Preceding chapters should have left readers in no doubt that we see crime prevention not just as a great idea, but a great ideal. They also make clear, however, that Western governments have had great difficulty translating this ideal into policy practice.
Of course, discrepancies between the ideals politicians articulate and measures they actually implement are hardly unusual. Nor are such disparities confined to the Western democracies or to the field of crime prevention. Less than three decades ago, even as nations like France, the US and Australia were beginning and ending their trials with prevention, another country – the former Soviet Union – was engaged in a much more ambitious experiment, that of glasnost. Mikhail Gorbachev, the architect of glasnost, won international acclaim, not just for his vision but for his endeavours to translate it into reforms that would render the USSR a more open society.
Implementing glasnost at the grassroots, however, proved an enormous challenge. One consequence was that Gorbachev’s image among ordinary Soviet citizens differed vastly from his portrayal in Western media. Most people in the streets of the USSR did not revere Mikhail Gorbachev. On the contrary, the more glasnost progressed the more he became the object of ridicule and sarcasm. The following joke is typical:
In the true spirit of glasnost and perestroika two friends, Ivan and Boris, are in a Moscow queue waiting to buy the week’s bread for their families. It is Saturday, it is snowing, and they have been there for three hours. Still no sign of bread. Finally, Ivan snaps. ‘I’ve had it! I don’t care! I’m going to shoot Gorbachev!’ He rushes off down the street, gesticulating and screaming. Boris says nothing. He stays in the queue. Three hours later, Ivan returns. Boris moves over. They continue to wait for bread. Finally, Boris breaks the silence: ‘So, did you shoot Gorbachev?’ ‘I would have’, says Ivan, ‘but the shoot-Gorbachev queue was even longer than this one!’