Bernadette had been dressed from the heart of the Kremlin since the day she opened her eyes. And to decide what her clothes would be, her keepers would watch her eyes every minute of the day. If her eyes lingered on the night sky, dark velvets with embroidered silver points would be her next gown. If she waved her little fists excitedly at the sound of rustling leaves her next little cape would be the finest, starched cotton chintz. Her debutante ball gown was the result of observing her adolescent joy at the finest spiders’ webs. (Needless to say, this dress was banned by her mother and replaced with a dress inspired, instead, by Bernadette’s secret fascination with monasticism.) The point is that it was Bernadette’s data, the information about her behaviour provided by none other than herself, which was closely watched and cleverly employed by the Kremlin. This, of course, secured her commitments to, originally, Russia and, later on, the Russian Federation. She was a national treasure.
When Bernadette came of age she was told a heart breaking story. Her mother, prodigious scholar and inimitable sage, having long resented the social frippery and popularity of Bernadette’s father, was determined to turn their daughter against him. So, when Bernadette discovered one day, to her horror, that everything she thought was private about herself, had in fact been used like a commodity, her mother seized the moment. Bernadette falling at her mother’s knee, her body wracked by tears, wailing loudly that she hated the Kremlin and the Kremlin’s enemies alike, was then told the following tale.
Facebook was a wonderful story book, written by its own readers about themselves, started her mother. One day there was upset about the readers’ stories in Facebook being used to further the political aims of The Great Tzar. But, as Bernadette’s mother reminded her, all the readers knew already that Facebook mined their stories to make a great big, Uber story told to all the other readers. So, it should not have been surprising that The Great Tzar might get hold of it to use for his own ends. It is, after all, useful to know what one’s subjects think, is it not? It is useful to know what another’s subjects think. Are they plotting revolution? And it is particularly useful to be able to influence all of them.
Her mother suggested that Bernadette’s horror at the Tzar’s mining of her story as opposed to Facebook’s mining of it is, of course, because of the human intent behind the Tzar’s mining and the ends for which it was used. It is one thing when an inanimate thing like a story book uses its own stories to suggest beautiful fabrics, pretty chandeliers and new friends to its readers and writers. It is quite another when an outsider’s mind, free and with its own motives and will, uses these stories to win political favour. Bernadette’s mother cautioned that, like her father, her fickle and social ways, her desire to have many friends, would always lead to compromise. Her story will always simply be fodder for another’s aims.
Do only Tzars from the Kremlin do such evil things, asked Bernadette, drying her tear stained face on her Vyatka lace cuffs. Her mother, a committed nationalist, patriot and, eventually, comrade, caressing Bernadette’s dark hair, assured her this was not the case. Their Tzar is certainly not the only one doing this. Nor is he the only one fabricating reasons for warring in other people’s countries. Nor is he the only one getting in, and staying in power, on the whiff of the strange new fangled idea of democratic election. Nor is his inconvenient election by his people the first to be called corrupted by the West. No, says the scholar and sage, the Russian Tzar has given the Russian people a name again. And this name is a strong and uncompromising Russian one, not an adoptive Western one. It is one which falls easily off the Russian tongue. The moral of the tale was not meant for the Tzar, it was meant for Bernadette, warns her mother. Do not bare your soul and then be surprised when it is scrutinised. Zazdarovje!
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