Evil vs Evil

On the subject of the so-called protests in Russia.

We all know I hate Putin with the intensity of a hundred vicious suns.

But I’d much rather he stayed as president if the alternative is Navalny. Putin is horrible. He’s debauched, he’s corrupt, he’s disgusting. He’s a globalist.

Navalny is a clean-living family guy. But he’s a neo-Nazi. I know the word had been overused and emptied of all content. But I’m not using it in an American way. I’m using it in a normal way. Once you’ve thrown a few sieg heils, you shouldn’t be an interesting topic of conversation in polite society.

I’m tired of seeing people on Twitter gush over how brave he is. I’m sure that Luftwaffe guys were plenty brave. Let’s pee ourselves with delight over them, too? Francisco Franco was known for his extraordinary bravery. But he was still a vicious dictator and Hitler’s toadie. Bravery in itself isn’t a virtue.

Real life is more complicated than cowboys vs robbers. Sometimes, the guy who opposes an evildoer is evil himself.

52 thoughts on “Evil vs Evil

  1. I’m going to do the unspeakable, because that’s what I do, and mount a partial defense of Franco. It’s not from a position of reaction, but radicalism.

    I’ve always taken the Spanish Civil War as a sort of thought experiment, along with our own Civil War and Revolution.

    1775/76: Rebel or Royalist, or neutral? Not clear to me, based on my current theological and ideological loyalties. I may have left for Canada and remained a British subject.

    1860/61 is easier, because slavery was such an unambiguous evil. But the associated Constitutional issues concerning states rights/nullification/secession and what I am absolutely certain was the true catalyst of the war – whether tariffs and Federal mercantilist trade policy would favor the exporting Northern industrialists or importing agrarian South (note how Lincoln repeatedly said that he did not favor abolition, only the limitation of slavery to existing territory, and wanted to avoid war if he could do it while sustaining the Union).. Fort Sumter was not abandoned and was ground zero for the conflict for a reason: It was the locus of Federal customs enforcement.. Those correct positions on those issues are not clear to me, in fact my sensibilities and sympathies favor the South on them.. But slavery is the propaganda justification – a nearly inescapable one – for the war. That slavery was abolished without war almost everywhere else in the world, almsot doesn’t matter.

    Spain in 1933-36 is very difficult. It is disturbingly like our current circumstances ever more frighteningly seem ..

    What would I have done if I were Basque or Catalan? Would ethnic nationalism have trumped my generally conservative sensibilities? I’m Catholic, but would I have stood by the Republic like Colonel Antonio Escobar Huertas, the conservative monarchist Catholic commanding the Gardia Civil who honored his oath to the Republic and prevented the Nationalists from taking Barcelona, and was later executed by Franco for it?

    I’m a conservative anarchist. I love Orwell.. But the Trotskyites and Stalinists began to subvert the Republic and began murdering one another very early, along with everyone else who stood in the way of their domination and subversion of the Republic.. POUM and the Communists were murdering clergy, burning churches and monasteries and killing monarchists and Catholics from the origin of the conflict ..

    It was an utter nightmare, one that our circumstances are beginning to resonate with, somehow.. The small land owners of the north fell in behind the Carlists, against the secularist plutocratic (“neo liberal” in our terms) Bourbons and Republic, and while their position was quixotic, I have deep sympathy with them.

    And Franco was not in essence a fascist. He was a paternalist, an authoritarian traditionalist, who distrusted, even hated the Falange for being too nihilistic, anti traditional and radical.

    He refused to allow Hitler to take Gibraltar. He refused to join the Axis. This alone changed the course of the war. If he had lost, and the Stalinists had won, Hitler would have invaded, Europe “would have burnt at both ends” as Trotsky wanted, and the Allies would have lost access to the Mediterranean, then probably Egypt, the Suez, Mesopotamia, all the Middle Eastern oil fields, even ultimately perhaps India itself.. The Germans would have come at the Soviet Union through the Caucuses, taken the Tbilisi oil fields, Stalingrad would probably have fallen, and the war almost certainly been lost, and Hitler and the Nazis triumphant.

    Franco let all the true fanatic fascists join the SS Blue Legion, bleeding off the extremists in very literal fashion.

    Franco is of converso descent, like so many other interesting Spaniards, and Hitler (who called him “that little Jew”) would probably have sent him to Auschwitz had he been able.

