Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Rage of the Cultural Elites

Yoshitoshi Kanemaki
[По-русски] [En français]

A certain unhappy incident happened to my aunt in the summer of 1966. The Cultural Revolution—a political movement initiated by Mao Zedong—was beginning to engulf the country. That same year many American college students were protesting against the Vietnam War and Leonid Brezhnev was keeping his seat warm as the General Secretary of CPSU, having replaced the somewhat volatile Nikita Khrushchev two years earlier. My aunt was then a freshman studying literature at Fudan University in Shanghai.

It so happened that my aunt, then a sensitive and somewhat dreamy young woman, had stubbornly and haplessly clung to certain musical tastes which at that time in China came to be regarded as politically incorrect, being said, in the trendy ideological jargon of that time, to reflect “decadent bourgeois revisionist aesthetics.” To wit, my aunt had kept in her record collection a rendition of “The Urals Mountain-Ash” (Уральская Рябинушка), a Russian folk song in which a young girl meets two nice boys under a mountain-ash tree and must choose between them, performed by the National Choir of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It was an old-style LP spinning at 78 RPM. It had a red emblem in the middle emblazoned with “CCCP.”

One of my aunt's roommates, who probably had always resented her for one reason or another, found out about it and reported her to the authorities. For this rather serious infraction, student members of the Red Guard made my aunt publicly smash her beloved record, then kneel upon the fragments and recite an apology to Chairman Mao while fellow-students threw trash at her face shouting “Down with Soviet revisionists!” This generation of Chinese young people, who once donned Red Guard uniforms, beat people up around the country and smashed various cultural artifacts, is now mostly living on government pensions or earning meagre profits from home businesses, but some have prospered and can be found among the upper crust of contemporary China’s business, cultural, and political elites.

This episode came to my mind when in the summer of 2014 I came upon video clips of Ukrainian student activists storming university classrooms in mid-lecture and ordering everyone to stand up and sing the Ukrainian national anthem, then forcing the professor to apologize for the lecture not being adequately patriotic. There were also ghastly spectacles of “Enemies of the People” (guilty only of having served under the overthrown president Yanukovich) being paraded around in trash bins. In Ukrainian schools, children were made to jump up and down, and told that “Whoever doesn't jump is a Moscal” (a derogatory term for “Russian”).

Add to this the destruction of public monuments to World War II and the ridiculous rewriting of history (turns out that, during World War II, Germany liberated Ukraine, but then Russia invaded and occupied Germany!) and a complete picture emerges: the Ukrainian Maidan movement is one of a species of “cultural revolution.” The new, fashionable term being thrown around is “civilizational pivot,” but it and the old “cultural revolution” can be understood as approximate synonyms, sharing the need for frenzied spectacles of mass humiliation and destruction.

In 1971 the Vietnam War began to draw toward an agonizing and, from the American government’s point of view, highly unfulfilling conclusion. That same year Dr. Henry Kissinger made a secret trip to Beijing, flying in from a military airport in Pakistan. This was followed by the joint Nixon-Kissinger summit in 1972, which culminated in Nixon's historic handshake with Mao Zedong, completing China's civilizational pivot away from the USSR and toward the west. In hindsight, this dramatic opening could only be properly characterized as a swift dagger-in-the-back against the USSR, in both geopolitical and ideological senses. The decrepitating, inflexible body of the USSR never recovered from this stab wound, leading to its final collapse, from a multitude of internal and external causes, two decades later.

In late February, 2014, just as Ukraine was attempting its civilizational pivot away from Russia and toward the west, I interviewed a senior captain of the Right Sector, a radical Ukrainian nationalist group with neo-Nazi stylings. The burly man looked aggressive in his paramilitary garb, and arrived with bodyguards, but turned out to be rather amiable. He was particularly glad to see me because I look Chinese. He spoke Russian, reluctantly, after announcing that he was ashamed of it. (This is typical; Ukrainians use Ukrainian to spout nationalist nonsense, but when they need to make sense they lapse into Russian.) He said that he had served in the Red Army and had been stationed in the Far East, on the Chinese border. He expressed hope that China would soon do something big in Siberia.

That was my only meeting with the man from the Right Sector. It's safe to guess that the recent Russian-Chinese embrace has dashed his hopes concerning Siberia. The Chinese government’s unambiguous expressions of solidarity with Russia starting in March of 2014 have been noted by all. But he would have been far less disconcerted, and the many international supporters of Russia far more discouraged, had they been able to read the comments on various popular Chinese social sites, which abounded with slogans such as “Crimea to Putin, Siberia to China!” or “Putler will hang on lamppost!” or “Glory to Ukraine! China sides with the Civilized World!”

