The murder of Boris Nemtsov outside the Kremlin last night, shot four times in the back by thugs who emerged from a car, fired their lethal shots and fled into the night, is both a pivotal moment in history and another in a long line of senseless killings that infest the daily news feed.
It is pivotal because Nemtsov, a Jew, had served as Russia's deputy premier under Boris Yeltsin, and had later become the face and voice of the unofficial opposition to what he himself called Putin's cleptocracy, in a 2012 CBC interview with Evan Solomon. He was set to participate in a peace march today, that would have exposed the Russian involvement in the Ukraine battles in the eastern Ukraine. It is pivotal in its timing also given the considerable pressure from various capitals on Putin to amend his denied engagement in Ukraine, demonstrating as it does, just how dangerous the exercise of free and uninhibited criticism of Putin has become, regardless of the highly ironic claim by Putin himself, that he has taken personal control of the investigation after publishing a letter of condolence to Nemtsov's mother.
It is also "normal" in today's news cycles, stuffed as they are with ISIS beheadings, lone-wolf murders of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, Canadian soldiers, café-clients in Australia, and assorted other shootings of innocents by law enforcement officers in the United States.
We live in a social climate of violence, epitomized by the level of disdain for the most mediocre of social graces like please and thanks, like how are you and how are you managing through whatever your rough patches might be. Our television menus are replete with violence, albeit much of it in purporting to chanse, find and exterminate the " bad guys" as are our video games. Our streets are filled with people who, for the most part, shove their way past, without so much as an "excuse me" as they forge their own path through the middle of the maddening crowd that fills urban streets and shopping malls. Men who open doors for women, in a now archaic force of habit, are met with either the words or the attitude: "I can open it myself, so get out of the way!" Once, several years ago, I read a book entitled, "New York, New York"..by Michelle Landsberg, wife of then Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Stephen Lewis, who recounted her experience in attempting to catch a taxi in Manhattan in the pouring rain. The car had stopped, and as she reached her hand out to the rear door handle to open the door, another woman swept past, opened the door, leapt inside and turned to Landsberg with the triumphant words, "This is New York, Honey!" as if her bullying and arrogant pre-emption of the cab were the norm.
And indeed, a decade later, it would seem that such pre-emption has become the norm.
We are living in a time when to be courteous, civil, and even accommodating is considered "soft" and "wimpish" and "loser" behaviour. Brutish and uncompromising, confrontive and abrasive, wrapped up in our private lives, including the now hereditary digital devices, we storm our way around, both while walking and driving, as if the street belongs only to our personal needs, desires and ambitions.
We are marching headlong into a future devoid of consideration of the needs of others, the spaces that others also require in order to make their way.
In too many workplaces, no one is willing to accept responsibility for a "screw-up" of their obvious and demonstrable agency. Their instant push-back is either a list of circumstances that put the spotlight on another, the situation or an outright denial. "Did you do such-and-such?" brings a reflexive, "No!" as the starting place for another fruitless exploration of the evidence.
The investigative commission in Moscow that has official responsibility for determining the perpetrators and their motives of the Nemtsov murder, in releasing their many theories to be explored, according to reports from more than a single country's media, refuse to include in their "theories" the well-known and acknowledged fact that Nemtsov's political life had become fixated on the corruption of the Putin regime, exposing that corruption and courageously shining light into the darkest corners of the Putin Kremlin. Islamic Jihadists, Ukrainian government supporters, and even anti-semitic thugs are all considered potential theories to explain the murder, but not Nemtsov's vehement and fortissimo criticisms of Putin. Ukrainian President Poroshenko has described Nemtsov as a "bridge between Russia and Ukraine that has not been destroyed."
So not only is his murder an example of the current climate of violence and bullying, but it also exposes the deception and the Teflon character that has become the model of so much of our political, corporate and entertainment cultures. "It really does not matter what one does, (goes the mantra) so long as one is not caught."
Of course, this prose reads like a morality play, espoused by one living in the dark ages of a time now lost forever.
Nevertheless, it is not rocket science to expose the false claims of advertisers, themselves with total impunity from public prosecution and from any mediocre sign of integrity, the promises made by political leaders, of all stripes, and the concomitant rejection of political careers by the vast majority of worthy, credentialed and visionary candidates, not to mention the public opinion on whom all politicians rely. It is also not rocket science to reflect on and to expose the racist violence, hypocrisy and self-serving attitudes, actions and even beliefs of too many public officials none of whom would tolerate their own actions if committed against a member of their own family.
It is virtually predictable that the world will never know who committed the Nemtsov murder, just as it is also highly unlikely that we will never fully learn the details of another murder of a Russian living in Great Britain back in 2006.
Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and KGB, who fled from court prosecution in Russia and received political asylum in the United Kingdom. According to his wife and father, he was working for MI6 and MI5 after receiving the asylum.
Upon his arrival to London, he continued to support the Russian oligarch in exile, Boris Berezovsky, in his media campaign against the Russian government.
In the UK, Litvinenko became a journalist for a Chechen separatist site, Chechenpress. Litvinenko wrote two books, Blowing up Russia: Terror from within and Lubyanka Criminal Group, where he accused the Russian secret services of staging Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts to bring Vladimir Putin to power.
On 1 November 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later, becoming the first confirmed victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. Litvinenko's allegations about the misdeeds of the FSB and his public deathbed accusations that Russian president Vladimir Putin was behind his unusual malady resulted in worldwide media coverage
Litvinenko's death is finally being formally investigated by a coroner's court in Great Britain, after so many years of fear of offending the Kremlin, when relations between Putin and the west were more amenable. Today's climate, however, offers a very different and less hospitable culture, making such an inquiry politically palatable.
The history of the Kremlin, under Putin's presidency, has so enraged some observers that they have asked the question, "Is Russia the official terrorist state?"
Given both his actions and his denial of any involvement in the Ukraine war, as well as his official spokeman's denial of Kremlin involvement in the Nemtsov murder, and the growing suspicion in so many quarters that Putin's real "strategy" is to stay in power for the rest of his life, to enrich and protect his own wealth, and to grow his relationship to the oil and gas community in Russia (all motives ascribed to Putin by Nemtsov in his CBC interview in 2012 with Evan Solomon), there is a growing sentiment and perception in many quarters that Putin will indeed go to any lengths to achieve whatever purposes he deems appropriate for his legacy and his renewed prominence of his Russia.
Political leaders in the west, including Chancellor Merkel, Presidents Obama and Hollande, Prime Minister Cameron, would be very wise to approach Putin as one approaches a rabid lion in the jungle, for whatever actions are required in order to survive, for both the lion and the Russian president, will be used to preserve whatever power is deemed necessary by both the rabid animal and the demonic Russian bear.