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Know That You Can be Free

An Interview with Meg:
Adventurer, Heroine, Misfit

Interviewer - Elena Ivanova

"Know That You Can Be Free"
Copyright © Elena Ivanova, 2017

MEG

Heroine - In 2006 Meg helped me flee Russia: an increasingly hateful and oppressive country. In March 2006, we started our escape in Kiev, Ukraine. In April 2007, we arrived safely in Victoria, Canada. We'd spent months in hiding, and survived a ten-month ocean crossing journey in a sailboat.

Adventurer - Escaping to Canada with me, has deeply changed Meg and her view of the world. She now sees no other option but to learn, experience and explore the unknown by traveling the world any way possible - by sailboat, plane, train, car or donkey cart.

Misfit - As a result of her somewhat "unconventional" activities: saving Russians, exchanging her house for freedom, experiencing the world in unimaginable ways, and living her life the way she wants to, Meg is admired by some people, and ostracized by others.

Meg infected me with her hunger for life, and her unswerving determination to choose her own path. She has changed me and my life thoroughly, and I know that the same can happen to you, to anyone. You just have to know that you can be free. This interview with Meg is intended to do just that.

"How can I not do these things?"

ADVENTURE

ELENA: You do things that many people would consider to be crazy or reckless, others would say you live your life to the fullest. What would you say to them?

MEG: I say, to each their own. It really doesn't matter to me.

ELENA: It doesn't matter to you, what people think about you? How they evaluate your actions?

MEG: No. Just as long as they pay me (laughs). Really, I don't care what they think. If they try to change me, that's annoying, I tend to ignore them. If they're hell-bent on imposing their behavioral expectations, I distance myself.

ELENA: The things that you did, like sailing, building a house, flying planes, climbing mountains - all this takes a lot of courage and energy. What is that inner force that makes you do these things?

MEG: How can I not do these things? I do them because I want to. The inner force you allude to is simply desire.

ELENA: I'll rephrase the question. Why don't you just find a job for yourself and sit in four walls?

MEG: Don't want to. It wouldn't be right for me; unless it was something I wanted to do, believed in, or was part of a goal I needed to attain. Otherwise, I'm burning my life for someone else. It would be hugely dishonest to me and probably whoever is depending on my working toward their goal. Is life worth living if it's for someone else?

ELENA: So there is never a point in your life when you are looking for a calm, safely defined path?

MEG: I used to think so. I thought about the whole thing - building a house or renovating one, being a part of the community, going to Craftsman Bungalow Society meetings, discussing Stickly furniture, and I realized, you know, it's kind of boring. Other times, I would be hiking, getting higher and higher into the mountains, the rain would turn to sleet, and it's cold, the rocks are all shiny, and yet there is something so beautiful about them, there is something so alive, so in the moment, in the now. To me that is just great. I love that stuff, it thrills me. I have to be thrilled.

"There are answers there that I believe can never be found anywhere else."

RUSSIA, UKRAINE

ELENA: What part do Kiev and Ukraine play in your life?

MEG: They're mysterious, something ancestral.

ELENA: So you have ancestors from that part of the world?

MEG: Absolutely, and from Scotland: Scotland and Ukraine are the two areas. Both are mysterious, colorful, and alluring.

ELENA: Why necessarily there? Why don't you find that, say, in other parts of the world: Asia or Africa?

MEG: It’s hard to describe, but there’s a definite connection through your parents and their parents and their parents… to the old country. Despite the modern trend to destroy culture, it’s always there. I do find common ground with Ukrainians and Scots, all their beautiful and even ugly behavior. There is something charming, something honest and real that draws me to those places. I probably recognize something from those cultures in my parents, although I can’t pinpoint it.

ELENA: Did you see that charm during your visits to Ukraine or Russia?

MEG: There is an openness of spirit in Slavic cultures, there is generosity, there is innocence that I see; especially among younger people. There is beauty that hasn't been damaged. On the other hand, there is such ugliness too. There is a huge spread between rich and poor, a horrifying disregard for life and people, and yet, there is something so generous, so real and so alive. I see that kind of emotion in Ukraine, it is raw, it is real, totally honest. It draws me in.

ELENA: Do you find that energy only there, in the former USSR, or did you find it anywhere else in the world?

MEG: Strangely enough, I’ve only come across it in the former USSR.

ELENA: What place does Russia have in your life and heart?

MEG: I always felt that there is something there, answers to questions about what makes me who I am; like a secret code hiding in Russia's language and customs. I always felt very drawn to Slavic culture... oh yeah, and I just love Cyrillic.

ELENA: Why do you find Cyrillic so appealing?

MEG: I think it looks beautiful, ancient. Mostly, I really like the fact that it's phonetic; sure takes the pressure out of spelling!

ELENA: What do you think about modern day Russia?

MEG: I think it is out of control, it is on a collision course with recession if not depression: economic collapse.

ELENA: What would you say about contemporary Russians?

MEG: I think they are desperate to be what they think is American; like doing away with their culture. I see them moving inexorably toward cheap consumerism, summarily hating each other, competing to see who can buy the most toys.

ELENA: Why do you think that happens?

MEG: Programming by their media. Like any media, following the example of the western media. It’s their job to program people to consume. The media need to ensure that the companies that support them flourish. It is the media’s job to program (to sell) the population into consumer enslavement. That way, the companies and corporations the media serve can keep making more crap, selling more crap, selling more debt, hiring more media… see what I mean? It keeps the whole thing going ticking over. That way the heads of companies and investors get their villas in Spain, or private islands in Bahamas. Everyone else supports these higher-ups while believing they are doing what they need to for their own survival and living, and the media maximizes its revenue streams in modern Russia.

