devils are too enthusiastic for socialism to be hell

I have a lot of friends who are Russian. Every Russian seems to have seven nicknames but, as one of my friends pointed out, childhood photos from Soviet times all look the same. Those pictures, at least the ones I’ve seen, all seem to be of grumpy-looking children standing in the snow. I can see why: it’s the look of putting up with -20 degree temperatures while eating boiled cabbage every day and having to start learning algebra at age four. Then, when the scene shifts to America, the caterpillar suddenly becomes a butterfly: it’s all just pictures of rollerblading and running into things in the sunshine. All the happiness on display also seems easily explained by the fact that the child now has brightly-colored plastic junk all over the place to play with and won’t even have to learn English until they’re 15.

But while their childhoods might appear undifferentiated, taking away the ability to pursue money seems to have squelched the life drive of Soviet people into all kinds of improbable combinations like that of the father of one of my friends, who was a mathematician and “semi-professional” bodybuilder, though I don’t know what that really means, since everyone in the Soviet Union was semi-professional. I doubt the materials on hand to build your body with were very sophisticated, but on the other hand there were probably lots of abandoned heavy objects that didn’t work lying around that you could lift: broken-down cars, planks of wood, the old women at the internal passport office, derelict Soviet spacecraft. Well, every generation upon this earth through its stupidity performs a great service for its descendants by giving them something to look down on, and in this regard communism has been one of humanity’s greatest benefactors.

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