Thanks for Noticing

It’s not the war that’s causing this. Russia has been a neoliberal post-nation open-border state for years now. And that’s what caused the war. But thanks for noticing.

On the Spot

I get my gift for coming up with beautifully sounding, coherent and impressive bureaucratic narratives on the spot from my Dad.

Once back in the USSR, his friend Zhanna came by, complaining that she needed to write the annual report for her Komsomol organization. Zhanna was a speech therapist, and known for not being very bright.

“It will take me weeks,” she complained. “I’ll never do it on time.”

“Ah, come on,” said my Dad. “This is nothing to worry about. Sit down and write.”

And he dictated a 30-minute report for her right there. Zhanna was stunned and grateful.

The next day, my grandfather who worked at the same clinic as Zhanna dropped by for a visit.

“You guys always say that Zhanna is dumb,” he said, “but today I listened to the annual Komsomol report she wrote, and it was brilliant. She made something boring sound almost fun. Who knew she was a talented writer.”

“Funny you don’t recognize your own son’s writing style,” my Dad laughed.

Intellectual Circles in Russia

So what are the Russian cultural elites doing now if they aren’t working on the much needed narrative for the Russian future?

The best among them joined the Ukrainian cause and are trying to contribute to the Ukrainian narrative. These are really smart, talented people but they see no future for Russia at all and have directed their energies elsewhere.

The second best also tried to join the Ukrainian cause but felt that they weren’t celebrated and coddled enough, so they began to pout. Their hope is that the Putin regime will fall, and they’ll take power. Unfortunately, they aren’t preparing any ideas or any program of action for when that happens because pouting takes too much time.

In Russian intellectual circles, there are now hostilities between the Party of the Pout and those who are trying to explain to them that the pose of a precious snowflake isn’t looking good at this point in time.

Confused Green

Wait, wasn’t this fellow in the Green Party? And as such, shouldn’t he have something to say about the ecological catastrophe Russia has caused with its war? And shouldn’t he be upset with Russia in general for its love affair with fossil fuels?

I understand that the Greens welcome genocide because they want to reduce population but shouldn’t they at least care about nature and dislike fossil fuels?

I’m also kind of surprised that he hasn’t noticed how whites in Russia completely dominate the non-whites. Looking to Russia for an anti-white revolt is… a very inventive thing to do even for a Green.

Need for a Narrative

Look at Britain and Spain. Both lost enormous empires and both got over it. OK, Spain had to fight a civil war to figure out its post-imperial identity. But Britain is amazing. Shed the empire, shrank to a small island, but still a clear leader in the world.

Russia never found a way to explain its history to itself in a productive way. After the fall of the USSR, people were desperate for an explanation of what happened. Why has our history been so shitty? Why are we in such deep excrement while everybody else who matters is doing great? There needed to be a story, a narrative explaining things.

It was easier for Ukraine and the Baltics because they could always say, “we were conquered and dominated. This is not our fault.” But Russia couldn’t say that.

The explanation that arose in the aftermath of the USSR’s collapse was “we are bad, we are inferior, that’s why we are in this bad place.” But that’s unsustainable. Nobody can live with the consciousness of inferiority and feelings of irredeemable guilt. In the absence of a future-oriented, positive narrative, Russia slid into the persecution fantasy of “the West keeps us down on purpose because it hates us.” And that led where we all can see right now.

This is an enormous failure of the Russian cultural elites. It’s their job to come up with stories that are palatable to the people. In Spain there was a whole cultural movement trying to figure out the post-imperial identity after the disaster of 1898. In Ukraine right now, the leading thinkers, philosophers, professors get together to figure out an identity for Ukraine that’s not rooted in victimhood. Yes, we all wish they’d done it back in 1991 but these people were all in high school back then. And those who were of age snoozed on the job.

Germany after WWII, the same thing. Writers, philosophers, thinkers coming up with a narrative that doesn’t deny responsibility but helps people look forward in positive ways. Obviously, Germany has problems but they are in a different galaxy from Russia’s. It’s doable. But only when somebody stops pouting and starts doing.

Wealth of Riches

When the USSR fell apart, there were so many opportunities. You could go anywhere, do anything, learn, make money. Everything was brand-new and there for the taking. My father was so into it, he glowed like an incandescent lightbulb. I loved it, too.

Most people didn’t glow, however. They pouted. Everything was too open, too confusing. Nobody was taking care of them, treating them special. It’s been 30+ years and many of them are still pouting. Or their children are pouting.

The same thing is happening right now on many levels. The world order we’ve been used to fell apart. Opportunities are coming out of every crack. But there are people, political parties, countries, and even entire regions that aren’t bending to pick up the riches lying at their feet. Somebody will pick up the riches, and those who couldn’t have been bothered will start on their usual whine-fest about colonialism, unfair marginalization, cultural appropriation, and all that sad-sack silliness.

I feel duped because I spent 20 years hearing about how Spain is always unfairly marginalized and now I see how doggedly Spain is marginalizing itself. Truly, it takes hard work to be a dedicated loser.

Intellectual Experiment

The article that was accepted for publication was an intellectual challenge type of project. I went into a time period that’s not mine (and is far removed from neoliberalism), choose an unknown writer completely at random, and set out to analyze that writer from a perspective I never tried before.

OK, yes, I did slip in a tiny bit of neoliberalism because I want to be able to enjoy life in any situation but everything else was completely from scratch. I proved to myself that I can do something completely nuts and it still works.

I’m now going to do another project that’s outside of my regular interests. In this one, there will be zero neoliberalism, zero nation-state, and zero from the other counterintuitive article.