Eesti Elu
Post-soviet nouveau-riche, an easy target for humour and distain
Arvamus 29 Dec 2011  Eesti Elu
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Two ex-Soviets meet in London and one boasts that his tie costs $1000. The friend replies: “That’s nothing. I bought the same tie for $2000.”

A newly rich crashes his Mercedes against a tree and is lamenting the wreck of his vehicle. A passerby points out to him his more serious loss – one of his arms is severed. The newly rich: “Oh no, my Rolex, my Rolex!”

While the Soviet era generated thousands of jokes at the expense of the absurd, repressive system and its leading personalities, the collapse of the USSR has given an even easier whipping boy for society’s resentment and scorn. It’s obvious that the resulting deep disparity in personal wealth gained through corruption yielded indignation which in turn generated sharp, pitiless humour.

A newly rich and an old geezer lie side-by-side in a hospital emergency ward. “How did you get here old fella?” “I had an old jalopy and put a discarded airplane engine in it. I was cruising down the highway, saw a Ferrari ahead and tried to overtake it. I lost control of the car and crashed. How did you get here?” “I was driving my Ferrari. When an old jalopy was overtaking me. I thought my car had broken down and was actually standing still. So I opened the door and got out…..”

The jokes are not only a blistering commentary lashing out at the arrogant and ignorant entrepreneurs (often equated with gangsters) usually as uncultured, uncouth and lacking utterly in social conscience. A common story-line is the interaction of the newly rich with a regular citizen, sometimes a close relative.

A newly rich responds to a call on his mobile phone: “Hello, sure I know who’s speaking. I’d recognize your voice anywhere. You want a loan? Well….what do you have as collateral? Your apartment? No, it’s not worth much. Your summer cottage? Yeah, now we’re on the right track. You’ve also built sauna there? Ok. You still have the family heirlooms? Good. Let me think about it. Phone me tomorrow and I’ll let you know. I love you mother.”

A teacher is complaining to a newly rich father: “Your son Juku called me a prostitute.” At home Juku gets the full force of his father’s wrath: “The *%#$!* teacher is there teaching you. Got it *%#&*? She’s looking after your *%$#* education. And you, you little *%#$* start criticising her after-school-hours business.”

The daughter of a newly rich gets a school assignment to write an essay entitled “Poor family”. She wrote: “Once upon a time there was a poor family. Their gardener was poorer than them. Even more poorer was their chauffer who didn’t have money for gasoline. But even poorer was their servant who didn’t have any money at all.”

In reference to Russia-specific jokes, the stories suggest that there is no soul left at all in a country that has had obsessive contemplation about it: The Devil meets a newly rich and offers him anything he wants. “I want a license to import anything free. I want oil fields, tax breaks and control over government officials. Now, what do you want?” “Your soul,” states the Devil. The newly rich is confused, considers the price. “Hmm…so what’s the catch?”

Some jokes are still a carryover from the Soviet era when bad service and deficits in most items ruled the day: A newly rich shouts, “Waiter, give me a toothpick.” The waiter replies, “It’s busy.”

Since ‘regular’ Russians are known for their appreciation and knowledge of classical music, to label someone as deficient in this area would be a most cutting observation: A famous pianist, at the end of his private concert at the mansion of a newly rich is asked by the host if he would finally play “The Moonlight Sonata”. The pianist asked in surprise: “Once again?”
 
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