The Russian language is rich with picturesque expressions. One of the most common is каша в голове—literally, “porridge on the brain.” Someone with porridge on the brain is someone who has “lost his marbles.”
A subscriber to our e-mail platform evoked this expression to characterize the following fragments from an interview with members of the Moscow rock group Obshchezhitie (Dormitory):
I wrote this piece while thinking about the Soviet Union and the nineties, when all of us were dragged face down through the mud, across the pavement, and then once more through the mud. I was a kid in the nineties; I watched TV all the time with my grandmother. I really took to heart what was being shown. I remember feeling fear, humiliation, ignorance, depression, an indescribable thirst for vengeance. In the first place, [I wanted to take] vengeance on all of us for the weakness that led to this dark state of affairs. Concrete individuals—Chubais, Gaidar, Grachev—should of course be put against the wall, but the main point of what I’m saying is metaphysical: overcoming oneself, rising from the dead. Resurrection. And so when I’d finished writing this song, the horror of memories from those days flooded away from me. I had the sense that, in the song, I managed to put everything in its place, to restore order, to punish the guilty and so forth.
Propaganda of totalitarianism is not a very precise definition [of our music]; [propaganda of] authoritarianism would be a better definition. The Russian individual needs a tsar. We need a tsar. Without a tsar, Russia suffers catastrophes. And I’m not talking literally about reviving the monarchy, but rather about a force that takes the lead. The authoritarianism that we praise is, in fact, a stage on the road to freedom, to communism, to Kropotkin’s anarchy. What democracy and liberal western doctrine has led the world to is unacceptable, and we are against it, of course. In essence, though, authoritarian power is a stage in the education of man, in his preparation for a free life in harmony with nature and with himself. Our pro-authoritarian protest is also a protest against integral spirituality (that is, the liberal absence of spirituality), the understanding that, without Orthodoxy, without a sincere faith in God, nothing at all will work out for us in Russia, and everything we do is in vain.
That is quite a mouthful of . . . porridge. While you’re digesting it, you might want to check out Sean Guillory’s discussion of a new study in the Lancet, which argues that the economic shock therapy of the nineties led to three million premature deaths in Eastern Europe and the FSU. As he argues there, it is hard not see a link between massive impoverishment and the ideological symptoms so richly presented, in this case, by these young musicians.
One response to “Porridge on the Brain: In Praise of Authoritarianism”
At least this young Russian managed to find the words and the honesty to say what he believes.
Many Americans want authoritarianism – social, religious, even a ruling-class that really rules – but they can’t admit it even to themselves. No one can get away from the idea that being an American means freedom, so whatever one most deeply believes in has to be called “freedom,” and everything else spun to fit.