From Russia with Love
From the desk of John Laughland on Thu, 2008-04-24 17:23
I visited Moscow last week, my second visit to the Russian capital in seven months, and it is always an overwhelming experience. Moscow is a Moloch of a city, an unimaginably vast metropolis where everything is on a far greater scale than anywhere else in Europe. The buildings are massive, most streets have three lanes in each direction, the crowds are stupendous. The metro, which is famously the best in the world, transports teeming millions of people hither and thither; the escalators are constantly full as people flood up and down, and the trains are full even though they come every minute with the absolute regularity of a Swiss clock.
The sense of anarchy is increased by the city’s appalling traffic jams. Although the metro is so good, Muscovites take to their cars in their hundreds of thousands. Perhaps they regard it as a status symbol to drive rather than to use public transport. The distances are so large in Moscow that one can spend what seems like hours bowling along huge boulevards in what appears to be the centre of town; more frequently, however, one spends real hours sitting motionless as cars crawl, bumper to bumper, from one red light to the next.
The traffic jams are a symbol of the vibrancy of Russian life today, with all the good and bad which that implies. The economic dynamism of Russia displays the same good and bad sides. But the difference in prosperity between Moscow in 1988, when I first visited it, and now, could hardly be greater. Most of the cars in the traffic jams are 4x4s and the city (at least the centre) is replete with expensive shops and expensive hotels. With their nation’s characteristic proclivity for extremes, the Russians have gone from paupers to princes without seeming to pass through any intermediate stage: Russian immigrants in Western Europe are not, like Poles, cleaners and builders but instead multi-millionaires. In Russia itself, the middle class is burgeoning – against, at least in the urban centres – and you now seem to find more Russian tourists in fashionable beach resorts around the world than Germans. Any talk of political dictatorship in such conditions of vast economic expansion is simply ridiculous.
Russia, like England, is a European country which typically does not consider itself to be part of Europe. Russians use the word “Europe” to mean somewhere else. Of course Moscow is a European city. Indeed, it is racially homogenous, the few former Soviet citizens one sees from Central Asia or the Caucasus, and the numerous Chinese immigrants, representing a mere drop in the Slavic ocean. But, like Russia itself, Moscow is incommensurable with Europe. As you walk the streets of the capital, you somehow feel the presence of Russia’s still vast Asiatic empire beyond the city limits, for the country still stretches to the Pacific in spite of the severe territorial losses suffered by Russians when the Soviet Union was dismantled.
Size is Russia’s dilemma. Many philosophers – especially Nikolai Berdyaev – have commented on the impact which vast geographical space has on the Russian soul, some saying that it makes the country inevitably autocratic. Others have commented on the fact that, while size appears to imply strength, Russia’s huge spaces can often also be a source of weakness. British ships could famously reach the Crimea during the Crimean War more quickly than Russian troops could, marching there by foot since there were no railways. The country has vast borders which it is impossible to police and difficult to defend.
Russia’s size has also, however, represented a defensive strength. In the depths of the birch forests, Russian life – eternal Russia – continues much as before, in spite of the tumultuous changes inflicted on the country by two centuries of rapid economic and political change. That life, depicted in the Tretyakov Gallery’s countless portraits of the upper classes in their dachas, seems to remain essentially unchanged in a way that cannot be said of rural life in England or France. Russia is also one of the few countries in Europe where ordinary people retain a basic religious faith. No doubt it has degenerated largely into peasant superstition (as it has to some extent in Italy) but the fact is that you are far more likely to see a Russian person cross himself in a moment of worry than a German, a Briton or even a Spaniard.
Whatever the truth, Russia’s size certainly does mean that she cannot be easily integrated into any European system. She reached the height of her geopolitical presence during the Cold War, when she was one half of a bipolar world. Now, Russia is a little more like Canada than the United States, but she is still far too large to be an ordinary European state. Her size frightens people and makes it difficult for the rest of Europe to treat her as an ordinary country.
Russia, indeed, can never be an ordinary country. She will always be a world unto herself. That is why Europe and the West must work hard to develop a respectful attitude towards her. In the past, Western hostility towards Russia has translated into enmity towards “Tsarism”, “imperialism” and Communism: these are ultimately all ways of projecting one’s own evils onto the feared “other”. The division of Europe between East and West dates from the foundation of Constantinople and the division of the Roman Empire into East and West in the early 4th century A.D., Russia now being the principle inheritor of Byzantium. Such a long division is not going to be overcome easily. But it can come only when the two halves of Europe, Russia and the West, behave towards each other as two co-equal legatees of the same undivided Christian civilisation.
@lanticist911: polite police service: forced newspeak upon us
Submitted by Sagunto on Tue, 2008-04-29 16:48.
Your btw immediately reminded me of an article by Dalrymple about the linguistic roots of the word "police" in the Ancient Greek polis. Of course "polite" stems from the same source. It seems to me that the strange type of linguistic hybris -that would have us believe that there is a friendly police service and a helmed pizza force-, comes from the same ideological sources that inform agressive multiculturalism and the prosperous business of Islam apologetics (e.g.: Islamic terrorists are now dubbed "misunderstanders of Islam"). In the police force over here, there has been a top-down dispersal of social contructivist discourse, and what you get in the end, is the peculiar spectacle of the agressive newspeak of victimhood (and "respect") by criminal "youths", and on the other hand the old labels of legitimate force that are increasingly stripped of any "agressive" connotation whatsoever.
I think a related issue could be that the policeforce has more and more become part of the State-driven social engineering industry, sometimes completely immersed in social worker's lingo as an extension of the "pedagogical powers" of the State. Some of the "youths" or the progressively labeled "chance-youths" (a eufemism that in Holland already means: young criminal Muslims) have more contacts with social policy professionals in their young lives than with their own parents. Police officers are part of that chain and must therefore appear "nice", just like the other professional workers in that field must. I believe it's called non-judgemental, isn't it? Of course these social workers dressed up as policemen can suddenly become very un-polite, when confronted with people who are not into the flexible, fluffy lingo game and want their basic rights sternly defended. Actual victims must have "provoked" some ill-adviced though understandable response, and if they don't qualify as members of the privileged "usual victims of society", they are sent home with the advice to stop acting like "crusaders".
re: Internet based labelist lobbyists from La-La-Land
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Tue, 2008-04-29 16:18.
