Advice from my grandmother

There is a lot of talk about ‘the talk’ in the media, in all shapes and colors. And it got me thinking. See, I never got any talk from my parents, but after reading several articles on the recent John Derbyshire affair, I suddenly recalled some things my grandmother had taught me when I was very young—so young in fact that I don’t even remember being told this or that for the first time. For example, that I should never talk to a stranger.

My grandmother was born well before the Russian Revolution, and as an adult, she managed to survive the major historical upheavals such as the WWI, the change of the regime, the collectivization, the siege of Leningrad, the Red terror, the Stalinist terror before and after the war, the Cold War period, and the rest of the Soviet reality, until her death at the venerable age of 90. I still remember her as a good old grandma but, being a kid, I could hardly appreciated the considerable survival skills that kept her and her family alive, out of prison as well as could be expected all through the troubled years of modern Russian history. Although she was poisonously contemptuous towards all things Soviet (her favorite nickname for V. I. Lenin was “the Antichrist”), she had realistic attitudes through her entire life. What she tried to instill in me also, ever since I was three years old, was certain norms of behavior that, as I realize now, were the basic rules of survival. How well they served me later in life! Obviously, those rules were survival strategies in an age of anarchy, wars, a totalitarian regime and finally multiculturalism with its abundance of crime, dirt and diseases. So here it is — some advice from my grandmother. And since her wisdom was simple and commonsensical, I didn’t even need Bill Ayers’ help in writing it.

Who would’ve thought her advice would be so painfully applicable in contemporary multicultural, PC-vigilant US of America?

Rules of basic personal hygiene in relation to other people.

Never touch other people, their things etc. Always wash your hands after a handshake, never try on other kids’ shoes, clothes and especially hats (so you wouldn’t get lice), never drink from a shared bottle or a glass (to prevent disease contamination).  Never accept food from anyone. Try to avoid eating outside (waiters and cooks in restaurants spit in your food, besides home cooked meal is always a healthier and safer choice, because you know it is clean and fresh). Always know what you eat. (While cats and rats were common in Soviet fast food, human meat was apparently sold during the siege of Leningrad and you don’t have to be a vegetarian to object to that). Always wash vegetables and fruits (many foods are coming from contaminated regions). Never wear the street clothes at home (you never know who had sat on a tram seat before you). Always wash your hands upon returning home (you never know who had touched door knobs, money etc).

Rules of behavior outside

Never approach or indeed, come close to a car whose passengers are getting in or out of it at the moment (so you won’t be snatched, kidnapped etc). If a car is slowing down close to the curb while you’re passing by walk, faster and never stop. Never approach a parked car with people sitting in it (same reason). While walking down the street, be sure no one is following you. Be sure no one is following you into a building/elevator/apartment. Keep the curtains in your house closed when the lights are turned on (during the daytime it is considerably more difficult to spy on you, but when the lights inside the house are on and the curtains are open, you’ll be seen from afar)

Never let anyone leave their things in your place (so nothing could be planted in your house). Never answer the door if you hear a doorbell, or come close to it. Never talk through a closed door to anyone even if it is one of your neighbors; be absolutely sure it is one of your relatives and no one else.

Never tell anyone where you live, what is your last name, address, etc. Never give anyone any information about your parents’ work, profession, whereabouts etc.

Never talk to strangers. Nice and friendly looking women are especially dangerous.

Never trust a person in uniform.

Always have an escape route and never wander into unfamiliar parts of the city.

Never accept food from anyone, especially not sweets or drinks. And never leave your glass unattended. (And to think that rape drugs did not even exist then.)

Never repeat to anyone anything that was said at home. Never shout while at home, especially just outside of your apartment, on a staircase or a balcony. (You may utter something that can be used against you later.)

When you see a group of drunken people approaching you, cross to the other side of the street. When you see a group of loud teens, cross to the other side of the street. If you see a suspicious group of people standing near the entrance of your house do not try to enter your house, but walk by as if you do not live there. When a passer-by tries to stop you and asks for the time or any other information, do not stop and keep walking; never engage in a conversation. (It is easy to assault you when you’d already stopped. It is much more difficult to assault a moving target. In addition, an attacker would rarely attempt to chase you.) If in trouble, scream.

