
The White House has issued a statement: 

We now have strong reasons to believe the Penguin government is in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

An invasion is planned to confiscate these dangers to humanity. 

The bloody, inhumane regime of the Penguins must be replaced. Freedom and Democracy for Penguins!
***

Americans’ linguistic talents
If someone who speaks three languages is multi-lingual and if someone who
speaks two is bilingual, what do you call someone who only speaks one? 

American.
***

And finally . . . 

An American on a plane bound for Asia starts up a conversation with his Asian fellow traveller:
- Hey, what '-ese' are you?
- 'Pardon me? 
-'Yeah, I mean what '-ese'? Are you Chinese, Vietnamese or Japanese?
- I’m Vietnamese. How about you? What '-key' are you?
-What '-key'? What do you mean, what '-key'?  
-Are you a donkey, a monkey or a Yankey? 
 
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