Hey Marcfrans,labels and libels, remember? They are not MY "shallow thinkers", they are the Cali-fate state's gift to the world. Likewise, if they hailed from Florida it would be,"Kismet from Kissimmee".
generic political labelling # 2
Submitted by marcfrans on Tue, 2008-04-29 15:53.
How do you keep coming up with these examples of shallow thinkers of yours? Where do you keep finding them? On the internet, of course.
While David Gulbraa and Craig Biddle are clearly shallow thinkers, and very poor examples of 'conservatives', you must realise that they are both nutty Californians who live very close to La-La-Land of Hollywood. Voila, I have labelled them "Californians". And they have that experience in common with (the old version of) Amsterdamsky.
when 'labelists' become 'libelists'...
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Tue, 2008-04-29 14:51.
Your example is sound and should be universally adopted.
btw: Albeit in a slightly different context, I have a similar gripe with TPTB, here in the UK, when they insist upon referring to our police FORCE as the police SERVICE. A police force is, by definition, a body which is legally charged with the enforcement of the laws of the land, but can we really say that about a service provider? (Whores provide a service). In short, I firmly believe that names (and labels) matter.
Submitted by Sagunto on Tue, 2008-04-29 13:45.
Some labels are handy tools though to describe various political or religious doctrines, wouldn't you agree?
I always prefer to speak about the doctrine of Islam, which is pretty much the same in all major sects, instead of Muslims. Islamic apologists, I've noticed, almost without exception don't like to discuss the basic Islamic doctrine, but prefer to speak about Muslims and how they are supposedly "attacked" by "islamophobes".
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I wouldn't mind a label now and then, but I do mind when they are used incorrectly. There's no harm in calling someone who subscribes to the neocon ticket a neocon. But it is however more than just a bit ironical that leftists often use it as an invective, while several neocon policies in reality reflect a traditionally "leftist" worldview, much akin to Wilsonian "progressivism". So it's all about meaning or factual knowledge, or lack of it when propaganda is involved, not the label.
generic political labelling
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Tue, 2008-04-29 11:24.
Question: What is a conservative? Do ALL conservatives believe that " faith is superior to reason", or that people should sacrifice themselves to " ANY government that speaks and acts on behalf of God"? I, for one, would strongly disagree with that flawed analysis.
Anybody who believes that it is enough to simply label an individual as "liberal", "conservative", "neocon" etc., and that these labels alone are sufficient to determine whether a person accepts or rejects, say, unrestricted immigration, need only peruse the following articles to discover how overly simplistic that sort of reasoning can be.
An Open Letter to Liberals and Conservatives - by David Gulbraa
Immigration and Individual Rights - by Craig Biddle
Soros # 3
Submitted by marcfrans on Mon, 2008-04-28 22:27.
I would like to give you the same advice as to Johnnycanuck: try to make 'finer' distinctions to understand the world better.
Terms like "left, globalism, conservatives, etc..." can cover many different dimensions and realities. They are not comparable to physical objects like "door, car, house, etc...". You will get no argument from me that GWBush has been pretty awful w.r.t. US immigration policy. But, that has nothing to do with my discussion with Johnnycanuck, who claimed that Bush would call me a "bigot', and who suggested that Bush is a "universalist necon" who would not see the US as an "authentic nation" and would consider it merely as a "proposition". These claims are all preposterous nonsense.
If you question my statement that most neocons and Bush do NOT "believe in the judicial primacy of 'universalist' institutions", could you please explain to me why they are so unpopular in such universalist institutions like the UN, the World Bank, etc...and in naive-left Europe as well where such sentiments are virtual dogma? Or, could you explain to me why they are also demonised on a daily basis by much of the American left and leftwing media where the same dogma prevails?
The reality is that the American 'right' is divided on issues such as immigration policy. There, is a clear distinction to be made between (a) traditional Wall Street Journal-type freetrader-style 'globalists' and (b) social conservatives, and that the latter have a lot in common with 'conservative' Democrats on immigration matters. None of these 'conservatives' believes that the US is a "proposition" and not an "authentic country".
To make matters even more complicated for you, do NOT confuse WSJ-type open-borders naivete with traditional free-trade economics as well. But I am not even going to go there if you are already confused by the preceding points that I made.
However, I do agree with you that US politics has moved "considerably left", and that is very normal in a democratic culture, where people tend to get 'bored' and/or exhausted by any long-term orthodoxy, and therefore at regular intervals will clammer for change. The reason is not the one you gave (Bush and apple pie etc...). The real reason is that many people - even in open societies with democratic politics - are incapable of making 'finer' distinctions and of showing consistency.
<cite>I know that they see
Submitted by Ernest on Mon, 2008-04-28 20:34.
I know that they see Soros as a 'destructive force', and foremost as destructive of the national interests of the US. Neither Bush nor most "neocons" believe in judicial primacy of 'universalist' institutions.
Herein lies the problem with many"conservatives". They actually believe this. That he is substantively different then someone like G Soros. Even though he is working toward a globalist strategy. Even though GW Bush supports the invasion of our country. Even though under GW Bush the undermining of our culture has gone into hyperdrive they believe. Of course that is why they will also vote for whomever the GOP puts up against "anybody but" which would be whomever the Dems are offering. We have moved considerably left and one of the reasons for this is because of this uncritical belief and the idea that people like GW represent Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.
Submitted by onecent on Mon, 2008-04-28 21:46.
Ernest - the US moved to the left when the 60's radicals won the left won the culture war. Get real. The feminists dismantled the family, the lefties got a lock on college campuses and the media, religion was ridiculed, pc censorship and victim politics came into play. It's been an ongoing process over decades that has nothing to do with Bush.