    Spain was stultified by authoritarianism for forty years, but not to the degree it would have been under Stalin’s lackeys or Nazi occupation. In fact, one of Franco’s worst consequences was the Opus Dei economic technocratic preparation for neoliberalism after the end of the regime.. Just like Pinochet’s Chicago Boys (University of Chicago Milton Freidman trained economists) did in Chile..

    A lot of people called Trump a fascist. That was absurd. But he may be preparatory to a fascism.. Of either rightwing or leftist inflection. We may be very lucky if it is “mild” as Franco’s species was, very lucky indeed.

    So, I’m not excusing Franco. But I’m in no rush to condemn him, either. Just like with Rochester locking Berta in the attic, I think there’s context and history to consider that may explain – not excuse, explain – his crimes, excesses and obscenity.

    What do you think? Where would you have stood, and why? Is what I’m saying absurdly offensive, and if so, how come?

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    1. No, I actually don’t disagree with you at all. Spain was too radicalized for the reasonable pro-democracy option to gain much traction. My position in the civil war Spain would be what Paul Preston, the great historian, called “the third Spain.” Reasonable, peaceful people who were repelled by both extreme factions. I probably would have exiled.

      Unfortunately, when a country gets too radicalized and splits into two extreme factions, it’s all hopeless until people play out their madness and recoil from the idiocy they have engaged in. Or their grandparents engaged in because the awakening usually takes a couple of generations.

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      1. Yeah. But in our present situation there is probably nowhere to go. Nowhere to flee in exile. What then are we going to do?

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  2. Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationships with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have lost contact with their fellow men* as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.

    Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

    Masks are useless. You now must wear masks. The Russians subverted our elections. This last election was completely kosher, the idea of election fraud is totally absurd.

    We’re already in Hannah Ardent’s world, here, now, in this country today.

    Something wicked this way comes. Our very own American Franco is probably not that far away. If he turns out to be like Francisco, we’ll be getting off very easily.

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  3. Putin’s worst crime is not corruption but attacking Ukraine, killing thousands of Ukrainians and Russians. I cannot see how (relatively?) pro-Western Navalny would support LNR and DNR abominations. If he would stop the war, isn’t it the most important thing, especially to an Ukrainian patriot like you?

    Do you truly believe Navalny would implement neo-Nazi policies, if chosen to be a president? His supporters are mainly young, pro-Western Russians who want democratic reforms.

    I do not believe he would start persecuting Russian Jews. As for people from former FSU republics currently flooding Moscow, being not a globalist entails closing borders. You have been repeating yourself that actions count, not words, telling everyone to ignore Trump’s tweets. Why not ignore Navalny’s rhetorical flourishes as well? They may be worse than Trump’s, but Russia is in much worse position than USA.

    “Putin is horrible. He’s debauched, he’s corrupt, he’s disgusting. He’s a globalist.”

    The last sentence is 🙂 🙂

    Can one find a single non-globalist in a senior political position anywhere? I am unsure about where Israel with Benjamin Netanyahu stands on this issue, but in USA and EU nnon-globalists seem thin on the ground. 🙂

    Funny how the one country I am unsure about is my own … that I am interested in the most. Could we stand aside from this at all because of Israel’s youth and geographical situation?

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    1. That’s precisely the thing. Navalny doesn’t criticize Putin for invading other countries. Do you know what his position was when Russia invaded Georgia? “Bomb those n…..s to the ground!” He thinks there are too few invasions, not too many. His only criticism of Putin is that the guy has luxurious palaces. That’s all he objects to. He’s opposed to Russia returning the Crimea. The guys who went to fight in DNR – the Russian far right whom Putin betrayed – are Navalny’s supporters.

      How Navalny is pro-Western is hard to figure out either.

      I think Navalny would be worse because his election would give the West an excuse once again to say, “OK, democracy triumphed in Russia” and then spend the next 20 years studiously not noticing what’s going on.

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  4. Navalny is “opposed to Russia returning the Crimea” since most Russians are against this. As a politician, Navalny cannot afford to push away many of his supporters and strengthen Putin’s propaganda against N’s movement.

    While we’re talking about the less ideal sides of Navalny, Putin’s schools are returning to FSU era or / and moving closer to the wokest USA schools . Instead of US diversity experts, they’ll have pro-Putin ones:

    В дополнение к директору, завучу, классным руководителям и обычным учителям, которые и так каждый день ведут идеологическую обработку неблагонадёжных подростков, школам приказано нанять политруков. Официально они будут называться “советниками директора школы по воспитанию и работе с детскими объединениями”.

