A Theory That Explains Everything

Kamil Galeev’s best thread so far is here. I call it the best thread among his multitude of amazing, well-informed threads because I never wondered about the causes of the phenomenon that Galeev describes.

This is absolutely true. Post-Soviet people tend to fall massively in love with “THE theory that explains the world.” To a huge degree it’s caused by the complete absence of the Humanities that were eradicated under the Soviets and never recovered. The first taste of a system of ideas makes them fall in love with it so deeply that they become fanatical.

I know how this feels. When I first came to Canada and discovered Hispanic Studies I was so enamored that I’d walk down the street and feel deep compassion for passersby because they weren’t learning about Hispanic Studies. To counteract the dangers of this kind of ideological fanaticism, I became so eclectic that it confuses everybody. Religion, psychoanalysis, theory of neoliberalism, conservatism and neo-Marxism are now my frameworks, and who knows what I’ll find next.

For many post-Soviet people, though, their romance with the single theory of everything never ended.

10 thoughts on “A Theory That Explains Everything

  1. “Post-Soviet people tend to fall massively in love with “THE theory that explains the world.””

    While the cultural profile of Poland favors searching for grand theories, they don’t have the hold on people that Galeev describes for Soviet spaces… maybe that’s because everybody was already familiar with one grand theory of everything in the form of Catholicism so others are just added to an existing base rather than filling an intellectual and/or spiritual void….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Religion, psychoanalysis, theory of neoliberalism, conservatism and neo-Marxism”

    and earlier you wrote (in “War Update”)

    “Ukraine will win. Globalism will lose. The old guard with its ossified ideas will be replaced by people who have new insights.”

    Despite my engagement with the sometimes sinister depths of technological power, I would like to see the above combination of ideas succeed and thrive widely. I think that would be a good development.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It will succeed. But we all need to help. The best way to do that is to defend our brains and our lives from the ideology that the neoliberal globalism tries to implant in us.


      1. Would you consent to being described as a conservative intellectual? Or is that too narrow?


  3. “To counteract the dangers of this kind of ideological fanaticism, I became so eclectic that it confuses everybody. Religion, psychoanalysis, theory of neoliberalism, conservatism and neo-Marxism are now my frameworks, and who knows what I’ll find next.”

    It just feels like you’re ideologically fanatical about a few more things.

    Psychoanalysis: cures all emotional and psychological ills. Cures alcoholism in 3 visits. Everyone is lazy and a victim, so they take antidepressants instead. Clarissa knows how they work better than everyone else, including people with personal experience.


    1. Four visits, not three.

      But I have to say, in the 13 years of blogging I noticed that absolutely nothing gets people as upset as a suggestion that some meds might be unnecessary. It’s as if simply saying it equals to trying to pry the pill bottle out of their hands. Mind you, I haven’t raised the subject of antidepressants in a long time. So who is it that’s obsessed with the topic?


      1. The thing is, I can’t simultaneously respect you and empathize with you as a person, and not feel like you’re casually insulting me to my face with every 15th post or so (it’s a variety of things, not just this specific topic). I’ve learned to not engage. I remind myself this is your blog; it’s a form of therapy for you; you have to put up with tons of political correctness at your job (although the younger me inside says “you’re a humanities professor, what did you expect?”) and you need an outlet, a place to say things that are true that you cannot say in response to the BS at work.

        At the core, it’s all about the ego, and I feel the main reason you constantly put other people down is to make yourself feel good. It just jumps out at me based on many comments you make and seems so obvious based on everything I’ve observed about human psychology in my life. I don’t understand why you need that extra step – you’ve already accomplished remarkable things, while overcoming obstacles and experiencing trauma beyond what most others will.

        I recall an argument of sorts we got into on this blog when you got high from bath salts with THC or something like that. You had an unpleasant experience and used it to yet again emphasize how weak and stupid people who do drugs are, that they choose this stupor over real life. I said that your reaction is atypical and is not what people do marijuana for. I based it on my personal experiences with the drug (very unlike yours), and the experiences of my friends and acquaintances. Most of them have the typical reaction, but there are a few for whom it does not work. You’re one of them. By the way, pot making someone more angry is also atypical.

