In the World, You Will Have Trouble

Butyn is a rural locality in the Odintsovsky District in Moscow Oblast, Russia. It is listed as having 180 residents. The hamlet is in the western portion of Golitsyna, which like many places, has a population that continues to decline. It was down to about 17,000 in 2010.

It has one fewer son this year.

Butyn is not an Intelligent Community but Butyn is the birthplace of the (as-of-recently) late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

If we measured Intelligent Communities by their heroes – if civic courage were one of our factors or criteria – and the hero’s ability to use digital tools for common good and civic courage were weighted through our process, Butyn might be a Top7.

And if I have my say in 2024, it will be honored as at least honorably so. Butyn is where Mr. Navalny was born.

I don’t want to dive too deeply into this item. History will judge it, and history is a tale told by the righteous in the end. It is quite clear about that.

I do want to say that Moscow was an ICF Intelligent Community Top7. Twice, in fact, and it performed at a very high level.

At ICF, we are about seizing our own destiny. We even wrote a book with that title. It is ultimately up to Moscow to decide how to re-enter the community of communities and the ICF, which it sought to do.

ICF is about cities, not politics. I’ve said before we are willing to bring any two cities of any two nations to a table, to our conference or onto Zoom to discuss how to make life better there in those places people call home. Our lines are open.

It’s funny what we take for granted in our good places.

On the New York City subway, the Transit Authority announced around the time of Navalny’s murder that it was installing two security cameras on every car to reassure riders who have avoided the trains because of rising crime rates.

“You think Big Brother is watching you on the subway?” New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said. “You’re absolutely right. That is our intent.

There was an uproar.

An uproar not about whether crime on the subway should increase, but how it should be decreased.

But her “Big Brother” is really like your little cousin. Her notion does not mean that, when criminals are caught, they will be sent to a camp in Montana to freeze, be isolated and - at 47 years old – mysteriously die. Nor that some Orwellian nightmare is about to descend on the city that never sleeps.

It means that criminals, when caught, will face justice. Actual justice.

I wish I could give the native son of Butyn, Russia my Metrocard to ride the subway here today. He might chuckle with a joyful grin at Governor Hochul’s suggestion about “Big Brother,” and then tell his tale. It is a sad moment for his community.

In the world, you will have trouble. But have no fear. Civic courage is endless.


Photo credit Michał Siergiejevicz

Louis Zacharilla
Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Louis Zacharilla helped found the Intelligent Community movement. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Awards program. He is a frequent keynote speaker and a moderator at conferences and events.

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