Class and Cultural Icebergs

At the 2012 Property and Freedom Society Conference, a dear friend of mine told me about the books The Nine Nations of North America and Class, and his extrapolation of their ideas.

If I understand correctly, Americans exist with little or no imprint of feudalism upon their psyche. They treat each other as more-or-else equal members, but of different or unknown groups. They are constant diplomats of their group, smiling at the presumed diplomats of other groups to indicate hospitality and peaceful relations.

The French did not obliterate the idea of monarchy in their savage revolution. Instead, every common man tore off a bloody scrap of it and stuffed it into his pocket. Every person now affects monarchical grace tending toward condescension.


The famous iceberg analogy of culture goes thus:

A cultural group has a set of self-conscious manners and behaviors it openly demonstrates to the world. This is the smallest part of the iceberg, the part above the water — easily seen, even from a distance.

If you get close enough to a culture, you can look at the upper portions of the submerged part. There traits, some conscious some not, some deliberately hidden, are the second part.

Lastly, there is the great mass of the culture hanging in the dark depths. Their mysteries only accessible to the most dedicated explorers.


Here is my best guess at Ukrainian culture, and some very basic queues to help orient a new visitor:

1) Consider the self-descriptive title of the book Whisperers about Stalinist Russia.
Imagine a world in which anyone, for almost any reason, can accuse you of a deviation from official state ideology causing you, and possibly you family to vanish from home and society and history.

You would not speak often, you’d choose your listeners carefully, and even then, you’d speak in a hushed voice. Minding one’s own business would be the highest virtue.

2) Imagine a world of constant shortages. Pushing your way to the front of line might be the difference between hunger and relief of it.

I am trying to excuse the behavior of passengers on the airplane when I landed in Kyiv yesterday, returning from the PFS conference.

The pushyness is slowly improving.

3) Imagine Socialism, and more specifically, a world with no profit mandates and bankruptcy for enterprises with poor products or customer service.

Official government granted titles were an important part of status in the Soviet Union. Clerks in government run shops would flaunt their privileged status by lording over customers. There jobs were secure and their income guaranteed whether customers made a purchase or not. Americans can think of how they are treated at DMVs, Post Offices, or by the TSA.

Here I am explaining Ukraine’s poor customers service. I’m happy to say, things are improving rapidly. Extremely poor service seems to be a rarity, but generally good service remains hard to find.

4) Imagine a world in which your success was determined by political connections. It is not the result of your achievements in a system of voluntary interaction, but it is bestowed upon you by authority. This describes two things: 1- Socialism and 2- the collapse of socialism and the violent organized crime of the 90s.

A lingering effect seems to be the ways in which people express status by imitating the fashion, consumerism, and manners of organized crime.

5) This one is most important. Nearly everyone who writes about the Ukrainian (or Russian) personality describes how people are completely difference once they let you into their world.

The scar of Socialism is only ninety (or seventy for Western Ukraine) years deep. The iceberg goes deeper. There was life and commerce and civilization for millenia before Socialism.

So, in these first four points, I am not describing the soul of Ukrainians, I am describe the shell which contains it. I am attempting to help foreign visitors understand what are sometimes off-putting first impressions. They are worth working through.

I’m optimistic about Ukraine.


  1. elmer

    Do you think, Roman, that there was no organized crime in the sovok union? There was – it consisted of those in government, supported by KGB, etc., and those outside of government, who proudly wore tattoos to prove it.

    “In the sovok union, there was no crime – and no sex. And there was full employment – it was illegal to be unemployed – it was a crime.”

    Do you think, Roman, that the “violent organized crime of the 90’s” is over? It is not – read the news reports in Zookraine. Organized crime consists of those in and around government, who freely kill journalists, environementalists, and engage in corruption, bribery, corporate raidership, and those outside of government, who engage in smuggling and raidership, etc.

    Zookraine is a sovok mafia state, a criminocracy.

    What came out of the sovok union, what the sovok union created, was monsters with no soul, no morality, no decency, no heart, no charity – with some exceptions, but the exceptions had to keep their mouths shut in order to survive.

