Душа: The Russian Soul and Collapse of the West*

The earliest stirrings of modern industrial society may be traced back approximately 6,000 years ago, to emergence of the first cities, implementation of plow agriculture, and storage of food surpluses in the ancient Near East. Specialization and domestication were symptomatic of, and consequential to, these new socio-economic changes. Somewhat later in this nascent history, analytic and linguistic keys to the forward march of civilization found critical refinement in Aristotle’s syllogistic and the rudimentary founding of the sciences. The current trajectory of the West achieved full self-consciousness during the period of European Enlightenment, with the birth of rationalism and elaboration of the modern scientific method, eventually leading to industrialization, hyper-specialization, technological innovation, and increasing commodification.

With Europe and, most especially, America now leading the way, the path charted and engineered by Western civilization spawned a hegemony that is rapidly overtaking the globe, socially, economically, and culturally. This ascendancy has unleashed a domination of values, which, unlike political hegemonies of the past, is lightning fast, wide ranging, virtually unchallenged, and spreading insidiously; artfully enabled by those very technologies to which it has given rise.

Not too long ago, Americans were convinced that their culture represented the apex of this historical legacy, the best in scientific and technological advancement, as well as political and economic leadership.  What America had achieved, so they believed, was a dream come true.  It was this ‘American Dream’ that has been held out to (or perhaps thrust upon) the rest of the world as the meaning of the ‘good life’ – the proper locus of human happiness.

Moreover, while cheap energy, in the form of fossil fuels, has dutifully served as the lubricant of this cultural and industrial progress, recent recognition that world oil extraction has peaked surely signals the prospective collapse of industrial economy, and with it, the potential dissolution of its core institutions. The trajectory of Western civilization, characterized now by accelerating energy decline and global climate change – a trajectory that Homo sapiens started in motion with those first city walls – is possibly nearing an apocalyptic end.

Of course, there are those dreamers and wishful thinkers who tell about new oil extraction technologies, and spectacular discoveries of conventional supplies that will safeguard our future.  However, the exaggeration of these claims, and the unintended consequences of technologies needed to deliver on them, will surely spell more substantial ecological fallout – further constraining our access to clean air, water, flora and fauna.  Furthermore, alternate sources of energy, aside from their unique liabilities, will not substitute for the demands of industrial civilization’s extraordinary infrastructural, logistical and distribution needs. In short, we are living within an unsustainable bubble that is slowly deflating, and sustainable human existence in the not-to-distant future will likely require smaller and local approaches to everything.

So, with the globe facing epic crises – ecological, financial, economic, political, psychological – at whose feet do we lay blame?  Where do we look to better understand the roots of such crises, or how to outrun their dire consequences?  While many have identified pursuit of the American Dream as a proximate cause of this global unraveling, the USA was not alone in its reliance upon certain fundamental assumptions about management and control of nature, leading ineluctably to potentially devastating outcomes. All civilized regimes – from the first empires of ancient Mesopotamia to modern nations like Russia and China – all can share the responsibility. After all, industrial progress, economic growth, technological innovation, and political expansion have been the hallmarks of civilization since the beginning of history.

Not surprisingly, however, there seems to be growing disaffection in the West (of all places) with the way things are going and where we are heading.  With a global financial meltdown, high unemployment, severe austerity, incessant war, insurrections popping up everywhere, unparalleled greed, apparently irrational terrorism, and the evaporation of the American Dream like warm breath on a mirror; it is as if the whole thing were coming down around us all at once. Mother nature herself seems to be speaking rather loudly as well right now, with perhaps more frequent and more brutal natural disasters than any other time in recorded history. Barely two decades into America’s uncontested ascendancy to unipolar imperial power — with the entire planet globalizing around its neo-liberal capitalist mantra — and the whole thing starts to unravel.

If you think this makes the institutional fabric of Western civilization vulnerable, you are right; it does.  Yet, do not believe for one moment that it is going to come down without a struggle. There are centripetal forces holding this spectacle together as much as there are centrifugal forces pulling it apart. Aside from the greedy and controlling hands of plutocrats, there is too much raw desire out there in the hinterlands, too many people who have been living on the fringes of this “Dream” just waiting their turn, scratching for a piece of the pie.

