To his “surprise,” the activist says, he “met at the meeting only ten acquaintances of which there was not a SINGLE one [he] knew personally or from television from Solidarity, [opposition parties] Parnas, Yabloko, supporters of Navalny or from the human rights community,” that is, from liberal groups.
Troyan was driven to make this report, his arguments make clear, by the fact that on May 17, the Verkhovna Rada did not pass a measure he had promoted that would have given a legal definition to “thieves in law” and thus improved the ability of the police to act against those who direct criminal activity but often at sufficient remove that they can’t be linked to specific crimes.
“But the chief distinguishing feature between the two is not in the share of moral idiots,” he argues, although this is an important indicator and it would not be a bad idea to learn how to measure it.” The real difference is that social mechanisms which make it “extremely difficult” for people like Hailey’s hero “to say publicly what he says privately” do not exist in Russia.
There, Yakovenko points out, Russian officials are constantly “showing their moral idiotism in public, aren’t ashamed of doing so, and do not suffer as a result.”
In the West but not in Russia, concerns about reputation keep people from flaunting their lack of moral principles even if they don’t have them. “And even if this is recognized as hypocrisy, one must welcome it” for the simple reason that “as is well-known, ‘hypocrisy is the tribune which vice pays to virtue.’”
What is also striking and potentially very important for the future, Yakovenko points out, is that Russian culture as a whole has been moving in a positive direction in this regard over the last century while the position of the Russian ruling stratum, at least in the last two decades, has been moving in exactly the opposite one.
This divergence, he continues, is “camouflaged” by repeated official statements that the Russian people overwhelmingly support the Putin regime. But that is a complete myth, put out by the elite with the same lack of moral scruple or concern with accuracy that informs all of its other actions.
As a result, a gulf is opening between a regime totally unconcerned about morality and a population which increasingly albeit slowly is very much concerned about that. And “the more rapidly this gulf will be overcome, the less painful and bloody it will be, including for the representatives of those in power.”
“Unfortunately,” Yakovenko says, “the growing degradation of people in power is keeping them from understanding that.”