    All you have to do is take a look at Yanusvoloch, Chechetov, Yefremov, zArazov, Boogooslonskaya, Rinat Kuzmin, Yanusvoloch’s fixer Ivanushchenko, Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Kuchma, Kolomoisky, Firtash, etc.

    They just tried to squish journalism by criminalizing defamation. Luckily, that law was withdrawn due to journalists and others standing up against it.

    Zookraine should have been way past shenanigans like that in the past 8 years.

    Instead, now, the zRada has passed a law banning anything about homosexuality.

    These are brutally sick monsters, Roman, who have only one thing on their minds, if you can say they even have minds – money.

    Read the multi-part series about the “Saga of Lazarenko” by Serhiy (Serge) Leschchenko in Ukrainian Pravda. Lazarenko, a former Prime Minister, was the guy who bought Eddie Murphy’s mansion with the 4 swimming pools in California, and got himself convicted in US District Court in San Francisco. Many people in Zookraine did not believe he was in jail. The Saga shows you how they operate in Zookraine.

    Joke for you, from sovok union times:

    Man stands in line for hours to get something (whatever) – just as he gets to the window, the window closes, and the clerk explains that they have run out of the particular item (there were separate lines for everything).

    He throws a tantrum. The militia shows up and calm him down, and then tell him: “you know, in the old days, comrade tovarysh, we would have shot you.”

    The man goes home, and his wife asks him how it went.

    He replies: “It’s worse than I thought – they’ve run out of bullets.”

    Zookraine should have been a shining example of a prosperous thriving democracy by now.

    Instead, it is moving like a glacier – only backwards.

    1. Roman

      Thanks for the post. I’ll take issue with only one thing you’ve written:

      “. . . should have been a shining example of a prosperous thriving democracy by now.”

      There is nothing shining, prosperous or thriving about Democracy. Democracy is the mob, the armed horde. Democracy is the masses voting themselves authority to rob whomever they please.

      You need to read Hans Herman Hoppe, ASAP.

      To further stir your curiosity, you can simply Google search for “founding father quotes on democracy.”

  2. Ed K

    Reply to Elmer,

    Thank you for your posting.

    Please take my comments as supportive and encouraging.

    First, your joke was great.

    Second, your language needs to understand readership of web
    postings. Zookraine is a term of limited usage. You need
    to define your terms and explain reasons for using them
    for the rest of us.

    Third, who is Yanusvoloch? Is this mispelling?

    So, if you could write defining your terms and use a spell
    checker, more of us could grasp your comments.

    Ed K
    Greenville, SC, USA

    1. elmer

      Zookraine is a term I use to denote the insane sovok mafia and the insane sovok mafia system of government in Ukraine. The sovok union created massively psychotic, deranged people who are out of touch with reality, who are amoral, who have no humanity, no heart, no charity, no nothing. These psychotic deranged characteristics are not limited to Ukraine, and over the past 20 years, where the sovok mafia has been allowed to rule, the sovok mafia has run rampant, and has pillaged, raped, looted and burned unabashedly. That’s why people have left Ukraine, and that’s why it’s population has shrunk over the past 20 years.

      Yanusvoloch is a neologism, because I like neologisms. “Svoloch” is a Ukrainian word for jerk, bastard, lout, no-goodnik – you get the idea. Yanukovych is the “president” of Zookraine. As such, people have emloyed such neologisms as Yanukonvikt, to refer to his criminal convictions, and Yanukobych – self-evident, and Yanusvoloch, to refer to his corruption, massive grabitization and looting on behalf of himself, his sons, and his fellow goons in his political party.

      I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these people on TV, but they are hideous.

      Every week, Savik Shuster opens his political talk show on TV with a clip (from the presidential campaign) of Yanusvoloch being asked the question, by Savik – “will you be the guarantor of freedom of speech”?

      The term “guarantor of the constitution” was a term coined by Yushchenko to describe himself, as president, as the guarantor of the constitution of Ukraine.

      After furrowing his brow, and taking what seems like an eternity to think about it, Yanusvoloch finally blurts out “yes.”