The entire Soviet Bloc, for example, systematically excluded from all the “fun” for almost a century, now has the forbidden fruit firmly within its grasp. These now independent nations are busy chasing the dream as quickly as they can muster the energy and the capital.  China, as well, has awakened from its slumber, focused on putting a car in every citizen’s driveway.  While the Indians have decided, they too want to play. Mumbai has made a good beginning in this respect, taking over nearly all customer service functions for major US corporations, with consumer purchasing power filtering into their coffers.

Yet, a new generation of Russians is racing to be first at the finish line. The Russian Federation, in concert with its regional administrations, is aggressively stripping forestland, building new roads and expanding old ones, as well as refurbishing and building-out regional and the international airports.  In fact, they are doing so with great abandon, as if there were no tomorrow; and perhaps there will not be.  Yet, no one in Siberia younger than fifty years old seems to care to discuss this possibility. They are having too much fun with their newfound wealth and enjoying the spectacle.

This is most evident when you look at the younger generation of Siberians and the nouveau riche in Barnaul, Biysk, Belokurikha, and across Altai Krai. They cannot live without their cell phones, their iPods and their credit cards; without their health club memberships, pricey coffee houses and their air conditioners; without their recently financed foreign automobiles and their newly minted driver’s licenses. In short, they have tasted the promise of this “society of the spectacle;” they are mesmerized by its allure and hooked on its fascinating appeal. It is not just blue jeans they want. They want it all!

So, short of an abrupt exhaustion of basic vital resources like fossil fuel, clean water, or fresh air, the only way you are going to see a quick collapse of this “curriculum of the West” as it moves east, is by prying it from the clutching hands of all those who previously had little, but now choose to have hope.

Yet, there is something ancient, nay, primitive, pulling concurrently at the emotional core of Siberians, something that once spoke clearly to a more archaic need, and perhaps still speaks to the older generations of Siberian’s even today. I am referring to the well-mythologized Russian soul: a soul that in the mother tongue is feminine in gender (душа: dusha) and, as such, is intimately connected with the mystery of Mother Earth. I recall Dostoevsky’s many references to the fact that the Russian soul is a reflection of the people’s unfailing and non-negotiable connection to the land from which life springs.

As I understand it, there is an articulable and inescapable sentiment among these people that does not allow complete separation, physically or emotionally, from this land in which they were born and where they naturally survive and flourish.  The Russian people have the greatest appreciation for, love of, and attachment to their homeland and families, as well as to the broader ties of kinship these entail. They understand all of this to be intimately connected, as their language makes abundantly clear:

(rod) – family (kind, sort, genus)

(rod.ina) – homeland, motherland

(rod.iteli) – parents

(rod.nit) – to bring together

(rod.ovoi) – ancestral (tribal)

(rod.stvo) – kinship

As well, historically, Russians have had to endure the hardships and struggles of constant political turmoil and invasion.  Indeed, the Siberians understand struggle as a given, as part of the cycle of life, death, and nature. The normal conditions of existence here, whether in the city, the village, or at the forest dacha, are not what we Americans would consider easy, convenient, or comfortable (although conditions are ever changing). Yet those who live here have maintained some age-old instincts to survive, and even to celebrate life in the midst of repeated challenges and strife.

So, the personal and cultural resolve that personifies this soul must be a strength steeled over generations of people facing down aggression, natural and political, then calmly and courageously returning to their roots and rebuilding their lives upon an archaic foundation in which they never lost faith.  In short, it is impossible to understand the depth and mystery of this soul independent of its rootedness in the simplicity of the Russian peasantry and the inviolability of the Russian soil.

There is an earthly sensuousness that infuses the Russian experience; this culture remains drenched in the primacy of the body and the natural world that nourishes it. Yet, this autochthonous connection to the land – the Siberian’s more elemental experience of life in wilder, mysterious nature – may still be capable of influencing the future trajectory of both the new Russia and Western civilization.

Perhaps Russia’s long-suffering messianic mission still stands firm in the Siberian wilderness, albeit less vociferously than before: quietly recalling humanity from the abyss of an alienated spirit that haunts the self-understanding of the West – its scientific rationalism, its consumerism, and its otherworldly transcendence – a self-understanding that seems to be marching all of us mindlessly to global collapse.  Perhaps a more primal Siberian awareness can call us back to a feral memory trace, helping us recall our essential rootedness in Mother Earth and the earthly sensuous – our flesh, the flesh of the world.

Unfortunately, the delusion of ‘manifest destiny’ driving the Western hegemony and its commodity culture is chipping away relentlessly and callously at that archaic Russian soul, perhaps more rapidly than she is able to redirect the self-destructive trajectory of Western imperialism and its global appetite. Siberians, and those of us living here in Altai Krai, must rethink their commitment to this curriculum of the West as it continues to lead us relentlessly, mindlessly, towards a precipice.

* A truncated version of this article will appear in an upcoming edition of the newspaper Business Biysk, in Altai Krai, Russia.

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127 Responses to Душа: The Russian Soul and Collapse of the West*

  1. Brutus says:

    The Great Russian Soul (its tragedy and its torments) is a theme I’ve seen repeatedly, though I’ve never seen it expressed before in terms of naturalism. Rather, it’s usually about politics, warfare, and to a lesser degree, artistic expression, especially in poetry and literature. I suspect, though, that our short cultural memories — the stuff floating around in the front of the brain, not the stuff sensed in the body — limit us to maybe around 100 years, the outer limit of living memory, so the great upheavals in Russia and the Soviet Union over the past century loom large over a yet older, deeper understanding of humanity’s true position as humble participants in a world not really ours to take, remake, and destroy.

    The image associated with this post is haunting, BTW, as its color scheme and gestures suggest a world already afire, as though we need no longer wait for immolation in some final conflagration.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Brutus, maybe you should read some Dostoyesky to understand this more archaic soul of Russia; or perhaps spend some time in Siberia, outside of the cities.

      • Brutus says:

        I knew this was coming back at me: “you know nothing of my work/culture/history.” It’s true that I’ve never travelled to Russia or read Dostoevsky, but I have read Tolstoy. His portrayal of the idiocy of mannered 19th-century aristocratic culture was clearly contrasted with pastoral feeling. But that’s about as deep as my familiarity goes (except of course with music). So I’ll cop to it: I know almost nothing of Russian culture/history.

  2. javacat says:

    Another thought-filled and thoughtful post, Sandy. I’m especially partial to the soul as female and as connector with Earth and Nature.

    A few randomly related thoughts: For a cogent and insightful exploration of the effects of technology–especially digital technology–take a look at You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier–one of the developers of virtual reality. He explores the commodification of the Internet and how software modifies human behavior, as well as the ramifications of such change. You’ll never post on Facebook in the same way again. BTW, Lanier is also a musician and all-around fascinating character.

    Another thoughtful place which you may know is the Archdruid Report, also discussing collapse, philosophy, peak oil and related topics.

    What allows this hegemony of the West to be so virulent, to go viral, in YouTube parlance? What makes the young Siberians, Chinese, Indians, et al go gaga over gadgets? It is simply because the bling is from the West and that ‘dream’ has so infiltrated the collective global consciousness that that allure of an iPhone sets off undulations of unquenchable desire? Or did the West tap into some aspect of human nature and tap into it better than any other group before or after? What would drive a traditional, stable culture into spasms of consumerism so rapidy? Wouldn’t it have to more than exported Western values??

    I’m curious about how you think the dusha of Russia, of Siberia may still be capable of influencing the future trajectory of both the new Russia and Western civilization. I have to echo some thoughts of Brutus in that when I think Great Russian Soul, I think of sufferings endured, the strength of resilience in the face of extreme deprivation and punishment. But I haven’t experienced the place or people directly, so my impressions come from local sources and history.

    What rumblings are you hearing from underground? What do you perceive that still lives in your part of the world that lets some hope flicker?

