Are We Experiencing American Perestroika?
It is midday early in the week and I am caught in a sudden and emotional macroeconomic conversation with a
“Typical American,” he spits, bouncing about on his side of the greasy plastic shielding between us. “Always taking and taking.”
His irate venom boils up a mild nationalism in me. The choice was cash or plastic – not give or take.
And I am counting the examples of American benevolence in giving that I am certain have not been emulated by any other nation in the history of nations – when he asks me something more curious.
“Do you know perestroika?”
I nod, “Gorbachev is a hero.”
“Then you do not know perestroika.”
“I know the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. Both of them. I know that the difference between white and red has little to do with fermented grapes.”
He does not smile. A Russian would have smiled – in part because they would rather ferment potatoes. “This is American Perestroika.”
I think about this. It hits me, but not in the manner the cabbie intended.
Are we experiencing American Perestroika?
Perestroika – which translates essentially to reform – was Gorbachev’s answer to Khrushchev’s economic stagnation. While Russian history is one of reform after reform, perestroika was a gesture toward a free market economy and a tangible out from Soviet-style socialism.
The negative effects that perestroika had in the Soviet Union were felt most firmly by those in state-issued positions held by monopolistic thugs who lived on kick-backs and on long hours of sleep, driven out to later serve in anonymous positions offered in Western societies.
But American Perestroika could instead be defined as reform from free market economics to state ownership of private assets. In the structure of this definition we are certainly experiencing American Perestroika – and it is disturbingly contrary to the tenets of the American Dream, regardless of what the new administration asserts.
I saw a tee shirt advertised online that frames part of this. It featured an American flag shaped into a Soviet hammer and sickle and cradling a bold-typed OBAMUNISM statement. Our culture is adapting to accept what is inherently foreign, demonstrated in the entrepreneurial industry of tee shirt movement – capitalism benefiting from the march toward a socialist hybrid and the upheavals attached to that march.
It is not that big a leap when it is written on cotton and when it is found in a cab, but it gives me pause enough almost to forget my receipt.
Tags: Economy , Obama , Perestroika , Socialism , Capitalism , Communism , Soviet Union , Gorbachev
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