    Советникам предстоит интегрировать детей “в общественно значимые мероприятия через повестку разнообразных детских объединений”, продолжает госпожа Плещева, причем специальное внимание должно уделяться молодым людям, которых когда-либо задерживали на несанкционированных акциях: “Нужно, чтобы они не чувствовали злобу или что они покинуты. Их надо интегрировать в те же проекты РДШ”.

    https://varlamov.ru/4180306.html

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  5. “Navalny is “opposed to Russia returning the Crimea” since most Russians are against this. ”

    Forgot to add that I still don’t think he would send soldiers and weapons to Donbass like Putin. It is a different issue from returning Crimea imo.

    I also remember Navalny saying something pro-Ukraine recently, but cannot find the info now.

    Btw, three Ns exist on your blog now: your husband, Navalny and Netanuyahu. 🙂

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  6. Muammar Gaddafi was a strongman in Libya whose domestic authoritarianism and corruption was despised by many. He was removed by the US, followed by economic & societal collapse, civil war, the murder of many of the peopel who complained about Gaddafi, and the raiding of national resources by foreign actors. Today, slaves are sold on the street of the capital.

    Putin serves the same function for Russia. Whatever wrong he does domestically is stable and generally unaffected by the same foreign forces that destroyed and extracted. Removing him abruptly would result in monumental misery.

    As for this Navalny person and his Nazism, well, since Nazism expands internationally (usually through war) and suppresses/liquidates everything from the economy to the population domestically, it would probably be best if he were kept in prison until an opposition leader who wouldn’t drag the whole region into war and misery rises to present Russia with a viable alternative.

    Plus, I am pretty confident that Navalny poisoned himself more than he meant to and so can very nicely stay in a cell like the troublemaker he is.

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    1. I absolutely agree that nobody from the outside should try to effect a regime change in Russia. The Russian people need to figure this shit out.

      I also pray that Biden doesn’t cave on Nordstream 2 but he probably will because destroying the US energy independence is his whole agenda.

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      1. Absolutely, and since the Russian civilisation is arguably the most politically advanced of all developed societies with, imo, probably the most experienced population as well, the sooner they figure it out and take a leadership position (by example), the better for the rest of the world.

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        1. How is it the most politically advanced? They’ve been waiting for the good tsar for a thousand years, oscillating between adoring or detesting the tsar of the moment. There are no political institutions. There have never been any functioning political parties. It’s all one big oprichnina, in place since the middle ages.

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          1. Russia is a very old civilisation that has experienced pretty much all of what the rest of the world is experiencing now for the first time.

            That experience extends to the Russian people who within living memory have been invaded, experienced the trauma of lost family, communism, social/economic collapse, naked predatory oligarchy, national humiliation, transition to (controlled) capitalism etc which in turn makes the average middle aged Russian much more sophisticated than the average Westerner (who thinks that their nation is the most advanced).

            The kind of propaganda that has practically felled the West would probably be laughed at by most of Russia for its childishness, while from what I understand, most people in Russia are clever enough to see the EU for the dictatorship that many Europeans still can’t see it as being even though they’re inside of it or trying to join it like the North Macedonians. Unlike most of the Middle East, Indonesia etc Russia hasn’t suffered the stagnation that has sadly befallen most Islamic nations as a result of the religion.

            Education in Russia is actually intended to teach people things worth knowing, while companies in Russia are actually expected to make something worth buying, unlike an enormous portion of the US economy (especially in the financial sector, but in the weapons and other industry as well) which is more like a confederation of companies engaged in make work operations that really just raid the US Treasury. The Russians aren’t doing a bad job of it either, unlike, say, those in the former Yugoslavia who fell flat on their faces when they had to compete with capitalists for the first time.

            The way Russian society began and merged several hundreds of years ago is well suited for future political advancement, since the different Russian peoples/tribes operated independently alongside each other while respecting and not impinging upon each others territories, which is in stark contrast to the conquerors and colonialists of the West.

            Of all the nations of the world, Russia is the most mature and well grounded, governmentally and population wise, and most able to make the jump towards something closer to the Swiss model of distributed decision making/responsibility (although probably not direct democracy) without having to be invaded and rearranged first by a fat little Frenchman. Nor is it at any particular risk of trying to mature too fast and devolving into a naked dictatorship like the EU, since Russia was already in that state and is slowly moving away from that.

