I have seen the future and ran away.
At first the move to America from the former USSR made me feel as though I had made a jump in time, from the stagnant depraved past into a distant dynamic future. There was an abundance of commonly available futuristic contraptions, machines, and appliances that made everyday existence easier and more enjoyable. Less obvious but just as exciting was the media's openness: I no longer needed to read between the lines to know what was happening. Most importantly, there was honesty, dignity, and respect in relations among people.
Today I'm feeling like a time traveler again. Only this time the productive, honest and self-reliant America is vanishing in the past, as we are quickly approaching the all too familiar future of equal poverty, one-party rule, media mooching, government looting, bureaucratic corruption, rigged elections, underground literature, half-whispered jokes, and the useful habit of looking over your shoulder.
It was nice living in America before it changed the course towards the so-called "progress," which, according to my compass, is pointing backward. All of a sudden I find myself playing the role of a comrade from the "future," helping my new compatriots to navigate the quagmire ahead.
Deprived of free political speech, Soviets had developed a culture of underground political jokes. I used to remember thousands of them. Here's one of my favorites, dealing with the discrepancy between the official narrative and the everyday reality:
The six contradictions of socialism in the USSR
- There is no unemployment - yet no one is working.
- No one is working - yet the factory quotas are fulfilled.
- The factory quotas are fulfilled - yet the stores have nothing to sell.
- The stores have nothing to sell - yet people's homes are full of stuff.
- People's homes are full of stuff - yet no one is happy.
- No one is happy - yet the voting is always unanimous.
Already in America I discovered that most of my old Soviet jokes didn't work in translation.
It wasn't so much the language difference as the fact that Americans had no first-hand knowledge of a totalitarian government, ideological uniformity, and shameless propaganda. But that is changing. The more America "progresses" back to the Soviet model, the more translatable the old Soviet jokes become.
Let's see how we can rewrite this one into a new American joke.
The six contradictions of socialism in the USA
- America is capitalist and greedy - yet half of the population is subsidized.
- Half of the population is subsidized - yet they think they are victims.
- They think they are victims - yet their representatives run the government.
- Their representatives run the government - yet the poor keep getting poorer.
- The poor keep getting poorer - yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.
- They have things that people in other countries only dream about - yet they want America to be more like those other countries.
There's more where it came from - or, rather, where we're going.