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27 Oct, 2008 11:00

Joking the crisis away

Joking the crisis away

It appears that Russians prefer to fight the global credit crunch with a good laugh.

A few days ago Komsomolskaya Pravda, the former newspaper of the Young Communist League, which turned after the collapse of the Soviet Union into one of the most successful tabloids, ran the headline: 'Crisis management: 25%-a-Year Residential Mortgage Soon to Replace Death Penalty!'

Even those who knew perfectly well that there is no capital punishment in Russia felt an urge to read more. But the original source of the joke was not the paper. It was the internet, or rather, the Russian people.

Remuneration cuts and downsizing have already moved from the sphere of black predictions into reality in the financial sector and construction. The rest of the economy is still driven forward by the forces of inertia, and for the employees the crisis is something you get ready for but do not feel yet.

Opinion polls show that 54% of Russians in general and 72% of those who live in Moscow dismiss the crisis in Russia as inevitable turbulence caused by the global crisis. Analysts say that only massive instant unemployment can shake this belief.

However the Russian internet shows that public sentiment is not that simple. Many are aware that the near future may bring a lot of personal financial problems, and one has to be ready to accept them in order to solve them.

The situation is serious. In Russia it means that jokes are heard all around, and they are somewhat louder than the warnings of experts. Here are a few from the Russian internet, published by the newspaper, in my translation:

Two bankers meet for lunch. One asks his colleague:
'You know, I'm losing a lot of sleep over this crisis. How about you? Did you sleep last night?'
'Like a baby!'
'Cried all night and soiled myself twice.'

A bank employee calls a colleague in another bank:
'Hey, old man, how are you?'
'Oh, sorry! Wrong number.'

The U.S. healthcare system failed to overcome obesity. Now the U.S. economy is taking over the task.

Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin said in a recent statement that at the moment the general public in Russia has nothing to fear from the crisis. They should have feared before. Now it's too late.

A client, addressing an investment consultant:
'I want to start a small business. What shall I do?'
'Buy a big business and wait.'

Experts say every financial crisis consists of two elements: first, the actual drop in the market and industrial figures, and second, the panic over the expectations of an even worse drop.

And what is a better weapon against panic than a good hearty laugh? There is even a joke about panic management – no direct connection to the current crisis. I heard it first when I was about eight years old:

A cruise boat accidentally strays into a war zone. The watch officer reports a torpedo attack. A couple of minutes is all the Captain has to prevent panic and perform an evasive manoeuvre. He tells the First Mate to create a diversion for the passengers strolling on the deck so they won't notice the torpedo. The First Mate jumps down from the bridge and shouts:
'Hey, folks look here! Put on your life jackets, I'm going to pass wind with such force that it will blow up the boat!'
The passengers start laughing but then a blast comes, and it cracks the boat in half. Everyone is in the water. The First Mate is afloat, holding on to a piece of wood. The Captain laboriously swims up to him, grabs at the wood and shouts angrily:
'You and your stupid jokes! The torpedo missed!'

Well, laughing the crisis away may not work, but it definitely makes the troubles tolerable. Let's laugh! The doctors say it prolongs our life span. And, then again, what is a mere financial crisis to us, if we have already survived so many, and much worse, crises in our lifetime?

But let our need for crisis humour pass as fast as possible, so we can enjoy more jokes like this one, published in today's edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda:

'Sweetheart, please, take a piece of this cake!'
'Thanks but no thanks. I don't eat anything after 6 pm.'
'Well, make it a special day, eat it!'
'I'm on a diet, I'm telling you!'
'But it is so nice and tasty, I swear you will like it!'
'Don't you know? I really don't like sweets.'
'Eat it, you stupid bitch! There's a golden ring inside it, I want to marry you!'

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT