Friday, October 14, 2016

Capitalism vs. Communism

From my friend George:

For those who emigrated out of the former Soviet Union, what struck you most about the similarities and differences of life under capitalism/communism?

Vicki BoykisMade in the USSR
I was five years old when we left in the summer of 1991, so I didn't understand anything at a large, intellectual level. However, our relatives that had sponsored our trip monetarily and emotionally took us to a grocery store for the first time; if I remember correctly, it was an Acme in Philadelphia. 

Before we got out of the car (an also completely new experience for me --we had to walk everywhere in Russia since it would take probably 7-8 years to save for a car and another 5 to receive one), my relatives turned from the front seat to me, my  mom, and my dad, and said, "Don't get overwhelmed. There's a lot of food in there, and it's perfectly normal."

We walked into the store, and I have never had a similar experience. I stood, probably four feet tall, in front of an endcap of canned corn or beans. That WHOLE wall was full of food, from top to bottom.  This was insane and unbelievable. I had never seen this much food in my entire life. I had sensory overload.  It was similar to walking into a Vegas casino for the first time, or being at a rave party. "That's all food?" I asked my parents, squinting. They couldn't believe it, either. 

In Russia, there were always lines for food of any kind. Food was something handed out to you by a frowning overweight woman with a bad attitude problem standing behind a counter, not available freely, for you to just take.  Rows and rows of cereal, of fruit, of beans, things of different colors. Life had changed from gray and teal and pale, to neon ON SALE, 50% OFF, LOW-SUGAR CONTENT, DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE FLAVOR, 3/$2 overnight.  

Thirty-two different cereals! In Russia, there was only one: kasha. Every day. 

I grabbed fistfuls of wrapped candy in the bulk department, not eating them, but just letting them run over my fingers, completely overwhelmed, swimming in capitalism.  It was the taste of freedom, and it tasted like caramel

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