On geopolitics, Russia, MAGA, and Western values

 

As regular readers may have noticed, I've deleted earlier posts on this blog that discussed political and moral topics outside the realm of metaphysics. I did so because I want my participation in the cultural debate to remain focused on my key areas of expertise; I don't want to be perceived as a wanna-be political pundit. That said, as a citizen, I carry the responsibility to take part in our democratic political process to the same extent that any other citizen does. This is the spirit of this post.

Since deleting the aforementioned posts, some have questioned whether my political and moral positions, as a citizen, have changed. The answer is no, they haven't. And to set the record straight, here I want to summarise those views clearly and explicitly, in the interest of clarifying any lingering doubt, so we can move on from this topic.

This post is meant to share my views with you for what they are worth, not necessarily to substantiate these views in an objective, academic manner, as I am neither a political scientist nor a moral philosopher. My intellectual authority here is the same as yours.

Russia

Like others in the West, prior to Russia's 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine I believed the West was unnecessarily antagonising Russia through (talk of) continuing NATO expansion. I thought the examples of Finland and Sweden—prosperous and safe countries at, or close to, the Russian border—proved that such an expansion wasn't necessary for the security and prosperity of Eastern Europe.

Having been married to a Russian-Ukrainian from the Donbas for 16 years, I also sympathised with the plight of Russian speakers in Ukraine and the Baltics, who—or so I was told—were being oppressed in the name of the preservation of national identity.

But a military invasion that kills and maims those very Russian speakers, plus countless Ukrainians, and destroys their homes, places of work and infrastructure, is obviously not the solution to those problems. The Russian government and military know this full well—because it is, well, obvious—and used the well-being of Russian speakers abroad as a cynical and fantastic excuse to pursue their true political goal: internal regime stability and hegemony.

This is evil. It disregards the value of unique human lives—including those of Russian men being sent into the meat-grinder as disposable objects, in endless meat-wave assaults meant to draw Ukrainian ammunition reserves—in the interest of personal power and geopolitical abstraction. Again, this is profoundly evil; it is almost the definition of evil. It is abhorrent, intolerable, absolutely unjustifiable, heinous and utterly inexcusable. Nothing the West has ever done or failed to do can even remotely justify it. It destroys whatever moral high-ground Russia may have had prior to the full-scale invasion and renders them a pariah, terrorist state undeserving of UN membership.

There is no moral equivalence between Russia's methods of geopolitical expansion—and the Soviet Union's before—and Western international organisations such as NATO and the European Union (EU). No NATO or EU member has ever been forced to join; all took the initiative to join voluntarily, through the actions of democratically elected governments. Russia's imperialist geopolitical expansions, on the other hand, were always forced at gun point. This is an enormous difference that should never escape us.

The idea that Russia needed to defend itself against a NATO invasion is ludicrous. The West's interests in Russia have always been to buy its abundant energy—as the EU has done for decades, after enabling Russia to build its entire oil and gas infrastructure with Western know-how and financing, or even outright building it for them—and contribute to the economic prosperity of its population, so Russians could afford and buy Western goods. Cynical as this may be, it shows how counter to Western interests an invasion of Russia would be; and that's not even to mention the obvious nuclear deterrence Russia has. No, people—journalists, pseudo-journalists, pundits, propagandists, podcasters, YouTubers, politicians, etc.—who tell you that Russia needed to militarily defend itself against the West are either naive or are regurgitating propaganda on your face. In this latter case, I am curious about their sources of income.

Democracy

Democracy is messy, slow at taking vital and urgent actions, internally confrontational, and sometimes even dysfunctional. Yet, since the end of the second world war, it is also the form of government that allowed for the most prosperous, stable and safe period in the history of humanity, which is a demonstrable statistical truth. Unlike autocracies—in which a leader remains in power so long that he ends up conflating his personal interests with the country's, inevitably leading to unspeakable evil such as the full-scale invasion of Ukraine—democracies are governed primarily by institutions and the rule of law, not individuals running a mafia state like Putin's Russia. It is the regular changing of leadership in a democracy that prevents individuals from turning the state into an ossified tool of personal gain and power, to the detriment of the freedoms and prosperity of the population.