To explain what is behind this phenomenon, which affects certain Chinese internet users, young and old, we need to introduce a Chinese neologism: “Gong Zhi” (公知). The literal meaning of the term is “public intellectual,” but it is used sarcastically and sometimes even derogatorily. It denotes a cute, successful, popular, trendy individual, who is often involved in the mass media, and who, for various reasons, has millions of virtual followers via Tweeter and various social networking sites. Such individuals make daily, sometimes hourly, witty and biting public remarks on a vast range of social and political subjects, and, to add human interest, on their own kaleidoscopic emotional states.

In a Russian/Ukrainian setting, more or less analogous figures are to be found in the public personae of Ksenya Sobchak, Irina Khakamada, Masha Gessen, Lesha Navalny, and the late Boris Nemtsov. The base audience for such people consists of what in Russia and the Ukraine came to be known as the “creative class,” or “creacl” (креакл) for short. In China such a term does not yet exist, but the reality of a very similar social group definitely does and, by an overwhelming margin, they are inclined to follow and worship the “Gong Zhi.” Many of these, in spite of carefully maintained youthful appearances, are in their late 50s or early 60s—in other words, they are former Red Guards who did well financially by becoming informal spokespersons for what they regard as a hip and new ideology and attempting a new, technologically enhanced “civilizational pivot.”

The trendiness of said ideology comes from the use of a kit of parts that includes canonical words and phrases from which clichéd narratives can be generated effortlessly. It includes: institutional building, civil society, rule of law, enhance democracy, raise transparency, economic growth, entrepreneurship, innovation, privatization, good guidance, western expertise, human values, human rights, women’s rights, minority rights. There is also a mantra; instead of “OMing,” they “west”: the west, the west, the west, western values, western civilization, west west west west. Never mind that this kit of parts fails in application; these are articles of faith, not reason.

And the opposite of all this western goodness is the horrible, unspeakable easternness of Russia. Here we have another kit of parts, from which one can fashion any number of Russophobic rants: Putin/Stalin, tyranny, gulag, low birth rate, alcoholism, mafia, corruption, stagnation, aggression, invasion, nuclear threat, political repression, “the dying nation.” Never mind that this kit of parts does not reflect reality; again, these are articles of faith, not reason. And the reason Russia is so horrible is, of course, the Russian people. When will the Russian people wake up? Will they ever rise up and overthrow their dictator, their tyrant? Will they ever become civilized, cool, happy, normal, WESTERN people... like we already are, or at least, like we will be... someday... if western people pick us up, take us home and make love to us...

The overall goal of this civilizational cross-dressing is one of personal transformation, personal rebranding: “If we look western and we quack western, then we will BECOME western, we will become cool, accepted, rich and prosperous and civilized. And what's holding us back is ‘this country,’ and ‘these people,’ who are so uncool, so un-trendy, so un-western. Ugh! There is nothing to be done about them, so let's just accept funds from western donors who want to destabilize Russia, and spend this money organizing virtual opposition parties like little girls organizing tea parties for their dolls. But we are getting lots of sympathetic western press coverage, so whatever we are doing must be working!”

The above-mentioned events, trends and movements arose in very different historical periods and in distant, non-contiguous parts of the world, but they share a singular emotional overtone and an orientation towards a singular goal: to cut Russia down, in word, if not in deed.

And then there is what is real.

It is really hard tell Ukrainians apart from Russians. About 90% of the conversation one overhears in the Kiev metro is and probably will remain in Russian, some speaking it with an accent, some with hardly any accent at all. A man or a woman from Yaroslavl (where the late Boris Nemtsov held on to a seat in the regional legislature) could without the slightest effort blend into the crowd surging through the Kiev metro. But should a Russian or a Ukrainian be traveling through the Beijing metro, it will be rather simple to tell them apart from everyone else.

It would also be quite easy to tell an American tourist, reporter, NGO-representative, or Ukrainian wife-hunter apart from the rest of the people in the Kiev metro. The signals would be unmistakable: the demeanor, the style of speech and the facial expression, regardless of ethnic or racial traits. But most of the young Ukrainian students who were shouting and jumping up and down on the Maidan would also take great pride in showing off their English language skills, good or not, and in being seen hanging out with Americans. Why would Ukrainians want to jump out of their Russian skins and try to impersonate Americans?

