What can be more depressing that getting up and into the dark and chilly morning on Monday in this part of Sweden? The answer came when I was about to choke on my morning coffee at the site of Putin’s well-groomed face smiling victoriously from the front page of the daily paper. Like it or not, the indisputable winner of the Best Poker Face award had a good reason for feeling victorious: he played the country effortlessly, as someone who didn’t even have to bluff that he had a superior hand. He didn’t need to look at his hand. Moreover, the other players didn’t need to bother coming to the table at all. Hell, he made the game and the rules of the game. Right now, he IS the game.
While the West is busy demonstrating in support of the Burmese people’s demands for democracy, Europe has its own freak show unfolding much closer geographically. Russian opposition at the moment is not allowed to go further than making plans for protest demonstrations. Garri Kasparov, one of the opposition leaders, was recently released after five days in a cell. When do we start demonstrating against the violation of human and citizen rights in Russia? Or is Putin’s hand so unquestionably superior? Apparently: my answer to the what-can-be-more-depressing-than… question on the morning of January 1st 2006 would have been “Waking up with no gas” had I lived in Ukraine at the time, as the hand of the Emperor turned off gas supplies to the country making it perfectly clear who was running the show. Jokes aside: who wants to find THIS dog parked outside one’s own house? The problem is we might not really have a choice but deal with it before it gets too dark.