ELENA: Do you believe that there are Russians out there who do not want to follow the path you just described?

MEG: There are always exceptions to the rule, and I've met them.

ELENA: What changes would your like to see taking place in Russia?

MEG: Restart the Soviet Union from some time before Stalin (laughs). Obviously isn't going to happen. Russia needs accountability. It would be nice to see the mafia gone, all the mafias gone. To see truly elected officials, people who look out for the electorate, protect what's left of the Slavic culture, not bulldoze it. I'm not saying, bring back the czar, but a system which would represent people from the ground up. More respect and caring for people. I don't know how they can do that, but they've got the resources - the mineral resources in Russia are very rich. They could have a country that is very much like Norway.

ELENA: Do you think there is desire in Russians to save their country?

MEG: No, because right now the whole mindset is "we want to be like the Americans, and the only way we can do that is by being criminals." The criminal mindset has become, from what I've experienced there, a goal to strive for. In fact, kids are yearning to be little mafia dons rather than good people. They don't want to go to school and study to be professors. They want to get big and strong and have Mercedes with blacked out windows and kick some ass and be tough. Unfortunately, what they are doing is emulating a violent, fictional culture they've seen in movies. They are getting their role models from Hollywood and thinking that's the way things are supposed to be: you have to be a bad ass.

ELENA: Why do you think such an image is attractive for Russians?

MEG: Every Hollywood movie ends up with some kind of resolution. Everything resolves - there is always a winner, there is a loser, there is black and white. There are no questions in the end. Life is simple, nothing to think about or question. It's like religion - answers questions without having to think about them. Everything is predictable, there's an answer for everything and reactions to actions are always guaranteed.

ELENA: You think Russians are looking for simple answers?

MEG: Russians, like any people are looking for easy answers and the easy way out.

ELENA: How do you like Russian people? What were your encounters with them like?

MEG: Generally, they are good people on a one-to-one basis. In a crowd, meh... not so much. And some of them are truly horrible, especially when they get into positions of power. There's this pervasive feeling among Russians that everyone is guilty of something, and everyone wants to stick it to you. They also expect you to break down and cry, jump up and down, and wave your fists in the air if they've managed to stick it to you, cheat you, or hurt you in some way. If you don't react, they tend to get more irate. It's as if you've broken a certain contract with them. Maybe they've worked hard to piss you off, and you owe them some drama as a reward for their effort.

ELENA: What were the Russians who you communicated with like?

MEG: Most of them were very caring. Most of them want to help you out. They wanted to try out their English on me, and to help me with my Russian.

ELENA: What would you say makes Russian people different from other nations?

MEG: They are emotionally alive, that's what I noticed. It's almost like a manic-depressive culture. There is such a depth of feeling, such a level of joy and elation. And the most important thing I've noticed about Russians, is that they don't hide it, they don't keep it stoically inside. That's what I love. Russian culture is such a rich spectrum of emotion - everything from incredible sadness and self-pity, all the way to a childlike joy, and mindless abandon. I find it infectious.

ELENA: Why did you like the opening ceremony of Olympic games in Sochi so much?

MEG: It was colorful, it was loud, it was unapologetic. I liked it because it was strong. The music was European, classical/romantic sounding, using western tonality: as in a regular scale, major and minor keys, rather than dorian, mixolydian, pentatonic, 12 tone, a-tonal, artsy-fartsy junk. It was orchestral, it was universal: no plinky-plinky guitars; no pathetic, whiny country/folk singer crooning about their feelings. It was my culture. It was strong and melodic, inspiring, and I love that. It was also moving, it never stopped. It moved, it pushed. No whining about how hard done by we all are. It was downright Wagnerian: gutsy, big, strong, inspiring.

ELENA: What image comes to your mind when you remember Sochi opening ceremony?

MEG: People. People are beautiful, strong. I just like that strength. And that's what the whole opening was. It shouted out, "These are big vikings!" To me it was like Wagner's Ring cycle, with those Aryan gods. I like this strength, this power, this mythology, and the culture. It was just "get the job done," without whining, without playing the victim card. I loved it.

ELENA: Do you want to visit Russia again? If so where would you go?

MEG: Of course I want to visit Russia again! I want to go back to Moscow, that's the center of Universe, as far as I am concerned. I want to go to Kiev again, to Saint-Petersburg, to Moscow and take in some operas, get onto one of those slow, overnight trains to Saint-Petersburg (soft class, of course) and guzzle tea in the corridor with locals. I love Saint-Petersburg too. Same thing there - I want to walk along the canals.

ELENA: What would you want your encounter with Russians be like?

MEG: I would like to go mushroom picking with Buzikin and his friends (characters from the Soviet movie, "Autumn marathon"). It is crazy, ha? (We both laugh).

"Everything in Canada is designed simply to program people into being happy consumers and be happy, or at least, quiet in their place."

CANADA

ELENA: You grew up in Canada, you lived there for many years. How would you describe life in Canada?

MEG: Fake.

ELENA: Few more words.

MEG: It's all a show. Everything is artificial, contrived, assigned meaning though ritual and social manipulation: a dismissive term would be "brainwashing." Generally, it's a society in which everyone is worried about what others think of them.

ELENA: Even in your past life?

MEG: In my past life, I was one of Julius Caesar's latrine slaves (laughs). Ever notice how everyone's someone famous in their past life: Caesar, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Jennifer Lien...? Not me, no sir-eee, someone's got clean up the...

ELENA: Choomeichka, I'm talking about your life before meeting me in Kiev.

MEG: Oh yeah, that. It wasn't great, always tense.

ELENA: What do you think is the reason for that?

