Joffrey sucks. Joffrey being Joffrey Baratheon, the sickeningly sociopathic product of incest that currently (dependent upon your book/television knowledge ratio) rules the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in A Song of Ice and Fire (more popularly known as HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones).
He’s pretty terrible; he has his fiancée’s father decapitated in front of an entire city with her watching, openly mocks and scorns his midget uncle, curses profusely and vows to kill all who oppose him for absolutely no justified reason, and there’s this one really creepy scene with two prostitutes and a crossbow. Anyway, the fact of the matter is that he’s terrible and even his mother struggles to love him.
The opening ceremony of this year’s Winter Olympics, in completely un-surprising fashion, filled my Twitter feed with a plethora of anti- Vladimir Putin comments. The ceremony featured 18 scenes meant to detail Russian prosperity and unity; the ceremonial guide was a young girl named “Lyubov” whose name translates to “love” in Russian. It is tad ironic considering the concerns about openly gay competitors leading up to the Olympics due to Russia’s current stance on anti-homosexual media.
The mess began last spring when beatings and occasional murders of lesbians and gays began being reported throughout Russia. Such was in anticipation of an anti-gay propaganda law that would eventually be passed by Russia’s Lower Parliament on June 11 by a vote of 436-0. According to Putin, and he’s recently made comments about this, he has no issues with homosexuality, “as long as it stays away from the children.”
An interesting tact upon consideration of his re-focus upon family values in an ultra-conservative society and a renewed religious revival lead by the Russian Orthodox Church. Putin is currently serving his third premiership as president of Russia. He first served from May 2000 to May 2008, and the constitution would not allow him to run for a third term.
He stayed on as Prime Minister from 2008-2012 until being reinstated as Russian president on May 7, 2012. What do Putin and Joffrey have in common? Both inherited absurdly corrupted and financially insecure empires. Joffrey is 11 (maybe) when he inherits his kingship (The Iron Throne), and begins his reign as an erratic, clearly mentally-disturbed (you know, incest) individual until something…changes. No spoilers. It’s not all his fault though. He was born to a mother far crazier than he, into a kingdom stolen by a drunkard who ran it completely into the ground, all while being the golden heir of Westeros’ most powerful family. Yes, Joffrey is horrible, but he walked into a buzz saw, so he never stood a chance.
Putin? Putin began leading a brand new nation after years of military service in the KGB, the Soviet Union’s main security/military guard from 1954 until the collapse in 1991. KGB is translated into English as Committee for State Security. Putin is stringent in policy. Russia had a GDP around $900 billion in 1998, today it’s just under $2.6 trillion, and from 2001-2007 they increased from 22nd to 10th in the world rankings in terms of purchasing power. In the same time frame, he also halved unemployment, grew real income, industry and drastically increased the self-assessed Russian quality of life.
Joffrey and Putin, like you and me, are products of their environment. Many people, myself included, forget that where they grew up, the language they spoke, the sites they knew, have a direct influence on the way they view the world.
These viewpoints are very hard to change; I daresay it’s impossible. Human understanding, however, and I’ve even found increased happiness, will come to one upon active pursuit of cultural differentials. It’s kind of like when people scoff at me for being a huge Kanye West fan. “Why would you pay to see that concert?” they say. “Why would you listen to his music? He hates white people. That’s stupid.” Ever heard of Chiraq? Go ahead, Google it. If you were a young black male that grew up in a government-induced police state you’d probably hate white people too. You don’t have to agree or like it, but if you don’t at least make an attempt to understand, you’re…well, you’re a fool.
Americans hate Putin because he hasn’t grown out of his Cold War mentality (hint: Russia is still the Soviet Union) as many of them probably should. They are not on par with our democratic views. They are currently funding and arming a tyrannical Syrian regime in its continued war to destroy the hundreds of thousands of citizens that oppose them. We’re talking about the guy who essentially hosted and propagated two insanely bloody Chechen wars in order to assert regional dominance And yet people in America are surprised that he only said the mandated IOC words after the lighting of the torch, they’re surprised that he sat and watched the ceremony with stoic resolve, they’re shocked and writing reports about him hugging openly gay competitors after winning medals. Of course he is. Putin isn’t stupid. He’s fully aware of the way the world views Russia.
It’s a huge deal for Russia to host the Olympics because they have a notoriously underdeveloped infrastructure (see Sochi hotel tweets) and are barely a decade removed from the aforementioned series of brutal Chechen conflicts. Putin doesn’t care about the competition and the pageantry. He cares about successfully running an event because it will yet again make Russia relevant in the eyes of the world. Putin is after land, power and relevance.
I don’t mean it cynically, because I don’t think he’s stupid enough to do anything that would hint at tyranny, but one never knows. He is however, cold, succinct and purposeful. Putin is a product of times that are long since gone from our American mindset.
We never knew them in the first place. We only watched. He lived. We live in a perpetually evolving world and it’s plain to see that he’s doing what he can to stay within the parameters of today’s international norms…while still owning parts of his past. It’s been a very long ride up for Vladimir Putin and there is no doubt that these are some of his most pivotal years both in his homeland and internationally. The end results remain to be seen.
I’m waiting, ever impatiently, for the next installment in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” but all I have are absurd fan blogs and a fantastic television series. The world? The world wants answers from Putin, but all we have are Sochi and Twitter.
Winter is coming.