On one abstract notion and reality
Submitted by Sagunto on Mon, 2008-04-28 15:54.
I agree with the bulk of Mf's latest comment @Jc., with the possible exception of the neo-con thing. It's not entirely clear to me what that's all about, mainly 'cause the statements by Jc. can mean a lot of different things. However, I would second the opinion that neoconservatism from an American standpoint has very little in common with the old (classical liberal) conservatism, like that of John Quincy Adams (US Pres.):
"..Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [America’s] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.."
Just to underline the stark contrast of this wise piece of advice to future Americans, with the current neo-conservative worldview:
No "nation building", no zealous delivering of "Democracy" to people neither interested in, nor prepared for such abstract notions, but for the chance to elect as anti-Western a "government" as possible (example: Gaza democracy). I mean Islam and democracy, let alone rule of law.. come on.
Soros # 2
Submitted by marcfrans on Mon, 2008-04-28 15:19.
1) We agree that a certain kind of 'leftism' is a major factor in the ongoing destruction of western civilisation. I call it a 'cultural leftism' or 'naive-leftism' to distinguish it from (the more traditional) social-economic leftism. It comes out of the relativism of social-science academia and is characterised by naivety about nonwestern cultures and perverse self-hatred for own civilisation (because of the latter's imperfections).
2) Soros is first and foremost a naive-left 'Westerner' (born in Eastern Europe). His current American citizenship is 'incidental' or not important. Culturally speaking, he is far more typical 'European' than American. If you were to play a tape of speeches by Soros in an American supermarket in Denver, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Baltimore, etc...people would look in bewilderment and might even think that he is a visiting 'Russian' or at least something very 'strange' and 'un-American'. By the way, the much fewer Americans that know me (in contrast with Soros), think that about me too.
3) I do NOT judge Soros by his geographical or physical "background". How on earth could you say so, if you have read my numerous 'tangles' with manifest racists and/or ethnocentrists like 'Armor, Kapitein Andre etc...' on this website? I judge him for his opinions and 'values' (reflected in his behavior).
4) Your absurd 'certainty' about how Bush or "universalist neocons" would judge me as a "bigot" shows undiluted prejudice and ignorance on your part. Indeed, whatever my 'feelings' towards either Bush and most neocons, I know that they see Soros as a 'destructive force', and foremost as destructive of the national interests of the US. Neither Bush nor most "neocons" believe in judicial primacy of 'universalist' institutions. They know that our safety and future can only be guaranteed by reliance on western values, like those embodied in the US Constitution, and on Western 'institutions'. Now, if most Europeans would be able to realise that, our grandchildern might actually have a future in freedom.
5) You should try to make an effort to draw more 'finer' distinctions than you currently seem to be able to do. It is (or should be) understandable that Soros is 'obsessed' by INTERNAL political power concentration in Russia, precisely because of his Hungarian "background". There is a reason for that! And it is rooted in relatively-recent history. But, your claims that NATO would want to "deracinate" Europe is ludicrous. NATO is a purely defensive (and temporary!) military alliance, which has great difficulty on reaching a semblance of agreement on military threats and actions. It has nothing to do with questions of cultural 'identity' of Europe and the like. You should not allow your imagination to run wild.... And if "Americanisation" to you could mean 'striving for equality of all citizens before or under the law', or 'non-racism' if you will, then the overwhelming majority of Americans wil take that as a compliment.
6) You claim that "Neocon America" and "Marxist America" believe only in abstract notions. One could hardly think up more abstract notions - that are ludicrously at odds with empirically observable reality - than your terms of "neocon America" and "Marxist America".
America the abstraction
Submitted by johnnycanuck on Mon, 2008-04-28 00:54.
Sagunto: "While you talk of international coalitions against islamization, the people who will do the actual "resisting" of it, don't care for such talk, nor will they be inspired by it. They are and will be inspired by a sense of (local) tradition that somehow has managed to survive.
A common way of life beyond the politicized lingo of the chattering classes that pervades our massmedia. Actual resistance (not the mere talk of it) will not be based on abstract notions, for the simple fact that islamization isn't either. Day to day islamization of Western culture is happening in our cities with the "new apartheid" created by islamists in countless neighbourhoods already. This is not a classic Cold War-styled battle of (coalitons of) nations versus nations"
Neocon America like Marxist America believes only in abstract notions. The local tradition you speak of is considered fascistic by neocons. To them only universal abstractions are legitimate. You see, neocons see themselves as outsiders in America. They do not even consider America to be an authentic nation hence their lack of concern for the Mexicanization of the USA. They say the USA is merely a 'propositon'.
Submitted by johnnycanuck on Mon, 2008-04-28 00:42.
marcfrans: "P.S. George Soros an American? His passport says so (of course, he knows how to protect himself very well and to look ahead), but if you listen to his voice...you wouldn't think so for a moment. He is a recent American 'import' (and European export) and a further indication of the commonality of cultures in Western civilisation (and the inclusion of Eastern Europe in that)."
How unAmerican of you to judge a person by their background! George Bush and the universalist neocons would call you a bigot for a remark like that.
Since you objected to my characterization of George Soros as an American, adding that he's a European, would you like to take it a little bit further? What kind of European is George Soros? Who are his people? Is he loyal to the Hungarian nation? I think we all know the answer to those questions. Knowing the answers also helps us understand why he and his ilk are spreading anti-Russian propaganda and trying to 'Americanize' (ie. deracinate) Europe. Soros and NATO are on the same side.
Russian should be shunned like Venezuela
Submitted by onecent on Sun, 2008-04-27 15:57.
Russian should be treated like Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, a thug state kept afloat artifically by oil revenues. It should be ignored and marginalized.
Legitimitizing the total relapse from advancing as a civil society there isn't in the long run going to help Russians. It makes it much harder for them get rid of Putin and his cronies, that's been Kasparov's argument and I agree.
leftist dislike of white countries
Submitted by Armor on Sun, 2008-04-27 16:44.