            Nations like the US, UK, Canada, Australia etc are materially wealthier obviously but they’re still highly centralised and in no way fit to jump to the more advanced, resilient distributed model. Centralised models, even when they grow very large, are really at the first stage of what groups do as they complex. Centralised power is simple and easy. Spreading power and decision making out the way Russia has and sustained for so long is much more difficult and is the next stage in how those systems evolve.

            The US is probably in the worst shape of all in that regard imo because the geniuses who set the republic up actually chose a model that they knew collapsed under its own weight, which the US is now doing. Heavily centralised communist China looks like it’s going great but we all know how the communism story ends, while Chinese demographics point to national decline rather than progress.

            Anyway just to be clear I don’t expect that Russian society and government will transform overnight into a smoothly operating liberal democracy or something, or even think that it is a particularly good place, but whatever it does do after Putin will probably be sensible, sober, and generally to the positive that long term will be emulated by everyone else at some stage later on because they’re the farthest ahead.

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            1. Yeah, trauma doesn’t naturally lead to wisdom.

              I’ve met a russian guy a few years back, someone you’d place in middle class in most other countries. He used to be an auditor of local branches for a national credit service, and apparently, the typical experience was for them to have devolved into a money-laundering operations for a local strongman, and he’d be threatened by violence if he tried to do anything at all. Hell, it was a typical experience for him to expect violence on his way to the garage for his car. He wasn’t terribly shocked by any of this, these were typical experiences for him and everybody he knew. Works in software development now, good guy.

              Russian people can be warm, bombastic, loud in the best of ways, they’ve been some of my favourite people in my life. But if you’re saying that Russia has a sociopolitical model that’s worth emulating, or are close to developing one, you’re off your fucking rocker.

              You seem intimately familiar with how the ugly end of the american system works, and I’m more than ready to trust your word on that, but even in your recollections, it seems like there’s a lot of roundabout institutional hullabaloo before a problem person can be punished. In Russia, it just goes.

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              1. No, I think he’s saying that Russia, of all the large countries in the world, is best positioned to make the jump to something other than a centralized tyranny. Eventually.

                The rest of us are running headlong toward despotism with all our might. It’s probably the only thing we are capable of.

                I don’t think he’s wrong.

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              2. The desire for something other than tyranny has to come from somewhere. I want only the best for Russia because my child is half-Russian and I want her to have a culture that she can be proud of. But I’m not seeing anything but cynicism, materialism, debauchery, emptiness – unfortunately, that’s all there is. Not even any literature for a long, long time. In half a century nobody wrote anything that could be called literature. It’s sad. A spiritually barren place.

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              3. @ methylethyl: Thankyou 🙂 In a paragraph, you said it. Of all the decent sized nations of the world, Russia is the one in which the most preconditions exist for a move towards decentralised (or less centralised) decision making to occur.

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              4. You mean they are going to split into many different little states? The terror of that happening is why Putin is in power. That’s a huge existential fear for them. I’m not seeing how it would be a good thing either. It will lead to chaos and civil wars.

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              5. “You mean they are going to split into many different little states? The terror of that happening is why Putin is in power. That’s a huge existential fear for them. I’m not seeing how it would be a good thing either. It will lead to chaos and civil wars.”

                No that isn’t what I mean. Also I have never heard of this Karlin person that you have mentioned.

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            2. Russia is incredibly centralised. Just look at the population of Moscow compared to any other city. In fact I think it would be fair to call Russia the empire of Moscow.

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              1. ” Russia the empire of Moscow”

                What’s weird aren’t the changes but the continuity between the Tsars Soviets and post-Soviets…. same social and government model just different labels.
                There are lots of wonderful Russian individuals but their social structures are basically awful.

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              2. Exactly. The society is deeply, deeply wounded. The drug addiction rates among the young, starting with little kids,are terrifying. 2% of people actually observe a religion. The Orthodox Church hosts sex orgies in the largest cathedral of the country. Abortion rates are insanely high.

                Where do people get all these rosy pictures of Russia? We are talking about people who, outside of the tiniest minority, still don’t understand why a father having sex with an underage daughter or parents beating children to a bloody pulp is a problem. Wife-beating has been legalized. Mass migration and open borders have elevated rape stats into the stratosphere. Try finding a woman in Russia who never experienced sexual assault. You’ll be looking until forever.

