When I was a child my parents thought me that being clever is the most important thing in one`s life. All the other features are on the second place. If you are clever, you are helpful for the society, the society will respond with the same, so you`ll live on Easy Street. You have to be clever, not well-read. I lived with this idea, tried to get cleverer and hoped to become a part of a clever men society. University was considered to be such a place for me, especially its scientist community. As it`s a clever men society, everything is thought-out, fair, everyone is pleased.
But Russian reality turned out to be a little different.
So it has been in Russia since the Soviet government that the majority of higher education institutions are state.
The founding of Russian universities is poor; the average salary of the scientist is officially $ 550 (18 thousands rubles). In comparison with Brazil, the first year professor here gets about 4 thousand dollars after tax. It`s another order of magnitude. And taking into account that heads of departments and professors have higher salaries, in the beginning of their careers at university young scientists earn about $ 400 in average. In order to survive they have to work part-time somewhere else, which of course makes worse the quality of their scientific works. Another option is to seek their fortune somewhere else: to look for a non-scientific job or a scientific one, but abroad.
Oh yes, how could I forget about grants! They support the scientific researches that the government recognizes as important. These are defense projects and some applied sciences. To receive a grant, apart from extra obligations, you have to fit some criteria. As one smellы money, everything is done by any means possible, and usually the one who is the best at showing off wins: they paraphrase the same research paper and publish it five times, ask some scientists to mention their names among the list of authors in exchange of mentioning these scientists` names in theirs, they quote from their own papers in order to increase their citation index etc. That`s the way the money melts away. The funds have been allocated but a real exhaust is approximate to zero. The pure science is just kept on short commons in this case.
As a result in Russian universities there are either fanatics in the best sense of this word (especially dedicated and willing to work and make two ends meet for any sum of money) or those who aren`t able to get a better paid job (narrow-minded or just stupid), or showing-off-lovers. The fanatics are linchpins, though there aren`t more than 20 per cent of them like in any other sphere.
An argument for all these ideas is my own experience of meeting Russian scientist of the new generation. Most of them are slippery customers and that kind of people who are constantly looking for a profit. However I`ve already got enough stories about Russian scientists and their strange unexplainable actions and that`ll be another post.
By the way: Brazilian scientist community looks much more like I imagined it in my childhood.
But let`s drop the subject of Russian government`s problems and stick to the point of human values. While I was a final year student I came up with a clear idea that being clever was not a panacea. Even by intuition, who seems to be a better person, a clever one but doing bad things and, due to their intellect, doing them well, elegantly and elaborately, or a simple fool trying not to harm? A striking example of clever evildoers in exaggeration you can see in comics that are so popular at the moment: Dr. Hugo Strange, Mr. Freeze and Anarky from Batman, Dr. Mobius, Alistair, Dr. Octopus from Spiderman. This counter example encouraged a new research for an absolutely useful man`s characteristic.
This place tended to be taken by the truth. Be always honest and the society will always be well. The society is well – and you are as a member of the society is also well. But an apple turned out to be wormy.
Imagine a situation: a plane is wrecking. To increase the chances to survive, what implies for people on board, a flight attendant mustn`t tell the passengers about the wreck. And if questioned, they have to tell a lie about some turbulence zone to avoid panic. So the best thing in this case is to tell a lie.
Another striking example of a lie needed is a novel by Boris Akunin ‘Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk’. In the novel a scientist, not willing to spray curiosity around radiant asteroid fallen, prefers to lie to people in order to save their lives.
At the moment the balance is aspiring to being an absolute. To be clever but evil is bad. To be honest but stupid – bad again. To know only mathematics but to have no idea about neither history nor art – questionable too. The balance can be developed (i.e. searched) forever. But maybe it won`t last long and I`ll find another counter example soon.
Unfortunately in the modern world, money is the most valuable thing. It`s strange to hear that from a poker player because in poker almost the only aim is to win some little gold circles. For most people only life of their family or their own one is more valuable than money. The rest is cheaper, (what a word?) and much more. If a person said something questionable, he`s suggested proving by money, and everything is not so clear then. A word is something that you say and forget. But money is a thing you`ll have to look for somewhere, earn it somehow. Bets used to be even higher: one could be challenged to a duel. But humaneness won. Today it`s just money. And just because it`s precious for the majority.
As I see it, that`s one of a few unpleasant after-effects of the Fall of the Iron Curtain – giving an absolute value to money. When they saw a free market, people decided that if you can buy almost anything for money, you can sacrifice anything to get it. To tell a lie – easy. To be rude – why not? To steal – here you are. What if there`s no other chance to steal? It`s better to take more. To kill – but this money is sure to change my life for the better.
Is it for the better?