And are Americans, by some quirk of mystical collective nature, spontaneously anti-Russian? Are ‘we’—the Americans I have lived and studied and worked with for years—anti-Russian? Now, come on, of course not! But we certainly are anti-something else! Take a couple of minutes to gaze at the face of Victoria Nuland, or Jan Psaki, or Samantha Power, or Hillary Clinton. Don't they all remind everyone—that is, us regular American guys of whatever ethnic origin—of that quintessential “cool crowd” we had to contend with during our student days? Aren't they all a bunch of uppity up-tight feminist radical liberal bitches who once made a living hell out of our fresh, green and naïve college days? Well, now that we are not so horny and stupid any more, and they are all wrinkly and saggy (or worked on and Botoxed to hell) don’t we all want to metaphorically get down on our knees and thank Jesus or Yahweh or Allah or whoever that we didn't end up marrying one of these specimens?

But our country, the former land of the free and home of the brave—it has sunk. We all know this, deep in our hearts, don’t we? The Victoria Nuland clone army, like a cruel, evil, insidious high school rumor, like the reflection of a witch’s face in a polluted river, spread and flew into every crevice and corner of this land, high and low, far and wide. We encounter her avatars and lookalikes everywhere—in Hollywood, in the publishing houses, universities, school boards, kindergartens, in elevators on the way to our offices, and of course, on the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The questioning, seeking, original, fearless, rebellious, fractious and individualist American soul is expiring on its air-conditioned deathbed. America is not an interesting place any more. When was the last time we heard a new singer who could be compared to Tom Waits, or Suzanne Vega? Which one of you loose-pants hip-hoppers ever heard of Robert Altman, Wim Wenders, Gore Vidal, John Cassavetes? All of them are fading away, dying away, withering away, and this started to occur during roughly the same time period when the lookalikes and talkalikes of Victoria Nuland started to make their appearances around American universities, en masse.

Thirty years was the portion of my lifetime which fate had allocated to America. As a non-philosopher, non-psychologist, non-cultural historian, I attest with my own irretrievably lost youth that America’s unprecedented and unexplained spiritual, intellectual, cultural, romantic, literary, linguistic and political decline did mysteriously and biblically occur during this same period.

Within these same 30 years the world also witnessed the miraculous rise of China’s economy, whose windfalls and overnight profits I had largely missed out on. But observing America’s bitter and terminal illness had taught me something. For example, when people talk about China being the next America, one thing I've got to ask myself is: will the 1.4 billion Chinese people make good neighbors and interesting company? Will they be liked and likable, or will many of them likewise come to be regarded as impudent louts and aggressive, greedy, egotistic, crafty pricks and bitches?

Regarding my own original motherland and my own people I have mixed feelings. The initial signals aren’t promising. The drastic and depressing contrasts in personal manners between your typical Chinese tourist and the meek and quiet locals of Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taiwan, Singapore, indeed all of East Asia, is a dreadful omen. In 2014, the outbursts of hysterical and ludicrous hostility towards Russia from the clueless Chinese Creative Class and the internet mobs who follow them has to be another big sign. Those who have bright hopes for Russia-China geopolitical alliance would be well-advised to keep them in mind.

Keep what in mind, exactly? What we need to keep in mind is the normally hidden collective psycho-mental pathology of populations, which is often embodied in erratic and destructive intellectual trends, and is upheld by their self-doubting and neurotic cultural elites. This pathology has everything to do with self-identity.

For the Chinese and the Russian/Ukrainian “creative classes,” America represents the Ultimate Cool Place, the Olympus of Coolness, to be strived towards intellectually, culturally and emotionally, if not always physically. Because America represents to them not only a theory or a line of argument, but a profound source of emotional self-identification, there arise within them ferocious flames of fury and rage whenever someone is perceived as preventing them from basking within the aura of this self-identification. They become like adolescents who put on the cool clothes and want to go and dance to the cool music, but are told that they can't wear these clothes and can't dance to this music. Why? Because they are not as cool as they think, and because those cool kids don’t care about you, and don’t really want you as their friends.