                This is what happens when you take away religion, culture and everything that’s not strictly physiological enjoyment of life. There’s nothing cute about it.

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              3. Ukraine has all the same problems by the way. I’m not being patriotic here. It’s the legacy of the USSR. It’s not going away soon.

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              4. Also, yes, US has problems. Many problems. But compared to what there is in the post-Soviet space, this is an absolute heaven on earth.

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              5. Yes, it’s Moscow where everything is and the rest of the enormous territory is dying or being overrun by China. The hatred of Moscow within the country is intense. I once said that my husband was from Moscow and it was mortal offence because he’s from Greater Moscow not the actual Moscow and people who aren’t from the actual Moscow detest the bastards from Moscow. Even the accent is different. I don’t think I’d be able to live with my husband if he had the Moscow accent.

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            3. This is honestly the strangest take I ever read. There wasn’t even any literature in Russia until the 18th century when in Spain they already had a world-famous literature centuries earlier.

              There is no economy save for the oil and natural gas. Everything is imported. There is currently no art, no literature, no media. There’s just propaganda and of the really primitive silly kind. 20% of people don’t have running water or indoor plumbing. The country is dying out from drug addiction and alcoholism.

              In short, could you share your sources for this beautiful vision that you presented?

              God, I hope it’s not that Karlin creep who persecutes me everywhere.

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              1. On the other hand, you could look at it more as… most countries in the West have peaked, politically and culturally. Nowhere to go but down, now. Russia’s already hit bottom, and looks like maybe it’s on the geologically slow trek upward. I don’t expect it to turn into a shining beacon of humane government and city-on-a-hill culture in my lifetime, but I reckon they’ll get there while the West is still muddling through its impending dark age.

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              2. @ Clarissa:

                I’ll try it this way (I’m typing fast so please be forgiving):

                Imagine two extremes and then see which countries fit where on a scale.

                On one end of the scale, a society at its least developed is just a mass of human beings who are totally unconnected to each other, who have never met, who are scattered everywhere on the planet, who all speak different languages, and not similar to each other in any way ie totally incompatible.

                On the opposite end, a society at its most developed is where every individual speaks the same language, are similar in their thoughts, feelings, morals, ethics, mentality etc who all participate in governing everything by direct democracy etc.

                For the first society to eventually evolve into the final kind, it has to go through stages. First, the individuals have to meet each other, develop language, form lasting family units etc and then those family units have to compatibly make friends with other family groups to form a community etc then finally one day when the group is big enough choose a tribal chief or headman – which is the first important stage of development.

                The next stage would be that different community tribal chiefs make friends with other tribal chiefs to form larger regional communities etc on and on until you end up with a hierarchy that goes from the least in society to the elite of the society, where power, wealth, participation etc are concentrated at the top.

                The emergence of pyramidal hierarchical structures happens spontaneously in all human systems because it is by far the most efficient and most robust kind of organisation in a low technology environment. It isn’t a coincidence that mafias and armies have this kind of structure.

                Most societies get stuck at this stage and fall apart, either because they try to keep on growing a bit like a ponzi scheme has to (which happened to the Romans and is happening the the US), or because the elite fails to serve the rest of the society and they fall apart from within (which happened to lots of nations, notably the French).

                For a society to get to the next stage where the pyramid flattens out so that people towards the bottom can actually participate meaningfully and share power so that they can move on to the still next stage where hierarchies dissolve, certain preconditions have to be met so that the society doesn’t fall into any of the pitfalls that tear them apart. The institutions within that nation have to be mature, so that they can’t be as easily infiltrated and destroyed. Citizens need a certain amount of experience so that they aren’t easily perverted, radicalised etc. The governing class needs time to set up laws, rules, regulations, ordinances etc that fit together reasonably well, and practice using them etc. And the people there have to want a better life that doesn’t involve repeating things taht went wrong in the past.

                Switzerland was in a way quite lucky and practically achieved the above because it was invaded by a superior military power and rearranged, so that its confederation could mature and blossom into a (mostly) direct democracy throughout the cantons, and is practically the only nation that has done so. They’ve sadly joined the EU and are having their liberties chewed up/regressing as we speak.

