By Jeff J. Brown
Pictured above: Eric Arnow in Moscow on the right, yours truly in Normandy on the left.
Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff
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Eric Arnow: First of all, I was on a 25-hour trip with two layovers from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Moscow. And the last segment of the trip, I was watching. They have online movies during airplane flights, and the movie that I thought was most appealing was The Matrix, which I had not seen since it was made in 1999.
Jeff J Brown: Yeah.
Eric: That movie is so powerful today that it needs to be talked about as an introduction to what my travels are about. So, I want to talk about the movie briefly and then explain what happened. My first encounter is with an old friend of mine from a year ago who is more of a Russian liberal. She doesn’t really know. She’s got this sense of opposition to Russia as an entity. And she doesn’t know anything about what’s actually going on. It’s kind of unbelievable. But she’s got a heart of gold.
She’s a wonderful person. Then I met Irina Boyko (https://chinarising.puntopress.com/2021/08/05/irina-crutcher-boykos-running-blog-in-english-critical-articles-comments-and-analysis-about-the-ussr-and-russia-now-on-china-rising-radio-sinoland/) and first, we went to is called Stalin’s Bunker, which was started during World War Two but was not finished until after Stalin died and it turned into a nuclear bomb shelter, as well as a nuclear bomb launching facility. And they simulate an atomic bomb attack in this bomb shelter which I have recorded on video, partially. And everybody should see this because people are just clueless about what the hell is going on now.
And then we went to Victory Park and there were some young teenage kids. So, I’ll explain a little bit about the demographics of what is going on in Russia or Russia now with the various generations that have gone through the Soviet period, the post-Soviet period and you could say since the start of the special military operation and how young people have seemed to be responding to it.
Jeff: Okay, well, I’m ready to go. Let’s just do it. We’re already recording, so just start talking. Okay, just keep going. It’s already interesting. Go ahead. So, talk about the Matrix. Talk about everything you want to talk about. And I’m all ears, and I know the fans will be, too. So, we’re live.
Eric: All right. Okay. So, I had this idea to go to Russia to get some medical treatment, actually. And I had planned this trip in advance. And it turns out there’s this medical treatment that I was looking at, which is stem cell therapy is half the cost in Russia that it is in Thailand even. So, I thought, well, I can take a trip to Russia and pay for this treatment at the same time. So, I booked this flight and it’s a 25-hour flight, so it was pretty wearing. But the most significant part of the flight was this movie called The Matrix, which people may have heard of.
It came out in 1999, and at the time it was a pretty powerful movie. I want to just go through some of the highlights of this movie because they are so relevant that it is mind-blowing. It starts off with the idea that at the end of the 20th century, mankind seemed to be on the verge of a great revolution as far as its evolution is concerned. And one of the main drivers of it was AI. This is 1999 talking about the use of AI. Interesting.
Well, it turns out that the AI gets out of control and decides that human beings are actually the virus that’s destroying the planet and they need to be controlled. And as a result, the humans are basically put into pods where their energy is drained off for the benefit of the machines. And everyone is in a simulation, a dream in which they think they’re living a life of a career and family and all those different kinds of things, when in fact they’re in a state of complete hypnosis.
And even those people who know that the system is a matrix, that they are slaves to this system are still so comfortable that they refuse to see their way. They refuse to get out of it because it’s just too painful to be living on a spaceship, running away from these AI machines eating oatmeal every day. And that’s all you get to eat when you could be dreaming of eating steak. So, that sort of set the context for this movie and set the context for this trip.
And one of the major scenes in the movie is where Agent Smith, who is this evil AI-generated figure says, “Billions of people leading their lives oblivious.” And he goes on to say that people don’t want to see the reality of what their life is, that they are slaves of this system. This is 1999, they’re talking about this. And here we are with Elon Musk talking 24 years later, saying when we were losing against AI, we’re summoning the demon. So, here we are.