MEG: I really didn't fit in. As I gained sentience and self-awareness, aspects of that way of life made absolutely no sense. My feelings, my sense of logic, was increasingly in conflict with what I perceived and experienced. Life and even the manmade environment was all a show: everybody showing off, "faking it," trying to make it look like they are something better, or at least unique, "special," by being trendy - in other words, all the same.

It is like living on a movie set, or in a theme park: cheap buildings decorated with cheaper materials, stamped out of some factory to "sort-of" resemble something with style or age. The whole, ye olde towne fake Tudor siding, kind of thing. The people are like that too. They emulate behaviors they've been told are trendy, that they've been somehow convinced (programmed) into believing are sophisticated, enlightened, loving, and oh-so-much more aware, than the boorish Americans who act honestly on their own feelings.

Because ones feelings are going to be in conflict with what the over-class needs, which is your attention, vote, labor, and shopping dollars, you are convinced ("brainwashed" there's that word again) to consider your feelings wrong, inferior, fascist, déclassé, un-trendy, whatever terminology works to create that inner conflict. In fact, the society is programmed to enforce that bizarre denial of your own feelings and intuition, through peer pressure. I mean, if you question or don't spew that trendy line, you'll be de-friended on Facebook faster than you can say, "fascist neo-Nazi with bad taste." I mean, come on, this is, "the beer we drink out here," or at least, that's what the mega-corp that sells it, tells us. If you're not drinking it, and saying you like it, even if you don't... well, you might as well be run out of town by the trendoids who hate it, but drink it, and yell the loudest that, "it's the beer we drink out here, and you gotta like it or you aren't one of us!"

Eventually you self destruct, or you see the entire manipulation of society for consumerism by an almost invisible over-class, for what it is. They aren't actually invisible, they just go to tremendous lengths to make the rest of the world invisible to them. "They," of which I speak, are essentially the "upper class." Canada is still, very much, a British hierarchical society. The class structured system hasn't changed since Charles Dickens described it.

ELENA: And that's not the case in USA?

MEG: No, USA is a very different place. It doesn't have the same flavor of overlords -ultra elite. In USA the Ultra Elite are more like celebrities, the media elevates them to movie-star status. They are very visible. In Canada they try to remain invisible to the throngs their money owns and manipulates. They are the CEOs of companies, bankers, investors, politicians, heirs, and those that married extremely well. They are the very rich, the elite.

Canada's got its media, like the CBC (and every other publication that isn't deemed fascist, or conservative). The media and pretty much everything else in Canada is mandated to program people into being happy consumers, or at least quiet, and "in their place." One is programmed to believe it is bad to think above your station in life. Competition, excellence is bad, but it's good to be mediocre, question nothing, loath your doubts, buy lots of stuff, and pay lots of taxes.

Another thing about Canada - it's all about who you know, not what you know. It's all connections, it's all patronage and graft. I believe Canada is easily as corrupt as, say, Russia or Mexico. The difference is that Russia and Mexico are honestly corrupt, as in: "yeah, we are corrupt, so what?" In Canada it's, "We love you. Oh, we care so much and you are a better person because you eat this shit." In the meantime, behind your back it's, "screw you!"

ELENA: And you had experiences like that?

MEG: Of course, it's a way of life. Not only that, I used to be rich. I used to be comfortably well-off without knowing it, questioning it, so the contrast is particularly clear to me. I came from a rather invisible, safe (wealthy) family.

"They either don't know I exist, or wish I didn't."

ELENA: Could you describe your family in a few words? What kind of people are they?

MEG: My family? You're it, and the special friends we've met on our travels. If you're talking about the people I grew up with, that I am biologically related to; the only connection is shared DNA. They either don't know I exist, or wish I didn't.

As for my immediate family:

Father, dead. He was a successful doctor, medical researcher, won awards, was head of a university medical school... blah blah blah. Yeah, he burned the house down and then he killed himself.

One of my sisters was a drug addict, I think she was a hooker too (really don't know, I got that from my father, a psychopathic alcoholic who elevated family dysfunction to a form of high art). She got intervention'ed, sent to some born-again-Christian school, found Jesus, and then died of cancer. Mom built a shrine to her in the dining room, makes pilgrimages to places she'd been.

My other sister is a money seeking missile, had already bagged the Prime Minister's son, then she met an oil tycoon, had him in nuptials a couple weeks later, and netted herself billions. She's since decided she's gay and shacked up with a famous, lesbian, country singer. The tycoon abandoned Calgary for the UK when his blond trophy wife (my sister) dumped him for another woman. Ouch, that has got to hurt! Point is, a lot of people who've had contact with what's left of my nuclear (perfect word) bio-family are either dead, or as far away from Calgary as they can get.

My mom is awfully proud of her daughter - the billionairess, the one that is NOT me. I think money and image are very important to her. I don't mean that in a nasty sense, but simply as an observation. Some people really like haute cuisine, will do anything for it, or love climbing mountains just because they are there. My mom, and the people around her, are really into money (or the perceived "look" of money). It's not bad, it just is as it is. I like my mom. She's probably the sanest of us all. Somehow she survived, actually thrived in that environment, and she still does.

My mom and my sister, they're all that's left of that nuclear family (that went critical and blew itself apart). Years ago, I got as far away from them and Calgary as I could get, changed my name, the whole bit. They are pretty typical of the Ultra Elite: so rich they are invisible. It's like you see their mega-yachts, private jets, staff running around, but you never actually see them. That's no accident.

ELENA: Why do they thrive, you think?

MEG: They "thrive," as you say, because they have connections. It's all about who you know and how you can form elite groups - like Binding Multiples (a term coined by Sci-Fi writer, Greg Bear). Sure, they do nothing, and they get paid obscenely for it. They have convinced themselves -- and everyone else, apparently -- that they are worth it, and using their binding multiples, the whole Ultra Elite over-class have indentured everyone else into generating more wealth for them. Nothing new. Charles Dickens had it pegged.