                Some small (village sized) portions of South America have turned away from their own governments (after realising that they were not competent to govern and full of criminals anyway) to become self governing communities, but they’re not of the scale that we’re talking about so we can ignore them. Pretty much no one else has done anything like it.

                Anyway with this understanding in mind, look at each major power and place them on a scale. Which is the most developed. It can’t be China. They’re stuck in a centralised gangsterish nightmare called communism. Vietnam, same. Myanmar just fell to a military junta so forget them since it doesn’t get any more centralised than the military. Thailand, stuck in monarchy, distracted by bargirls. Brunei, monarchy and Islam double whammy, so they’re stuck. Malaysia, hamstrung by Islam, dominated by elite who aren’t giving up power anytime soon.

                It can’t be the UK that is the most developed, since they’re led by a degraded central figurehead trotting alongside an equally degraded parliamentary monarchy. The elite of that country aren’t fit to make the jump to power sharing. If anything they’ll hollow the country out until it fails. If anything the UK will go backward as Scotland and Ireland peel away, so they’re going backwards on the scale not forwards. Canada is pretty much a resource colony with a centralised colonial administration lording it over everyone else. Australia is similar to Canada, as is New Zealand.

                The Turks were on the right path once as a very old civilisation and might have gotten there if they hadn’t become an empire, been torn apart, and then lately thrown into an Islamic quagmire by Erdogan. Same with most of the Middle East. Latin America has that little cancerous tumour called Cuba constantly feeding it ideological poison and interferers from one side, while the US to the North destabilises and strip mines it. So that part of the world isn’t evolving anywhere good anytime soon.

                The Balkans aren’t anything good civilisationally either. To the North and center they’ve been sucked into EU tyranny. In the West Albania is a full blown narco state, which by definition is centralised around the drug mafia. Bulgaria swapped one group of overlords for another when it joined the EU and is generally going backwards as its population shrinks, but things could get much better there in a hurry if/when the EU comes apart. Time will tell.

                In the South modern Greece is too dysfunctional and has problems with geography, but was on the right path a few hundred years ago. It’s one of the few nations that is similar to Russia in its origins, as evidenced by ancient Greece being a region separated into city states. But anyway forget that part of the world, they’re all stuck in an early stage.

                Africa, forget it. The place is a disaster.

                Then there’s Russia. Based on my reading/understanding from many sources but correct me if you feel like it: Is it liable to fall to communism? No. Liable to fall to Islam or any other constraining religion? No. Is it centralising or decentralising? Probably neither, which in todays world is amazing. Population vulnerable to propaganda? Not really compared to the West. Are the people hardy or soft? Tend to the hardy. Education good or bad? Good. Mentality of population progressed or backward? Generally progressed/stable mentality. Economic fundamentals good or bad? Generally good. Resource rich and high technology. Could the nation sustain itself in isolation if it had to? Yes. Vulnerable to military takeover? No. Is the nation seeking to expand/tend toward military adventurism? No. Demographic shift good or bad? So so. Not as bad as China, not as good as India. Do the people want a better life and likely to avoid mistakes of the past more than others? Yes.

                So of all of the larger nations, the one that is the most robust politically, experienced, with a generally resilient population and likely to actually take steps towards flattening its power pyramid and sharing power/responsibility among more people/entities at some point in future is Russia.

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              3. I like the base political anthropology, but the evaluation of Russia on all those axes seems entirely off to me both on its own, and especially when in relation to your evaluation of what discounts other countries. Canada is a resource colony, but the mentality of Russia is progressed/stable? The EU is tyrannical, but Russia is not prone to expansionism or military adventures?

                I can see how a person would think one or the other, but the fact that those beliefs are at home in the same head genuinely baffles me.

                Russia’s an expansionist empire on the decline, its current elite composed of kleptocratic families raiding whatever institution they can reach for loot, sulking at the days of their lost glory. It would be downright wonderful to see a transformation to something away from that, but as is, your vision of Russia as the last best hope of a functioning democracy is just more likely to garner support for “temporary” and “necessary” practices that do little else but further degradation of humanity there or in the countries unfortunate enough to be its neighbours.

                More broadly, it’s strange to see the vast capacity for change you assign to Russia while the rest of the world is consigned to developing along the lines of their extrapolated currently dominant trends.

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              4. I’m with DWeird. He’s spot on. And he knows this subject, too.

                I’d really love to see something good happening in Russia. But currently there’s nothing to give rise to any optimism. It’s sad. But it’s true.