Okay, so I arrive in Moscow and the first order of business is to recover the $1,000 that Aeroflot confiscated from me when Covid hit and my flight was canceled in 2020. I had scheduled a flight to Russia in 2020. Covid hit me. My flight is canceled. There are no flights from Bangkok. And so, they’ve got my money on their books. I can’t use my ticket. I can’t use my money. And finally, after three years, they said, okay, we give up, we’ll give you a refund. So, I go to their office and I show them the piece of paper that says you’re entitled to a refund.
And then they say, oh, but you have to prove that you’re the person who paid for the ticket. Well, I looked into all my emails and I discovered there was an email from Aeroflot that says, there’s a guy named Eric Arnow who’s the owner of this credit card who paid for this trip. Oh, but that’s not good enough. Aeroflot knows that I’m the owner of that ticket and that I paid for it personally with my credit card. But because their rules state that I have to get a letter from the bank, they won’t refund my money. So, I went to I called my bank in Thailand.
I said, here’s my problem. They said, well, we need to find out what was the exact date that you bought your ticket. And so, I called Aeroflot. I said, would you please track down the voucher from the ticket when I bought these tickets? Because I don’t remember the exact date. It has been three years. It is a credit card that is three years old and has expired. So, they tracked it down. They said, oh, yes, we found these two tickets.
They were bought on two particular dates. I go back to Bangkok Bank. Bangkok Bank says, oh, yeah, yep, we found it. And they sent me an email saying, “Yeah, Eric Arnow is the owner give him back his money.” So, I thought, well, that’s easy enough. I went to the office. The lady says, oh yeah, okay, yeah, you’re entitled to it. Just give me yours, you have to have a Russian bank card because otherwise, we can’t get your money back because we cannot refund your money to your original bank in Thailand or in the United States.
If that were the case, we can only refund your money to a bank in Russia. Well, it turns out that my friend Tonya helped me open a bank account last year. So, I actually do have a Russian bank account. Wow. CIA being notified. It is in my records I sent to the IRS. Yes, I am officially an owner of a couple of thousand bucks in Russia. So, there you go. Anyway, I go back the next day with my friend Tonya. And it took us another two hours of paperwork to fill out these forms and sign off on all the information that they asked for.
And finally, they said, yes, we’re going to credit back the money to your Russian bank account. So, except for the interest, because we do have to pay you interest and the interest, we will pay you in cash. But for the other money, you’re going to have to wait four more days and it’ll show up in your bank account. So, so much for that. After that, Tonya took me to the Tretyakov Gallery. And the Tretyakov Gallery is the largest art gallery of several in Moscow, another very famous one being the Pushkin Gallery.
Pushkin is probably the most famous author the most revered author or poet in Russian history. And we had gone there last year for about five hours and finally broke it off because I wanted to go to the Cosmonaut Museum. So, last year we went to the Cosmonaut Museum after only going through two-thirds of the Tretyakov Gallery. We went back to the Tretyakov Fowler Gallery and it took another 2.5 hours to get almost three hours to get through the last third of this unbelievable museum.
And most of or many of these painters are Russian painters. And I said to Tonya you had a Russian classical period. You had the Renaissance period. You had the impressionist period. You had Kandinsky, who was a famous abstract expressionist. But most of these people are unknown in the West because as far as the West is concerned, they’re the only ones who create art. And Russia is this black hole where there’s no culture going on at all. That’s how the West thinks, basically.
And they’re actively suppressing any notion in people in the Western people’s minds that Russia has a culture of any significance. Interesting. Well, the other interesting thing about this museum was it was packed. There were young teenagers, people of all ages, and a lot of younger people going to a fine arts museum. Most Americans think about their video games. And here are these young Russian kids actually going to a fine arts museum.
Isn’t that that’s quite interesting? And she said, well there are 15 million people in Moscow. So, there’s a small number of people who are interested in art. But nevertheless, the simple fact is that fine art is recognized as something of value. And in our modern world, these kinds of things are not recognized. And many of the pictures, many of the paintings are chronicles of history, very important historical events that I had never heard of, especially in Russian history.
So, nowadays, people live not only in an unhistorical or an ahistorical period, but an anti-historical period. People are not allowed to know what has actually gone on and what is the context of why things are the way they are. And this is just a major problem. So, there such why is there a war going on in Ukraine? Oh, Russia invaded unprovoked. So, after we went to this museum, Tonya and I went to dinner and we were talking and she’s young. She’s about 40 years old.
