Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:
I should begin by confessing a history of prejudice, which reaches back more than two decades, to a different historical era. Some readers will have heard this story by now, and will likely be bored by it; but it is my story, and each time I tell it I see something new about myself. I became interested in Russia during the Cold War, and was disappointed by the onset of perestroika because, from a certain suburban American perspective, that made the place less bad-ass. I stole Lenin's Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism from my California high school's library in 1988, shortly before dropping out.
Two years later, I surfaced in Leningrad –and here's the prejudice part– and found myself haughtily, condescendingly, imperialistically judgmental of what Russia at that time was able to put forth as a youth counterculture. Everything seemed imitative, derivative, shabby. Kids with long hair tied actual shoelaces around their heads, like some cartoon version of hippies they must have seen somewhere. I saw 'Sex Pistals', misspelled (and, I see now, beautifully botanicized), written in ballpoint pen on fake leather jackets.
I was disappointed. I was a youth –if not wholly exceptional in this regard– intent on revaluing all values, etc., and yet I was far more influenced by the standards of MTV glossiness than I myself could see. I was, I think now, part of a sort of advance reconnoitering mission for what in a few more years would be official IMF policy towards Russia: the demand that they move 'up', to our level, on our terms, the refusal to accept that a part of the world could decline to strive toward glossiness, and the belief that this gloss could only be attained through the ordeal of 'shock therapy'. That there was anything there to build on, indigenous, pre-Soviet and running like an underground stream from 1917 to 1989, never occurred to me or to Jeffrey Sachs.