RANEPA sociologist Dmitry Rogozin: “COVID-19 has taken away our future”
The way of life of Russians has changed without alternative, at once and almost in everything
“When we asked whether there are social groups that, if they have not benefited from the pandemic, then they mobilised because of it, we realised that there are two of them — officials and the military. These are those groups that did not work but served, that is, they carried out orders. But doctors in this case fell into a trap. They mobilised, but they were given all the responsibility out of proportion to the actions they are capable of. Now doctors do not understand how to treat COVID-19, but de facto they are viewed as those who understand but just shy away," says Dmitry Rogozin, member of the Institute for Social Analysis and Forecasting of the RANEPA (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration). The well-known sociologist spoke in the interview with Realnoe Vremya about the long-lasting consequences of the self-isolation regime, social distancing as “genocide in miniature” and the problem of safe housing that the lion's share of Russians has faced.
“Our way of life has really changed — what is more, at once”
Dmitry, what essential changes are you, as a sociologist, observing in Russia in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic?
The most important change, from which all the others follow, is connected with isolation. Behind this, it is what is called “the era is gone”. In other words, our way of life has really changed, what is more — without alternative, and, even more curiously, administratively. That is, it has changed without any personal choice, without human participation. And here are a lot of consequences that are less obvious. Regardless of whether you believe in coronavirus or not, whether you follow the instructions or not, whether you are afraid of the future or not — all this does not matter. Because the changes didn't happen on a personal level. We are seeing tectonic social changes.
How are they manifested?
Here we can start from socio-demographic characteristics. Let's take middle-aged people — this is an economically active population. Their time rhythm has become broken. No matter how much we nod at freelancers and the self-employed, we still used to have work time and family time. Now the pandemic has erased that time. Your work time has become superimposed on the rest time and in principle does not differ from it.
This is also clearly reflected in the space.
On the one hand, one can say: “Just think about it — working from home. This even has its advantages — you don't need to go anywhere, it's a comfortable environment.” But this is not the case. Because we lived in the industrial age, where there is a home — a place where you sleep, love, raise children, and there is a workplace that you need not only to earn money, but also to switch, for some social movement.
It is no accident that many people, speaking about gender inequality, reasoned that a woman is often deprived of this switch, especially when she is on maternity leave, and therefore experiences a lot of stress. And now men have seen it too. Men came home from work, they needed a break, men were always a very privileged class. But now, when they began to work at home, men have opened their eyes to that domestic work is even more difficult precisely because it is continuous. We have come to the understanding of the term such as second employment for women. And the middle-aged man began to experience tremendous stress, so the pandemic went through him significantly — everything was rearranged. This is like if you take a nuclear type of economically active population.
Let's take middle-aged people — this is an economically active population. Their time rhythm has become broken
“An elderly person has become not only socially but also physically cut off from his family”
How has the pandemic changed the lives of older people?
On the one hand, from the point of view of the official and the people trying to engage in social policy, everything is more or less good with the elderly. Over the pandemic, their incomes did not fall — the state, in principle, fulfills its social obligations. If they fell, it was only because of inflation.
Second from the point of view of officials — the elderly did not move anywhere even before as well. Indeed, we note that they are low-mobility groups. When we talk to them about going outside, they say: “Come on, I don't need it, I'd rather stay at home.” And if we are talking about trips outside of their city, then the elderly usually say this is “for the young”.
In general, from the point of view of the official, the elderly person has lost almost nothing. But this is only from the point of view of the official. In fact, the biggest disease that accompanies human aging is not physical — it is loneliness. Different restrictions have created a situation when elderly people have become not only socially but also physically cut off from their family. And family, in the broadest sense of the word, is the only thing that creates the meaning of an elderly person's existence. For some elderly people, neighbours or a nurse become their family. And the isolation cut it all off.
Besides, mobility is important for the elderly. This factor is also critical because if we are young, our body itself requires movement. But when you are over 75 years, you do not want to move, the body blocks movement, looking for optimal states of rest. Therefore, the movement of the elderly is conscious, it is based on that it must be done. And this is really right because as soon as you stop moving at the pace you can, you very quickly stop living. This is why people who break their hip necks and so on die so quickly.
And the situation when immobility was legitimised, in Moscow it is crazy, barbaric measures — to block travel cards for the elderly over 65 years old, and then catch them in theatres… As soon as such inhuman techniques start working under the guise of support, they kill people. People start dying from related causes. Very often, older people do not suffer from Covid-19 but from measures taken to protect them from this disease.
