The announcements of a ‘terrible winter’ are most favourable to those who want to portray the upcoming management of their countries (or institutions) as the most difficult of tasks, which will be handled thanks to their superhuman efforts and abilities.
It’s going to be a terrible winter.
We can say this, but only under two conditions: that we know, at this moment, what the future could even be, and that we know what we mean by the terms “terrible” and “winter”.
Winter, for starters. There were some nasty ones. Like the one in 1709 when the whole of Europe froze and stayed like that for months. And we don’t mean the now-frozen European Union, which has long since put the admission of new members from the Balkans on ice.
No, we mean the Europe of Louis XIV, for example, whose cousin, the Duchess of Orléans, noted in a letter that she had never seen a winter that freezes wine in bottles. Twenty-four thousand Parisians died that year, without wine, from the cold. That’s winter.
And now for the terrible part: Sri Lanka is no longer able to repay its loans this year. Schools and many offices in this country are closed so as not to waste fuel, of which there is none anyway – all the supplies have been used up. And that’s not even that terrible because the residents of Sri Lanka – when they aren’t spending the night in the presidential palace, angry as they are – can still return home, unlike the current 5.6 million officially registered Ukrainians who no longer have that privilege. They are refugees. There, that’s terrible.
And finally, the question of the future. For some reason it canceled itself and gave way to this temporal hybrid in which the previous, recently resurrected centuries scream via modern means of communication. The upcoming past, so we could understand this miraculous concept that is unfolding before our eyes in the present, brought back into play imperialism, denial of science and medicine, superstition, conspiracy-ology… Saying something ‘will be’ no longer means anything, except for a resurrection of forgotten defects of history.
But if ‘It’s going to be a terrible winter’ isn’t really a consistent statement, why are we hearing it all the time?
This explanation requires a truck and some sheep.
* * * * *
At the time of the socialist bloc there was a myth about Radio Yerevan, an Armenian radio station that, according to the legend, broadcast jokes that could be understood as intelligent criticisms of the Soviet Union. One of those apocryphal jokes explains how fifteen sheep could be transported to the USSR in a truck which only has room for ten. ‘First, you forcibly cram in twenty sheep and then remove five so that the others think they have it much easier’.
It is undeniable that in the coming months war shocks with the supply of energy, grain, and raw materials will make contemporary problems a little greater than the current lack of fast enough Wi-Fi, or the reduced possibility of obtaining cranberries for the fancy restaurants that put them in everything and anything. It is also indisputable that, on the basis of said crisis, a certain number of unscrupulous business-vultures will get richer without any mercy towards impoverishment of the now-situated or increased misery of the already-poor inhabitants of the globe.
But, announcements of a ‘terrible winter’ are most favourable to those who want to portray the upcoming management of their countries (or institutions) as the most difficult of tasks, which will be handled thanks to their superhuman efforts and abilities. We watched the initial version of this essentially political-marketing maneuver during the (still active) pandemic; remnants of the successfully calculated dramatisation are, for example, our car and apartment keys which may still smell of disinfectant – antipodes to the current ignoring of the virus and its existence.
So we have already had the opportunity to test out the methodology of transporting surplus ‘Radio-Yerevan’ sheep. And with that knowledge, we should take every announcement of a ‘terrible winter’ uttered by someone whose ruling, official, or some other hierarchical fate depends on an artificial careerist concern with a pinch of salt. Yes, the winter will certainly not be like the previous ones. But we will find out the true quantity and quality of its ‘terribleness’ only in the spring. Both us and those who verbally distribute the upcoming ‘horrors’.
We can wait, that’s not that terrible either.