    • kulturcritic says:

      The book looks very interesting JC.

    • Disaffected says:

      Second the Archdruid. Most will not welcome his views, regardless.

      As to the question of instant Western capitalist consumerist appeal in the face of thousands of years of simple cultural hegemony? Same as it was when it first overtook us early in the last century (albeit with all the natural advantages gained in the meantime): the appeal of instant gratification at low cost (the ETERNAL allure of capitalism!), with the additional “PUSH” of advanced western marketing and/or “forced marketing” techniques. As in, it’s GOOD to be the king and the only game in town. YES IT IS!

      DA

    • kulturcritic says:

      My comments about Russia spreading its soulful message was more of a wistful complaint. It could never happen because of historical exigencies, and the loss of their own sense of that feral ground being trampled by the West. The West created the concept of human nature and then filled it up with needs, desires, prescriptions, and prohibitions. Two million years of genus Homo and 200,000 of species sapiens prior to the birth of cities and specialization does not suggest that there is anything inherently human about acquisition or acquisitiveness. I hear nothing from underground except for the murky voices of my own disparate sense of self. But, one thing is certain, when collapse is in high gear more Russians than Americans will survive. That is my feeling, anyway.

      • javacat says:

        I thought of it more as wistful encouragement and plea, for those perhaps still early in the throes of acquisition to stay or re-connect with the wild core that links them to the land before the shiny distractions became insidious. But in Russia, and the former USSR, did not the regimes also trample the sense of the feral, from the czars to the Communists? I tend to agree with you on the facet of acquisitiveness…perhaps that trait or habit is more the conditioning of rapid social evolution, for even in the power structures of non-Western cultures, those in power (monarchs, dictators) certainly acquired for themselves. What struck me was that even in cultures where acquisition was not the dominant value (though some may argue that it is most certainly now the global hegemonic value), people in those countries adapted to the cell phones, etc. with breathtaking swiftness. And yes, probably those more aware of and closer to the wild core will do better in surviving a collapse.

  3. john patrick says:

    Hey Sandy,
    on the Russian soul… I wonder if it will be like the German soul. After watching history.com on the Third Reich I thought to myself, “how could these people degenerate under a populist leader?” Germany had such a rich and deep culture. Brilliant thinkers. And yet, the unthinkable occurs. Do any of our cultures have much of a firewall between greatness and evil. Does the realm of hungry ghosts lay subdued, waiting for a crack in the garden wall.

    • Disaffected says:

      JP,

      I often wonder how those such as yourself could ask such questions, when in fact, the very questions you ask, are already being answered before your very eyes.

      Am I either VERY stupid or VERY smart? I dunno, but CLEARLY there’s a disconnect. I am CONTINUALLY amazed at people’s inability to comprehend the obvious.

      DA

      • john patrick says:

        Perhaps, DA, I am not asking a question but rather rhetorical for thought and conversation. Which I have received, from you 😉

        • Disaffected says:

          JP,

          Of course. My apologies. I seem to be on a roll in that regard lately.

          As to your original question, I see no evidence to support the idea that the US is unique with regard to populist leaders. Indeed, recent history seems to indicate EXACTLY the opposite.
          GWB, followed by BHO (in short retrospect), indicate to me nothing short of a headlong dive into capitalist “cult of personality” hell, followed by who knows what.

          Where do we go from here? I’m not sure any of us even wants to find out.

          DA

    • kulturcritic says:

      In history, in other words, in civilized times, there is no FIRE WALL. Standing Armies were coincident with the rise of the city walls.

      • john patrick says:

        Now that is an interesting point. The army becomes a movable wall. One soldier, one brick. This is a bit off topic, but you know about the underground terra cotta soldiers found in China. I have to wonder if they were intended to be placed on the Great Wall. Easy to feed 🙂

    • Brutus says:

      John Patrick asks:

      on the Russian soul… I wonder if it will be like the German soul

      You needn’t wonder. Germans, Americans, Russians, and all the rest are all prone to distortions of national character. The largest (by far) of the many 20th-century genocides was perpetrated in the Soviet Union on its own people during Stalin’s midcentury drive toward industrialization. It didn’t work out in the end, but the glamor of the American lifestyle didn’t dull, so now it’s a drive toward a market economy, which has infected Russia as well as China, India, Brazil, etc. No people has a natural immunity that I can tell, except maybe Aboriginal Australians.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Maybe the largest killer in the 20th century is global capitalism. Just maybe. Think about it!!

