US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — President Donald Trump began his briefing on April 13 with a pre-mounted video recording praising his accomplishments in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s team selected and edited quotes from statements by journalists and governors, who in reality constantly talked about the dangerous lack of support from the White House during the pandemic, so that it ended up as if they praised his leadership.
At that time, the United States had already recorded 23 thousand deaths from covid-19, as well as 600 thousand confirmed cases of infections – more than in any other country. However, this did not prevent Trump from displaying an informational advertisement about “our success” (Currently, the number of deaths in America is almost four times more, and the number of confirmed cases of infection has more than doubled).
I have not seen anything like this kind of outright propaganda from the 1980s in the Soviet Union. Unexpectedly, I was transported 40 years ago to my childhood when I watched on the TV screen how the aging Soviet patriarch Leonid Brezhnev pinned medals all the time on his own chest. He rewarded himself, in particular, for the heroism shown during the Second World War, for his critical contribution to international communism, as well as for improving the Soviet way of life. The less space was left on his jacket, the clearer it became to the Soviet public that the state so praised by him was actually based on lies, injustice and disrespect for man.
The current reality of covid-19 has likewise exposed the problem of inequality in America, as coronavirus is rampant among color communities and widens the gap between rich people and everyone else. The United States could learn a lot from the program of serious transformations undertaken in the Soviet Union, which exposed the decades of Kremlin lies, in the framework of which an attempt was made to solve this problem.
Exactly 35 years ago, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev realized that profound reforms were needed in the USSR in order to maintain the country’s place in the international arena. For the components of his policy aimed at transforming, he came up with the appropriate names – “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (reconstruction, reconstruction). Gorbachev hoped to save the Soviet Union by recognizing past mistakes and lies, as well as promises of greater openness in the future.
He began a sincere reassessment of excesses by the secret police of the Soviet Union, the destructive influence of the military-industrial complex, as well as the tragic unpreparedness for the German invasion in 1941, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Soviet citizens – this is more than the loss in any other country’s conflict .
Over the past century, the United States and the Soviet Union have often been perceived as a mirror image of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Located on the periphery of European civilization, both countries had messianic intentions towards achieving a universal result: Soviet Russia tried to do this on the basis of communist equality, and America with the help of “rugged individualism” (rugged individualism).
The Soviet Union sought to achieve equality for all, but constantly demonstrated the inability to guarantee it to individual citizens. Therefore, the USSR, despite the reformist efforts of Gorbachev, fell apart in 1991. The Soviet slogan about the faceless “dictatorship of the proletariat” turned out to be less attractive than the American idea of a “shining city on a hill” along with the promises of the American dream of achieving its goals through initiative and enterprise. In addition, the United States had Hollywood promising a dazzling lifestyle.
The councils were partially destroyed as a result of their own arrogance. Their illusory view of their triumph, apparently, was based on the phenomenon of Potemkin villages of the times of the Russian Empire. The appearance of this expression dates back to the XVIII century, to the moment when Catherine the Great wanted to travel through her vast possessions. The Russian empress hoped to see prosperous subjects, but did not know that prosperity was not the main feature of the life of Russian peasants. Prince Grigory Potemkin, the favorite of Catherine, understood that harsh reality, poverty and devastation could upset the empress, who was born in Germany and was used to order. Therefore, he ordered to draw a long row of house facades and paint them with bright colors. It was these painted facades that Catherine saw passing by.
During the Cold War, the word pokazukha could be applied to the entire Soviet Union – to the perception of the camp as a powerful state that carried out industrialization with the speed of lightning and created a well-trained army. The maintenance of this facade, which was supposed to testify to the strength and superiority of the Soviets over capitalism, had its price – large-scale famine and a very large number of victims. It seemed that the surrealistic image of Brezhnev, standing on the Kremlin podium and rewarding himself for his imaginary achievements, fully embodied state propaganda that had been working for decades and had long lost touch with real life.
The policy proposed by Gorbachev came too late, since the Soviet system could no longer be reformed. However, perestroika was not in vain. The Soviet Union collapsed peacefully – which cannot be said of the bloody collapse of communist Yugoslavia, in which there were no such reforms. Moreover, with the end of the Cold War, Russia and other countries of the communist bloc finally got the opportunity to determine their own destiny themselves. They got better because of this, at least for a while.
However, over the past three decades, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been able to build new Potemkin villages – he demonstrates his military muscles in Syria and Ukraine, and also conducts cyber attacks in order to deepen the contradictions between Western countries. At the same time, the persistent, but fake-sounding statements in Russia that the coronavirus pandemic is “under control” have generated calls for a new restructuring. Putin’s popularity rating has fallen to 59%, and this is the lowest figure since he came to power in 2000.
Putting aside the shortcomings of Russia, it should be said that after the Cold War, the United States suffered from its own arrogance. Having become the only superpower, America ceased to engage in self-improvement and increasingly tried to present its political mistakes as convincing victories. Hollywood, the American version of the Potemkin facades, helped isolate society from the truth. For example, the catastrophic and destructive invasion of Iraq was portrayed as a world-saving patriotism in the critical, but also cheer-patriotic blockbuster “Zero Dark Thirty” directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Now, in the context of the coronavirus-related crisis, bravura tales of courage and of casualties among progressive people — truly heroic doctors, nurses, postmen, police, grocery stores, and other vital services — have helped to obscure the lack of clear national leadership and diverted attention from the scarce resources of the health system.
At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic tore America’s mask of eternal victory — brought to the point of absurdity by Trump — and also revealed striking economic inequality and racial discrimination throughout the country.
A test for America will be its ability to learn from the current health crisis and recognize that economic and other priorities should include the public good, as well as a more effective social assistance network for people in special need.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose political position soared during the coronavirus pandemic, regularly speaks of “building back better” at daily briefings. Cuomo imagines a reformed America in the future, in which the main attention will be paid to jobs in areas important to society – in the field of education and health.
The experience gained during the coronavirus pandemic should lead to the American version of perestroika. The United States has a better chance of succeeding than the Soviet Union. The world lacks the leadership of Washington, the leadership that enjoyed the support of so many people during the Cold War. This leadership will be even more convincing if it comes from the renewed United States, from a country that puts the social welfare of citizens above the incomes of a small group of people.
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