"- Russia does have regular elections and I don’t doubt that the results reflect the people’s will.
- Oh, please. How could that be when the provisional governors are now appointed rather than elected under Putin, and the Duma is rigged?"
Well, you should come and visit france and its system of prefects. Or you should visit Brussels and its useless EU parliament.
"Ask Gary Kasparov and the rest of the opposition how much air time they got this past election on the now completely censored airwaves that were returned to state control by Putin. Zero. How the hell could the "will of the people" be exercised when they never heard the opposition or issues? Again, you are naive."
How come American voters will have to choose between McCain, Clinton, and Obama, three people who support the policy of racial replacement, even though most Americans are against immigration? How come the anti-immigration point of view is so rarely allowed in the western news media? It shoud be obvious that the result of elections taking place in Western countries is largely determined by the massive brainwashing applied by government, school, and the news media.
"Without oil money supporting Putin and his cronies, who are stripping the country's wealth, Russia would be more like a colder version of Zimbabwe. The infrastructure outside of Moscow is shot. Life expectancy for males is the same as Bangladesh, birth rates collapsing and alcoholism rampant. Please, Russia is a disaster."
Things have been improving under Putin.
"That Putin & Co are re-Stalinizing Russia in increments, murdering journalists"
I don't think Putin has ordered the murder of any journalist.
"You wouldn't be one of those westerners who puts a positive spin to and finds tolerable totalitarian regimes like Putin's Russia, conditions that they wouldn't tolerate living under in their own lives?"
What is intolerable is the western policy of racial replacement. You cannot do worse than that. Western democracy is a sham, our marx media are no more democratic than the muslims, and most western people do not understand anything about democracy.
The media people who are largely responsible for mass immigration from the third-world used to have good words for communist dictatorships. Now, they still support mass immigration but they have turned against Russia because it is no longer anti-western. The obvious source of their hostility is that Russians are white people. It is absurd to believe that the western media care for the Russians and are afraid they may be unhappy because of a "lack of democracy".
Submitted by onecent on Sun, 2008-04-27 15:45.
Maple syrup - there is no reason for Russia to fear NATO expansion. The anti-ballistic missiles aren't offensive, they aren't an imminent threat to them, the Russians know that. What the Kremlin fears is Ukraine or Georgia escaping into NATO and being protect by a NATO treaty with the west. Your are so naive.
Russia does have regular elections and I don’t doubt that the results reflect the people’s will.
Oh, please. How could that be when the provisional governors are now appointed rather than elected under Putin, and the Duma is rigged? Ask Gary Kasparov and the rest of the opposition how much air time they got this past election on the now completely censored airwaves that were returned to state control by Putin. Zero. How the hell could the "will of the people" be exercised when they never heard the opposition or issues? Again, you are naive.
Without oil money supporting Putin and his cronies, who are stripping the country's wealth, Russia would be more like a colder version of Zimbabwe. The infrastructure outside of Moscow is shot. Life expectancy for males is the same as Bangladesh, birth rates collapsing and alcoholism rampant. Please, Russia is a disaster.
That Putin & Co are re-Stalinizing Russia in increments, murdering journalists, putting on show trials, doling the nation's wealth to themselves, bulling neighbors using oil and gas as a weapon, inflicting almost total censorship of the media, are violating basic human rights, rigging Duma elections, muzzling all opposition, I could go on, you seem to gloss over.
You wouldn't be one of those westerners who puts a positive spin to and finds tolerable totalitarian regimes like Putin's Russia, conditions that they wouldn't tolerate living under in their own lives?
@Thomas Landen: talking like an Egyptian..
Submitted by Sagunto on Sun, 2008-04-27 09:31.
"..The enemy who wants to impose his ideology and "values" on us (the rest of the world) is no longer Soviet Communism, but Islamism. It are no longer the Soviets but the Wahhabites from Saudi Arabia who are subverting the West. We should forge as broad a coalition as possible against our new enemy.."
Now I don't mean to be rude or something, but you sound just like a politician here. Who is this "We", if I may ask. We, the people? We, the members of the "International Community"? We, the political nomenclatura? Or "We", the lofty intellectuals who think and sound as if they were all three of them unisono?
It might all be very true what you say. All but for the reference to islamization.
Suppose our Dutch Prime Dhimmi'ster, Jan Peter Balkenende appears on screen tomorrow, amically shaking Putin's hand, both solemnly pledging to "join forces" in order to fight islamization, and suppose they'd actually be sincere, what would be the most likely result? Combined manoeuvres of both Dutch and Russian navy, to prepare for an All Qaida assault on our shores? It will propably dismantle a few extra terrorist plots, while the islamization of our neighbourhoods continues unhindered.
That's were your perspective sounds like you've put on the wrong record. While you talk of international coalitions against islamization, the people who will do the actual "resisting" of it, don't care for such talk, nor will they be inspired by it. They are and will be inspired by a sense of (local) tradition that somehow has managed to survive.
A common way of life beyond the politicized lingo of the chattering classes that pervades our massmedia. Actual resistance (not the mere talk of it) will not be based on abstract notions, for the simple fact that islamization isn't either. Day to day islamization of Western culture is happening in our cities with the "new apartheid" created by islamists in countless neighbourhoods already. This is not a classic Cold War-styled battle of (coalitons of) nations versus nations, not in the old political or military sense. The struggle against Islamization "won't be institutionalized", so to speak. So why look at your flat screen for politicians shaking hands, mumbling old slogans reviving times past? Why ape their discourse? It won't happen there.
Kind regards from Amsterdam,
Another Canadian 'teenager'...
Submitted by marcfrans on Sat, 2008-04-26 18:01.
...who hates depending on big daddy, but doesn't want to pay for standing on his own. Hence the parroting of infantile references to an American "empire" and to "worshipping Economic Man" (straight out of CBC, NYT, and University of Toronto)!