      Of course, the reality is different, as you can see from Roman’s other post about the Kyiv Post.

      Yanusvoloch is a bumbling, illiterate moron. He worked his way up the gang ranks of the Party of Regions in the Donbass region. It is an absolute tragedy that he was “elected” as “president.”

      Under his regime, in the past 2 years, under the guise of “reforms,” Ukraine has backslid from democracy.

      Remember the old sovok motto – “think one thing, say another, do a third.”

      That is what Yanusvoloch and his gang in the Party of Regions do – they live by massive propaganda.

      And by massive corruption – you have no idea.

    2. elmer

      Ed, I’m going to give you an example of the horrific idiocy of Yanusvoloch.

      Yanusvoloch, as a product of the sovok mafia system, is used to employing stock sovok phrases. He can’t think – trust me, the guy is an idiot.

      When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with him not too long ago, she actually asked for a different translator, because she could not carry on a conversation with the stupid bastard. The responses she was getting made no sense.

      But it was not the fault of the translator – it was just a stupid lunkhead sovok mafia dumb bastard employing stock phrases.

      He, like other sovok mafiosi, keep their masks on. The only thing that ‘s important to them is a photo op for reflected prestige.

      Thus, when Yanusvoloch went to New York to the UN, he got a photo op with President and Michelle Obama – a one-second deal, which quite a few others got also.

      He and his Party of Regions then claimed that he had “serious meetings” with the US President, and “secret meetings” about – drilling for oil and gas in the Black Sea.

      These people are lunatics, Ed.

      You have no idea.

      Here’s a link to a short video from TVi – you don’t need to know Ukrainian or Russian to get the gist of it. Especially the parade of psychotically expensive watches (seems to be a big deal amongst the sovok mafiosi in Zookraine) and the parade of photo-ops with Obama.

      “Amerikano – we’re not afraid of you” – (remember, the US Senate passed a unanimous resolution about Zookraine which got the Party of Regions’ panties all in a bunch)

  3. Roman

    Thanks for the posts Elmer. Fantastic stuff.

    I don’t doubt any of it, but I don’t share you negativity. The power of the free market, of voluntary association, trade, commerce is VASTLY greater than the power of all the mafiosos combined.

  4. elmer

    Roman, that’s why there’s an underground economy in Zookraine.

    Zookraine is a criminocracy. The criminals are the government. It is a bass ackwards, upside down bizarro country. As you yourself noted, everything that should be easy is difficult, and everything that should be difficult is easy.

    I hope that the October 28 elections will get rid of Yanusvoloch’s Party of Regions.

    Ahead of Euro 2012, Zookraine did exactly what they did in Rasha – they went out and massively slaughtered stray dogs. In the most inhumane ways possible, including poisons and portable crematoriums, where some dogs were burned alive. Just to “make the streets look pretty” for Euro 2012.

    I look at Yanusvloloch, the bumbling idiot, zArazov, Chechetov, Yefremov, Akhmetov, and the rest of that bunch, and I want to puke.

    Here is a video link to a story that gives me tons of hope for Ukraine – adoption of an orphaned animal frm the woods. The family had already adopted an orphaned deer.

    It’s really a great story:

    Its mother had hidden it in the woods and then was killed. Some people picking mushrooms in the woods found it and notified forest rangers.

    You don’t have to know Ukrainian to understand – and like – the story.

    This is the heart of Ukraine – not the Party of Regions, not Yanusvoloch and his ilk.

  5. elmer

    The reason I like the story about the rescue of the orphaned animal is that Yanusvoloch and his banda are notorious for 1) stealing forest lands for themselves and 2) putting big fences around them, cutting people off from going to pick mushrooms, which is a traditional activity and 3) hunting – with machine guns – from helicopters and from assorted vehicles.

    It’s really gruesome, and the bastards view themselves as “heroes” for the wholesale slaughter of animals on “hunting trips.” This has been documented meticulously by Urkainian Pravda and other newspapers.

    Are you listening, Ed K?

  6. Roman

    I think there are better barometers than suffering animals. Also, I have no problem with killing stray dogs, though it should be done humanely.


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