And, over dinner, we started to discuss a little bit of politics and I know where she stands. She doesn’t really understand anything. So, I brought up the fact that I said there’s a war going on in Ukraine. Well, I actually met a couple of Ukrainian women and they’re refugees from Ukraine. And both of them are Russian. They speak Russian. Their culture is Russian. One comes from Kiev, not Kyiv, which is the bastardized Ukrainian expression for the capital. It’s Kiev. That’s the Russian pronunciation and the way it was pronounced forever until this recent US-sponsored regime came to power.
So, here are these two Russian women, and they explain how they had both gone to Canada after the fall of the Soviet Union because of the economic disaster that occurred. They basically raped Russia and not just the Russian Federation, but all of the ex-former Soviet republics were all basically pillaged by a combination of Western capitalists and local oligarch comprador elites who are willing to sell out their own country in order for their own personal benefit.
So, they leave Ukraine and go to Canada. And one of these women who was in her 70s said, “I left Ukraine. And when I got to Canada, I found there are a bunch of Ukrainian Nazis there.” I said, “Well, yeah, right. You know the story that you had a faction of the Ukrainian population that were extreme nationalists. They were supremacists allied with the Nazis, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews, Poles, Russians, and fellow Ukrainians, communists in order to take over Ukraine. They failed at the end of World War Two.
The CIA took them under their wing. They brought them to Canada and to the United States to escape prosecution for their own war crimes. And they’ve been incubating since the end of World War two. And finally, in 2014, they grab hold of Ukraine with the active help of the United States government.” That’s the story. And as a confirmation of that, my second friend said to me, “In Kiev, the main street was called Moscow Boulevard or Moscow Street.” Well, this latest iteration of, you could say perversion of Ukrainian society is called Bandera Street.
Jeff: Stephan Bandera.
Eric: Stephan Bandera, who is the leader of the atrocities committed by the Ukrainian organization of nationalists during World War Two, collaborated with the Nazis. And after World War Two, the US government was supporting these people in a guerrilla war against the Soviet Union. They were finally wiped out. The guerrilla army was wiped out. But these same people basically went underground within Ukrainian society. They nurtured all during the period of the Soviet Union and finally when the Soviet Union fell, bingo. They’re back active.
And it took them another 20 years until they finally got control of Ukraine. That’s the story. And, of course, my friend Tonya doesn’t know anything about this. And most young Russians who grew up in post-Soviet Russia and post-Soviet republics were not told any of this. So, as a result, they were basically given an anti-Russia education. And as Irina Boyko, our mutual friend discussed, I said there are two major crimes against the Russian people following the fall of the Soviet Union.
One is the rape of the Soviet economy, where the Soviet assets built by the collective people of the Soviet Union were privatized, ripped off, and sold off to either local oligarchs or to Western influences. And that’s the story economically. But what was worse, which Irina and I talked about was the rape of the Russian mind. This young generation of people was taught to hate their country and hate their own nationality. I know Russians. I have a Russian friend. She says I’m not Russian.
These people, this is what they did to the Native Americans. They shamed the people so much that they denied respect for themselves. And so, this is a serious problem within Russia now. And it is changing because of this special military operation. So, today, Irina took me to this special museum, which is called Stalin’s Bunker. And this was started to be built during World War Two as a refuge from Allied bombing. And it was built 62m below the surface. And it was built to withstand up to a 50-kiloton atomic bomb.
You can see the infrastructure. It is just solid metal, solid concrete. It’s quite incredible. As part of the demonstration, there were two main things that happened that created a big impression on me. One was a command center where you can sit at the controls, listen to an alert that says that that the Soviet Union is under attack and you as the bomb operator get to turn the key to activate the system to launch nuclear weapons. And the guy says, so take care.
Turn the key. I said, look, I don’t care if this is this is a joke or a simulation. I am not going to participate in anything approaching a nuclear war. I’m just not going to do that. So, he said, okay, okay. And so, he turned the key. There’s a screen where it shows the alert and there’s this buzzing sound. Baa, baa, baa, baa! We’re under attack. Launch missiles. And they show they simulate an actual missile launch which is pretty impressive.