        You insisted that you were right, that you knew exactly what others experienced and that it was as shitty as the experience you had. What can be the motivation other than badly needing to feel that many other people are extremely stupid?

        Anyway, I’m trying to manage my feelings, and just like with Facebook, the negative emotions outweigh the positive ones. I am too lazy and weak to learn to control my emotions they way you have. The only thing that works for me is disengaging completely – at least you’ll agree it’s better than whining in the comments about my hurt feelings or getting into useless arguments. Let’s see how my willpower fares with that.


        1. Or you could do something more productive and try to figure out why you have such an intense reaction to topics involving mind-altering substances. Forget about me. I’m not important in your life. Here’s an insight that’s begging to be found about you and your life. You’ve got to agree it’s unusual that you remember about my bath time long after I forget. There’s something going on here. Instead of heaping this abuse on yourself, you could look into what’s happening and why. Just a suggestion!


          1. Oh, the comment on THC was an illustration of how you seem to be motivated at times. A more recent example is when some middle-aged woman dumped her husband for a younger man she got horny about (who wasn’t into her to begin with). You posted about how it’s the pre-menopausal hormones and emphasized what an idiot she is. Someone commented along the lines of “why are we even talking about this when men have been doing this for years”, and in my head I said “because it makes Clarissa feel good about herself”, but didn’t post it because that would have been cruel, petty, and most of all pointless.

            The topics that touch me are religion and anti-depressants, and I know exactly why. I started trying to explain, erased 3 paragraphs I’ve written when I realized I would need 30 more at that level of detail. Then I tried to do a short summary and gave up and deleted the long paragraph I wrote, because it would also be only a 10th. So I’m cutting out the religion part and and other explanations (enough toxic stress in my childhood was definitely a necessary component.


            I had a profound existential crisis when I lost faith (or at least my doubts) in early adulthood. I couldn’t stop thinking about death – it was everywhere. It actually is everywhere, but we have psychological mechanisms to prevent us from constantly thinking of our own mortality, and I couldn’t stop. I would pass an old woman on the street, and think that she is me and I am her, that we are separated by mere blinks of time, that tomorrow I will wake up and be her, just like when I close my eyes and recall events from when I was 4 years old, and they feel like yesterday. I was reminded of my own coming death when I passed a dead pigeon on the street, by mentions of deaths in news stories, by reading about a patient asking a doctor “will I die?” – because the honest answer the doctor never gives when the patient is healthy is “yes”.

            I would sob for hours almost daily and not be able to think about anything else. Things that previously brought me joy stopped, because nothing else mattered in comparison and nothing could change reality. I tried reasoning with myself in many ways – that nothing had changed from since that realization, I was just as mortal before I lost my doubts about religion; that I will never not experience not being alive; that it’s pointless to waste precious moments of my life thinking about this instead of living.

            My parents were obviously aware and I discussed it with them. At some point, after a few months of this, I posted about it online on a forum I frequented (where the admin then attached a trigger warning to my post and I’ve learned about trigger warnings), and someone told me I should go talk to my doctor about that.

            Do you know the mind-altering effect anti-depressants had? After a few weeks, I became able to stop those spirals of thinking once they started and I became able to read about people dying without starting them. Things became more like before, although the joy from new clothes, decorating, and other materialistic things never came back.


            An aside on the thinking and the psychoanalysis: it seems it has helped you understand why you feel/react in certain ways, and it’s that understanding that has resolved the issue. At least that’s the cliche. I have done plenty (too much) of thinking about my own feelings and I understand why I am that way, but that doesn’t change them. If only it were so easy! Our brains are plastic; we end up establishing dysfunctional patterns in our neurons over time, and changing them is hard work. We need to force ourselves not to think the same thoughts or make the same conclusions as many times as we have done so in the first place. Perhaps I’m mistaken about how psychoanalysis has helped you – perhaps you also do this work of unthinking the thoughts, and the help you got in understanding why you think/feel in a certain way via analysis has “unlocked” this ability for you.


            1. You can’t psychoanalyze yourself just like you can’t perform a root canal on your own teeth. The insight you believe you gained on your own is your mind’s trick to continue existing without any change.

              “Unthinking thoughts” and “forcing yourself” is the exact opposite of what psychoanalysis does. I won’t say more because I don’t see the point.


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