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              5. “I like the base political anthropology, but the evaluation of Russia on all those axes seems entirely off to me both on its own, and especially when in relation to your evaluation of what discounts other countries.”

                I’ll explain as we go.

                “Canada is a resource colony, but the mentality of Russia is progressed/stable?”

                Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, being Commonwealth nations that have benefitted greatly from primary/extractive industries, all have populations in which a sizeable or even majority portion has regressed towards being both child like and subservient to a nanny government. The level of entitlement and detachment from reality in the population that has been produced over teh course of these past few decades of plenty is downright frightening. Anyone who thinks that that kind of thinking is progressive or stable has serious thinking problems imo.

                The reason that I said that the Russians have progressive/stable thinking is because harsh economic conditions and a lack of excess meant that their thinking is more closely aligned to actual reality. There isn’t a stream of endless money raining down on Russia that would allow its citizens to turn into the kinds of complete idiots who inhabit the aforementioned nations. Anyone whose thinking is realistic is progressive, because human beings are progressive creatures.

                “The EU is tyrannical, but Russia is not prone to expansionism or military adventures?”

                Yes, the EU is absolutely tyrannical, because it is headed by a bunch of unelected unaccountable bureaucrats that practically no one has ever heard of who sit in Brussels writing laws that no one asked for amidst reports about nation states being a “failed experiment” and demanding that each of the nations full of people that did not vote for them furnish them with an EU army.

                Also, as per the evidence, no, I don’t think that modern Russia is prone to expansionism. The invasion of Afghanistan in the 80s is something that I would attribute to communism, while the absorption of Crimea had to do with survival. It was a reaction.

                “I can see how a person would think one or the other, but the fact that those beliefs are at home in the same head genuinely baffles me.”

                I have lots of room for ideas because my head is quite big.

                “Russia’s an expansionist empire on the decline, its current elite composed of kleptocratic families raiding whatever institution they can reach for loot, sulking at the days of their lost glory.”

                Empire? Russia? I don’t think so. Although I agree about the kleptocrats.

                “It would be downright wonderful to see a transformation to something away from that, but as is, your vision of Russia as the last best hope of a functioning democracy is just more likely to garner support for “temporary” and “necessary” practices that do little else but further degradation of humanity there or in the countries unfortunate enough to be its neighbours.”

                Look I don’t know if everyone has developed some kind of reading comprehension problem today, but I will say again that I don’t have a vision of anything or think that Russia is the last best hope for a functioning democracy. I simply think that it has the greatest number of preconditions met for a good move to the positive in that kind of direction of all of the large developed nations.

                And besides, honestly, is it really so hard to believe that Russia at least has a chance of something different happening compared to what is happening in the West? Even a blind person should be able to see that an authoritarian surveillance state is being erected around all of us, and so it isn’t like the Russians would have achieve terribly much to outdo everyone in the West. All they’d have to do is nothing at all and they’d end up ahead.

                “More broadly, it’s strange to see the vast capacity for change you assign to Russia while the rest of the world is consigned to developing along the lines of their extrapolated currently dominant trends.”

                Why is it strange. It’s a huge country with high levels of education, high technology, a lot of relevant experience in living memory, a stable government, enormous reserves of natural resources, and a shared border with what is about to become the worlds largest economy.

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  7. “Russia’s already hit bottom, and looks like maybe it’s on the geologically slow trek upward”

    Where on Earth do you get that idea? As much as a trek upward (even an extremely slow one) would be insanely welcome…. the data is… just not there.
    Ukraine has made a step forward (tentative and halting and slow… but it’s taken that step that Russia hasn’t)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I freely admit it is a vague impression rather than an informed opinion. From reading American expats like Hal Freeman, and talking to Russian expats and their American spouses at church, I get the impression that while it’s not a great place, and I’d rather live in America, they may be doing some things, like education and medical care, somewhat less dysfunctionally than the US. That seems like a reasonable start at… something. In a couple generations: who knows? Compare this to the US, where education has been going to hell for decades… and now there doesn’t seem much hope of salvaging anything politically, because we’ve had three generations of declining literacy. Where do you even start? We are currently re-tribalizing, and thus losing the capacity to maintain anything like democracy.

      I’m not on board with George’s pipe-dreams of distributed rule without hierarchy. I’m not sure that’s possible. But I find it at least plausible that Russia may be capable of climbing out of its hole, eventually.