To believe 'JohhnyCanuck' is to believe, for instance, that France has been "forced" to take in Africans and North Africans by......the "White House", etc... As if the French are a bunch of irresponsible children who have not been in charge of their own immigration policy. Even 'Hollywood' couldn't be that absurd. It is average teenage-quality 'reasoning'.
All those Americans who blame Europe for America's problems are short-sighted fools and, likewise, all those (more numerous) Europeans (and Canadians!) who blame America for Europe's problems are fools too. They all undermine Western civilisation. And, yes, the ideological split between left and right is a Western phenomenon (not recognisable in most of Africa, Asia and the muslim world) and, IN THAT CONTEXT, Europe is older than America.
P.S. George Soros an American? His passport says so (of course, he knows how to protect himself very well and to look ahead), but if you listen to his voice...you wouldn't think so for a moment. He is a recent American 'import' (and European export) and a further indication of the commonality of cultures in Western civilisation (and the inclusion of Eastern Europe in that).
Russia is no threat
Submitted by johnnycanuck on Sat, 2008-04-26 17:31.
The leftism that is destroying the Western world does not come from Russia. Even during the Cold War - though I didn't realize it at the time - the threat to the West was internal.
Russia might have been communist but they never went for the self-hating cultural Marxism that we have in the West. Most cultural Marxism these days emanates from the United States - from CNN, universities, Hollywood, and even the White House. It is under the American Empire that we are being forced to become multicultural just like the "leader of the free world" itself. We are being remade in America's image with our own leftists peddling ideas straight out of U.S. universities and our Americanized conservatives who worship at the feet of Economic Man.
As bad as the Soviets were to Eastern Europe - and there is no denying it - they did not replace the people of Poland, etc, with more compliant Third Worlders as is happening everywhere in the American empire formerly known as the West. It is not the Russians who are imprisoning people for criticizing Muslims. They aren't dividing and weakening Western countries by spreading the cultural Marxist virus. (Did you hear American George Soros is going to start his own TV news channel in Serbia? The poor Serbs have no idea how their minds are about to be poisoned.)
It's time for Westerners to wake up and realize that Russia is not a threat to us - though it may well be to European countries like Estonia on its border. Obviously we shouldn't let Russia walk all over us but the Cold Warrior nonsense about the big bad Russian bear is coming from Americans who wish to scare us back into America's arms.
Submitted by marcfrans on Sat, 2008-04-26 17:03.
@ Thomas landen
1) Likewise, more often than not I tend to agree with your positions, and certainly appreciate a number of your recent articles in TBJ. On 'Maple Syrup' we disagree. In my view, he has not provided any "insights" whatsoever. What he writes is the 'conventional wisdom' that one can find in most (luckily not all!) western and international media. That mistaken 'wisdom' is largely based on their reporters in Moskou and on views coming out of a variety of western think tanks 'loaded' with social 'scientists' from the contemporary naive-left-dominated social science Academia. It is the usual 'apologia' for restrictions on freedom of speech and for (internal) power concentration in countries needing "order", coupled with blaming 'ourselves' for bad behavior of those authoritarian countries in geopolitics. If Putin supplies nuclear technology to Teheran, then lets blame Putin, not ourselves, etc....
2) Obviously, Maple Syrup is still relatively young, and I wish him well. My own student years abroad (outside Belgium) in early adulthood, as well as residence and work experiences in a variety of countries around the world, were a valuable and necessary learning experience. But, at that time, I certainly did not 'understand' much of the world around me then, even though I was not very aware of that. Understanding requires (a) time, (b) good information sources (not physical presence), and (c) self-knowledge and intellectual 'honesty'. I am sure that he needs more 'time', and use that time to make empirical observations of coming 'events', before wisdom might come to replace 'conventional wisdom'.
3) I agree that we should try to forge "as broad a coalition as possible" against the current immediate 'enemy'. But, please, have no illusions about such a coalition. Russia is not a democracy, and what the current regime will do has nothing to do with the nature of that islamic enemy. In fact the Russian regime is intent on using that same enemy to weaken the West as much as it can. It is not blind to the reality of the nature of that enemy. The more immediate concern of the Russian regime (and the Chinese one as well) is to maintain their own INTERNAL power. That is not (now) threathened by islamic countries , but it is by western countries with their constant 'harrassment' about 'human rights' etc... It is a chimera to think that we could fight a totalitarian enemy with another totalitarian one. Yes, perhaps under certain circumstances, in a temporary tactical alliance when certain interests temporarily coincide. But, in general, we have no broad common interest with an authoritarian regime that is bend on perpetuating itself and needs 'nationalistic victories' (in the absence of believable ideology) in order to achieve that.
4) As to "democracy" in the west. Yes, it is imperfect everywhere (even in Switzerland). But, Maple Syrup is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Imperfections are not an excuse for confusing different animals. Human nature being what it is, democracy is always under threat, in every generation and everywhere. So, it is always a matter of degree. The crucial tests are (a) freedom of speech and (b) actual power alternation between different 'ideologies'. In most of Europe, freedom of speech is gradually being restricted, but that situation is not yet comparable to what is happening in Russia (critical journalists disappearing etc...). And people in Europe, and certainly in the US, still have the ability (and the tools!!) to change their rulers/politicians. And they do! Do you really think that Medvedev 'relates' to Putin like, say, Berlusconi relates to Prodi? Or, do you really think that Ahmadinejad relates to Kathami like, say, Canadian Harper relates to his naive-left predecessor? Most of our relativistic naive-left international journalists may well think so (just like their predecessors did in earlier times). They are wrong, and future events will again confirm it.
Fear and loathing # 2
Submitted by marcfrans on Sat, 2008-04-26 04:27.
@ Maple Syrup
Thank you for serious comments, even though I find most of them in error.
