Russia’s Appalling Wifebeating Laws: The “Politics of Distancing”

Some months ago, the Russian parliament watered down the laws on wifebeating; something which is very difficult for a civilized person to understand.

What is there to gain from this?

Firstly, there is no obvious material gain.

Secondly, it does not do anything to mitigate the negative light in which the country is held.

Another possible explanation:

Sheer vindictiveness and irrational hatred of women?

Perhaps. But this is a rather subjective explanation; so while it may account for the behavior of some politicians, it can hardly explain the actions of all. At least not comprehensively.

So, is there a more practical end in sight; difficult as it is to discern one?

I think the key reason for this law (which upset me a great deal when I heard about it a few months ago, as it would anyone), is that there is a ‘politics of distancing.’

I.e., the more different you are from the West the better; ethics and morals be damned! It is like what is happening in theocracies like Iran. Being different from liberal democracies is an end in itself, and is more than enough justification for any law; no matter how barbaric, brutal or severe.

What follows from this?

Firstly, it is important to remember how fallacious is the assumption that ‘putting pressure’ on foreign governments is going to make them relent on their abusive policies. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. One has to look at the context.

Perhaps some sociologists have already examined under what circumstances certain forms of lobbying or pressure are likely to work? It would be very interesting to research this.

Secondly, if some governments are cynically practising such a ‘politics of distancing,’ then why is this? Are there things Westerners can reasonably do to undermine the logic of this politics of distancing?

Certainly, the various foreign interventions make Western governments look bad, and may also (in the eyes of some) raise broader questions about how morally degenerate and barbarous our societies and cultures are. And even if this is deemed unfair, it is important to ask why such a view might appear plausible to some people.

However, self-examination and self-flagellation are not the same thing. Any serious interrogation of this matter must avoid self-loathing complicity with authoritarian governments in other countries.

Either way, women in Russia are heading for a cold, dark winter.

Image Attribution:

George Hodan

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