Actual political, economic and social problems are of secondary importance. What is of upmost importance is that they—the cultural elite, “the creative class,” the cool kids who consider themselves so much cooler than the rest—feel insulted and denied their self-respect. They are angry that real life in Russia/Ukraine or China does not back up a certain concept of their own aspired coolness. Russia gets a special designation in such a line of discourse, or cultural narrative: it gets to be the ultimate spoiler of coolness. Even before the February 2014 putsch, Eastern Ukraine was always referred to as ground zero of “Sovok,” the land of Soviet-era retrogrades—backward, dim-witted slaves who held cool, cute Ukraine back from its well-deserved western coolness.

I will never forget the sight of the torn limbs of a five-year-old Donbass girl, or the bits of blood-soaked shawl and the mangled grandmother's aged body scattered about on the ground. What have they done—and tens of thousands like them—to deserve this end? On the Kiev metro, most people appear modest, polite, humble, gentle, and, occasionally, very kind. Over the last year many of them have also looked weary, worried, numb and exhausted. But I could not detect one iota of disparity in features, skin tone, bone structure, and the modest yet lively style of clothing between these riders on the metro in Kiev and the dead girl or the dead grandmother in the Donbass. Is it all because of someone wanting to be cool, and throwing a tantrum, because they didn't get to feel cool like they wanted?

Returning to America, the supposed Olympus of Cool, trudging through trash-strewn sidewalks of Queens, tramping along the endless alleys of Brooklyn, stepping into a dimly lit Manhattan office elevator and there encountering yet another Victoria Nuland lookalike, I began to understand. The year 2014 was the fatal year when it was suddenly revealed who is who and what is what, like a sharp knife slashing through an old, moldy, dusty curtain. Think not of conspiracies and dark, complex, sinister geopolitical plots. These went with a different generation, when people might have been greedy and cruel, but they also had the ability to distinguish reality from fiction. That was the era of western imperialism, which is long dead. Churchill and Roosevelt and Nixon are all dead; Kissinger is a nonagenarian. Their replacements do not think in terms of Realpolitik; they think in terms of optics, and dwell in a mirrored hall devised to generate an optical illusion of their hallucinated greatness.

Don't think of reality; instead, think of neurosis, obsession, delusion, perpetual psychic adolescence (real adolescence long gone and even menopause unacknowledged). From the midst of these there arises a white-hot fire of rage so fierce and so random that Nietzsche or Sartre, in their most diabolical existential revelations, could never have foreseen them. Thus is the new Zeitgeist, in this advanced stage of decay of the collective consciousness of America's cultural/political elite and their overseas groupies. It explains their reckless and maniacal love affair with the Ukrainian Maidan, their rekindled but now impotent rage against Russia, and their despicable, narcissistic indifference to the tragedy suffered by the population of the Ukraine.

[Reported by ClubOrlov's special Kiev correspondent, Yu Shan.]

33 comments :

beetleswamp said...

This reminded me of the 1999 movie Election with Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon.

Joy said...

Thank you, Yu Shan, for your perspective and observations. However, the deeper question is who ARE the originals of Hillary Rodham "Clinton", Victoria (Nudelman) Nuland, and Samantha Power? What is being cloned?

Samantha Power is the wife of Cass Sunstein. Victoria Nuland is the wife of Robert Kagan. Hillary Rodham's deep roots are better concealed than the others, but are similar, the Rodhams were part of the Chicago 'mishpucka'. As for her husband, Bill "Clinton", his paternity has been a topic of speculation for decades, whispers that he is well known to be a "bar sinister" scion of Winthrop Rockefeller would explain much if true.

And who are the cool kids in Ukraine? Petro Poroshenko's father was named Valtzman. Yatsenyuk has similar roots. And on and on throughout the Kiev junta and the oligarchs such as Igor Kolomoisky.

Ok, all of these cultural elites (given that status by mainstream media and underlying money power) are not only kindred spirits, but tribal kin, pushing globalism by wrecking national identities. The strategy was best described by Kevin B. MacDonald in "The Culture of Critique".

I agree that America has been culturally destroyed, especially post 1980. But America did not self destruct so much as it was insidiously undermined by agents of the money power in education and the media. Any opposition to political correctness is a career killer in any creative field. So art and music, and journalism have been systematically destroyed.

I cannot recommend Kevin B. MacDonald enough, read him and weep.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Wonderful piece!

latefall said...

The cultural elite's rage IS part of the realpolitik. Twitter, big data, controlled social networks, etc. will hardly be altruistic gifts to the world. If you ain't paying for something, it is most likely not because it is free - but because you don't understand the price.