1) I doubt that you, nor I, can know much about the real "shape" of the Russian army today, beyond some media snippets. Today we live in a world of mainly 'asymmetric warfare' (probably temporary), which does not require a large army, but rather highly-trained 'special forces' (and a nuclear 'backup'). The current boom in commodity prices on world markets gives Putin all the resources he needs for that purpose. Unlike you, I do believe that there are still lots of westerners who understand patriotism of the 'normal' kind, but one wouldn't think so based on a cursory glance at major media (like the CBC or Canadian nespapers today, Western Standard excepted perhaps). If you are saying that Russians "love their country" in some sort of 'abnormal' way, that would undermine your own broader argument that "there is little to fear from Russia".
2) Sure, opinions will vary among the neighbors. You seem to be unaware that the ones you mentioned with 'positive' views are also people who have little or no access to free media and 'debate'. How could they have informed opinions?
3) It may well be that generally-poorly informed or misinformed Russians have "fears" based on Hollywood 'themes' and the like. The real problem is that you - a Canadian, and thus presumably better informed about the true (and very divided) nature of western democracies - can claim that the Russians "have every reason to fear us". That lack of self-knowledge I see as a much bigger problem than the possibility that Russians are fearful.
4) NATO an "offensive alliance"? Who are they intent on taking over, and for what purpose? To impose a dictatorship of the few? As to the proposed few "missiles" in Poland, the Russians have been offered alternatives and even participation. And, even if your worst nightmare were to be true, i.e. they were intended to defend against Russia, why should that be a problem for a westerner. Or, even if they were 'offensive' in nature (which they are not), do you think that any western leader is intent on 'blackmailing' Russia and would get support from his/her parliament for that? Let's get real! Maybe you are 'projecting' internal Russian power relations on Western polities.
5) You seem to think to know better what neighboring countries should fear than what they actually fear themselves. Really? As a Canadian and a three-year former student at a Russian university? "Mon Dieu", they would - and should - say in Quebec and Ottawa to that!
6) We appear to agree on the Cuban missile crisis. I am at a loss as to why you brought it up as a false analogy or 'argument' to deny the Georgians 'self-determination'.
7) We do NOT agree. Russia does indeed need "law and order". At the moment it has more "order" than before, but it has not "law" (properly understood). It has a kind of arbitrary law. That is exactly the reason why it needs to be "feared". And the 'law and order' argument is the oldest trick in the book of totalitarians and authoritarians.
8) You confuse democracy with "elections" and "will of the people". That is only half of the story. Indeed, every country holds 'elections' (from Burma to Zimbabwe) and most muslim countries do not 'believe' in the equality of men and women, nor of religions etc... The problem is that you have a very poor understanding of what democracy actually means.
9) Finally, you let 'the cat out of the bag' (Dutch expression). You think that in the West we have only "a semblance of democracy". Compared to who or what? Russia, China, Teheran...? This is not the moment to explain the pros and cons of different electoral systems (not to be confused with "democracy") such as first-past-the-post etc... But I can see that Canadian social-'science' academia has done its usual job of teaching perverse self-hatred.
I confess of having made "lots of judgments" about your person,and am now more convinced (than before) that they were more or less ON target.
Submitted by Thomas Landen on Sat, 2008-04-26 07:55.
between Marcfrans and MapleSyrup. I often (more often than not) agree with Marcfrans but this time his judgement seems rather unfair. I do think that the fact that MapleSyrups has spent three years in Russia has given him some insights which we should take serious rather than dismiss.
The enemy who wants to impose his ideology and "values" on us (the rest of the world) is no longer Soviet Communism, but Islamism. It are no longer the Soviets but the Wahhabites from Saudi Arabia who are subverting the West. We should forge as broad a coalition as possible against our new enemy and no longer regard our enemy of the past as our main enemy. If possible, we should bring Russia into our coalition.
(I also share MapleSyrup's view on the lack of democracy in the West. The only real democracy in Europe is Switzerland. The way in which the EU is imposing its Constitution on us, with the national parliaments of the EU memberstates rubberstamping it, shows us that the ruling establishment does not care the least about what the people think.)
Fear and loathing
Submitted by Maple syrup on Sat, 2008-04-26 03:13.
In your opinion "there is little reason to fear Russia". What is that opinion based on?
The Russian army is in bad shape. Morale is very poor and living conditions are terrible for conscripts. Parents will do anything to keep their sons out of the army. Things could only turn around in the event of an actual invasion, such as in 1941. Russians love their country in a way that Westerners cannot really understand.
I think that Russia's neighbours on the whole will have a more realistic assessment than you.
Attitudes toward Russia vary. People in the Baltic countries and the western Ukraine fear Russia (for understandable reasons). People in Belarus and the eastern Ukraine identify strongly with Russians. The situation varies a lot in the Caucasus. I’ve met Azeris and Armenians who identify strongly with Russia, but I’ve also seen the reverse.
You claim that Russia has "every reason to fear us". What is that based on?
In recent years, I’ve noticed an increase in anti-Russian themes in the media and, perhaps more disturbingly, in American movies and TV programs. I’m old enough to remember the Cold War period and I don’t recall ever seeing anything back then like what I’m seeing now. Russians may have been portrayed as weird or laughable (like Boris and Natasha) but not as evil. Now they are. And that worries me.
Why is NATO expansion 'seen' as a problem? Historically, NATO was a defensive alliance against manifest aggression by Stalin's armies.
NATO was a defensive alliance. In the postwar world, it has become an offensive alliance. If I were a Russian, I would be worried by the prospect of missiles being stationed next to my country. Do you really believe they’re being stationed in Poland to fend off Iran? Are you that naïve?
Candidates who want to join NATO have no designs on Russia, but do seek protection against Russia.
Some of them, like the Baltic countries have longstanding fears of Russia. I understand those reasons, but I don’t think they’re operational now. Many Eastern Europeans are still scared of the Germans. Are those fears justified? Other candidates for NATO membership, like Georgia, just want to drag NATO into their own petty conflicts.
How could Castro-Cuba be comparable to contemporary Georgia? You think there was any moral equivalence between the goals and actual practices of the US government in 1960 and the Soviet government then?