In all this negativity, it is important to note that, despite the fact that I've just criticised the mayor of Moscow, all this Moscow nonsense, this is one of the few cases when Russia is practically no different from the rest of the world. In other words, officials' nonsense is being promoted almost everywhere, just to varying degrees of advancement. Even countries that are extremely advanced in democratic development suffer from this. Let's take, for example, the whole of Western Europe — it's the same nightmare, the same problems.
This is due to the enormous fear of the official when he sees that the nation is in serious danger. And this fear leads to a completely indecent attitude towards people. In fact, what we call social distancing, the way it is implemented, for example, in the first wave in Moscow in the rules of access to the street, in the ban on walking, etc. — this is a kind of genocide in miniature, aimed at all groups of the population.
Different restrictions have created a situation when elderly people have become not only socially but also physically cut off from their family. And family, in the broadest sense of the word, is the only thing that creates the meaning of an elderly person's existence
“We need a vaccination not only against Covid-19 but also against the new normality”
What, in your opinion, should have been the mechanism of action?
When I say all this, I am not an opponent of measures and a kind of critic of the authorities. Because if they ask me “What to do?" I would say I don't know. It's really stalemate with this absolutely incomprehensible epidemic. It is only necessary to realise that the measures taken are abnormal, inhumane and justified only by one thing — martial law, trench life. It is not even the situation itself that is very scary, but the habit of it. Unsteady yet, but gaining strength voices: “What's wrong?", “It's normal to live like this”.
We need to be vaccinated not only against Covid-19 but also against the new normality, which is so attractive to those who put order above freedom and see a person not as a person, but as part of the labour force or the population. Therefore, it is necessary to criticise the existing order, aimed not at its abolition, but at diagnosing what is happening and fixing the loss of freedom as a basic human value. In short, while we live in a negative context, there is still too little information and understanding of what is happening for positive decisions and actions.
I keep talking about bad things, but these are just the beginning of bad things. Even mortality is the beginning, although what can be more important than human life. And the most terrible thing in this whole story is that Covid-19, in addition to freedom, has taken away our future. It made it impossible for us to think ahead for even a year. Now no one can say what will happen in January. Very few people take the liberty of saying what will happen in November. Can we imagine a human life when you don't know what will happen in a month? In general, this is equivalent to wartime, and we are really practically on the battlefield.
Has the pandemic revealed something positive in the life of society?
When we asked whether there are social groups that, if they have not benefited from the pandemic, then they mobilised because of it, we realised that there are two of them — officials and the military. These are those groups that did not work but served, that is, they carried out orders. This is how it happened: what is sometimes called “manual mode” with disdain is the hallmark of the Russian civil service. And now a mission that goes beyond the usual workflow has crystallised into a pandemic. This is a kind of mobilisation that gives the opportunity to create an internal culture, gives meaning not only to work, but also to life.
And, of course, these groups have not lost their salaries, they have no risk of losing their jobs, because the work has only increased, it has become meaningful, their families have felt important. The methods and techniques for organising the civil service are best suited for emergencies and force majeure situations.
Manual mode is justified only when the regulations and written instructions do not work. This is the time we live in. There has become too much state — and this is bad, the state has become more meaningful — and this is good.
But doctors in this case fell into a trap. They mobilised, but they were given all the responsibility out of proportion to the actions they are capable of
“The housing that we consider a basic value is not created for life”
What other advantages can be considered as a consequence of the pandemic?
A pandemic, like any disaster, does not so much expose problems as allows a person to think about their life and see what is happening around them. We always live in a cocoon of current concerns, as stated long ago in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Everything is vanity of vanities”. The pandemic has allowed people to see the vanity and above the vanity to raise important issues: “Where do I live? Who do I live with? Why do I live? What do I want? Who do I live for?" These are the questions that, within the framework of a vain consciousness, look like demagogy. Usually they say: “What are you talking about? Let's get busy — earn money, feed your family, raise your children.”
Most people around the world have found that the housing they thought was decent and they were looking for doesn't meet the requirements. The housing that we consider a basic value is not created for life. Even if you take the housing of our top officials with an area of 200 square metres, it is all created to spend the night, sit in the kitchen or in the living room and go to work. That is, it is uncomfortable to be in it for a long time.
And then the question arises: “Is It possible to live in this housing, as old people live, that is, without going to work, in a 24-hour cycle," and the answer is no. Because housing is not measured in square metres. It has much more significant characteristics for a person that we did not notice at all.
To be continued