Of course these things are not exempt from a political purpose. I don't think that all the money sunk into government IT infrastructure is just for harmless industrial espionage (especially if you lack an industry to implement much of it). Before Snowden people were mostly aware of the technical possibilities and dangers in the digital environment - but the scale and persistence of activity was grossly underestimated. Because people could not think of a motivation to justify it (especially with regard to EU/Germany).
Interestingly enough STRATFOR spells at least Europe's role out it out en detail, regarding Ukraine you can start here:
https://www.youtube.comhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=QeLu_yyz3tc#t=4120

It is far cheaper to occupy a set of minds than a geographic region, especially when you can make the occupied party pay for some of it.

Kutamun said...

You are right , the keepers of this system have gone insane , no longer able to cognise outside the framework which to them is reality . Most disturbing for me are the western internet babies , these ennui ridden hipsters with their beards and vacant stares ...incipient reactionaries . Fear not , as the snake continues to devour its tail reality will continue to seep in , as it must ,,though it will most likely not be recognised as such ....welcome to the desert of the real !

k-dog said...

It would be so cool if peace, goodwill, population control, conservation of resources, commitment to sustainability, appropriate use of technology and a concern for fellow man and dog were to become cool.

It would be so cool, but so often 'coolness' excludes, rejects, and minimizes everything else. In the Olympus of Cool being cool now is little more than to be self centered, self absorbed, consumed by possessions, and a legend in one own mind.

And that's not cool.

Robert Goad said...

All things gringo cool prevails down here in mexico as well. Some tout expatriatism as "the gringo advantage" and being a "B-grade rock star" and it's somewhat true. But after being here awhile it's not hard to see the difference between the truly lovely and somewhat innocent common locals and the grandstanding idiots who want to show you off as their new trophy light eyed buddies. Maybe some geo-engineered, high altitude ayahuasca spraying might level the playing field globally and help lose all this awful posing and blatant self interest.

Dammerung said...

Yikes. Here's a funny experience I had recently on Facesuck with exactly the kind of personality you're describing...

A feminist studies major (of course) in grad school (no brainer) at a public university (duh.) She was doing the usual rant about being the world's biggest victim and I couldn't help myself but get involved. I asked her if divisive politics meant to separate people into the tiniest identities possible really represented human good. She accused me of trying to "gaslight" her, which must be some ever-present worry in feminist circles. So I said, "Wouldn't it be better to talk about shared, foundational values that we can both agree to go forward on instead of who's the most politically correct victim?"

She blocked me immediately thereafter.

How did these kinds come to run the world?

Jake said...

Dear Yu Shan:
Wow. Your essay was a tour de force. Stunning. Beautiful.
Thank you, Dmitri, for posting this.

I have felt so trapped and unheard in my daily life: nobody seems to see the derangement I see. I am told to "look at the bright side," to stay positive. Worry about your career! Your family....
Well, I do worry about my family.
I feel I am in a horror film, like the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," but there is no escape.
Thank you for letting me feel less alone.

Alfred1860 said...

Until I got to the bottom I couldn't understand why Dmitry thought he looked Chinese.....anyway, great essay.

It reminds me of a former girlfriend I had. I was the first guy she'd ever been with who had treated her with kindness and respect, but despite this, she was dismayed that I was "too serious" among other things, which, from my point of view, were mutually exclusive from being kind and respectful.

I'm almost 40, and in my whole adult life I've always taken for granted that the Western ideal of individual liberty in conjunction with well-regulated capitalism represented the pinnacle of societal order. Lately I've been wondering if these things are mutually exclusive by nature, given a long enough time frame.

Alfred1860 said...

Dammerung - Yes, there are few things so foolish as the liberal mantra of "celebrating our differences". True, fundamental differences of belief can only ever be tolerated; honestly celebrating them requires the conversion of one or the other.

peteybee said...

First of all, a lot of people here have a bone to pick with Feminists. I think the idea of opening up leadership positions to women is perfectly fine, and if someone wants to dedicate their life to that cause or the study of its history, I don't see the problem with it. I think readers of this blog are smart enough to make a distinction between liberalizing social customs, vs a woman (or anyone for that matter) being excessively ambitious to the point of selling their soul for the sake of power.