Never flash your wealth in public. Never carry with you any significant amounts of cash or anything of value. Never carry with you anything that can be easily snatched from your hands. Never dress in a way it would make you to stand out in a crowd. Always keep your hands free. Never carry with you anything that you would be sorry to lose (in case of a hold-up or an arrest).

Rules of safety on public transport.

Never take a seat while riding on public transportation (your freedom of movement would be restricted and your route to escape might be easily blocked). Always make sure you have room to maneuver, such as an easy opportunity to disembark/leave the bus, train etc. upon the slightest doubt or provocation.  Always check your surroundings and people who are standing or sitting close to you. Never remain standing close to anyone who behaves strangely or has a strange/unusual/threatening appearance (it might be a provocateur). Always walk away from and keep a good distance from such a character.

Rules for young partying adults.

Never drink outdoors. Drink at home. Avoid all public drinking establishments. If you have been partying with friends at their places, make sure that no one returns home alone. Always walk home in twos or threes. If you happen to be on a street drunk, try to appear sober (drunken people are easy targets for the police or criminals, especially a young adult). Learn how to handle alcohol and all the rules regarding safe drinking from a young age, preferably under the supervision of your parents. If you keep your wits when you’re drunk, you are double smart (a Russian proverb). While drinking with friends, keep the topics of conversation to the weather, sports and sex — never politics.

Living with a hostile government

Never trust the police or an official. Never approach a parked police car. Never open the door to the police unless you absolutely have to. Never testify as a witness unless you are absolutely forced to. If you see an accident on the street, walk away fast and never stop to watch. Never admit to anyone that you had problems with the police in the past or ever. Always hide your personal history. Never show to anyone your ID unless you are absolutely forced to. When you are talking over the phone treat every conversation as public. Never talk politics in public. Never reveal your political views or opinions. Always try to appear less intelligent and knowledgeable then you really are. (”Woe from Wit” was written by a Russian.) Never write down anything that can incriminate you. Never keep anything incriminating in your home. Never talk about religion in public and never discuss your religious beliefs with anyone. Never make political jokes. Never tell anyone about your family history. Never trust anyone, even your spouse. Your spouse is your best friend and your worst enemy. Never tell anyone including your close relatives/spouse the complete truth about yourself. Never expect justice from anybody. Never expect the law to be on your side. Never trust political news, newspaper, official statements — better yet do not read or watch them. Your family is the only safe heaven for you. Always remember that no matter what the State officials say to you, your family is the only group who would genuinely try to protect you. But your family and your friends can be your worst enemies. 

Living in close proximity to Jews/dealing with hostile elite.

Never utter the word ‘Jew’ in public. Never talk about Jews in public. If two Jews invite you to share a Jewish joke with them get up and leave; never participate. You can visit a Jewish home but never bring a Jew to your place. Never trust them and never ask them for favors. Never contradict them, in particular when they tell you about their ethnic (non-Jewish) background. Keep a straight face if they claim to be old Russian nobility.  Always expect that they are informants or they actually work for the State security. Jews who openly criticize the Soviet system are especially dangerous. If you have a Jewish friend, know that sooner or later he/she will cause trouble for you or get you into trouble.

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I haven’t listed everything my grandma told me at one time or another. The abovementioned rules are only a short excerpt from the long list of “don’ts” and “nevers.”  What is interesting in this example however, is that after sifting through these rules, one gets a better notion as to why the totalitarian state has been so aggressively opposed to the traditional family as such and why it always has tried to break or ’deconstruct’ it. Throughout human history, the family has been the only unit that has guarded the younger generation against the hostility of the State. This is especially important now. Unlike a religion, which can and often does ally itself with oppressors, the family alone stands fast against state-sanctioned personal disintegration.

In conclusion, I may only add that “the grandmotherly institute of common sense and wisdom” — collected and fine-tuned for generations—is fast becoming a rarity. Naturally, a “family” with two fathers or two mothers, or a single parent has virtually no chance to provide children with basic knowledge and protection against the abuses and poisonous influences of blood thirsty and crazy ideologues. That is why communists and the other “engineers of the just human society” have always tried to smear, destroy and deconstruct’ the traditional family.

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