ELENA: Would you say that life of the rich in Canada is different from the lives of people who are not rich?

MEG: Of course it is. Those that aren't rich live and exist for those that are. They slave at thankless, spirit destroying jobs to enhance the rich (or their share holders). They are paid only enough to survive. They are made subservient by threats to their subsistence. They live in fear.

The doctrine of fear is instilled right from the first day of school. It's fomenting fear, distrust, and insecurity that ensures conformity, need, doubt. Whether you believe something or not, you are afraid to question it for fear of being outcast. You are told, the question itself will invalidate the reality: Santa Claus is real, or you don't get presents; you gotta believe in god, or you'll die when you flat-line; sell more sweaters at The Gap, and you'll be safe and rewarded; dress like this, spout this slogan, buy this product, or your life is meaningless. It's all about fear.

You are encouraged to denigrate, discount, hate, anyone who questions that doctrine. You are taught to force them into conformity through social and physical violence. What I experienced in school, the way I was being programmed, was in such conflict with what I felt, that during breaks all I could think about was getting away from the school: out of the horror, just to breathe, you know, try to remain sane. I climbed cliffs, or I explored the forest, or I hid somewhere and read.

ELENA: What did other kids do during those breaks?

MEG: Not surprisingly, vandalism, theft, violent crime, and drug trafficking were a problem in the vicinity of the school. To deal with it, some brainiac social engineers came up with imposing obligatory-volunteer, team sports called "house leagues." They awarded bonus points if everyone in the class showed up. Of course, this was to encourage kids to forego fire-bombing the playground for supervised volleyball outside of class time. What it really did, was enforce 100% compliance by fomenting class resentment and reprisal toward anyone who, like me, loathed every second in that sociopathic environment, and just wanted to walk in the woods, or read, or sit in peace. It made me a target of organized class hatred, and school instigated gang-violence. What it came down to was; getting the shit beat out of me, or giving in to a system that valued me (and my life) as nothing but a bench-warmer for someone's stupid plan. This is a pretty good example of how social programming works to ensure conformity, compliance, and consumerism, and not just in junior-high school.

ELENA: What do you think is the purpose for that?

MEG: Good consumers make the economy go round. Good consumers buy the products of the companies to make the overlords rich. A good consumer is one whose life is meaningless without the products, or services, of those selling them.

If people questioned their existence, and realized what they are losing, missing, by slaving for an identity defined by the media, or the stuff they buy, they would stop doing this. It would be a disaster for the elite. You wouldn't buy their junk and useless services. You wouldn't need their banks for all your debt. All of that 'stuff' would be superfluous. The overlords would have no means of getting richer. If people, all of a sudden, realized what they are squandering for these trinkets and a really contrived lifestyle - everything would collapse.

"They are trying to find what's missing by spending millions of dollars buying these trinkets and toys. They don't realize that they are not going to find it that way."

ELENA: Do you think people can realize what they are losing? That they are losing their lives?

MEG: They usually do. They usually realize it when it's too late. The trendy term for this horrifying revelation (recognition) - is a "midlife crisis." Take a look around the marina. What do you see? Big yachts that never move, mostly owned by men staring down the other side of that hill at death and they've worked like hell, probably, and their life is meaningless. They are trying to find what's missing by spending millions of dollars buying these floating toys (what they've been programmed to think are displays of affluence). They've got these yachts and they still don't know what's missing. Their days are still just as numbered, they haven't seen their feet in years, their joints and muscles don't work and they realize, holy shit, they just spent their entire life making sure they have the right hockey equipment for their kids, and it meant absolutely nothing - they have angina, and the kids are making meth in the basement.

In the neighborhood I grew up in, people left their garage doors open on Sundays, so others can drive around and look in to see what kind of cars and stuff they have. If you have so many cars you can't get them all into the garage - that's even a better thing. It's like that guy in Los-Angeles we knew, the one with at least nine cars.

In Calgary, there are all these ski resorts around that sell you an expensive tag - paper and wire thing that dangles on your jacket zipper - that proves you paid admission to the ski hill. The point is kids, actually grown-ups too, wear the tags forever. They wear those lift tickets on their jackets like badges of honor. Even though the lift ticket expires at the end of the day, they leave them there like, "Oh, I just accidentally left that on my jacket." It says I can blow a hundred bucks to go up and down a hill.

ELENA: So people never grow up? Never realize what life is about?

MEG: I don't think they ever do. Some might, but are so caught up in it by then that there is no choice but to carry right on. I like to think that there are people who, maybe, stumbling from the yacht club bar to the SUV in the dark, look up and see the stars, and think, maybe those doubts, those conflicts they feel with their programming, mean something.

ELENA: Why do you think they never do?

MEG: Because they are convinced not to. They are afraid of losing everything, losing safety, respect, family, love... you name it, anything that's been commercialized and had its revenue streams maximized, they are afraid of losing it. Besides that, there's others more qualified than you to do your thinking for you, and hey, there's is stuff on TV to watch. I mean, how ostracized will you be if you can't discuss the latest sitcom with your Facebook friends? And mostly, and this is huge: because it's easier to be unaware of the world, the finality of life, what you are missing, and just live for instant gratification and adulation.

ELENA: How would you say USA is different from Canada?

MEG: First off, USA and Mexico are definitely the gorgeous parts of North America. USA is beautiful: vast, with incredible deserts, forests, mountains, geology. It has a climate that lets you out of the car or mall more than two weeks a year. Mexico has jungles, deserts, ruins, beaches, coral reefs and an actual culture.