Autocracies only look neat, polished and sanitised because the media is state-controlled. Under the hood, they are more ineffective, messy and dysfunctional than democracies; just think of the Soviet Union. Because there is no viable opposition or independent media to highlight the country's problems and shortcomings, the ills persist, year after year, decade after decade. In democracies, on the other hand, the opposition and an independent media—biased as it admittedly is—are ready to pounce at the slightest sign of a government's failure. This looks very ugly, but forces a confrontation with the problems at hand. Indeed, it is this kind of checks and balances that has allowed democracies to improve the quality of life of their citizens so dramatically over the past 80 years. If you don't believe it, ask your great-grandparents how things used to be.

Pointing to autocratic China's new-found prosperity over the past 20 or 30 years overlooks one important thing: it is the safety, prosperity and market interests of Western democracies that helped reduce China's previously systemic poverty. It is Western navies, securing the seas, that enable China to safely and cheaply import most of its oil and food from abroad. It is the West's technology and know-how that allowed China's modernisation (I know it, I was there). It is the prosperity of Western consumers that gave China's industry a huge market. So even autocratic China largely owes its prosperity to the technological, economic and military effectiveness of Western democracies. China's rhetoric about Taiwan belonging to them has much more to do with China's desire to steal whatever remaining technological know-how the West is now unwilling to share with them, than with history. See past all the rhetorical bullshit and you will understand this.

If you were a male Russian citizen living in Russia right now, you would be running a serious risk that your government would forcibly pluk you from your family, your loved ones, your work, your home, your dreams and goals, your right to express yourself and pursue happiness, to send you to die in a meat-wave meant to draw Ukrainian fire. Just think of this for a moment. Seriously. This is what it means to be Russian right now. And this is the vision of a certain deranged, malignant narcissist for your future.

To any Western pundit doing the bidding of the Kremlin, my invitation to you is this: be consistent with the views you promote and move to Russia. Get Russian citizenship—I'm sure your dear leader Putin would give it to you by decree, regardless of the law—and abandon your Western passport. Leave the West—this place and values you so seem to pooh-pooh, with this form of government you so love to hate—and go to the place of your dreams, organised according to the autocratic system you so wish for, ruled by the man whose ass you are so eager to kiss.

MAGA

I am neither a liberal nor a conservative. Or perhaps I am both a liberal and a conservative. I do not understand the American and, largely, British two-party system. It is downright ridiculous to Dutch ears that the complex solutions to our myriad problems could be binned into only two categories. In The Netherlands there is such a thing as the liberal conservative party (the VVD, which was in power until last year), one among many others, which reflects the complexity of the issues. So whatever I say below is, most certainly, not a reflection of this binary mode of thought that characterises US and British politics. Do not try to label me, for I will reject whatever label you try to paste on my forehead. I am too thoughtful for easy labels.

With this said, I am critical of the so-called liberal Western elites for a number of reasons, not the least of which are their arrogance, dismissiveness, and sense of superiority; their disregard of tradition, ancestral values, connection with the land (literally, the land under our feet), and so on. I am also first in line to recognise that the liberal intellectual elites—through the mainstream media—have repeatedly lied to, and manipulated, us.

But to enthusiastically allow oneself to be lied to and manipulated by a deranged, malignant narcissist instead—a product of New York's elites, born into a golden crib, who somehow convinced you that not only does he miraculously understand your problems, but that he is somehow one of you—does not solve the problem; it exacerbates it. Also, to think that, because it is so often co-opted by liberal elites, science never gets anything right, is a logical non sequitur; that is, it makes no sense.

