Sunday, April 18, 2010
The previous link got me to thinking about Vladimir Putin. He looks very Slavic, with that inherently sly look that Slavs sometimes have. But he seems in many ways the ultimate Mediterranean man, one to whom his personal vitality is everything. Or, if you prefer, a Latin man, the type for whom machismo is all.
Or maybe he's just your average guy, who, given unlimited power, would exercise it to his heart's content and indulge himself in all his macho fantasies.
The series of pictures of Vladimir Putin taken in Siberia which were released a year or so ago were almost comical in what they said about his self-image, but they were impressive nonetheless. They show a powerful man who loves using his power. (Not a bad description of what Putin is and does politically.)
The picture at top right shows Putin breaking a piece of firewood over his knee. (Couldn't he just place one end on a rock and then step on it like the rest of us?)
The next picture, on the left, shows Putin swimming the butterfly in a Siberian river. As a swimming purist, I must confess to a few quibbles with his form. But those aside, the bigger question is if he was really swimming the fly, or just jumping up off the bottom of the river and spreading his arms to make it look as if he were doing so. My guess is the latter. But either way, he certainly gets credit for immersing himself in a Siberian river, which must be icy even at the warmest time of the year.
In the next picture, on the right, Putin is hunting. Hunting with a high-powered rifle is not particularly sportsmanlike. But one does not spend all those years in the KGB acquiring a Grantland Rice-like view of the world.
The next picture shows Putin, shirtless again, fishing rod in hand, in a pose which is almost a parody of an advertisement for a gay porn film. ("Vlad the Impaler and his Rod of Steel"?) Putin almost seems like one of those guys who takes steroids and then uses any excuse to go shirtless. Think of the Siberian climate, and two possibilities come to mind. If it was cold, Putin was braving the chill in a show of vanity. If it was warm, Putin was braving the fierce mosquitoes in an even greater sacrifice for his vanity. Either way, as a very wise man once said, all is....well, you know.
In the final picture, at bottom right, Putin is riding a horse. Shirtless, of course. Vladimir should be careful here, because this is how his spiritual predecessor, Genghis Khan, met his end: from injuries incurred falling off a horse.
These pictures are so extreme as to give the impression that Putin is perhaps overcompensating. But he just married a 24-year-old gymnast, so he seems be indulging himself in the full range of male interests. One suspects it is less a Western-style marriage, and more a traditional one, where the husband's word is law. (In this case, literally.)
Vladimir Putin is definitely old school, from his KGB background to his early participation in judo, the sport of choice for those who like to control other men -- and possibly choke them or break their bones as well.
In America people laughed at him for that series of photos. But the balance of the laughter must emanate from Russia, at us for having elected such simpletons. I wince to think what the reaction in the Kremlin must have been when George W. Bush announced that he had looked into Putin's eyes and seen the soul of a good man. (This is, by the way, perfect proof that one can only judge the intelligence of another up to the level of one's own).
Obama seems to have looked into Putin's eyes, envisioned the former Soviet commissar Putin once was, and figured: hey, he can't be all bad if he was once a Communist.
But Putin is not a communist, merely a realist. (This was probably the case even when he was a nominal communist.) And he is, contrary to our Presidents' thinking, mostly bad.
But he wouldn't mind being called bad nearly so much as he would being called a wimp.
Addendum, same day: my son just read this, and said laughingly, "Yeah, I guess if I had unlimited power and nobody had criticized me for ten years, I'd be a little bit of a prick too."