        • john patrick says:

          All machines created by us. So we can sit back, enjoy the easy life, and be ruled by a nut and bolt. There’s got to be a lesson here, somewhere… Perhaps, do not create something beyond your means to control/sustain it. Or–if you create something, put a dissolving agent in it so it doesn’t last forever.

          • javacat says:

            And the newest nut & bolt is this thing I’m typing on right now. Humans create beyond their understanding of implications, often for the challenge of solving a problem or the wonder of creating, yet we are left with the fall out of the unforeseen or ignored consequences. Add then the deliberate manipulators of the current ‘nuts and bolts’–whether atomic bombs or computers–and the populace is shaped, formed, tweaked, herded along a very different path than first intended.

            • john patrick says:

              Good point on “humans creating beyond their understanding of implications.” Reminds me of the Manhattan Project.

              • javacat says:

                Absolutely. And how many of those men, caught in the thralls and excitement of discover, came later to advocate for peace, for disarmament for they then realized the danger of their own creation.

                • john patrick says:

                  Discovery of something “new” while you’re on an isolated island might be fine. But today? Reminds me of, “When Worlds Collide.” More often than not, I think it’s best to keep great ideas to oneself. Or try it on oneself before it’s shared with the world. These things may have their place for a unique moment, but to unleash them to move throughout time and space uninhibited?

                  Always package a new idea with a red and blue pill.

                  • javacat says:

                    Somehow, this story from the Washington Post seems relevant to your comments. Here’s a few graphs. it’s surreal in all its own way.

                    Maine Doctor Protests National Anthrax Testing on Children
                    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is wrestling with the thorny question of whether scientists should inject healthy children with the anthrax vaccine to see whether the shots would safely protect them against a bioterrorism attack.

                    The other option is to wait until an attack happens and then try to gather data from children whose parents agree to inoculate them in the face of an actual threat.

                    (http://bangordailynews.com/2011/10/25/health/bangor-doctor-protests-anthrax-testing-on-children/)

                    • john patrick says:

                      Yep. I agree. I’ve got a real distaste for doing “good” experiments on others that can’t object. How are we to evolve (internally) when we do dastardly deeds on the smallest of creatures… in a sense, we are doing the same thing to ourself at the cellular level. More exceptionalism, eh…

                    • kulturcritic says:

                      Nothin surprises me from the Empire

        • javacat says:

          Wow. That’s hard to tell. My mind immediately asks, “How do you measure” the biggest killer. Killer of humans? Of species? Of land? Certainly the regimes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao left millions upon millions dead, and land wasted and polluted. How do you disentangle our human plague of destruction in the 20th century?

          • Disaffected says:

            JC,

            And MY MIND says deal with the devil at hand. Rather than deal with the multitude of devils you suspect, why not deal with the one who threatens to kill you in the here and now?

            While it’s true that the enemy of the good is the perfect; it’s ALSO true that the friend of the merely bad is the truly evil. Seems to explain modern conservatism pretty well to my mind.

            Either way. Disentangling human destruction? Now there’s an exercise for an academic!

            DA

            • john patrick says:

              “While it’s true that the enemy of the good is the perfect…” nicely said. And, can we say that all “ism’s” are a plan to obtain perfection?

            • javacat says:

              DA,

              My thoughts were in response to Sandy’s comments rather than my own bugaboos. I was merely raising the idea that other modes of regime and curricula also have perpetuated great tragedies upon the Earth, whether against humans, other species, or the planet in general. I’ve got my own list of modern, current, in-the-moment, in-my-face devils, no worries.

              As for academics…sometimes they’re worth their degrees. 😉

        • Disaffected says:

          kC,

          Just maybe? I’m only surprised you posed it as a question!