Canada, on the other hand, is just taiga and steppe. It's got some mountains in it, but so what? They are expensive as hell, owned by the elite, and pretty much off limits to everyone but. Mostly, Canada is flat, gray, frozen, fake and boring, with the only culture being fear and consumerism.

ELENA: Do you see any difference in governments?

MEG: Of course - the American government is far more accountable. It's also a different system - it's not British parliamentary, it's not British common law, it's not based, nearly as much, on graft and patronage as the Canadian one is. In the American government, I do believe, there is a chance you can get elected on your merit rather than being heir positions either by birthright, who you know or who you can buy.

ELENA: How would you say Americans are different from Canadians?

MEG: Generally, Americans are not living in fear. They don't tend to be driven by hatred and contempt. I find that Americans are open. They open their hearts to you, no matter what. You don't have to be afraid of them. The hardest thing for me to grasp, when I am outside of Canada, is not being afraid of people.

In Canada, like in Russia, there is this pervasive feeling of mistrust, scheming, and guardedness. It feels like the underlying motivation of every interaction is "How can I get you? How can I hurt you? How can I put you down to make me look good?" The difference in that between Russia and Canada is much the same difference in their governments, in Russia people are honest about their mistrust and contempt for you; they don't hide it. In Canada, it's the same toxic, psychological power struggle in every interaction, conversation, but it comes out more like: "Oh hiiiii, I've missed you! How have you been? I love your shoes, where did you get those?" When, in fact, what has been said is: "You again! What a loser, your proximity makes me look bad. Yuck, those shoes! Thank God, I can spend more money than you."

ELENA: So they do it to look good?

MEG: It's inherently a game. Every interaction is a challenge, a provocation, a trap. You look for a way to humiliate someone, and then bad mouth him behind his back.

ELENA: You must have met good people in Canada. People can't all be bad. I've met good people in Canada, I know they are there.

MEG: I guess... maybe. It would have been people I never really got to know. Joe Clarke and his wife Maureen McTeer seemed nice, we met them trying to figure out the parking meters in that lot off Wharf Street. Then there was that gas-jockey at the filling station on Fort Street - nice kid.

I know what you mean, and sure, there are people whom we both know, that we'd consider genuinely good people (apart from Mr. Clark, Ms. McTeer, and the gas-jockey, of course). We know them; there is no ulterior motive, no games in our interactions and mutual concern between us. There are exactly THREE people, we've decided after careful consideration, that we'd bestow the honorific of "good people" upon: one is a Catholic nun, the other two are immigrants.

ELENA: What are immigrants in Canada like?

MEG: Immigrants tend to form their own expatriate societies when there are enough of them to be a significant segment of the local population. Look at the Chinese in Vancouver. They have Canadian passports and Canadian citizenship but they are still as Chinese as the day they arrived. And why not? They have a culture, they came with it. Canada has no culture. Why assimilate? Assimilate what?

ELENA: So when you talk about Canadians you talk about people who were born in Canada?

MEG: Yes, immigrant populations are different. Culturally, they are countries within Canada. The propaganda about Canada is that it's multicultural - it's absolutely not multicultural.

ELENA: What is it then?

MEG: It's a collection of enclaves sharing an economy, government, and infrastructure. Now there is a huge influx of Syrians: Muslims. Ostensibly, they are being brought into Canada because they are available. It's just plain good luck that they are refugees. The optics on the refugee thing work perfectly with the current, "we are so much better than America and bad Trump, baaaad" social programming. It eliminates the need for actual critical thinking. The reality is, Canada seriously needs immigrants to counter a falling birthrate, bolster the consumer base and ensure an expanding economy. Good media optics are very important, and "poor refugees" and pandas (did I just say "pandas" - yay, cute panda bears, panda panda panda - there, I just boosted SEO of this site and document through the roof) aren't just an easier sell than economics, they are actually a ratings boost!

Everything in Canada (cute panda) is about image and social programming. I call it "social engineering" (actually a hacking term - but human beings: same as computers, and society: same as an operating system. Just need to know how to use it, and the elite certainly do -- happy panda, kittens).

ELENA: What would you say is the reason why so many people want to move to Canada?

MEG: (Cutie panda cubs) Because they think it's the Golden (panda) mountain, they think it's a back door to America (oooh, bad Trump, sad panda). Mostly because it is better than where they are. If you were in Syria or Iraq with Islamic State throwing your friends, family or even you, off buildings, you would want to be in Canada too. It would look pretty good, pandas or no pandas.

ELENA: Have you met happy people in Canada? If so, why were they happy?

MEG: Sure, my father was happy, when he wasn't liquored up and psychopathic. Then again, maybe he was happy then too. He was Slavic: loved misery; turned it into a narcissistic form of high art. But when he was lucid, he seemed happy. He made a ton of money, was a doctor, scientist, and had a university position. He was upper middle class: well-off. Not, obscenely rich, like my sister, but safe and comfortable - well respected.

ELENA: Why was he happy?

MEG: I think he loved the admiration of his peers, the neighbors, the hotel clerk, his patients, his lab technicians, his students. He was a doctor, he was a man with some money, he was big-man-on-campus... he was God. He could prescribe solutions to the sick. He could solve problems with money, or by saying, "eh hem, perhaps you don't know who you are speaking to..." Other than when he was polished, sobbing about his hard life, accompanied by tunes from Jesus Christ Superstar and Man of La Mancha, he was happy. Then again, I think that made him happy too.

I think my father's friends were pretty happy. They were all doctors. They had money, they had wives who didn't work, they all golfed and hung out at country clubs and guffawed a lot and slapped each others backs.