And then as a kind of counterpoint to that, we go to the next section of this exhibit, and this guy who’s dressed as a military person, even though he’s just a museum guide, and he says, okay, you’re going to be a little scared now. So, we walk into this tunnel and all of a sudden, we start hearing br br br br! Lights are flashing, lights are flashing. Pony Mania, Pony Mania. Attention, Attention! We are under attack and the lights are blinking on and off. And we’re hearing the sound. And then there’s a siren. And so, it’s like you can hear the bomb blasting overhead above.
Eric: Overhead. So, it’s simulated. Bomb. Nuclear bomb attack. And I’m just going holy shit. This is too much. So, Irina’s daughter is of the younger generation, and she works at the Moscow city government. And she is more of this kind of post-Soviet generation, which is skeptical of the Soviet Union. But Irina and I just thought, well here it is. This is what we’re talking about here. And significantly, Scott Ritter just wrote an article talking about the fact that we have this nuclear danger. Nobody cares.
During the 1980s, 1.5 million people were marching in the streets of New York. A year later, this movie The Day After comes out. And it shows you what happens in a nuclear war. We all fucking die. That’s what happens. And he counterpoints this with this new movie, Oppenheimer, which is a biographical exposition of the scientist who headed the atomic bomb project. And after the project is completed and the bomb drops, he has second thoughts.
And he says, Ritter says this is an important movie. It’s a great presentation about the man Oppenheimer but it doesn’t tell people what nuclear war actually is about and how dangerous it is, how destructive it is and it does not alert people to this fact. So, going to this nuclear bomb shelter and experiencing what it is like to be scared shitless, even in a simulation. People need to wake up and see what we’re dealing with here.
There are people in positions of power who are planning this kind of thing. They are planning a first strike, a nuclear attack against Russia, against China, and against basically any country that doesn’t want to conform to U.S. hegemony. That’s what’s going on. And so, this trip has been a real kind of wake-up call for me. After we went to that museum, she took me to what is called Victory Park. And we didn’t have time to go into the Victory Museum which is a series of exhibitions, apparently the largest museum of its kind regarding World War Two in all of Europe.
But outside of it is this large park and there are several tents that you walk along and I go to the first tent, and there are these three young teenage girls and there’s a bunch of paraphernalia there. And they say, “What is this?” I said, oh, that’s a Soviet-era pencil because I’ve seen it in the movies. What is that? Oh, that’s a shaving brush. Oh, what’s this? so this is a cigarette case. So, they’re all very impressed that I know this kind of stuff.
And she says, “Okay, so now you get to write a letter because you passed the test. You get to write a letter to the people, the fighters in Donbass, the people who are protecting Donbass.” I said, “Yeah, sure, I’ll do that.” So, I wrote a letter saying you guys thank you for your efforts. You’re not just fighting for Russia. You’re fighting against fascism. You’re protecting all of us. So, that was great. But then we went to the next booth and they were assembling an AK 74 machine gun.
Jeff: AK 47.
Eric: No, it’s an AK 74. It’s an upgraded version.
Jeff: I didn’t know that.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t know it either until I actually looked closely at the rifle and they said, okay, so let’s put it together. I said (in Russian) which means I love Russia, but I’m a pacifist. I’m not going to get involved in violence even pretended violence. You start to walk down that path and before you know it, you’re actually it’s like the little kids fighting the Indians with their cap guns.
And 20 years later, they’re using M-16s and killing Laotians, Vietnamese and Iraqis and Afghanis, and all these people because they’ve been trained from the beginning to be killers. And I’m just I’m not going there. You and I, Jeff, are warriors. We’re information warriors in an information war. And it is up to us to work in that sphere where we can be of most value. Because as you and I both know, this information war is at least as toxic and dangerous as the hot war.
Jeff: Yours first day in Moscow. My gosh.
Eric: Well, it wasn’t my first. This is my third day in Moscow.
Jeff: Your third day. Yeah, but you spent one day just trying to get your money back, right? And cancelling your medical trip. This is your first serious day of getting out and seeing Moscow.
