Led Zeppelin classic’s lyrics fully apply when proclaim that if the wind won't blow, you really shouldn't go. But the wind, the wind of massive historic change that is, is blowing and now is reaching a hurricane strength. It becomes almost a sign of the bad taste to write something on relations between Russia and combined West nowadays, but this issue simply wouldn’t go away. Anyone suggesting otherwise spent last 10 years under some very remote stone and will be lying through the teeth to oneself when denying the obvious fact that combined West is obsessed with all thing Russian and for a bad reason primarily.
Things picked up their pace as of lately in public commentary space, with President of France Emmanuelle Macron officially stating the fact about which I am writing for years now, that the combined West is in a decline and that Russia is, somehow, relevant now because she is getting herself away from the combined West straight into the China’s arms. One of the immediate things which commentariat started to discuss actively is the issue of Russia being a Western, or otherwise, non-Western, country. Someone, recently, paraphrasing late Senator John McCain’s famous, or notorious, ‘Russia is a gas station, masquerading as a country’, came up with this: ‘Russia is a civilization masquerading as a nation.’ McCain’s assertion about gas station has been debunked in the most dramatic fashion, while late Senator was still alive, on a few occasions and someone from Western establishment media universe started to suspect that Senator McCain wasnot exactly fully informed about Russia—a chronic debilitating illness of the Western political class. Surely Russia was not a gas station only, but Civilization?
Late Samuel Huntington came up with a succinct observation: ‘civilization is a culture writ large.’ But what is culture? Well, obviously, having a good taste in Scotch or in cigars can be construed as culture, but, speaking broadly, culture is not just the ability not to fart at the restaurant table or refraining from speaking in worst profanities at the kindergarten “graduation” ceremony. Very often person’s exemplary behavior on public and ability to enjoy finer (and often very expensive) things are misconstrued as a person’s culture, or being cultured, that is. Never mind, that such traits often are exhibited by the low life scambags and sociopaths. Culture, thus, is a behavioral matrix of people, based on their values. Me, not liking Glenlivet 12 or preferring Seiko or Movado watches over some other brands, many of them very good ones, speaks very little about my culture, but me feeling compassion to disabled people, especially children, does. It signals, not some “virtue” but a value person holds dear. Once any person begins to help other people, and starts feeling compassion for less fortunate, and begins to enjoy music of Bach or art by Michelangelo, or Leonardo, one immediately can arrive to some fairly accurate conclusions in regards to values exhibited in this particular matrix. Pay attention, I am talking about a sum of behavioral traits, not just separate ones. After all, Hitler loved music of Wagner and some SS were very sentimental. It is the sum of things which constitute the culture.
Nations and civilizations consist of persons, sometimes very many of them, and the reason those persons do live together and form nations and civilizations, apart from having (required) shared historical experience, are the foundational values which allow one person of the same civilization recognize the other—a cultural code. And here is one which makes Russia different from the West, especially European West, with the United States being somewhat different in its outlook. While the amount of “scholarly” works on Russia in the West is vast, very few of them, including those written by the so called Russians themselves, really get to the bottom of what is the actual difference between modern Russia and the modern West are. I, through my writing both in this blog and in books and articles always stress one of the two major cultural factors—a dramatic difference in historic experiences in warfare between Russia and what we traditionally understand as a combined West. Those experiences are dramatically different and the this difference grows into unbridgeable abyss the more one moves geographically to the West—away from Russia and towards Anglo-Saxon civilizational realm.
The second one is view of the community—no, not in Berdyaev’s sense, which saw Russian salvation only as a whole, community, national that is, not as a personal only salvation. But in an economic sense behind which, in words of Vladimir Timakov, when he speaks about Soviet project, is a very long historic tradition:
Прошло уже почти тридцать лет с тех пор, как советский проект канул в лету, не выдержав испытания временем. Но большинство русских по-прежнему не признаёт справедливым общество, которое делится на «избранных» и «отверженных», и по-прежнему считает, что все люди, независимо от рождения, имеют равные права на богатства родной земли. Что сбережение людей важнее сбережения богатства. Что нельзя повышать уровень жизни одних за счёт унижения других.
Translation: Thirty years passed by since the Soviet project faded in history when failed the test of time. But majority of Russians still does not accept society which stratifies into “elites” and “outcasts” as a just one. Russians still thinks that all people, regardless of birth, have equal rights to the riches of native land. That preservation of people is more important than preservation of wealth. That one cannot live better at the expense of others.
I can totally testify to Timakov’s correctness of a “diagnosis” of Russian culture and her dramatic difference, in this respect, with the nominal West. Even today, when on the surface Russia looks more, way more Western than the West itself. But even today, Russian idea of true economic justice, that everyone has a chance, that everyone has this decent minimum for decent existence, is still there, together with traditional Russian contempt towards excessive wealth and its deliberate showing off, even among younger generation. It is also this idea which, despite all vast efforts of Western propaganda outlets, NGOs and subversive activities, cannot be replaced by Western vision of “justice” removed totally from the key issue of the time into the field of identity, racial and gender, “justice” which is in the foundation of increasing Western degeneracy and loss of the contact with reality. It is also the source of its desperation after numerous failed attempts to “Westernize” Russia in accordance to West’s neo-liberal playbook.
Thus, while sharing some important cultural traits, including in relation to some critical behavioral matrices—and Russians in outlook are very Western—a fundamental, philosophical difference between Russia and West remains and will remain so, because Western project in general reached its natural limits with liberalism, which is in the foundation of modern West, being absolutely inapplicable to Russian historic, geographic and cultural realities. Russians, certainly, absorbed and adapted from the West what they liked, yes, including modernization which had much in common with the West, not least through Marxism—a strictly Western invention. And it seemed, at a time that historic Russia was simply West’s prodigal son (or daughter)—this was a wrong impression. The wind from the West blows and Russia goes as a separate civilization which increasingly is self-aware of own significance. She also holds deep inside something very dear to average Russian soul, what once even silent rebels Strugatsky Brothers plainly expressed in the conclusion to one of the most important Soviet sci-fi novels (followed by Tarkovsky’s movie Stalker)—The Roadside Picnic:
И он уже больше не пытался думать. Он только твердил про себя с отчаянием, как молитву: «Я животное, ты же видишь, я животное. У меня нет слов, меня не научили словам, я не умею думать, эти гады не дали мне научиться думать. Но если ты на самом деле такой… всемогущий, всесильный, всепонимающий… разберись! Загляни в мою душу, я знаю, там есть всё, что тебе надо. Должно быть. Душу-то ведь я никогда и никому не продавал! Она моя, человеческая! Вытяни из меня сам, чего же я хочу, — ведь не может же быть, чтобы я хотел плохого! Будь оно всё проклято, ведь я ничего не могу придумать, кроме этих его слов: “СЧАСТЬЕ ДЛЯ ВСЕХ, ДАРОМ, И ПУСТЬ НИКТО НЕ УЙДЁТ ОБИЖЕННЫЙ!”
Translation: and he wasn’t even trying to think anymore. He was repeating to himself in desperation as a prayer: “I am an animal, you can see that I am an animal. I don’t have words, nobody taught me words, I am unable to think, and those scoundrels didn’t allow me to learn how to think. But if you are really what you are… omnipotent, almighty, all understanding…sort it out! Look into my soul, I know there is everything what you need. It must be there. I never sold my soul to anyone! It is mine, it is human! Get out of it what I really want,--it cannot be that I want anything bad! Damn it all, because I cannot come up with anything but these his words: “Happiness, free, for everyone. And let no one be forgotten.”
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