People like Hillary, Nuland, etc. -- they are just plain power hungry individuals willing to sell their soul to get "in". It is a coincidence of timing, and probably an actual requirement of the existing power structure, that the first wave of women in power are that particular kind. Similar to the way the first wave of African Americans in power (Clarance Thomas, Colin Powell, Condaleeza Rice, Barack Obama) had to be conservatives -- i.e., staunch defenders of the status quo / social order which had screwed them in previous generations. This is a systematic pattern whenever an excluded group begins to be allowed in. It does not invalidate the value of putting an end to exclusionary customs and policies.

Secondly, about coolness. It's kindof interesting, it is both a description of social status (i.e., a person being part of the "in" crowd), as well as an aesthetic judgment. And these get mixed together so they're hard to separate but we can separate them if we try. I think a big part of what attracts foreigners and immigrants is the second, aesthetic kind of cool, which then gets confused with the first, social kind. Moreover, you can be cool in terms of social status if you have money/power, or if you have a talent that can generate the other, aesthetic, kind of cool, or great social skills. I think if we make another distinction between these 2 sub groups of the "in" crowd, we can learn something. Some of the angst coming from the author of the article could be more focused along those lines. Anyway, leave that path to be explored another day...

Great article by the way, brings up some nasty truths about both "Western" and "Eastern" societies.

Jim Dandy said...

So, how many divisions do the "cultural elite" have?

Hubert Cross said...

first time in months that i could not finish reading this blog. it was extremely rambling, or maybe not and i couldn't figure out the point because i did not finish it

rapier said...

Cool itself is the issue but it's a difficult thing to define. It's a slippery concept admittedly as there are different kinds and levels of cool but I'll take a stab at it.

At root cool is part of modernism and the hallmark of modernism is rapid change, especially material change. The product of the industrial and now post industrial age. In large part cool is attributed to those with a lot of money who use and adopt new products and styles. It's style over substance.

Oddly the highest echelon of the elites are not cool at all.

I've got no grand conclusion or lesson here. I will say, a bit reluctantly, that collapse promises the death of cool. Don't hope for it on those grounds.

People will always be venal and vain, some more than others.

Francisco said...

This is a very pleasant piece to read. I loved it.

Just a few minor caveats.

First, I always shake my head when I read that the USSR just "collapsed". If you walk up to a person and put a bullet through her forehead (or if the person does that to herself) she will most likely collapse. But subsequently referring to this event as “the collapse” of so and so is very misleading, especially for those who are too young to remember those days. At the very least one needs to say that the USSR *was* deliberately collapsed. And here, the unifying theme of Dmitry’s essay --vanity, the desire to buy and adopt the coolness that others successfully sell you-- can be put to good use. But clearly, this was no “natural” collapse due to natural causes. Absent an obvious physical cause, like a catastrophic big war, or a sudden lack of energy or food (like Cuba in the 90s) a vast complex society does not just “collapse” in a matter of 3-4 years unless it is deliberately made to do so. The Roman organization took hundreds of years to wind down. It seems to me the leaders of the Soviet Union just became sufficiently hypnotized by the charm of western “coolness” that they agreed to dynamite the entire system, rather than try to reform it. Russians are said to be unpredictable, but that was a really insane decision. Yeltsin was a lout and a drunk. The west misses him badly.

There is a short piece by Chris Floyd, who lived in Moscow in the 90s, describing the scope of what was done. I think he is rather unfair with Putin, who after all inherited a huge mess and did a lot to clean it up, but he aptly describes what went on in the Yeltsin years as "the biggest fire sale in human history". Can be read here: http://www.chris-floyd.com/Articles/2389-smoke-and-mirrors-the-roots-of-russian-revanchism.html

Another thing we need to be careful with is the belief in the good old days, especially when it comes to the behavior of the US. People need to be reminded that the US has been in the business of ruthlessly building hegemony since 1945. It was a nasty business from the start, though I tend to agree that it has gotten nastier and nastier, but this may be due to our having more ready access to information. The millions of ghosts from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and many other places would tend to strongly disagree, if we interviewed them, that the beast used to be softer, kinder and more pastoral... I don’t think so. What did happen is that its nastiness has become more naked.

An important reference text to remind us of these things is Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel prize acceptance lecture, which stunned many people for its intense indictment of the US (in such usually tame and polite venues as a Nobel pize speech).

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2005/pinter-lecture-e.html

Particularly the part that begins: “It never happened...”

And the element of “adopting coolness” from the west is expressed by Pinter as buying the most important merchandise produced by the US, which he describes as "self love".