          21st century, no doubt. 20th century, yet to be reassessed. Rest assured, it WILL be soon enough! Does anyone doubt the outcome, even given it’s late start?

          Global capitalism is TRULY an exponential killer!

          DA

  4. Disaffected says:

    kC,

    Let me just throw out an initial “NOW we’re getting down to the heart of the matter” sentiment before we proceed. I’ve yet to read or digest the whole thrust of this post yet, but the very title of it lets me know that you’re onto something.

    The reconciliation of the former USSR and the west – aka the USA – is INDEED a story still worth telling. And one whose future is STILL very much in doubt!

    We ain’t out of the woods just yet. ICBMs (aka, nuclear missiles+) notwithstanding.

    DA

  5. Disaffected says:

    On, the UNIVERSAL SOUL, or at least as I myself interpret it myself (and I’ll warn you, I’ve been accused from all quarters as being an incorrigible “fill in the blank.”), I offer up the two musical presentations (in English) for your consideration. My apologies in advance where applicable (fucking capitalism!):

    Might I add, perhaps the word MELANCHOLY is what you’re getting at? I know THAT’S my main thrust, which I seemingly have ALWAYS had a hard time of conveying.

    DA

    • kulturcritic says:

      Interesting, if not, haunting melodies! Lyrically typical of young Western men; sounds like alot of what I heard there for years.

      • Disaffected says:

        Aww KC,

        The Crows are hardly typical of “Western Men;” they’re hardly typical of “men” at all. Truth is, Adam Duritz – the lead singer and “face” of the group – is little more than a “career” heroine abuser, who also happens to be a genius songwriter and vocalist beyond compare. It just so happens that Duritz’ heroine addiction ALSO opens him up to realities in this world that EVEN I had never explored before, which makes him to be nothing less than a prophet (small case) in my view. That he/they combine both lyrics AND music so seamlessly, makes them PROPHETS (UPPER CASE) in my view.

        My view of music, like all other forms of art, is: if I TOTALLY lose myself in it, it’s ART. If I don’t, it’s not. It’s kinda like sex that way.

        DA

    • john patrick says:

      Thanks, DA. But, “incorrigible,” I’ll have to look that one up. I get it confused with corrugated. But I know you don’t mean that!

      Music. I enjoyed.

      Melancholy. The dream longing for the dreamer. The painting wanting to see the painter.

  6. rg the lg says:

    Too deep … too many ideas attempting to say the same thing …
    The language of the west is seductive … it preaches a perfection that can be achieved if one ‘wants’ sufficiently / enough …
    The point about cell phones and iPods and the rest of it … the concept of the double income attempt to acquire more … the want of a car / automobile … a larger house … more … more … more … is seductive.
    Yes, there are those who dream of more … but who live at the edge of poverty … and seem content. Given the opportunity, they will acquire … but without the opportunity, they simply dream. I would suggest that the dream is NOT the problem … it is the effort to fulfill the dream.
    But, I digress … the formal issue is what is … and the answer is that so long as there are those who see grasping as the game to be played, the rest of us playing along, then the gig is up.

    Somewhere the question was asked about how we got into this mess. We strive to preserve all humans … no one should be allowed to die. Medicine / science found answers … and the numbers grew … exponentially as numbers in a population will when the constraints of death are removed. At some point the resources are inadequate … as DA says over and over … it is a fucking problem … or, as I would twist it, it is the problem of fucking. As long as we mindlessly fuck to create, without considering the results, there will be too many of us fucking the fuck out of the world. At some point, collapse is inevitable …

    It is a marketable concept … fucking … but maybe what we really need is the inverse of more fucking … to become fuckless … the inverse of viagra and its clones?

    I aver, it will not happen: one, we have been taught that a good, frequent fuck is a good thing … we have commodified it … and the consequence is that we fuck too much … we fuck up … and we strive to find a solution … by fucking more? Two, capitalism demands greater markets and they can achieved by increasing the population to be marketed to … more people? More buyers … more buyers … more wealth to be taken?