Absolutely not! We were right to have challenged the Soviet Union over Cuba.
You appear to be judging the 'freedom' of any society on the basis of whether you (as an individual) can call on immediate assistance from policemen. Do not confuse freedom with anarchy, nor with bad local policing, nor the number of private security guards in the neigborhood. The latter are more signs of poor governance, not of freedom and democracy.
I agree. Russia needs more law and order before it can have more freedom and democracy. That is why I think Putin is the man of the hour for Russia.
I agree with you that the state needs to be "strong". But, do not confuse "strong" with "big". And, while the state needs to be "strong", i.e. govern effectively, even more so it needs to be 'democratic'. Since the Russian state is not democratic in character, it's "strength" becomes a threat, first and foremost for its own people, but also for its neighbors.
I’m not sure what you mean. Russia does have regular elections and I don’t doubt that the results reflect the people’s will. This is not the case in my own country, where the ‘first past the post’ electoral system creates an oligopoly of power and where our political culture bars discussion of many issues that should be discussed. To be honest, I don’t see much democracy in the West, only a semblance of democracy.
Obviously, in a few paragraphs I cannot undo the damage that a moral-relativistic education system and media in contemporary Canada has wrought in young Canadian minds.
Please, you’re making a lot of judgments about the sort of person I am. Most of them are way off target.
Canadian college students...
Submitted by marcfrans on Fri, 2008-04-25 22:57.
@ Maple Syrup
1) In your opinion "there is little reason to fear Russia". What is that opinion based on? Is it based on recent history (say of the past 100 years) or did you 'learn' that at your "Russian university"? I think that Russia's neighbours on the whole will have a more realistic assessment than you.
2) You claim that Russia has "every reason to fear us". What is that based on? Your 'feelings', your knowledge of western politics? What exactly does Russia (not the ruling 'mafia', but the average Russian citizen) have to fear from us? More 'freeer trade, freeer media? What exactly? In what sense do France and the USA threaten Russia? Why would Russia have to fear the USA if Canada (with its longest 'undefended border' in the world, right next to the USA) does not?
3) Why is NATO expansion 'seen' as a problem? Historically, NATO was a defensive alliance against manifest aggression by Stalin's armies. Candidates who want to join NATO have no designs on Russia, but do seek protection against Russia (just in case things turn out for the worse again in Moskow). As a (still) free Canadian you should know that. The fact that you don't, that suggests a failure by the Canadian education system.
4) How could Castro-Cuba be comparable to contemporary Georgia? You think there was any moral equivalence between the goals and actual practices of the US government in 1960 and the Soviet government then? If you do, we should all be able to see what the real 'problem' is here (Yes, failure of the education system!).
5) You appear to be judging the 'freedom' of any society on the basis of whether you (as an individual) can call on immediate assistance from policemen. Do not confuse freedom with anarchy, nor with bad local policing, nor the number of private security guards in the neigborhood. The latter are more signs of poor governance, not of freedom and democracy.
6) I agree with you that the state needs to be "strong". But, do not confuse "strong" with "big". And, while the state needs to be "strong", i.e. govern effectively, even more so it needs to be 'democratic'. Since the Russian state is not democratic in character, its "strength" becomes a threat, first and foremost for its own people, but also for its neighbors. It also becomes a threat for everybody else in the world, to the extent that absence of democratic controls (and the presence of power concentration) can easily lead to the pursuit of 'bad' goals and nefarious alliances in geopolitics.
Obviously, in a few paragraphs I cannot undo the damage that a moral-relativistic education system and media in contemporary Canada has wrought in young Canadian minds.
Fear and loathing of Russia
Submitted by Maple syrup on Fri, 2008-04-25 20:52.
I studied at a Russian university for three years. In my opinion, there is little reason to fear Russia. Russia, however, has every reason to fear us.
To begin with, Russia is in no position to engage in military adventurism. Morale is low among conscripts and the pool of young men is at a critically low level. This doesn’t mean that Russians wouldn’t fight if backed into a corner. They would.
Unfortunately, even ordinary Russians feel as if they are being backed into a corner, especially with the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders. Even during the time I was there, I could sense a growing unease with the West. Emulation of everything Western is now a thing of the past.
Remember the Cuban missile crisis? Remember how we were willing to go to war over the stationing of Soviet missiles on Cuban soil? Well, Cuba is to the U.S. as Georgia is to Russia. The expansion of NATO eastward is seen as a provocative act, all the more so because the Cold War ended twenty years ago. At that time, Western leaders repeatedly promised that NATO’s frontiers would never be pushed further east. What happened to those promises?
Some people here might argue that Russia cannot be trusted because it is still authoritarian and not truly free. My impressions were the opposite. Russia struck me as being an almost anarchistic society where most laws are poorly enforced and where almost anything goes. I have seen several societies at close hand and I must say that the State is far more intrusive in my own (Canada). Just one example. After discovering I had been given counterfeit money, I asked several people where the nearest police detachment was. They looked at me as if I were crazy. “There are no police in this area. Only private security.”
At the risk of offending some people here, I feel that Russia needs more authoritarianism, not less. Russians are not ready for a fully free society, given the ruthlessness of certain social elements and the absence of what we call ‘civil society’. Russia does not have a grassroots network of neighbourhood watchdogs, community organizations, and church-based groups that could take the place of the State. Nor do Russians display the kind of spontaneous involvement in community life that Westerners often do. Without a strong state, Russia would degenerate into the kind of anarchy that prevailed during the Yeltsin years and is still very prevalent today.
re: on the non pictorial dissection of Laughlandishments
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Fri, 2008-04-25 19:33.
Beware! In the current political climate, the crime of textual harassment appears to be a distinct possibility.
Submitted by Sagunto on Fri, 2008-04-25 19:02.
There you go again, messing up my sharp dissection of Laughlandish columnism, with pictorial distractions, though I must say, this one is almost on target, but fair? Perhaps.
I'd say it's even more fair to go for "The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks" (1924)-esque
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Fri, 2008-04-25 18:41.
