Chewing gum as a luxury

Dear Editor,

By Tamara Tarasova (Life)

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Published: Thu 6 Dec 2007, 8:40 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:07 AM

This is my first attempt to try to be published in a newspaper. I just felt like speaking out and enjoying the happy privilege of constitutional freedom of speech.

My name is Tamara Tarasova, I am a 50-year-old pensioner who runs a small general provisions shop in a village in the Far East of Russia.

By education and profession I'm a philologist and teacher of English language and literature. I received my education in Yakutsk.

At various times I worked as an English teacher, translator, interpreter and as a national liaison officer at the regional office of the United Nations Development Programme until it was closed down in 2001.

My niece, a 20-year-old student of economics at a state university in the far northeastern region of Russia, was asked for whom she was going to vote in the coming State Duma elections in December. She said that she wasn't sure she would vote at all as she didn't know for whom to vote. Not that she was short of information about the parties and their platforms (she is a bright girl), but she simply seems to take no interest in politics. And she is not alone at all in being so politically indifferent.

Another student, of law, studying at a so-called 'commercial' higher educational establishment (students pay money to study there) seems to be more socially and politically keen, especially after the presentation made by a leader of one of the opposition parties at their school during his recent visit of our remote province.

The student came back from the meeting excited and full of enthusiasm; obviously the meeting made a remarkable impression on him. Well, at any rate, at this point of his life this young man has his clear political preference -- for the first time in his life.

I doubt that the rule 'the more -- the better' is good as regards the number of the parties taking part in the elections. It's one thing when one has to choose between two or three, let it be even four, options. But when one has to choose from 11 options, that's a really hard task. One has to be rather well-informed about all the nuances and differences of their social-economic and political platforms, if there are such, to be able to make a such an important choice and help real democracy work.

Otherwise one can only rely on one's intuition, or, worse, to give in to so-called 'administrative pressure' to vote for this or that candidate.

With political apathy or illiteracy being rather a widespread phenomenon among certain strata of our society, to vote based on one's own intuition is better than to be induced to vote for a certain party or candidate by threats (not always serious, but still) to be expelled from the university or fired from work.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since the late '70s of the last century when as students we had to take part in the national demonstration on the occasion of the Great October Revolution, on the cold Nov. 7 day. If for any reason (for lack of warm clothes, for example) you couldn't go out to stay for hours at minus 30 degrees Celsius, you were sure to spoil your reputation as an exemplary student gained by high academic achievements.

At that time there was no dilemma about for whom to vote. It never occurred to us then that we would have such a broad political choice in 30 years.

Well, we didn't know many things. We didn't even know of the existence of chewing gum. I can't forget how our English teacher treated us to chewing gum given to her by her foreign friends, asking us not to chew it in public and betray her. Because, she said, 'THEY would think I'm spreading a bourgeois ideology!' I can't remember whom she meant.

Tamara Tarasova runs a small general store in Yakutsk, in the Russian Far East

©International Herald Tribune

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