A word of caution is also in order regarding any show of surprise at the nasty bitchiness of women like Samantha Powers, Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland etc. Why be surprised? What do we expect? Many top politicians have been perfecting the art of becoming complete assholes for the entire span of our civilization. Up until recently, the word asshole didn‘t sound quite right applied to women, but thanks to the “coolness” that emanates from top male assholes, and the desire of women to acquire that coolness, the first successful women politicians are just proving they can be perfect assholes as well.

All in all, this is one of my favorite pieces by Dmitry.

ed boyle said...

I find hope in the observation of Spengler that asuccessful statesman always has Pontius Pilates words on his lips 'What is truth'. Ideologues of any stripe will misjudge and create their own destruction. The realist like Putin, perhaps Merkel has a natural talent to smell BS or know how to survive. We see that American politiicians are mostly unable to see other POVs than their own. This is perhaps due to a silver spoon childhood in the sense of the postwar US privileged position. For example my mother had the possibility during the war to be shipped out to USA from England but a ship was sunk and this program stopped. The returning teens felt they had been in cool America, my Mom was of course disappointed but eventually became a US citizen. Most provincials in an empire worship the cultural center. 'And whose likeness is on the coin'- caesar's was the answer. Everyone had to have togas, coliseums, greek philosophy. Colonials in Africa, Asia are proud of learned European languages, cultural identities that separate them from past. Nowadays America has inherited the European colonial ruler mantle. Hollywood, computer technology, pop music styles, moon shot, etc. US based. All trade flows, military power US based. To change this fundamental attitude local popular culture must be developed. This is occurring as wealth and technology spreads. The financial control over film, music, internet ,computers must be directed away from USA and its allies. We see how alternative Swift is introduced, how USD is faling in importance. Internet and PC business controlled by NSA must be replaced as well for security reasons. Military power is also shifting. As USA loses wars and withdras whole regions deem America uncool. California was very cool. Now it will become a desert. Economic success is not to be had by emigrating to the West anymore unless already rich. So the American
Dream is best found at home. Perhaps it was just exploitation of short lived resources globally. America was based on oil, Model T, celluloid films, electric guitar, suburbia. Before that British empire, French had coal, horses. The difference is enormous. Having to accept reality anywhere, in China, USA is difficult. The American Century is over. Peak Oil means a return to local culture, hard physical work. Foreign languages where one connects with power, cultural creativity, a global village is attractive. It is over. Russian, Chinese won't replace English except regionally. This is the future. America is financially, militarily overstretched and falling apart at home. Transitions are difficult.

Enrique Ferro said...

A great editorial. An in-depth insight of a perverse contemporary trend.
Thank you!

seraphim said...

The “creative class,” or “creacl” (креакл) have a longer story.

A description of it was given by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn in a essay from the essays collection "From under the rubble", published in 1974 by a group of Russian dissidents. The essay was titled "The Smatterers".

Timothy said...

Brilliant. Yes.

Here is another take on the issue. Our elites are now so inbred, so totally in control of all aspects of society, that they no longer need to think - and thus, no longer have the ability.

http://globuspallidusxi.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-american-elites-fail-at-every.html

Aron Blue said...

Here's a link to the folk song mentioned at the beginning. I like it very much.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VHxDkUTgE1k

When I was 12, I watched 2 girls my age cry and break a a rock music album into pieces in front of the whole church camp. Then they were instructed to ask Jesus to forgive them. No one threw trash though.

Edward said...

When I was in college I shared an office with an Indian student who described the same glamorization of the U.S. in his country. Everybody has their pecking order. In countries like Turkey or Jordan or Egypt, the amount of hassles you get from customs depends on your nationality. Some Palestinians I know were forced to spend half a day waiting around by officials in Jordan and I heard a similar story about a Bangladeshi man in Egypt. I have wondered if Russia's spurning of Iran had to do with this type of thinking.

The Clintons are a sleazy, venal bunch. That is why the oligarchy supports them and all the other politicians; people of such scruples are required to deregulate Wall Street. support Israel, and so on. I think this is the domestic counterpart of the kleptocrats the CIA installs in power in countries like Chile to sell out their nations.

