In Anna Karenina, one of the more interesting of the tales is that of Konstantin Levin. A wealthy man, Levin thinks often about the emancipation of the serfs, its relationship to the lives of the peasants, and the correlation of those two lifestyles to his own. Transmitted throughout are heavy critiques of modernity, in which we can see that, at least a hundred years ago, the specific falsified problems of today were already analyzed and resolved, and "today's" questions and concerns represent (again) not a discovery of new things but a revisiting of old; of a cyclical rejection of problems and solutions already long foreseen and solved. Indeed, our problems now seem more to be caused by a blockage between certain types of people, than by a deficiency in producing or transmitting wisdom.
Levin can be likened, in some ways, to a modern liberal in the sense of his recurring desires to "uplift" those who do not have the things he does, such as rental acreage, marketable timber, and the like. He grapples with his own metaphysical problems with reality as he finds it, exhibiting beliefs that the work performed by the peasants is more trying and damning than his own tasks of resource management and leadership, and in so doing evaluating the failure of the emancipation of the serfs to effectively change their lot except by burdening them with the task of managing their newfound labors and planning for their futures. How selfish Levin, and us, for forgetting that land needed to be made safe against predators and cleared and drained and planted before it could be an asset that, like sunshine, is presumed free and abundant and how lucky we are to pay taxes to someone else to let us say it's ours. Levin's worries in this regard are similar to the once popular, now toxic American debate about the ending of slavery, where the labors and stresses of men now considered socially responsible for their own destiny are ascribed, by the emancipator, to be a wonderful reward, as though planning one's finances is a coveted privilege rather than a malodorous burden. Given the course of human societies since the nineteenth century--that of "freeing" more and more people to carry that crushing burden as atomized units of potential labor--it is unsurprising that it is taboo to consider these issues, for those who benefit from trading in humans as fungible units of random value or worthlessness benefit from everyone thinking that the right to work for them when jobs are sporadically available, have obvious motivations for it being dogma in the modern world that freedom to occasionally, randomly contract for laboring for someone else is not only an inalienable right, but the duty of all decent people everywhere and forever.
Anna Karenina shows Levin's rather pitiful, modern-liberalesque attempts to identify with the ex-serfs and peasants of his time by trying their work for himself, and feeling that it is more natural and healthy than his own. Levin, therefore, feels it is tiresome or worthless to plan seeding and leveling and fallow-times for a facility, but inherently better to engage in the manual labor appurtenant to cutting greenery for the animals to eat. Like a wealthy heir citing to his childhood labors in the mail-room of Daddy's company, he is in error, yet unconscious of it; the context of the labor, like God enduring the Passion while omniscient, makes it labor of a different sort. The peasants' inability to accept his labor, and their confusion over his insistence on putting off his own labor and instead miming their own (more physical) labor, is utterly explicable, as is its failure to change society for the better. From a certain economic perspective, what Levin is attempting is to create a utopia where he doesn't have to engage in his own work of planning and management (hilarious thought now given how worthless and/or redundant such job titles often are), but can occasionally do labor to fill in the gaps of years ignoring something harder. In Levin's struggles, his failures, we can see encapsulated the past two centuries of human history, where the exalting of one kind of labor and the defaming of another has caused well-wishers to no longer have--to have not laid out generations ahead--anything for the laborers to do, except be laid off from the Johnson & Johnson labs janitorial staff.
Regarding labor and management, or ordinary people and the inheritors of wealth, it is abysmally crass, incredibly lazy, and outright rude to continue making this faux "noble" crusade toward "equality," by which the manager of the asset acquired only with generations of difficulty then attempts to shirk his responsibility by using myths of "togetherness" to burden other human beings with the freedom to engage in the onerous tasks of managing resources, planning their development over decades and centuries, et cetera. Our history is so tainted by this presumption that our chronologies show a march of progress toward the shirking of duties. E.g., the European develops a complex human society regulated by understood conclusions that would've taken generations to understand, such as "The central office should handle all disputes rather than individuals handling them," and once this onerous gift has been foisted on a society, that society is expected to punish those who solve disputes without bringing in the central office. People of European heritage, rather than simply imposing the central office upon those they would prefer to conquer--and rather than walling off people of African heritage and permitting them to continue in their posturing- or random-based process of selection--imperfectly induct them into a cult of respect for a faceless, impartial central office, replete with all the indirectly personified illusory entities which it took hundreds of years to get most Europeans to conceptualize and accept, and then either deny that the arrogant experiment is a cruel failure--witness African-derived community behavior in western cities or zones primarily populated by the ancestrally-derived Africans, or the success of thoroughly westernized African-derived peoples in pursuing mental aptitude tests developed by and for those not so derived--or lament the fact that European-derived individuals have not done more to force conformity on conquered populations. For some people, surely, suicide is the answer, but not all desire this suicide, and would prefer to offer return and reparations and start over.
