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I also offer personally-tailored, individualized English conversation practice (including etiquette) and coaching in writing techniques. Finally, I edit texts such as magazines, business proposals, memorandums, emails so they are presented in English which does not embarrass you or your organization. For further details, please mail me at: language.etiquette@gmail.com

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21 February 2012

Dmitri Rogozin, Karl Lagerfeld and the roots of crime

According to Google, one of this blog’s most popular posts has been the item about Dmitri Rogozin (though not so popular as the one about Karl Lagerfeld, who is presumably felt to be groovier and poovier). I therefore thought it might be worth drawing attention to a statement the Russian defence procurement supremo made yesterday which was reported on the Voice of Russia website. (http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_02_20/66524698/)
     Russians often complain that people in the West keep them at arm’s length, or worse. This article illustrates why some might want to do that. Etiquette is not only a matter of politeness, it can also be a matter of perceived integrity.
      Mr Rogozin’s made a speech at Komsomolsk-on-Amur in which he claimed that a key technique for upgrading Russia’s armed forces should be copying (which in the context of patent protection means stealing) foreign electronic technology.
“Possessing internationally competitive home-made microelectronics is not only a matter of national pride,” he said, “but also of national security. Indeed, no-one knows what is contained inside the imported microchips that we integrate into some of our latest weapon systems. To ward off potential dangers from this, Russia must start producing the necessary microchips itself as soon as possible…  According to Prime Minister Putin, importing microelectronic elements is admissible only inasmuch as it enables Russia to acquire latest technologies. These technologies must be deciphered and reproduced at home. Importing military technology en masse is completely out of the question.”
     There is a language point here too. To say that “no-one knows” what is inside the microchips Russia imports is obviously untrue. The people who made them know, as Rogozin appears to concede when he says they pose “dangers”. These dangers are not likely to be due to universal ignorance, but rather to the fact that the makers know something the purchasers do not.
     Rogozin should have said, “We don’t know what is contained inside the imported microchips.” At which point the attentive reader would immediately ask: if he and his engineers do not know what is inside them, how can they “decipher and reproduce” them?
     Standing back a bit, one wonders why anyone might think “national pride” would be satisfied by stealing technology, rather than, say, buying it or licensing it in the accepted manner. Leaving aside mental illness, theft is normally motivated either by poverty or, as in this case, by technological inadequacy. It implies contempt for both the owners of the technology and the normal rules of international trade. Why should one not keep such people at arm’s length?
     But perhaps the more interesting question is: why they are like that in the first place? Once again, Karl Lagerfeld seems to have made a valid point on a related subject. In a recent interview in the magazine Vice, he said he preferred prostitution to loving sex.
I personally only like high-class escorts,” Herr Lagerfeld explained. “I don’t like sleeping with people I really love. I don’t want to sleep with them because sex cannot last, but affection can last forever. I think this is healthy. For the rich, this is possible. But the other world, I think they need porn. Frustration is the mother of crime.”

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