Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What happens to a dream deferred?

So, I was watching this new show on the Investigation Discovery channel called Gang Nation. This guy named Ross goes all around the world interviewing and hanging out with different gangs. I have always been fascinated by Nazis, so when I saw that there was going to be an episode on neo-Nazis in Russia--I fired up my tivo and eventually got to watching.

I want to clarify my "fascinated by Nazis" comment, because I know that it might sound a little weird. What I mean is that it is mind-boggling to me that in the last century, there existed this group that was able to murder millions of people with the implicit support of millions of others who stood by and did nothing. How does an organization like this run? How does it get popular? How does it remain popular? It's these types of questions that I ask myself, and so I consume information about the Nazis in order to try and formulate some answers.

So back to the T.V. show: Ross goes to Russia and meets with these Neo-Nazis. In order to gain entrée into their group they set him on fire, and make him have a duel with a gang member with a bb-type gun that just happens to be not loaded.


So once he has passed these tests, he starts hanging out with them and talking with them, getting to know them better. Russia has apparently had a recent surge in neo-Nazi activities. And (not surprisingly,) they've had a surge in hate crimes too.

From what I gathered from the program, the neo-Nazis are pissed off about all the "black" immigrants that are coming over and taking all the jobs and threatening their Russian way of life with their Muslism-ness.

There were four important takeaways that I had after watching this program:

1.) That someone that looks like this:

could be considered a black person. The skinheads call the immigrants from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and other areas "black" because they are not from Russia. This to me is an example of how dumb these arbitrary labels can be at times.

2.) One of the main problems that the skinheads seemed to have was that these immigrants were taking jobs away from them. Oh, that classic white supremacist line: "They're takin' our jobs!"


What is keeping these Nazis from directing their anger and hatred at their fellow white Russians? The white Russians that are the business owners and industry leaders, that are happily hiring these immigrants for these low-wage, marginally skilled jobs? What is the benefit for these business owners to have this steady supply of cheap labor? Hmmm...what could it be? I wonder...

3.) Near the end of the show, Ross said something that took me by surprise. It was something like, "This is the most disgusting group of people I've ever had to hang out with." That isn't an exact quote, but that was the gist of it. I thought this was a pretty unexpected thing for him to say. Here's why: they had extended some level of hospitality to him, and they did give him a fair amount of access to their group. Also, I'm guessing that he is putting himself out there as at least a quasi-journalist, and I always thought journalists were supposed to be objective (Is there even such a thing as being objective? I don't think so--but that's a topic for another post.) So then that got me wondering, "What made him say that?"

And then I remembered that there was a part of the show where Ross interviewed the family of one of these hate crime victims. They talked in detail about how their son was murdered, and how they just came to Russia because they wanted a better life, but because of what happened they were thinking of moving back to their home country. It was really quite sad. The dad talked about how the skinheads were cowards because:

a. they attacked his son from behind.
b. there were several of them, and his son was only one person.
c. they had weapons, and his son was unarmed.

Yup, those all sound like pretty d!ck moves to me. I'd be interested to hear how skinheads justify this dishonorable behavior. Even if they think they're fighting in some kind of war, there are these things called rules of engagement that soldiers with ethics and morals play by. So, I think this is at least part of the reason that Ross was so unimpressed with these guys and gals (yeah, there were a couple gals too--yikes.)

And, my final takeaway

4.) I can't help but wonder, what is causing this rise in Neo-Nazi activity in Russia? Near the end of the program they said that Russia was believed to have the highest concentration of neo-Nazis in the world.

My theory is that Russia is in some ways very similar to how Germany was at the end of World War I. They used to be this feared superpower and now...they're not. I was watching another show about this Russian juggler who had immigrated to the United States, and even though his parents still lived there, he never went back to visit. His explanation was that he wasn't interested in going back because everyone in Russia was, "drunk and angry."

Now, I'm not saying that's true of everyone that lives there, but I am saying how I can see how people would be extremely upset if their whole system of government collapsed, a few oligarchs took control of the immense wealth that was suddenly up for grabs, the vast majority of the citizens were left with the scraps, and the standing of the country in the world changed drastically for the worse in a short period of time.

I can see how that might piss people off. My assertion is that the anger is being completely misdirected to the wrong people. So if any skinheads are reading this, I would encourage you to think critically about what's really going on and who's really responsible for what you're going through. Oh, and when you figure it out--please don't jump them from behind in the middle of the night three-on-one and bash them in the head with steel-toed boots--because that's just not cool, ok?

As always, I welcome your comments.


  1. Anonymous6:46 PM

    I think you are touching on a very important point. Racism, nazism, etc. don't always exist in a vacuum. Just like the post-WWI Germans were looking for someone to blame for their financial woes, the post-Cold War Russians are looking for someone to blame. Add to that people who you already have prejudices about who you think are taking your jobs, and you have the perfect storm.

    I couldn't resist posting on an entry with Ilham in it. :)

  2. Anonymous1:01 PM

    Fear, skinheads are fueled by fear and that is why they attack from behind, outnumber the victim and use weapons.