Destruction in UkraineAccording to the market and consumer data purveyor Statista, 80% of Russians polled in March 2022 “approve of the activities of Vladimir Putin as the president…of Russia.” As any reasonable Russia observer will agree, this should be taken with a rounded tablespoon of salt.

Yes, a good portion of those apparently Putin-fawning respondents answered the poll question honestly. That sample includes diehard patriots who support the policies of their motherland no matter how odious they may be, as well as the unwashed masses who share two brain cells among them and believe that Truth is only that which is spoon-fed to them via approved, government-owned propaganda outlets.

The balance of the 80% are respondents of a different sort. Their exact number is impossible to ascertain, but they represent that slice of the Russian population who live by the #1 rule of survival in a dictator/autocrat-led country: when asked a question about one’s feelings about the Powers that Be, there is only one answer. Period.

Sometime in my formative years I came across a quote: “If five people tell you you’re drunk, you’re probably drunk.” I recognized that the word “probably” was inserted in the name of sarcasm. What it really means is, “Don’t argue. You’re drunk.”

While a source of giggles when first read, that phrase became one of the many pillars of my self-awareness, one of the compasses that steadfastly pointed me in the right direction. Maturity, acquired knowledge and increased responsibility ever frequently brought me face-to-face with opportunities to either brashly act on the mental advice of arrogance and hubris, or take a step back and absorb the entire landscape of facts and opinions around me—those five people concernedly whispering in my ear.

I recently started a collection of quotes that either directly or subtly describe the underpinnings of good decisions and behavior. One such quote by Drew McCoy advises, “To change someone’s mind, you first have to listen.” The context of McCoy’s text in which this quote appears makes it evident that it’s not just about changing someone else’s mind. It’s also about the danger of not seeking out and considering contradicting views before adopting a set-in-stone opinion.

Which brings us back to that fraction of the 80% of Russians who support their government’s actions, not out of fear of prosecution, but driven like lemmings by the Real News they’re getting from the Kremlin. They’re hopelessly deaf to the five people telling them they’re drunk: the Fake News espoused by other governments and subversive elements of the Russian media that had clearly lost their way and were bleating nonsense critical of Mother Russia until that mother stepped in and censored them out of existence.

To those Russians I say, please open your eyes to the information your government banned but that is still available through clandestine channels, and to conversations with your misled soldiers—your sons, husbands, loved ones—calling home with hellish eyewitness accounts. Have you wondered why so many media outlets on multiple continents are reporting the same views of the invasion of Ukraine, all of which are deemed fake by your government? Why, after decades of supporting, encouraging and investing in your country’s growth and prosperity, foreign governments are now imposing draconian financial sanctions, all at the same time and in response to a singular event?

Have you considered that maybe—just maybe!—the five people telling you you’re drunk are in fact correct, and you really are drunk?

Bo Twerdowsky

Real estate agent, self-professed computer geek, grammar policeman, proud father of two. Opinionated, questioning, intolerant of stuffy sorts devoid of a sense of humor.