I have had my share of shocking experiences the last few years. I once drank champagne in the back seat of a moving squad car with two on duty officers in Odessa. My maid in Kiev preferred to clean my apartment topless (and she was my grandmother's age). And I was once asked to cut the head off of a live turkey with the equivalent of a rusty butter knife in a Polish village. Other things I would rather not write here. This is the family version.
And I was culture shocked again this week when I found out that the Ukrainian communist party has been spying on me. They cut my phone connection, knowing that I am an American, to get bribe money. Where are these spies and how do I contact them? No one knows. Of course it is complete crap but my landlord fervently believed that my internet usage (a capitalist symptom) had drawn the attention of the government to his little apartment in Lviv and he wanted no part of the ensuing political scandal. He refused to offer any assistance as I am probably a known enemy of the state (not the first time I have been accused of such lofty status).
So I roughed out a trip to the phone company and surprise, the phone now works. Many older Ukrainians are deeply suspicious of all institutions, and for good reason. Ukraine is thoroughly corrupt (it sits between Pakistan and Liberia on the CPI, no easy feat) and has been since... forever? So it really is not strange for my landlord, the whackjob that he is, to believe that the state has a problem with me checking baseball scores and sending emails. The unpredictable nature of life here needs some sort of explanation. Do imaginary commies play a much different role from, say, a sun deity, wrathful god or pissed off witch in other cultures? They give some form to all of the uncertainties in a society in transition. Ukrainians are superstitious for very real reasons.
Does neoliberal art like the Wang Guangyi above feel annoyingly complacent today, post-global meltdown? Guangyi from the Saatchi collection.