Perhaps potemkin-esque would be a fair description. How say you?
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Fri, 2008-04-25 18:34.
In other words, you agree with me that your question to oiznop was meaningless, unless you put the question in context. Thank you.
Political satire from Mother Russia
Submitted by Sagunto on Fri, 2008-04-25 18:28.
This is a funny piece indeed.
What about these two astute observations from the author, expounding with sophistication some sort of "tourist view" of globalized politics.
- "..The sense of anarchy is increased by the city’s appalling traffic jams. Although the metro is so good, Muscovites take to their cars in their hundreds of thousands. Perhaps they regard it as a status symbol to drive rather than to use public transport.."
Perhaps they do, perhaps they don't. Could it be they don't like public transport for just the same reasons everyone else doesn't really like it? The car is among the few places were people can have a few moments for themselves. In that sense, it's just a moving toilet.
- "..you now seem to find more Russian tourists in fashionable beach resorts around the world than Germans. Any talk of political dictatorship in such conditions of vast economic expansion is simply ridiculous.."
What is this, Lonely Planet turns political?
So one visits the Russian city-showcase, and is struck with impressions of luxury and so deep did the author probe into daily Russian life, that he didn't forget to mention the mother of all Russian clichés: the wonderful metro system.
But then, just when you start to think it might be a nice idea to visit Moscva yourself, this piece of shiny happy "couleur locale" suddendly reveals itself as an ambitious attempt at international policital analysis.
I mean really, the step from interesting beach observations to apodictical statements about the impossibility of some form of political dictatorship.. that's more than the proverbial leap of faith. It's satire.
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Fri, 2008-04-25 17:34.
Perhaps I might be allowed to ask you a (two part) question.
1 Which country do you trust most, and which least?
France? Iraq? Mexico?
2 Doesn't your answer largely depend upon what it is I am asking
you to trust them with or trust them about?
Submitted by Armor on Fri, 2008-04-25 18:26.
I don't expect Mexico and Iraq to behave better than France, but I don't care, as my problems only come from France. For Americans, trouble mainly comes from their own government, from Mexico and from Iraq. I don't think they should expect much trouble from Russia.
An interesting question: If China decides to invade Russia, will the USA take sides? (I don't think it is going to happen, as Russia has nuclear weapons).
What is "love"?
Submitted by marcfrans on Fri, 2008-04-25 16:01.
About a week ago, various media reported that a Russian publication had claimed that Putin was going to marry a 'young' female athlete. The next day, the publication 'disappeared' or ceased to exist. And Mr laughland thinks that Russia is "a little more like Canada than the Unites States...but still far too large to be an ordinary European state"? It is debatable as to who should be most offended by those silly comparisons: Canadians, Americans, or Europeans? In any case, no one has to fear the size of Canada.
What should NOT be debatable is that one should be wary of naive westerners who do not know themselves very well, but who want to "love" others.
The Iranian connection
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Fri, 2008-04-25 15:57.
With friends like this, and a history like that, who needs Canada?
Not to throw a wrench into all of his rosiness, but......
Submitted by oiznop on Fri, 2008-04-25 14:48.
...I thought the average life span for Russians was 60 years????......I thought the population was shrinking at alarming proportions, thus leading to the government to offfer incentives to women to pop out more babies????.....I thought that Russia, like Western Europe was having an Islam problem???....What's the real story, here?....Can someone shead some light on what's really going on, because I am confused. Also, Russia still scares me. As long as Putin (ex-KGB) is still around, Russia will always scare me. I don't trust them, especially when it comes to embracing Iran under it's current regime. I sincerely hope we in the U.S. have a close eye on Russia, closer than during the cold war.
Who can you trust nowadays?
Submitted by Armor on Fri, 2008-04-25 17:02.
oiznop says: " Russia will always scare me. I don't trust them "
So, what country do you trust?
France? Iraq? Mexico?
Marcfrans said: " one should be wary of naive westerners (...) who want to "love" others."
It is a self-description of Marcfrans!
I am wary of you too.
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Fri, 2008-04-25 11:21.
Walter Duranty? More like Jimmy Durante, I'd say...
"The Cuban Love Song" (1931), with Lawrence Tibett singing the title song, and Jimmy Carter, in a supporting role, singing " El Manicero". (The Peanut Vendor).
Russia doing better
Submitted by Armor on Fri, 2008-04-25 12:25.
it's great that life is getting better in Russia.
Russia, a possible ally
Submitted by Thomas Landen on Fri, 2008-04-25 10:06.
Russia's Christian heritage makes it a possible ally against Muslim expansion.
Submitted by Ritvars on Fri, 2008-04-25 09:29.
Another fellow-traveller describes his joys in the Workers' Paradise. Walter Duranty of today.
Makes you wonder why those pesky Eastern Europeans
Submitted by Rob the Ugly American on Fri, 2008-04-25 06:59.
ever wanted to leave. Or why Russia's neighbors are so keen to get protection from Russia by joining NATO (who needs protection from a country that's just like Canada?).
Besides, property rights are overrated. But the boomerang is already coming round, as Russian oil production is beginning to fall off a cliff, and when the oil runs out...
Submitted by gavster33 on Fri, 2008-04-25 05:02.
"...they come every minute with the absolute regularity of a Swiss clock. The sense of anarchy is increased..."
Ah yes, the famous ambivalence that Russia provokes.
Otherwise, Laughland's cringeing "respectful attitude that we must work hard to develop" sounds like the old-school Foreign & Commonwealth Office at its worst. If those pesky Georgians would only know their place. In fact, why not give Russia back all the other bits of the old Soviet Union too? You knew where you were in them days.
Back in the (former) USSR
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Thu, 2008-04-24 18:16.
(She loves me) yeah, yeah, yeah ...
Or, we could just be honest with ourselves and admit that, whether we like it or not, we'll be forced to view Russia as a 'friend' due to our ever increasing dependency on her vast energy reserves.