I think a lot of the kids I knew were happy. We were in a pretty affluent neighborhood, so it was safe, nobody was starving, or discriminated, everyone got what they wanted, so kids seemed happy. But then again, they were kids, not a worry in the world. Time and worries didn't exist for them.

"As I recall, they cycled through the psych ward like it was some kind time-share vacation property."

ELENA: Were women happy?

MEG: The women in my socio-economic class (the Marilyn French types) were miserable. You'd think they had it all, but they were a seriously upset bunch. As I recall, they cycled through the psych ward like it was some kind time-share vacation property. First time the disappearance of my friends' mothers for "little vacations" really made sense, was when my own mother suddenly went berserk at the breakfast table, and emptied the coffee pot on her head! My dad, bundled her up and took her to the hospital with him.

By the time I was in high school, I realized teenagers weren't really happy. Most of them did drugs and drank. They were vicious and angry; being cruel, violent and destructive was just a way of fitting in. The anger was unbelievable. They set a dark skinned girl on fire with gasoline. They slashed the teachers' tires. If they found a bicycle anywhere near the school they destroyed it. They ripped up gardens. Spray painted FUCK YOU on everything. It was just a way of getting along, of fitting in. They beat each other up, really violently. Being slurred as gay, or native Indian, or Asian, or having socialist parents, or Jewish, or Ukrainian, or smart - geeze, even getting good grades - and you'd be beaten and attacked. There were a lot of suicides. One kid blew his brains out with a shotgun.

ELENA: It all was happening in your school in Calgary?

MEG: Yes.

ELENA: What about minorities, like you said, Asian or Indian, or black people? Were they happy?

MEG: Black? I never actually saw a black person until I left Canada. As for other visible minorities, I have no idea. They were there, but kind of invisible. My dad had an East Indian doctor running his research lab. She was my dad's head of research and needed a TV. My parents suggested I give an old TV I had in my bedroom to this woman because she need one. Then the weirdest thing happened - this woman wanted to thank me and she invited me to her place for dinner. I know this is off topic, but it's probably a pretty important observation about life in Canada, so (panda) bear with me.

She is a doctor, and Ph.D. She is from India. She is running a pretty major research lab and program with millions in research grants. She has Ph.D candidates and technicians under her and my father signing his name to all the journal articles and research papers... and her place... it was a three-story walk-up in a not really swank part of town. I show up for dinner, and there was my old junky TV, it was all she had. She couldn't afford a new one! She couldn't afford anything but the rented flat and a subsistence lifestyle. Sure, she could survive, but she sure wasn't going to own real estate, or have her own tenured university position, or medical practice south of the Arctic circle. That was really the first time I had ever been exposed to that class system that doesn't officially exist in Canada.

ELENA: Why wouldn't she have a tenured university position or medical practice?

MEG: I'm pretty sure she was teaching, but as an assistant to my dad. She would never be tenured because she wasn't part of the club.

ELENA: What club?

MEG: The old-boys-club: the rich white guys (like my dad) who were there first, and decide who joins their ranks, and who runs their labs or cuts their lawns, or cleans their toilets. It really is all about who you know, not what you know, and there are unwritten rules about who gets in and who doesn't. It's also vital to keep people like my dad's head of research impoverished so they don't get power, connections, or time to become competition for those in their comfortable, safe, places, like my family was.

"I am risking my life to have a life."

ESCAPE FROM RUSSIA TO CANADA

ELENA: Do you think you have special abilities or character attributes that made it possible for you to help me escape Russia and be with you?

MEG: Nothing special, just a willingness to risk a way of life that's worthless without risking my own life. In other words I was willing to risk my life to have a life. I don't want a life of boredom, I don't want a life that's not mine. It has to be my life. I think that's really what it comes down to - being able to risk it. And I am willing to risk it. And we've come a long way, I had one hell of a ride! This has been great.

ELENA: Did you doubt yourself at any moment prior to undertaking that trip?

MEG: Never. It's not something I do. I never actually doubted myself.

ELENA: What was the toughest part of our journey to Canada for you? Something that you thought you wouldn't be able to overcome?

MEG: Coming up against other people, officials, crooks. When the assholes could actually kill us, or take the boat, or arrest you and drag you back to Russia. When it was all up to us... Hurricanes: bit of a blow. Sharks: no problem. Whales: "ha-ha, bring it on." Nothing like that bothered me. Storms, cold, the boat, the seas, the waves, pissed off whales - some of that sucked. But I never doubted us for a second, I knew we could make it. What I did doubt, and what did bother me, when I started feeling powerless, was when I was up against things like the Russian consulate in Odessa, and in Kiev, or your mother, or your crazy uncle, or the police in Kiev. Actually the police situation wasn't so bad - I just had to pay them off. It bothered me when we were dealing with assholes - with other people who actually had some way to physically stop us or hurt us. Like with the guy in Las-Palmas who was trying to get our boat. But I still think through it. Like it was with your mother, I knew that we just have to think through the situation, just had to get your passport back.

ELENA: Did you doubt me during the trip to Canada? How useful or strong did you think I would be?

MEG: I doubted you sometimes. But not really, you came around. I think you realized that I needed you. And that you needed you as well.

ELENA: So you didn't doubt me?

MEG: No, not after we passed Greece. Until we passed Greece I was a little concerned. But after that you screwed your courage to the sticking place and decided that you can be below deck, vomiting onto the floating floor boards, or you could take the helm and sail the damned boat.

ELENA: It seemed to me when we were sailing to Canada you had no support from your family, was it so? Did you tell them what you were about to do?

MEG: It was so, there was no support at all.

ELENA: Did you speak to them about what you were going to do?

MEG: Yes, I wrote to mother.

ELENA: What was the answer?

