Little Devil in Moscow

WHEN I was a silly young boy in junior high, I used to have a half hour trip on foot to school. During the walk my schoolmates and I used to play certain types of games. One of these was a game we called “Ring-and-Run,” which consisted in ringing someone’s doorbell and running away while the others watched from afar. Then we would all look and laugh when the person opened the door to find nobody standing there.

Another game, which we thought was really funny was to determine how much money it would take for any one of us to do certain crazy stunts. For instance, how much money one would ask for to trip the school bully, or how much money one wanted to deflate one of the headmaster’s car tires. Luckily, none of us was actually foolish enough to do any of these things. These kids’ games, which of course were morally inappropriate, came to mind when one of my fellow friars showed me a series of YouTube videos that have lately become hugely popular. These videos are being made by one Grigory Mamurin, the 18-year-old grandson of Igor Neklyndov, a Russian multimillionaire property developer and media magnate.

Grigory roams the streets of Moscow offering people money to humiliate themselves. He offers $100 to one man to pour fruit juice over his head in front of the camera. He offers $2,000 to a woman to strip in public.  Others are offered $500 to shave their hair off completely in front of the camera. The list of degrading actions and corresponding videos, some of which I prefer not to mention, is quite long.

Only once is this spoilt brat not able to obtain what he wants: having a dog killed. “Excuse me, can I have a moment?” Grigory says to some people walking along the street. “I have a problem. My girlfriend has just left me, but I still have her dog. She still hasn’t come around to collect it. I would like to take revenge on her, but I can’t do it on my own. Would you be willing to kill the dog for me? This is no joke. I’ll pay you very well in cash for it!”

Many people refuse this shocking proposal.  Still, at a certain point, one man accepts. Grigory gives him a gun and the man shoots twice. Fortunately, and unknown to the man, the shots were blank. The video ends with Grigory laughing… and he laughs all the time when his degrading requests are accepted. Grigory laughs every time he can prove that people are willing to do anything for money. For the record, not all the videos prove Grigory’s point, and in fact some show people refusing his proposals, and once this horrible teenager was even punched in the face.

Last February, while commenting on the famous parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Pope Francis referred to insensitive wealthy people like Grigory when he underscored the enormous tragedy of the rich man in the parable. “His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence… The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.”

In Grigory’s videos the god of money almost always wins and human dignity goes down the drain. How shameful, degrading and sad all of this is. After a while we no longer know who is worse: the tempter, or the one who falls into temptation, because each side is, in fact, mired in sin: Grigory, in his attempt to buy people’s souls, and his victims who willingly sell their souls to him.

The only chance for Grigory and his victims is to hope that one day they may meet the Lord along their paths, and we should all pray fervently for this to happen.

Updated on July 01 2017