How much do we know
about the country next door

A plea to stop misrepresentation in media:
No need for more stereotyping and hate

Even in this age of education and progress, it is still possible not to have a clear understanding of geography, history, and economics when it comes to a country other than the one you were born and spend your life in. Of course, they teach us that stuff in schools. But in reality, our vision of the country next door is shaped by the media with endless stereotyping and lack of understanding due to language, cultural and psychological differences.

Here I am, someone born on the other side of the world, in a place labelled all sorts of things, a country which name haunts the newspaper headlines. Well, I am not fond of my country either, but I have all the right to criticize it, because I have spent most of my life there and I know how it was, is, and could be. I know enough about that country’s history to be proud, enough about its current state of social decay to be ashamed, and other things with certain feelings attached to them. It is not perfect, but show me a place that is. Being human means being messy, making mistakes, taking too much time to learn how to live in peace together, and apparently not knowing how to create a flawless community, a perfect country. Regardless, it pains me to see that country being slammed with or without any reason.

I grew tired of the misrepresentation of that country in the media over the past couple of years. The media has a completely different picture on each of the opposing sides with no consistency or reliability, but of course, they all beg to differ. What I see most of the times when I read an article about that country is a complete and utterly disappointing lack of knowledge. With no doubt, there are things that an American, or a Canadian, or a citizen of any other country would not understand about Russia, and vice versa. But I believe there is a solid line between not knowing and not understanding. People keep writing those articles, and the publications present them as coming from a reliable source, that being a journalist with thirty years of experience or a political figure with a strong opinion just about anything. But do years of experience or a huge mouth really make their words any better, if they do not know the first thing about the country they are criticizing? One of the most ridiculous things that is being said about Russia in this century is that it is a breeding ground for communism. Boohoo, we are all so scared of communism that we cannot even think straight. When the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the better part of its legacy was destroyed in a blink of an eye. Comparing today’s Russia with USSR does not do the country any justice. Thirty years can do a lot. For better or worse, but it is now a completely different country. “Red Russia”, “Soviet-style propaganda”, “Angry Bear” you say and I laugh at it, because that is how ridiculous it sounds. Have you seen American movies about Russia? I have a hard time imagining people believing in any of it, but then I get asked questions here in Canada: “Does it really…? Is it really…? Do you really…?” followed by something absurd and comical that might have been true a century ago or never even was. Of course, there is a lot of stereotyping going on overseas too, but never to that extent. What I am saying is that we know more about you. We watch your movies, read your books. And do not forget about the Internet. Some things are being lost in translation or adapted for the audience, but we still know a lot more about e.g. the States, than the States do about us. I can see where the jokes about vodka and pet-bears are coming from. Jokes aside, we should not write or speak about a country basing our opinions on stereotypes and outdated knowledge. We have to take time to study the subject, take time to educate ourselves and the public. Otherwise, thirty more years from now, we will still get the same jokes shoved into our faces as facts.

I have no intention to speak about politics. What I am asking for is more and better information to help the public understand and think critically without stereotyping, labelling and shaming. The media is not a god, we do not have to be intimidated or believe anything that is being said, and we should not rage out every time we read or hear about something that in our opinion is unacceptable. There is usually more to it. Information is withheld and manipulated to the benefit of the party in control. The way it is handled affects our reaction, generates hate, sympathy, and all sorts of feelings. For as long as we do not learn how to become hungry for knowledge, be critical and discreet at the same time, we will remain the puppets in this show: moving and speaking in accordance with someone else’s design.