MEG: Nothing that I recall. I'm not sure there was any recognition of what we were doing, or about to do.

ELENA: When you were writing to her did you say why you were doing this trip?

MEG: Of course.

ELENA: What was your mother's reply?

MEG: I don't think she replied at all. I don't recall anything. I can check the satellite records. But I think if anything, it would have been "Well, have a nice time. Say hi to Lena or whatever her name is." Or "bla bla is such a nice place, we visited it once with so-and-so (celebrity) on the mega-yacht."

ELENA: Before meeting me, what did you want your life to be like?

MEG: I never really thought about it. I wanted to be an adventurer; I knew I wanted to make every second count.

ELENA: Did you want to have a house?

MEG: I could never conceive of myself as having a house, but I had a house and that was okay.

ELENA: But I was under the impression you were building that perfect home of yours?

MEG: I was at that point, that's what it became. Because every one talks about dream houses and slow motion memories of family and friends and home and belonging somewhere. All warm and fuzzy, yeah I fell for that. I guess I wasn't ready to pay the price for that - for family and safety to be a reality, there has to be losers. I wasn't willing to be a loser just so I could have the validation of my family. My family needed a loser and I was always it. I refused to be "it." So I bought an old house and I tried rebuild it into a brand-new old-house with brand-new old memories and a perfect past. If you have a past you can't live with, why not build yourself one you can live with? By "hammer and by hand" I was building the perfect Craftsman Bungalow past... or so I thought.

ELENA: Did you think that house could be your future?

MEG: No, I was thinking the house could be my past, a foundation. After what happened, especially after we got back and had to trash just about every meaningful "thing" I owned, or all that meaningful "stuff" into a 40 yard roll-off dumpster, and move back onto the boat, I realized the house wasn't a future. It was just another object, just stuff. Like you own a car, you own a house, a good set of golf clubs. It's all just stuff.

"People fear dying because they are afraid that they haven't lived."

ELENA: It seems to me, you had no fear of pain or death when we were sailing to Canada. Would you say it is so?

MEG: Absolutely.

ELENA: Why?

MEG: Because pain and death are entirely mine. I don't fear pain, I don't fear death. Death is the least I fear, actually. Because death means - that's it, it's over.

ELENA: Why would you say people are afraid of death?

MEG: I think they fear of dying because they are afraid that they haven't lived. And to die without having lived is terrifying. That I think is the greatest fear - the fear that you've wasted your life; that time's up. Time is ticking, it's going to run out, life is going to end. Life is all we've got now. Whatever you are experiencing matters only to you; it has to, nobody else cares. Your experience of this massively complex, but terminal, chemical reaction is yours alone! It really has to be all about you. You are the only one who can have your life, you are not living for anybody else, if you do, that's the greatest fear: that you have not lived for yourself. Then of course, death is a terrifying thing.

ELENA: Have you discovered something amazing during our trip to Canada? Something that profoundly affected you, changed your vision of life or the world?

MEG: Yes, I think I did. Mostly what I learned is that one's happiness, one's feelings are entirely one's own and one's alone. You have to make it your own way. When we were out there, we would either live or we would die, something could kill us or we would survive it. We either made it through the night, or we didn't. It was entirely up to us. We fought to survive, we didn't let stuff kill us. We never worried that something might be too big for us, or bad, or impossible to live through. We just faced it, whatever challenge it was, and dealt with it; doing whatever it took without worrying we wouldn't get through it. It wasn't a thought process, it just happened.

What I learned about life is that it is really up to you. How you see your life and world is really your choice. And when you don't rage against it, feel sorry for yourself, don't scream and cry about something getting busted, and just get the tools and the spit and glue and try to fix it so you don't die, life is profoundly, amazingly beautiful. Questions, doubt, worrying... pointless. Whether you enjoy it, whether you cherish it with every breath, or whether you hate your life, resent it, feel cheated - it's entirely up to you.

Something else I learned was to feel things that I didn't even notice before. Tiny things suddenly had huge value to me, indescribable value. Like coffee - the taste of coffee. Before I would say "Coffee, start me up!" and hoover it down. Now I actually taste it, and you know, every single brew is different. Even every single cup. I never knew the difference before. I just never cared to notice. I learned that some of the most overwhelming, indescribable, life experiences are the first sip of coffee in the morning; or the feeling of sheets, getting into bed at night; or the call of a crow, or dog barking, or rain just starting to fall. I never noticed that sort of thing before.

ELENA: Why do you think it never happened to you prior to our journey to Canada?

MEG: Because there was so much chatter, so much useless crap in my mind. That was all about paying the taxes, making sure the bills were covered, and endless forms were filled, that the car had the oil changed on time, that I'd had so-and-so over for dinner, that the neighbors weren't pissed off about the dandelions, that my shoes matched my outfit. There is so much of that chatter, useless crap going on, that you miss life, you miss the truly profound - and every moment is profound. All that chatter prevents you from realizing, "wow, that just made me feel something, I liked the way that felt." It's also the dependence. We are programmed to be completely dependent. If we weren't we wouldn't be mindless consumers and providers of labor, and we'd be useless to society. For society to function it is imperative that we are dependent on everything but ourselves, to keep that flow of money going that feeds the elite. But out "there," on the high seas, there is no such thing as dependence. When things go wrong, who you gonna call?

ELENA: How did the idea to sail with me to Canada enter your mind? You must have known that you would loose your home, your status, maybe your life!

MEG: I had no other choice. I knew what had to be done - I needed to get you out of there. I couldn't leave you behind, you would be lost. I'm pretty sure that leaving you behind would have actually killed me.

ELENA: So it was all about me?