Levin was, at least, genuinely well-meaning. Through his struggle with his inner convictions, we can see that he actually cares, to some extent, about the people he is trying to help, as contrasted with today's, say, student activists for social justice and the life paths they may pursue after a few years of taking pictures of themselves engaging in well-wishing. It is the social preening that was, and is still, part of rejection of the responsibilities of management that confuse the peasant as well as doom the farm and the society--and the peasants--who depend on it, which underscores this whole line of inquiry. In short, buying Africans from Semites' ships was incredibly stupid and wrong, but once they're here, burdening them with life-management in a completely different type of society is even more wrong, leading to a mass forfeiture of well-being for both classes of abruptly freed serf and peasant. To whit, the starvation and mass exploitation of newly freed American slaves, due to their no longer benefiting from either their now-inherent social structures, nor their "self-as-asset-management" approach of nominal owners who had to do all that work before emancipation, is viewed as yet another crime of slavery rather than as a crime of emancipation, and the self-designed life plans of many family-less career prison attendees and 38-year-old tack hammer and/or murder victims, as compared to what would've been, is instructive, dissonance removed. People of the west can track how poorly the grand experiment has done, using rates of murder, reproduction, extended kinship family and community formation, disease, et cetera, to see how poorly their plan has performed; it was not, of course, "their plan," anymore than the result of World War II for the Arabs, but the inability to process the most raw, basic data about the outcome is sufficient to call into question the capability of the subsidiary perpetrators.
The struggles of Tolstoy's character at being unable to himself be a serf (and thus entitled to their suffering, as he sees it), or to be a member of a peasant family (for the same reasons, along with his desire to know best how to order them about when convenient), are instructive, with the implied conclusion of "do your job and let others do theirs" being a facet of not only general wisdom, but specific wisdom as to responsibility-shirkers, who would have those in possession of the most be free to cast all responsibility aside and leave management and maintenance of all society to those less endowed. The desire is similar to that of feminism, in the sense of the feminist's desire to avoid juvenile steroid infusions, accomplishment-related neurological stresses and designs, conscription into the armed services, and the eschewing of all womb-carrier privileges, but to nonetheless gain all the privileges of those who've undergone the said treatments.
Alexey Alexandrovitch's cuckolded concern about the plight of "the native peoples" of Russia (Americans tend to believe they're the only ones who ever had to live alongside a population of rapey, architecturally-impaired Siberians, but not so, and it's interesting to see the Russian government, beset by the actual problems of its actual people, fretting instead about how many gibs to give the feather-dancers to relieve their perceived comparative suffering as they continue to not approach what was then Russian modernity) is instructive, and like Bezhukov's naive fascination with Jewish spawned revolutions in France, shown to be foolish (in Bezhukov's case, via imprisoment, in Alexandrovitch's, via cuckoldry) rather than offered as a shorter lived verbal diatribe from Tolstoy directly to the reader.
How interesting, really, and how sad of course, that the genetically based warnings of Tolsoy, Dostoevsky, and even Dickens were ignored to their audience's own peril, while the more superficial details of apparent plot were--like life, and like popular events in the 21st century--focused now, by castrated experts, toward the exclusion of the meaning that gave the whole story a reason for social decorations. The details of the orphan's survival, the hero's contemplating battle, and the woman's affair, are as incidental to the meaning of the narrative as our own broken dreams unfunded by money sent instead to the government treasury. Innumerable stories exist, of calmer retirements and businesses started and things created during additional spare time, and perhaps these are all, like a passion for Vronsky, tales worth telling, but they lose so much of their meaning when severed from the unjust and necessary circumstances of their creation.