#15 | August 28 - September 10, 1997  smlogo.gif

Moscow Babylon

In This Issue
Feature Story


by Mark Ames

The White God Factor

When I was checking out of my hotel in Minsk earlier this month, one of the cleaning women approached me with an obsequious steel-toothed smile.

"You're leaving already?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm sorry to go," I answered.

"I wanted to introduce you to one of my daughters. I brought pictures... Well, the oldest one is twenty-eight. Maybe... she's too old for you? She has a young boy. I also have an eighteen-year-old daughter. I can introduce you to either one. Which would you prefer?"

"They both sound nice."

She was persistent about pimping one of her daughters off on me. She wouldn't rest until at least one of her daughters had the honor of being sodomized by me, a red-blooded American. After all, I was a White God, and these days in Minsk, White Gods are few and far between. She showed me a pair of black and white neo-Soviet passport photos: Sveta, the 28-year-old, and Anna, the 18-year-old. H'm. This was a tough choice. Should I take door number one-fresh, nubile, easily-impressed; or door number two-divorced, with child... Damn, this was a real brain teaser...

How did I wind up with this steel helmet and sword, wading onto the shores of a wheel-less Indian settlement, way out here in Eastern Europe?

Even though Minsk is actually a clean, quiet, friendly city-a jewel by provincial Russian standards-it is almost totally devoid of foreigners. Ever since Lukashenko came to power, greedy, underqualified Western "entrepreneurs" saw their gold-plated lollypops snatched from their mouths. So they split town, realizing that their chances of participating in the economic rape of Belarus was next to nil: Lukashenko had basically cancelled "privatization" and "foreign aid," the stuff we live by.

There's a lot of good going on there that never gets reported, in part because Westerners haven't made a killing, and in part because Lukashenko doesn't use journalists well the way Chubais & Co. do. For example, did you know that Belarus posted a 2.6 percent gain in GDP last year, and a massive 11 percent gain in the first half of this year-all achieved in total defiance of World Bank and IMF advice? Of course not-reporting that kind of good news about Belarus, or the fact that Lukashenko's approval rating among the population would make any world leader drool with envy, might confuse our sense of good and bad, right and wrong. So he's a "tyrant," and Belarus is an "economic basket case." Consider this recent editorial, "Russia and Its Tyrant Neighbor," from that ultimate paper of record, the New York Times: "Belarus's economy, which looks the same as it did 10 years ago, is so feeble that it makes Russia's economy look robust." Well, there's some truth to this: ten years ago, the economies of both countries were about double the size of what they are today-meaning if Belarus's economy looks like it did ten years ago (and indeed it is getting there faster than its "booming" neighbor Russia), it is the envy of nearly all of the FSU. Belarus doesn't have wage arrears problems and miners' wives laying down on railroad tracks like Russia. In fact, Russia only paid off its arrears by changing the terms of its gas supply agreements, squeezing Belarus for a huge sum of cash (at the advice of anti-Belorussian Western advisors).

If Lukashenko could run in a free and fair Russian election, he could possibly win-which means Chubais' friends would lose everything they've been amassing. That's why the "Russian liberals"-the English-speaking thieves-despise him. (One minor point: the opposition press IS alive in Belarus. The Minsk News, the only English-language newspaper in Belarus, is rabidly anti-Lukashenko-in comparison, the Moscow Times reads as though Chubais himself edits it. Imya, the popular Minsk weekly, not only savages Lukashenko with words, but always prints a brutal, hilarious eXile-esque full page picture of the president in highly unflattering poses.)

Grim portrayals mean people are loathe to even visit, much less invest, in Belarus. Almost everyone here asked me, before I left for Minsk, if I wasn't worried about getting arrested. Not at all-hell, if anything, I'd happily offer my services as a kind of Goering to the Lukashenko regime, should they ever need a PR guy. The way I see it, thanks to Lukashenko's badboy rhetoric, the cleaning woman offered me her daughters. So he's all right by me. And this is the point I want to get across here. If a poll were held today, I would be one of the 55 percent of Belorussians who recently gave their leader a thumbs-up of approval, and not one of the nine percent of Russians who approve of Yeltsin. Why? Because frankly, I like being a White God. It feels good walking down the street and having people throw themselves at your feet. I had no fewer than three marriage proposals, including one from a "virgin." It was hilarious and gratifying and I never expect to experience that again in Europe.

Men dream of being White Gods because, more than anything, it is sexually appealing. For women, it's a bit different. Women generally aren't turned on by desperate male losers the way men get excited by desperate girls. But this doesn't mean that the White God Factor doesn't appeal to women as well-only for them, it's usually a sentimental thing. Women also like being in the position of strength-in this case, to "help the needy."

When I was in Laos, this German Greens type complained that the White God Factor was already receding. "It's not so good in Laos anymore," she said with a hint of frustration. "The people aren't as poor as they used to be. Four or five years ago it was better." She didn't even realize how evil that was-wishing that the locals were more poor, only in order to satisfy her sentimental desire to be "helpful." Whatever-the point is, it's almost ALWAYS good for us when others suffer and we don't.

So thank you Mr. Lukashenko for saying the wrong things in the wrong way to the wrong people. And a big thank you to you, The New York Times, for spreading cheap Cold War lies about an alleged tyrant and his allegedly basket-case nation. And oh yes, to you as well, all the aggrieved bankers, IFIs (international finance institutions) and human rights activists for helping to scare all the White People away from Belarus. All of you helped make my five days in Minsk among the most memorable of my recent life.

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