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The benefits of talking
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, 15 2010

Those who experience a tragedy and discuss it in the newspaper, on television, or on blogs these people are also a reality, a reality that can move something.

ImageIt was three years ago. Mypassport had been stolen and Iwent to the police to write a statement about its loss or theft. Myprecinct officer was not there, and so someone else, a young guy, received me. Whenhe learned from the questionnaire where Iwork, he asked me a question. Heasked it so earnestly, and with such surprise, honesty, and he looked into my eyes with such purity and said: Why did you at 'Novaya Gazeta' raise such a fuss about the death of Anna Politkovskaya? At that moment Ithought that Ihad lost my mind. Theblood rushed to my head, and immediately Iwanted to really do something to this policeman, to physically destroy him somehow. But, instead, Italked with him very quietly, very slowly, and very clearly. Thisis totally atypical for me. Insuch cases my origin from a southern city starts to show, and Iyell, Iroar and insult Buthere Iwas, sitting there, Iam outwardly calm, and Itried to cram something into this officer’shead.

For a long time Itold him about Anna Politkovskaya, about how she saved people, about how many Russian military officers and police officers approached her for assistance when they had absolutely no one else to turn to. Shehelped more than anyone, and they were officers or the most ordinary of patrolmen, who had used and tossed aside, given up, betrayed, and sold out, guts and all, by their immediate superiors. Ithad been only eight months since Anya died, and the pain was so strong, even though today it is no easier, it is absolute twaddle that time heals all wounds But, back to the policeman: At first Idid not understand what happened to him, but at some point in the conversation he suddenly looked anxious and guilty, and kept repeating the same words whenever Itook a break: Excuse me, excuse me

Iwas not going to write this story, it is so atypical, and somewhat, possibly, very personal. Tosome it might even seem like one of those sentimental Indian films. ButI think about it whenever in the newspapers, or on television, or the Internet, they discuss what had happened to Oleg Kashin, and how journalists in Russia are beaten and killed by the dozen every month. Andin the debate Iheard again a familiar theme: Why do you lift yourselves up so high? Are you journalists better than anyone else? Not by any means, and certainly not in this case, but someone has touched the very heart of the discussion. Conversation is just a bunch of words and they may lead to nothing, and accomplish nothing. Butwhy is that? Evenif people (not necessarily journalists) talk about what happened to Oleg Kashin, or Mikhail Beketov, if they talk about their feelings, about their emotions, about how these feelings and emotions are sensed and felt, and if these people think of some way to help Oleg, or Mikhail, or someone else, then what is so bad about it?

A man once said: Can we not experience that, which we are experiencing, or experience that, which we are not experiencing? Do not get introspective and try to answer these questions. Youcannot answer many questions, so do not go off on your own. Wemay find within our self that, which is the exact opposite of our self. Sometimes it does not hurt, not just for others, but also for our self, to go in through the back door. Youcan talk with yourself without sincerity, just as if you were talking with a stranger. Andjust maybe you might encounter a strange sincerity, not just strange, but alien, a terrifying you (see my meeting with the precinct officer), and try, despite that very anxious point of the conversation, to explain, to explain and to correct something very important. Inthe end we are all connected with one another, and we all live inside one another.

To the visible world is added to a world of desires, which is visible only to the spirit. Muchdepends now on the doctors who are treating Oleg Kashin, on the police who are looking for the protestors picketing Petrovka who attacked Oleg. Butthose who are very keen for Oleg to recover, who pray for him, these people are also a reality, a reality that can move something, and change things for the better. Justlike those people who talk about it in the newspaper, on TV, or in blogs.

Ibelieve in the redemptive power of words. Youshould not neglect the word as something quite insignificant. Andconversation as such need not be neglected. Journalism is not a bunch of petty tricks of the trade; it is not a question of technique and some basic skills and dexterity. Itis a question of an idea, a strong idea, and a conscience. Yes, ideas can be hollow, and pictures (or talk) can be empty and useless duplication of effort. Butnothing prevents us from starting over, or continuing to invest our efforts in the job, and then looking for something that is not there.

We, of course, do not read text, we read with text. Butin a good text each word has a specific definition, and each of us attaches their thought or their image to it, which is often counter the intent. Butin good text all the errors of thought that we make are good. Inconversation or text (and text is conversation) there is sense. Themain thing is not to substitute imitation for reality.

And to Oleg Kashin, Iwish you a speedy recovery.


Observer for 'Novaya Gazeta'


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