(Article changed on April 5, 2013 at 11:13)
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Russian hospitality comes from the heart; you can feel it from the tone and words. That's why you believe it is genuine.'
Mark Twain. Innocents Abroad
I witnessed a remarkable event on MSNBC recently. Mica B. from the Morning Joe's forgot to wipe the smile off her face. See, she smiled when she was told to smile and then just forgot about it. For several minutes the camera was following her frozen toothy smirk ( the eyes of hers were already elsewhere) until she realized it and snapped the mouth shut like a fish. For a very brief moment her expression changed from the happy doll's to a normal human embarrassment and I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for a person who earned much more than me; I was free and she was just a highly compensated slave. A smiling slave.
I have a Russian TV station and there the new Russians learn capitalism vehemently. The first and foremost condition is to smile. Smile all the time, Smile at everyone. Smile from morning till night. Smile at birth and smile at death. Smile at war. Smile at the customer. Smile when robbing someone. Smile when you are being robbed. Smile!!!! There are sessions of smiles, courses, special seminars. There nice, intelligent, thoughtful people are forced to laugh hysterically at things which are not funny at all. They are forced to jump up and down, take off their pants and get excited at the client telling them about his/her kinky ideas. They are forced to say "I am sorry, can't help you' with that chromium smile we all know. They are being shown the videos with smiling Americans (only Americans, mind you) who tell them how smiling brought them millions and recommend their dentists. I was always wondering if they ever mentioned a statement by Chris Hitchens that American dentistry paved a way to an unbelievable oral sex with young girls. But all in good time.
Ah, that Russian gloominess, thoughtfulness, deep introversion! How many times I had heard about it; how many stupid, mean, idiotic and just ignorant bastards mentioned Dostoevsky to me and explained that Russian drinking as a national feature was due to the intrinsic melancholy which was caused by lack of democracy and American (always American) capitalism. According to the mentality of an average American ignoramus all people of Russian and partly Slavic origins suffer from the Bipolar disorder; they are either in a very good mood or in a very bad mood. It is interesting that only Russians and some other Slavs have that dubious honor; you will never hear anything like that about Germans, Irish, English and French, say. I was always wondering what reaction would I encounter if at a typical American meeting I would state that Germans were historically prone to shallowness and petty violence, that they were also prone to cruel sentimentality (A German will kill a dog, then will cry over it, then will immediately kill another one), and that that sentimentality was then projected through religion on my fellow Americans because they all are in fact German by spirit (except for Hispanics and Blacks). I would then say that alcoholism was and is a primary German as well as Scandinavian quality; they drink a lot of cheap booze because they are cheap themselves and do not want to spend money on the good stuff. What would have happened if I had said all those things which are in fact the opinion of various European and American literary figures of great stature? I am afraid I would not be invited to those people anymore because none of them would like to lose their smile even for a second. Why then they want me to smile when my people and my ancestors are insulted in my face? Oh yes, if I was a VERY RICH RUSSIAN, they would have accepted anything I said and even smiled when I would have said all that stuff about Germans. That would be classified as my eccentricity, the little hobby of the good man, the money talking.
Money talking, That's what it is. I once read about a lady of a Serbian descent who had to run away from the Bosnian war and landed here, in the US. On the photo there was a face of a woman with stunningly noble features, one of those rare faces which you prefer to admire from afar, which makes you feel honored in their presence and commence respect. That was not what was required of her. She was told to become a traveling salesperson, to wipe off the nobility and learn the servitude.. She was supposed to smile at the start and stay smiling like an idiot no matter what. Eventually she quit. She said, "I am not used to push people to buy things they do not need.' Not a good materiel for the success in America, huh?