We Will Get Along without Any of Your Stuff!

The worse the economic situation gets, the more often we will see advice like how to boil lunch for a week from one chicken, sew five skirts from one old scarf, grow a garden on the balcony, etc. The feeling of mobilization is an anxious symptom of the situation of society.

Minister Ulyukaev thinks that as long as our income and expenditures are in rubles, we “need to be absolutely indifferent to whatever course it takes.” However, those who personally visit the market see that the prices of products have already gone up and are continuing to rise. People are getting ready for tough times, a long winter. They ready themselves not with joy, but without any particular sadness either. They haven’t been all that worried, it’s more like a calling.

The war slogan “We’ll live without your ham!” has transformed into the more generalized, “We’ll get along without any of your stuff!”

We will live without imported products. Come winter, there won’t even be Russian products, but we’ll just improvise with sauerkraut. We will live on without our New Year trips to Europe. The euro is so strong right now that the middle class can’t even get their hands on any. We will go on without new coats, the old ones still have a few years in them.

Overall, the theme of austerity is very popular today in countries with developed economies. It is true that it usually doesn’t stem from neediness and poverty, but rational character. People refuse to drive big cars because the smaller ones are cheaper, easier to park, and are less harmful to the atmosphere. Those who oppose the murder of animals refuse to wear leather and fur clothes. In one of the states of America, a referendum recently passed banning the convenient but scarily hazardous plastic bags. The examples go on and on.

In countries with developed economies, there is a race between supply, demand for style and the desire to be “not worse off than your neighbor.” Once an acceptable level of wealth and development of the general public has been achieved, more and more people find satisfaction outside the sphere of material goods. Economic growth is an increase of not only demand, but also of the share of expenditures on science, culture, education and sports. Austerity in that kind of society is a personal choice, not a national one.

Russians also felt the desire to be “not worse off than your neighbor” during the period of transition to market economics. That very feeling lead to wild growth of personal loans that half of the country has yet to repay.

However, not many people have reached that “acceptable level of wealth.” The majority still live according to the principle that “we have never lived well, so we might as well not start now.” Their readiness to be so austere is from poverty and fear of the unknown: what will tomorrow bring? When will the ruble crash again? When will they lay me off from work? What if I get sick? What if I have a child? And the list goes on…

Of course, it is easy to go on without ham, celebrate New Year at home and spend the summer holidays at the dacha. We can go on without going out as much as we did, without buying extra books. It is hard to call that “living life to the fullest.” It is more closely reminiscent of survival. However, it is that specific type of survival that the nation is ready to rally together to get through as one. Exchanging advice on how to get along without this or that, to get ready for the hard times.

Equality of wealth is just as easy to compare as equality of poverty.

Withered demand behavior could be considered more of a plus in a socialist economy (all of the products were equally unavailable), whereas in the market economy, it is clearly a minus. The decreased consumer activity that had already begun in the autumn beats, first of all, on the same small businesses that the government is actively putting pressure on with its tax policies. Fewer people will go out to dinner, so fewer restaurants will remain open. Fewer people will go away on vacation, so fewer tourism agencies will be in business (only a few are left anyway). People will buy fewer clothes, so less stores will be able to keep their doors open. The unemployment lines will fill up and people will start to cut back on food…

We published an article about how the average spending on food per month was about 7,000 rubles. One of the Gazeta.Ru readers commented, “I’ve been keeping some old editions of the Pravda newspaper that my father saved from 1943-1945. I specifically remember an article about nutrition from some professor. He very convincingly proved that you must clean and wash the skins of potatoes because they were so much more nutritious than the potato itself. He gave a lot of those kinds of examples.”

When rough times end, no one remembers those things. Now, though, people are preparing to use one chicken to boil dinner for an entire week, sew a new dress from old curtains and grow green onions on the windowsill for vitamins. While that historic experience of survival may have fallen out of contemporary society, apparently all we need to do is digitize old copies of “Peasant Wife” and “Working Woman.”

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