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Wear Your Hat in Bed

Wear Your Hat in Bed

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Published by wiredpsyche

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Published by: wiredpsyche on Jan 20, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/22/2014

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Every people has its charms, its idiosyncrasies and its own special forms ofnational idiocy. The typical German, for instance, arrives at dinner parties onthe dot, invites people to his own parties two months in advance, listens to musicregularly but reads books only on holiday. To the Russians, this behavior appearsbizarre. Russians find American’s obssesion with health hilarious, along with theAmerican habit of washing twice a day, donning a fresh shirt every morning, andusing strange threads to clean between their teeth.It’s almost impossible to say what is the deviation in Russian behavior and whatis the norm. It’s also difficult to separate pure Russian idiocy from Sovietidiocy, since the two have become entwined in an absurd mishmash.For example — paranoia. Russian or Soviet? A friend of mine was thought to beretarded, and even had a certificate from a psychiatrist, because he wore redshirts and had long hair. On several occasions he was seized by his fellowcitizens and led off to the police station as a spy. Another friend, a writer,used to walk around mumbling his thoughts into a Dictaphone. Passersby noticedand, thinking that he was transmitting secret information to an enemy radioreceiver, called the police. But even though the Soviet regime has long vanished,you can still be arrested for photographing a railway junction, electricity pylonsor factory gates. Spy mania and xenophobia are diseases that take a long time tocure.Not so long ago, people lived under a totalitarian regime, in cramped conditions,without any rights, marking ballots with one candidate — and that wasn’tconsidered strange.The great Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov (of Pavlov’s dog’s fame) once conductedan experiment on some of his patients. He would switch on a red light and say“This is a green light.” The patient would eventually agree. “The Russian,” saidPavlov, “has such a weak psyche that he is unable to perceive realityobjectively”. Pavlov’s theory is confirmed by Homo Sovieticus’ dependence onthoughts handed down to him from above.To explain: before, people lived badly, but the media assured them that they livedwell. They listened and believed. Then times changed. Suddenly the shops were fullof goods that Soviet people had never seen. There were free elections, people wereallowed to travel abroad and speak their minds without checking the floor lampsfor bugs. But at the same time, the newspapers, freed from censorship, started toreport strikes, alcoholism, and how bad life was. People began to weep, tear theirhair and, if possible, flee abroad, repeating, “We can’t live like this” — justwhen it became possible to live normally.So much for Soviet idiocy. As far as typically Russian weirdness is concerned,most is based on superstition. If you come to Russia you should under nocircumstances shake hands across a threshold, or look at a baby if you have blackeyes. If you are asked how things are going, you should spit over your shoulderthree times before replying that things are fine. If you want to have a son, it isessential to wear a hat during the process of conception.Folk medicine has also always been popular in Russia. Many people don’t believe indoctors at all and instead go to witches, fortune tellers and shamans who advisethem that the cure for cancer is to drink kerosene or to spit at the moon, or topee into a saucepan through a wedding ring. But the most typical Russian form ofinsanity is Russian hospitality. If you ever get invited to a Russian home, Iadvice you to make your peace with God before setting out. Your hosts will feedyou with all their might, at the same time complaining that prices are high, wagesare low and life is impossible. You can attempt to refuse, claiming that you’re ona diet, that you’ve given up drinking, that you suffer from obesity, the doctor

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