Eric: Right. Well, I did see Tretyakov Gallery. It’s not as hardcore as seeing a bunker or a nuclear bomb shelter. But it’s valuable in itself, especially from the point of view of seeing this massive tribute to Russian culture going back several hundred years of artists’ sculptures and paintings and the fact that these are Russian. They didn’t have Matisse. They didn’t have Van Gogh or Cézanne.
There were people who were making paintings in those styles or the styles of Rembrandt with just incredible detail, just very, very high-quality paintings, especially with historical context, which is super important because, again, people are living a-historically, they don’t know anything about the history or why things are the way they are. And so, these works of art help to create a cultural context for people so they know where they’re coming from. People in America, they know it’s like the Walt Disney and Ozzie and Harriet version of history.
They’re generally impervious to any kind of narrative that challenges that. And I’ll give you a recent example of this, and I won’t be too explicit, but I’ll give you a recent example. So, historically, my maternal grandmother came from Lithuania. And she came to the United States. I would guess around the time of the 1905 revolution, I’d date her probably around 20 years old around that time. And that’s when people were young and passionate.
She came to the US because of the danger of being a revolutionary in those times. But the rest of her family stayed in Lithuania. And as our family history notes, two of them escaped across the Soviet Union during World War Two. Everybody else was killed by the Nazis. And it turns out that unlike Soviet society which lost 15% of its population, unlike the United States, which lost 400,000 out of 150 million or 200 million. It’s like a drop in the bucket compared to 15% of your population.
90% of Lithuanian Jews were killed. And likewise in Ukraine, very, very high percentages of Ukrainian Jews, Polish Jews, and Lithuanians were killed not just by the Germans but by local fanatic populations. Recently, Patrice Greanville published an article talking about the connection between those events of World War Two and the fact that the government of Lithuania now is run by the descendants of those same people. They’re extremely Russophobic. They’re very toxic. They’re very aggressive. And so, I sent this article to a friend of mine and she said, oh, Eric that all happened a long time ago. So, why do you hold on to this?
Jeff: That’s unbelievable.
Eric: It’s no laughing matter.
Jeff: Well, I know but it’s just comic relief. I mean, it’s just absurd that she would say that. It’s just ridiculous. It’s just comic relief. It’s just awful.
Eric: Well, I sent her a picture of it’s a group of these Ukrainian soldiers, one of whom is doing a Heil salute. And there are three flags, a NATO flag, a Ukrainian flag with an Azov battalion emblem on it.
Jeff: And which is a Nazi symbol.
Eric: Nazi symbol and a genuine old-fashioned swastika. I sent her this picture. I said, “What part of this picture do you not understand?” And that’s Jeff, this is what we’re up against. We’re up against not only ignorance but studied infantilized understanding of how the world works.
Jeff: And also, a lot of denials. Just a lot of denial. I noticed that. I’ve been noticing that just talking to people. People are just in amazing denial. I mean, think a lot of people probably know it, but they internalize it. They compartmentalize it and they don’t want to talk about it and they don’t want to deal with it. They’re in The Matrix, as you said. They got their steak and they got their steak and baked potato and their bottle of red wine and they’re happy.
And the NBA’s going to come on. There’s going to be a great game. And the Olympics are coming up and the World Series. People just don’t want to deal with it. They do not want to deal with it. They do not want to confront the demons of their society, the demons of their government, the demons of their history. They just don’t want to deal with it. Pretty sad.
Eric: Right. So, that’s what I think that kind of concludes.
Jeff: This is only the first. We’re going to have a whole bunch of these because how long are you going to be in Russia?
Eric: Just hold on just a second, because it’s getting dark here.
Jeff: You look for. Oh, you look fine. We’re all and we’re almost finished. Just go ahead and stay on now. I can see you perfectly well.
Eric: Okay? Because it looks kind of dark.
Jeff: No, no. You got some light coming in on your left-hand side, so we’re good.
Jeff: When do you go back to Chiang Mai in Thailand?
