Ignoring the madness

Shrugging off news that are all about accusations that are not based on facts. And often they conflict each other, making no sense

Here is the news: America’s Treasury department published a list of politicians and business people “with ties to Vladimir Putin”.

The ones on the list may or may not be subjected to sanctions, robbing them of their assets in the US, if any.

More of the news: Russian oligarchs suspected of corruption will be forced to reveal how they live in luxury in Britain in a new crackdown on organised crime, a UK government minister has said.

And, finally, the ongoing hunt for Russians, “influencing” the US presidential election, is an American disgrace, twitted Donald Trump.

What kind of world are we living in? That question is the most logical reaction to such news, coming almost daily.

And don’t tell me Malaysia has nothing to do with it all. It has. How about the case of palm oil and the European Union, where the European Parliament has passed recently a resolution demanding to phase out Malaysia’s wonder product from European markets? And why so: Due to oil producer’s “failure to achieve United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals”, like responsible production and climate action.

Not to mention that China, too, and some other nations, are at the receiving end of absolutely similar attacks.

There is something in common with all the news listed above. It’s all about accusations that are not based on facts. They are not even pretending to be. And often they conflict each other, making no sense.

So, how do Russian political animals, official and private ones (like me), are reacting to all that? We shrug. We don’t care. We ignore that madness.

To think of it, that kind of reaction is logical. Let me tell you how my first marriage broke down. My former wife demanded that I should end a certain extramarital affair. And, wishing to keep my family, I’d do that.

The problem was, there was no extramarital affair at all. The lady in question worked in my office, we were friends, we had coffee together, mostly with other journalists of both sexes joining us.

So, how can you end something that isn’t there? In such cases, people shrug and let the events go their own course. Divorce was an inevitable end of that course in my case.

Going back to Russian reaction to all these sanctions and accusations, people at all levels of society mostly laugh at them.

The Treasury department’s list has been called a “telephone directory” of Russian officials and business personalities — and that’s exactly what it is, everyone who is anyone is there.

The few people not on the list are unhappy and are watching out for their colleagues’ side glances. If they are politicians, they have lesser chances of being elected.

The hunt for Russian oligarchs in Britain is in fact very popular with the Russian public. The thing is, a lot of my not-so-rich compatriots suspect almost all the oligarchs of tax frauds, and our authorities often agree.

Which means that the British hunt for Russian ostentatious spenders almost goes hand-in-hand with Putin’s policy of bringing the ultrarich to order.

The futile hunt for Russian hackers meddling into American election is a regular topic for comedy shows.

And there is one more thing: Economically we are doing well, the nation has learned to ignore the outside pressure.

The year 2017 showed that our tourists left US$31.3 billion (RM125.2 billion) abroad, which is almost by onethird more than in 2016. Number of trips abroad, of plane tickets puchased, etc, generally correspond. Real salaries (the ones adjusted to inflation) have grown by 3.4% in 2017.

And the economy in general grew by at least 1.5%, while some experts still claim that the real figure is higher.

So, everything looks perfectly all right, but for one thing. That thing is called a hunch, A kind of uneasy feeling is in the air.

It looks like we all are used to living in the world with certain rules. Not that Russia or other big or small powers always stick to these rules in the last 60 years or so. But, at least, there was that reflex to make things look proper.

You went to the UN to prove your point, you were supposed to provide facts (as in real facts) to back up your accusations. Not anymore.

It looks like we are sliding back to the era before the Second World War, when there also was that eerie feeling in the air, like in “What may go wrong?”.

I happened to write a trilogy on that strange and happy age, set in Malaysia and the Philippines of the 1920s and 1930s.

Looks like I may write more about these books in my next column, while so far, it’s enough to recall the happy, but still uneasy atmosphere of that world, long gone by now.


Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia.