Language is such a wonderful invention. How could we miscommunicate so well without it?
There is an undoubtedly apocryphal story from a Scottish hospital where a renowned consultant enterologist was examining a patient with a severe blockage of the intestinal tract (aka the alimentary canal) (not to be confused with Khlong Saen Saep).
Do you flatulate through the oral cavity? asked the eminent physician, who obviously did not achieve eminence on the strength of his bedside diagnostic skills.
Oor Wullie from Bishopbriggs (pronounced ‘Bishybrigs’) was not certain about this matter. The doctor tried a different but equally fatuous question.
Are your eructations foul?
A native Glaswegian houseman in the medical entourage decided this conversation would go nowhere until a translation was provided.
D’ye fart through yer mooth?
Aye. An’ shit.
The enterologist would feel comfortable in today’s Russia. Patriarchal, power-mad and patronizing Putin is also prissy, puritanical and prudish Putin. Last year he had an anti-swearing law passed in the Duma (this is what passes in Russia for a parliament). And he just added to the taboo vocabulary, the word ‘war’. Instead, you are supposed to use ‘special military operation.’
So the protestors in Russian cities and towns who carry pieces of paper stating ‘No War’ are not just guilty of anti-Russian propaganda, but of obscenity as well. And the ones whose placards have 8 asterisks (standing for the Russian letters spelling out ‘No War’) are guilty not just of sedition and obscenity, but obscenity twice, because the courts are deciding that the first 4 asterisks represent not ‘No’ but ‘Fuck’.
I am not sure how this logic works in the case of those arrested for holding up blank pieces of paper, or of the woman apprehended outside a church for carrying a placard quoting the biblical commandment ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’, but I am sure someone in Channel 5 can ask the Russian Embassy to enlighten me.
I suppose in a way Putin is only serving as an example to his troops. By waging a vicious, unprovoked war while not allowing anyone to use the word, he is giving the green light to his misguided Nazi-hunting soldiers to force their male [censored word] into the female [censored word] of unwilling Ukrainian women en masse. Just as long as they don’t talk about it.
But censorship has a way of coming back to bite you.
Teachers of literature in Russian schools are wondering if their reading lists should include that famous Tolstoy novel ‘Special military operation and Peace’.
[As if this title hasn’t already suffered enough. Years ago, President Reagan, the Great Miscommunicator, surprised everyone with the news that there was no word for ‘peace’ in the Russian language. So he must have thought that Tolstoy wrote a book called ‘War and That Other Thing That Isn’t War’.]
Putin does not indulge in offensive words (though he’s often enough on the receiving end – ‘Putin Dickhead’ has been a football chant for some years now). But this does not stop him having extremely offensive ideas expressed in offensive ways.
Acutely paranoid, as are many other totalitarians and dictators (have you heard the rumour that Sarit couldn’t sleep without a nightlight, no matter how many other bodies were in the bed?), Putin wants to ensure that his paranoia is shared. Those protestors on the streets are not interested in justice or human rights or peace – they’re fifth columnists in the pay of western capitalist Nazi globalists and out to commit unspeakable atrocities against Mother Russia (unspeakable because of the anti-swearing law, you understand).
In a version of the ‘good people’ - ‘bad people trope that will gladden the hearts of Thai nationalists, he has said ‘Any people, and especially the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish the true patriots from the scum and the traitors, and just to spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths.’
One decidedly non-midge, Timofei Sergeitsev, a close Ukrainian friend of Putin’s (oh yes, he has some and one of them, he hopes, will be President one day), has followed Putin’s denazification nonsense down a very disturbing rabbit-hole.
Remember at the start of this war that dare not say its name, when Putin said that his objectives were demilitarization of Ukraine (OK, I get that, he’s paranoid) and denazification. Er, pardon? So Zelensky is a Jewish Nazi?
But the average Ukrainian has, for unfathomable reasons, not been too friendly toward a thieving, raping, drunken soldiery intent on levelling their homes, hospitals and schools. How come? Well, they must have been mass brainwashed into Nazism, says Sergeitsev.
The answer? 30 years of Russian occupation to re-educate the entire population, who they will very generously not prosecute as war criminals. Except for the ‘collaborators,’ of course, who will be shot or gulag-ed.
Ukraine needs peace, reparations, and some very high-level prosecutions among the Russian leadership and their supporters for war crimes.
I mean, special military operation crimes.