Eric: Chiang Mai, I’ll be back there on August 16th, but basically, my itinerary as it’s formulated, I guess you could say, as we speak. I’ll be in Moscow until August 5th. And oh, I want to just back up a little bit because the reason I came here was because of the possibility of getting stem cell therapy for my sore back. And I met this guy named Kirill through Couchsurfer, which is an online app where people who have houses can offer a place to stay, a couch to sleep on for travelers.
So, there are people who want to meet people from other countries and other countries want to meet people in the host country. And so, Kirill is a very skeptical person. And he has questions about how the SMO’s going and the government and corruption in the government and corruption in the military. And he’s a very skeptical type of person, which is a good thing, because when I told him.
Jeff: At least he’s thinking.
Eric: He’s thinking. Yeah, he’s thinking. Well, I told him about this therapy that I was doing. And he said Eric, this sounds kind of fishy to me. They’ve got this worldwide network, Mediatorial and it just looks kind of fishy to me. Let me ask my sister-in-law, who is the chief of oncology at a Moscow hospital and her aunt and uncle who are both biologists. And he gets back to me the next day. He says it’s fake. They’re convinced it’s fake. He says, let me see their website.
So, we look at the website and you can see the lead picture is of a woman with beautiful, flawless skin. And I look at this and I think this is Photoshopped. And then I look further down on my mobile phone and I’m looking for citations. Show me PubMed which is the US government’s official library of medical research. Nothing. There’s nothing there. So, I just thought forget it. This is a very expensive treatment and it’s not worth the risk.
Jeff: Can you tell us you had a cousin that did it on her knees or something, and it only lasted about a month and then she was back in the same condition she was in after a month or whatever?
Eric: Yeah. She didn’t even say a month. She just said it would help for a short time. And after that, it was back to normal, back to the usual. And she said, “Don’t waste your money.” So, this is like a public service announcement for people.
Jeff: Don’t stem cell therapy for joints and back and back aches and all that stuff. Stem cell therapy can work for cancer and other autoimmune diseases.
Eric: See even the oncologist you know the head of oncologist oncology says it doesn’t.
Jeff: Oh, really.
Eric: Okay. And if it did work, why aren’t there all kinds of modern technologies? You think of arthroscopic surgery and there are many, many, many medical advances. So, why aren’t advances like stem cell therapy becoming standard therapy along with or in place of chemotherapy or those other traditional kinds of therapies? Well, apparently, it would appear to me based on two biologists, an oncologist and my cousin, that it’s not worth the risk.
Jeff: All right. Well, thank you for that public announcement, Eric. Well, listen, we’ll do another show tomorrow evening after your next day in Moscow. And let’s do it. This is fascinating. I love it. I know the fans are going to love it. There are not many Americans bumbling around Russia who actually have Russian friends and can talk to real Russians, not all of whom are in agreement with Vladimir Putin in the government.
And some people disagree and others agree. So, I’m very, very excited to do this with you, Eric. Let’s call it an evening and let me know when you want to have the next show, I’ll do it tomorrow night and we’ll do a series of these until you leave Russia. And then maybe we can have a final sort of reflection after you get back to Chiang Mai. How’s that sound?
Eric: Sounds great. I’m hoping that I can go to the Victory Museum tomorrow which is going to be that place is, I’m sure it’s like the most awesome thing you could possibly imagine. So, I hope I can get there tomorrow.
Jeff: Eric Arnow, China Writers Group fellow member. We know each other personally. We lived in Chiang Mai and have spent quite a bit of time together. He has written a book about Buddhism. He has a website called Bumble Buddhist. I’ll put all that on this page for everybody out there. Talk to you tomorrow, Eric. Bye-bye.
Eric: Take care. Thanks, Jeff.
Do yourself, your friends, family and colleagues a favor, to make sure all of you are Sino-smart:
Google ebooks (Epub) and audiobooks:
44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=YBKHEAAAQBAJ
China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=YNmLEAAAQBAJ
BIG Red Book on China: Chinese History, Culture and Revolution
Amazon print and ebooks (Kindle):
44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass
China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations
BIG Red Book on China: Chinese History, Culture and Revolution
Praise for The China Trilogy:
Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History
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