I have noticed recently that people who are not professionals are finding their ways into important positions. The Red Cross debacle after Superstorm Sandy, for example, has been blamed on the unqualified head of that organization.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

That was very interesting, including the always lively comment section. I really enjoyed the observations from a different perspective. However, both the post and the comments lose me when the personal hangups of the authors take over. The world is a mess? Blame some uppity women! Better yet, uppity women with some Jewish ancestry or connections. For the record, I find it rather refreshing to ditch the straight jacket of political correctness. I am also proud to call myself a feminist. What does that mean to me? Simply equal opportunity for half the world's population. Feminism=humanism. With 52% in the game, obviously some people who now get a chance to persue personal goals will turn out to be the same kind of power hungry twits as their male counterparts. Feminism originally had twin goals: allow women access to the wider world where men work and play, AND gain recognition for the unpaid work done at home. The movement has been much more successful in the first part,because it does not require as many changes in the existing game of power. New players, same game. As for the equally rabid strain of Jew hating that is frequently encountered in this forum, I am appalled by the atrocities committed by Israel. I belong to "Jews for Peace." AND good old fashioned anti Semitism is alive and well. Around and around we go.

Edward said...

The bias described here is an example of the "Halo effect":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect

Smoky Barnable said...

Is "creative class" meant ironically? Exactly what do these people create? Oh well, it all comes down to simple acceptance I believe.In a global internet age the "hip" youths want desperately to be accepted by their peers online and to fit in.They encounter Western kids totally brainwashed by anti Russian rhetoric that goes back decades...no centuries...and must join in the program to be one of the crowd.It is sort of like a pressure group to bully or take drugs.It can backfire, when they discover their peers over the road are complete fools and jerks.Time and education can be a cure,though unfortunately some never grow up, as we well know.

Dee Garmon said...

West, as we know it, is history and you need to look no further than the vassal states of EU to see that this is correct.
The brand name, however, will take a little longer to wear off!

Ivan Lukic said...


In the year 2000 a Serbian scietist went to Kiev to participate in scientific congress. When taxi driver heard that the Serb is speaking Russian with his host he told: "Moscals moved capital to Moscow and from that time we are province." (For those who can read Serbian this is original link http://www.nspm.rs/savremeni-svet/cesarski-virus-u-kijevu-%E2%80%93-nova-sveslovenska-veleizdaja.html)

Now we see the root of this sad story: Ukrainians are Russians, but the frustrated kind. Most people prefer to blame others for their own shortcomings and Ukrainians are not different in that respect. We should not underestimate the energy of this kind of frustration, be it Ukrainians or Chinese. The comic inclination towards West among "creative class" is all around us (very much so in Serbia) and is destined to cause serious problems.

But, as I commented on another blog, one of the biggest mind opening experiences of my life was reading Chuang Tzu's (taoist) story about the man that despised machine. The things that I like about China are 100% traditional. The Western industrialism that was forced to Chinese people will have extremely negative consequences.

Kaz Dziamka said...

Beetleswamp said: "I cannot recommend Kevin B. MacDonald enough, read him and weep."

Thank you for recommending this book. (I will read it.) Let me return the favor by suggesting that you (and perhaps some others) read the following trilogy by Morris Berman: The Twilight of American Culture, Dark Ages America, and Why America Failed.

Marc L Bernstein said...

This is an excellent article, well written, which tries to understand the psychology behind the behavior of Chinese, Ukrainians and some Americans, particularly those wielding power.

Perhaps the psychological imbalances we are seeing in people in many parts of the world are related somehow to an underlying sense that something has gone wrong with the collective body of humanity. We may not be heading for extinction in the near future but we are surely heading for some sort of hideous holocaust as a species, a bottleneck to use William Catton's terminology.

Chet Redweld said...

to Joy above, who said:

The strategy was best described by Kevin B. MacDonald in "The Culture of Critique".

Yes, and also touched on tangentially by Robert Hughes in a similarly named book, "Culture of Complaint."

Passive-aggressive culture change, via shaming.

trimik said...

Wow, this article is an astounding diatribe and passionate declaration of outrage marred slightly only by its generalizations about feminism as though the murderous neocon zionistas Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nudelman, Samantha Power or Jan Psaki whose self serving corporate glass ceiling busting and success at push button undefended peasant bombing represented anything like the real core values, dignity and mindful aspirations of feminism. Yu Shan polyglot resident temporarily in Kiev I would wish to write like you. M\\

Rolnard Covzure said...

Saw this today and couldn't help but remember Yu Shan's article.

Ivan Lukic said...

Rolnard,

I am not saying that some young people in Iran are not fascinated with the western style of living, which is defined as "normal", but look who is publishing the article: FT! Are these people from FT having some biased pro-western agenda or not?