    Ah well …

  7. kulturcritic says:

    The touted democratization of the world sought by our “democratic” neo-liberal global capitalist elites indiscriminately lays waste to any and all non-cooperating forces in its path. The propaganda machine together with the financial and military might of this political-economic hegemony takes no prisoners, but simply infects others with its disease or kills them in the process. Just ask the American Indians and countless other cultures, flora and fauna on the planet earth… and those who depend upon the Earth.

    • Disaffected says:

      kC,

      The Native American/”Indian” saga – truthfully told – is enough to make most Americans who haven’t already been completely brainwashed by the allure of modern culture ready to renounce their citizenship in such a blatantly corrupt and racist empire. Throw in the enslavement of African blacks and other “third world brown types” (Lt Howard Hunter, Hill St Blues), which continues to this day, and you have to wonder how ANY of us continues to “pledge allegiance” to ANY of this hypocritical bullshit.

      Add to that the continued demonization of those who have the temerity to merely point these things out, and you have to begin to ask the questions:

      Land of the free? FREE to do WHAT? Accept the status quo?

      Home of the brave? SO BRAVE you can’t even question YOUR OWN government to ask questions which you are allegedly FREE TO DO?

      There’s some serious shit going on with our “democracy” these days, and hardly ANY of it is going on in DC. Just as it was ALWAYS supposed to be! That rumbling in the belly of the beast that we hear these days ain’t just another case of indigestion. Nope, this one’s a righteously conceived young’n with fire in his belly in his own right, and THIS MOTHERFUCKER IS PISSED!

      If I was part of the status quo or their inheritors, I would be afraid. VERY AFRAID!

      DA

      • john patrick says:

        Eh, I don’t know about you guys, but watching Dances with Wolves (yeah–I know it’s JUST a movie) but it drives home the point stated above. Or how about the movie series, Firefly. Why do people NOT like the alliance/empire? Because (River says) they meddle in our affairs.

        So–as we attain more power, individually. We should leave things alone.

        • Disaffected says:

          JP,

          Well, Dances With Wolves was expressly about the quashing of the native American “nation” by the burgeoning American Empire, while the latter was about (I’ll admit) I don’t know what. Of the two, I IMAGINE that the native Americans just MIGHT have had a stronger case to make, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

          In general, I think I’d more likely summarize it as this: might DOES NOT necessarily make right, especially when we (as a nation) spend MANY exponential times the rest of the world in developing DEATH technologies. At least if you don’t want your primary export to be DEATH itself. Just sayin’.

          When the world is reduced to a smokin’ crater and/or a toxic stew, is there any doubt as to whose fingerprints will be all over the evidence? Think about it. Think about it some more.

          Do we REALLY want to keep supporting the current status quo? I dunno.

          Food for thought.

          DA

          • kulturcritic says:

            And so, who has killed more of the earth and its creatures?

            • john patrick says:

              Who killed more people/creatures? If you include comets, asteroids, and viruses, humans probably come in second place. Does that mean we have the wisdom of a box of rocks?

              Funny, though. When you think of the universe evolving, I tend to think of myself as halfway up the scale, rather than at the bottom. I’ll get over it. The song is true. I am a rock! [my music contribution to this site]

          • john patrick says:

            As the Archdruid is speaking of lately, the importance of secret. Learning something new and NOT sharing it. Not because we don’t want to share, but because it’s not always a needed ingredient (at this moment in time) for the cake to rise. Some brilliant scientists discovered something “new” in the 40/50s. They should’ve kept it to themself (my opinion). Why did they release this information? How to blow up the fuckin’ world.

            I don’t know. But it reminds me of the ancient foot-washer who told his students to go home and not tell anyone of the lesson. Don’t tell anyone! But they did. And the buildings went up. And the priests got fine clothes. And we ended up with a mess.

