Dmitry Orlov's recent book, "The Five Stages of Collapse" is a stark description of the world as it is today and of what its destiny could be. So impressive it is that it reminded me of a story by J. L. Borges "Dr. Brodie's Report"
Sometimes, when you read a book, something rings in your head; something that requires a little work to identify but that, in the end, comes out loud and clear. This was the case for me with the latest book by Dmitry Orlov. It reminded me of something and, eventually, I found out what it was. It was one of the many stories by Jorge Luis Borges,"Dr. Brodie's report" (El relato de Brodie); the description of the barbarous customs and the cruel culture of the African tribe of the Hrn; as observed by Dr. Brodie. "The Five Stages of Collapse" describes instead the barbarous customs and the cruel culture of the tribe of the "Middle Class Westerners" as observed by Dr. Orlov.
It must be said that Orlov and Borges write in very different styles: sometimes Orlov's brilliance hides his depth while, at times, Borges' depth hides his brilliance. And while Borges remains in the allegoric tradition that goes back to Johnathan Swift and his "Yahoos", Orlov goes direct to his real subject: modern society. But there are points in common. Orlov, like Borges, doesn't hide any of the grim details of what he describes and both Borges and Orlov show a certain sympathy and kindness toward their subject. There are many ways of being human and the great virtue of people such as Orlov and Borges is the capability of appreciating all of them.
Orlov's book is so full of insight and revelations that it can't be summarized; it must be read. But to give you just some idea of the style and content of the book, here is an excerpt from the section where Orlov describes another human subculture, that of the Roma (ake Gypsies), perhaps somewhat less cruel than others.
From "The Five Stages of Collapse" by Dmitry Orlov
Throughout their history the Roma have been a nomadic people, ranging all over Europe and, more recently, the Americas. Although economically dependent on the surrounding population, they have always taken great pains to remain completely separated from it, socially.
Roma identity is an internal identity that is not disclosed to the outside world. It is a birthright reinforced by upbringing and socialization into a community that caters to its members from cradle to grave. Roma are not known to adopt Gadjo children. It is possible to marry into a Roma family and participate in the life of a Roma community but it is not possible to become Roma. The children from such a mixed marriage may become Roma if so brought up.
Although the Romani language has been written down, this has had minimal effect on the Roma themselves, who continue to adhere to a strictly oral tradition, with a rich folklore that includes creation myths, a religious tradition loosely based on Christianity and a purely oral internal system of jurisprudence. Among the Roma, literacy correlates negatively with wealth and status, occurring least often with the wealthiest. The literate play subservient, low-status roles, such as corresponding with Gadje and forging paperwork and documents.
The effort of keeping everything in one's head seems to result among Roma in excellent memory and a sharp and lucid mind, which are all very helpful in stealing, cheating, lying and swindling – major advantages which ignorant educationalists tend to miss. As the US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky likes to say: “this is important, don't write it down!”