Vaccines do work, alright. There is such a thing as human-caused global warming. Sea levels have not risen much yet because ice, when it melts, reduces in volume. This is why the level of soda in a glass doesn't change when the ice cubes already in it melt (try it, if you don't believe me). But if you have a full glass of soda and then drop some ice cubes into it, it will overflow. By the same token, the northern polar cap and icebergs already floating in the oceans, which are the first thing to melt with global warming, do not raise sea levels. But when the ice on land—in Antartica and Greenland—melt enough to slide into the ocean, there will be sudden and catastrophic sea level rise, which will ruin about half of my country. That's the danger ahead, and it is very real. To not believe it is just catastrophically misguided. But the deranged, malignant narcissist from New York will tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear, so you vote for him and, in the process, destroy your country and the West's ability to resist the increasingly assertive autocracies eager to steal a larger piece of our hard-earned prosperity.

The malignant and cognitively-impaired  narcissist—incapable of coherently stringing a short sentence together—will also tell you that helping Ukraine comes at the cost of your security and prosperity. This, too, inverts the facts. The business case for helping Ukraine is nothing short of fabulous: they do the fighting, risking their own lives, not ours, to degrade a coalition of autocracies set on threatening our way of life. To help them, all we need to do is send them military surplus and outdated stuff that would otherwise cost us a great deal of money to dispose of. And whatever modern stuff we ultimately decide to send them, will be made in our own countries, contributing to our own economies, and creating jobs for us. Even if you fail to see the clear moral case for supporting a people like us, who live lives like ours, under the same values, against heinous foreign aggression, there is still a very egoistic, objective business case for supporting them nonetheless. But the deranged, malignant narcissist—who is out to manipulate and exploit your democratic power as a voting citizen for his benefit alone—will tell you otherwise, so he has a campaign stick with which to bash his opponent. He is preying on your grievances, not fighting for you.

MAGA is the greatest threat to Western values and our way of life; the greatest threat to your prosperity and security. It's a cancer within, which is now metastasising to other Western nations, such as my own. That these populist demagogues (pretend to) hate the same people you hate is no reason to support them. That your hate is justifiable is no reason to support lying manipulators either. They do not have your best interests at heart. All they care about is themselves. Their flirting with foreign dictators is treason, not wise pragmatism.

Western values

What is this 'West' I've been talking about? It's not a race or ethnicity; humans don't even have races. Dogs do: any two pugs will look more like one another than either one looks like a great dane. But there is no such grouping among humans; we are too alike. So no, Westerness is not a race.

Neither is it a geographical location. The name 'West' is a throwback to an earlier time in history, when Western values and way of life did correlate with what was going on west of the Bosphorus strait. But today, in a globalised world, such geographical distinctions no longer exist. I have witnessed more Westerness in Japan and South Korea than in some places in the Americas.

The West is a value system and way of life that acknowledges the worth and importance of individual life. The diversity and uniqueness of our individual dispositions and forms of expression are sanctified and cherished in the West. We are not just numbers, or an amorphous collective to be used as a tool for the benefit of dictators, or meat-drones to be sent in frontal assaults against someone else's invented enemy. Instead, we are individuals with rights and freedoms, who live as we choose, as long as we don't prevent our neighbours from living as they choose. This is what distinguishes us from Putin's Russia and Xi's China, in which people are a tool of the state, a uniform pool of resources forced to be compliant.

Westerners who flirt with, or give a platform to, the depersonalising, cynical, criminal agenda of the Kremlin are, in my book, traitors of our Western values and way of life. If they despise these values and way of life so much, they should move to Russia. After all, as Western citizens, they have the freedom to come and go as they please.

Why am I sharing all this?

As a public intellectual with access to media platforms—even though I am not a political pundit—I do feel that I have the responsibility to share my positions. You deserve to know them.

In addition, I also wanted to let you know that, in accordance with the views I expressed above, I choose to not allow myself to be associated, indirectly as the case may be, with those who provide a platform for agendas counter to democracy and moral decency. I do believe they have the right to express their views—in accordance with democratic values—but doing so also imbues them with responsibilities. Therefore, it is equally valid for me to hold them responsible for their choices. In this spirit, I choose to not associate myself with them.

Alright, this is it; this is all I have to say. I shall, from now on, focus on philosophy and science, which are the areas of my expertise. This post is, in a sense, the ticket that buys my freedom to avoid the topics of politics and moral philosophy for the foreseeable future, even though I will continue to be a spokesperson for human decency and dignity.

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