MEG: No, it was also about me. I wasn't going to give in. Everything was standing in our way. Everyone was saying we couldn't do this, that they would crush us. I just knew that I would stop at nothing to prove it wrong. When somebody puts something in my way, I am going to either go over it, around it, or right through it.

ELENA: Weren't you scared, preparing and undertaking the trip, doing it completely on your own?

MEG: Sure, I had no one to help me, but I didn't think about it that way.

ELENA: You didn't feel lonely? You didn't need people's support, your family's support perhaps?

MEG: No, I didn't have it, didn't feel it. Sure there were times I felt alone, sorry for myself. But it was only when it was Christmas and we were somewhere offshore, floating around - then I indulged in some self pity. But mostly, it was you and me and that's it.

"In Russia, I've never seen any support for anybody: male, female, human, non-human, plant, animal... nothing."

LIFE OF A RUSSIAN WOMAN

ELENA: I asked you about Russian people in general, now what is your opinion of Russian women?

MEG: They tend to be subservient, scared and subdued. It comes across to me, like they play what ever game is needed to exist within the confines of their society, like any society. I see Russian women the way American women were portrayed by the popular media in the 50-tees: housewives and mothers, appendages, assets, chattel of a man. Think Bewitched without the magic and none of the money.

ELENA: You've been in Russia, so you know what a woman's life there is like. Do you think this life is a happy one?

MEG: No. I think some can find happiness, some find ways of doing it, but no. I don't think I actually met any woman who was truly happy. I met Russian men who were happy, but not Russian women.

ELENA: Do you think the life of a Canadian or American woman is in any way different from that of a Russian?

MEG: Absolutely. Albeit reluctantly, Canadian/American society had to accept universal freedoms, and get over male superiority and segregation. Women have far more power and safety here than in Russia. There is more of a legally mandated equality here, and even a social stigmatization of violence against women, or possessive, degrading behavior. Then again, I think American women have far more support from their own communities, families, society, and colleagues than Canadian women. But Russian women really tend to be subjugated, subdued and denigrated and it's kind of a societal norm there. I think it's getting worse, not better, especially as there appears to be an overt attack and erosion of women's rights taking place in Russia along with the rise of religious extremism and intolerance.

ELENA: What would be your answer to anybody who tells you you have to be with a man, have children, be more "feminine"?

MEG: I can't answer that without saying a lot of bad words.

ELENA: If you could speak to a woman in Russia who desperately wants to live life on her own terms, but to whom everything and everybody around her tells her she is wrong and should get married and have children, what would you tell her?

MEG: I would tell her to empty her bank account, put everything she can get into a knapsack, no matter what it is, and get the first plane to New York, to San Francisco, or to Los Angeles or where ever she wants to be. To get off the plane and to hook up with a group of like minded people, of open minded people, friends, find an atheists group, a feminist group, a LGBT group, an outdoors group, if that's what she's into. Go to the University and just say "Help! I want to stay here, I want to live this life, I want to be free."

ELENA: So you think that free thinking Russian woman can find happiness only outside of Russia?

MEG: You know better than anyone, there is zero support for women in Russia. It's getting better in Ukraine, better even in the former east-block, better in the UK, but the best support is British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California. The northern, big, US cities aren't bad either: New York, Boston, Chicago. In Russia, I've never seen any support for anybody: male, female, human, non-human, plant, animal... nothing. And that's the difference with Russia and America and even Canada to some extent - is that within these societies, over here, groups of people form. Total strangers come together and immediately form bonds without fear. In Russia, though, the fear is that your husband is going to find out, you are going to have the crap beat out of you, you are going to be raped and knocked up, locked up, murdered, you are going to have your rights taken away from you. That fear isn't here, in America and Canada. It is even illegal here to instill that kind of fear into somebody, to oppress, harass, threaten someone.

The only way it can work inside Russia is if women get together and form some kind of support group, some kind of collective. But that's not going to be allowed. They will be pushed to the side, they will be denigrated, rejected, dismissed, belittled - and very possibly jailed or killed. Male dominance and ownership of females is very much a sacred Russian custom, and getting more entrenched every day. I think Russian men have a pathological fear of women having power or control.

ELENA: Can groups on social media be any help, you think?

MEG: They are monitored. And social media is never a help. Social media is simply yakking, squawking, marketing - there's nothing real there, no commitment. Texted, or twittered words of support are fine, but they are essentially useless, they don't cost anything real. You need physical support in a situation like that. You actually need to get together, you need to see each other face-to-face. You need to cry on someone's shoulder and know they aren't laughing behind your back, passing your desperate pleas to your husband, or the police, and you can't do that over the Internet. You need more than anonymous text.

ELENA: You can fix almost anything. Were you always into mechanics, engines and Jerry-rigging stuff. Do you think there is such thing as man's and woman's jobs?

MEG: No, there is no such thing as men's and women's jobs. I think we all do what needs to be done. If you tell yourself you can't do it, or I am not allowed to do that - then sure enough, you won't. The only reason women think that they can't do things, is because they are told they can't do things.

ELENA: What would you say to a woman who, like you, likes to putter around with electronics or engines. Should she feel awkward?

MEG: No reason to feel awkward. It’s about doing what you want, what you need to for yourself; besides, "awkward" is a feeling caused by concern about what others think. Caring about what others think is seriously self destructive and wasteful. If something works for you, and especially if it is making a difference, do it with abandon and passion.

"I move on, I don't pull things out of the past, I can't."

PAST AND CURRENT LIFE

ELENA: Are you glad I am in your life, despite the troubles I got you in, which you would never have without me?

MEG: What a question! Yes, obviously I am. I don't know what my life would be like without you, and frankly, I don't think about alternative scenarios, I'm busy experiencing the current reality.


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