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      1. “I’m not on board with George’s pipe-dreams of distributed rule without hierarchy. I’m not sure that’s possible.”

        Hold on. I didn’t say anything about distributed rule without hierarchy. I said (quote): “…likely to actually take steps towards flattening its power pyramid and sharing power/responsibility among more people/entities at some point in future is Russia”.

        In addition, I also mentioned Switzerland, which has a functioning partial direct democracy which basically means lots of referendums.

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      2. I went to the local public library today. The lady at the checkout said, “What I beautiful necklace!” I said “thank you, so kind!”

        Here’s what it would look like in the post-Soviet space. The lady would pretend to not notice me. I’d fume and sniff loudly. She’d mutter “stupid fat cow” and toss the books into my face. I’d say “oh, fuck you, bitch.”

        It’s like that always. Everywhere. You mention healthcare. Imagine going to the hospital and all doctors and nurses are like that. Mean, angry, cruel. Teachers, neighbors, everybody. Took me years after emigration to figure out that people who smile at me and say something nice aren’t mocking me.

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        1. You probably know more about it than I, and certainly things are not good. Still, the Russian ladies I know are careful to file the paperwork and get dual citizenship for their kids, and quick to haul their husbands back to Russia if they need minor surgery or dental work. And since nobody loans them money, they seem to be on a better financial footing than we are, currently, simply because they can’t let their spending outstrip their revenues every year. Clearly you and I are seeing different aspects, and in the end yours may be more relevant. FWIW, all the Russian ladies I know are very assertive, but not mean.

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          1. “FWIW, all the Russian ladies I know are very assertive, but not mean”

            Emigrants are not necessarily representative of the society norm of their home countries. The Russian problem is that the country has no use for people who are both honest and smart. Honest and dumb, Dishonest and Smart and Dishonest and crooked people are can find a niche…. but honest and smart is the cursed combination and those people tend to weed themselves out of the population.

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            1. Oh, we are super sweet to foreigners. But every single time I walk into a gathering of Russian-speaking immigrants, the first comments are always, “you look terrible! Have you gained weight? Have you tried dieting? That’s a weird hairstyle. You look like your kid’s grandma! Did you get this dress from Salvation Army? I wouldn’t pay more than $2 for it.” No exceptions. It’s who we are. But we are super welcoming to foreigners. Proverbially so.

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    2. “Where on Earth do you get that idea? As much as a trek upward (even an extremely slow one) would be insanely welcome…. the data is… just not there.”

      I think that Russia hit rock bottom a little over a decade ago and has been artificially kept there by being virtually locked out of the Western financial system. While practically every other nation on the planet had its economy supercharged with cheap money coming in to fund housing bubbles and consumption, Russia borrowed on international markets at much higher interest rates while being crippled by sanctions out of the EU and US.

      In addition to that, since Russia relies heavily on its energy sector, the fact that Russia didn’t collapse into the same kind of heap that Venezuela did when the bottom fell out of the market in 2008 and again in 2014 suggests that the nation was making progress in other sectors, and that had the energy market not collapsed, Russia might have achieved solid gains overall.

      I’m not an expert or anything but it seems reasonable to me to think that Russia is performing generally well in the given circumstances, and that if sanctions were lifted along with fair access to capital being allowed, things over there would improve rapidly.

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      1. Oh, of course, let’s finance them sending more storm troopers into neighboring countries. Brilliant idea. If only they had more money, like they did between 2000 and 2014 they wouldn’t invest it in invasions. No, they’d start developing their economy. Never worked that way before, absolutely nothing changed, but let’s keep doing the exact same thing and hoping for a different result. That’s a great plan.

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  8. Also, since I haven’t said it before and I don’t want to develop an antagonism with somebody I like: It is a deep pleasure to engage with a point of view that I disagree with so intensely that is so well-considered. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, George, I always look forward to reading your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a nice thing to say, thankyou 🙂

      That said, you needn’t worry about accidentally antagonising or anything like that, since I understand not only that text is a flawed medium but also that ideas are separate to the person with the idea. So, even if the idea is terrible and should be torn apart (or tested), the person is completely apart from that and shouldn’t feel personally attacked in any way.

      I hope lots of people see this post because I’m pretty sure that I’ve accidentally trod on a toe or two here and there with some quickly typed comment.

      Like

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