            The moral? It’s not always wise, nor is the audience ready, for your little story…

  8. rg the lg says:

    the machine …
    yes …
    coupled with the spread of the species and the consequent over population …
    perhaps an inevitable (and regretful) consequence of life to dominate until domination is no longer feasible …

    i suspect that while everything you say is true … the truth extends beyond the simplistic notion that capitalism is the means … it is certainly the means we deal with today … but domination seems to be written into the genetic code. i wonder what would happen if there was another culture / language bearing species ??? would they too be hell bent on domination?

    i despise capitalists … and i dislike capitalism … but i refuse to see only one evil … especially since there are multiple evils …

    elsewise, i am little more than the despicable despised by me …

  9. rg the lg says:

    “In the United States,” Paul Fussell, in his book ‘Class’ writes, “everything is coated with a fine layer of fraud.”

    ‘We are a people relentlessly on the make, we are all encouraged to develop “The Brand Called You” and market it.’ This was found at: Dark Ages America, Morris Berman.

    Thus, are we, the users of this blog, creating our own brands … led by Sandy?

    If so, I am at least as guilty as anyone …

    But, this raises a question for me. IF this is the case, and Sandy is correct that we are merely marketing the current version of the ‘western brand’ to the rest of the world … why is it that other cultures can not (do not) develop immunity? Or, has there been immunity developed by people we descry as less than us … because they may dream of having, but seldom aspire actively in acquiring the haves of have-ness as we have defined it?

    This question persists … and I can’t help but wonder if the people on welfare … are subsistence by choice? Is is possible they have chosen to opt out … but in our industrialized, commercialized world, they do not aspire to be like those of us on this blog?

    Is it not possible that what Sandy sees is what Sandy chooses to see … the affirmation of his critique? Are all peoples aspiring to the iPod universe … or only the ones we choose to see?

    I agree that the western way of being, what Sandy calls the curriculum of the west is doomed … and that it will take all away with it … but I am not so certain that the curriculum of the west is the only way that people are being. Those that are not, we denigrate even as we critique the rest of those who do want … ironically for not wanting enough? Only enough to want if it falls in their laps …

    Ah, to be truly incorrigible … to be always the iconoclast, no matter the position … the devil in the deep blue sea … ?

    • john patrick says:

      What is the curriculum, the goal, the objective of the west? I’ll be damned if I know. You’d think it’d have to come from the bottom-up, then we all work to accomplish it. When it comes from the top-down, how can anyone know what is best for a fellow citizen/comrade or neighbor? Particularily when they haven’t walked in the other’s shoes.

      • Disaffected says:

        Indeed! And wasn’t that the primary critique of Communism in the first place? The more things change…

        Capitalism, Communism, same old “ism.”

        “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, we won’t get fooled again (drum solo),” [The Who].

        And to think, we actually THOUGHT things were gonna change! Sigh!

        Fear not Knights of the new Templar! You have only your mere lives to lose – and alas! – they are not merely yours to lose in the first!

        Ok, that’s just me (slightly) kidding, (I’m sorry, the twenty-thirty something broke free). I’m an asshole. What can I say? CRUCIFY ME BITCHES!

        DA

        • john patrick says:

          Put ten good people, hell–put two good people around a tree. Give them 10 fuckin’ billion years to contemplate their navel. And what will they come up with? Communism. Democracy. Kings and Queens. Socialism. It doesn’t matter. They are bored outa’ their friggin minds. ANYTHING is better than sitting in a perfect world where nothing changes.

          And so here we are. Let’s try each one.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Good questions JP – that is why consanguine and affine relations should be the basis of all community.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Yes, you are that, Rg! But I agree that, in fact, we not only denigrate those who do not want what we sell, we seek to exterminate them as swiftly as we can!

  10. rg the lg says:

    The shoes of the other … the not-me, the not-us … are wrong by virtue of being not-me, not-us …
    the term belongs (mostly) to Sandy … though it refers to the notion that only by adopting and living the (so-called) civilization as defined by the western tradition can one progress … improve … become a success. And, each of these (progress / improvement / success) depends on the idea that one has more resources … and is able to maximize those resources.

    Contrary influences … exist … but according to this notion … we have gone beyond the pale …

    Now THERE is a term worthy of investigation … “beyond the pale” …

    Irascibly …

  11. john patrick says:

    Dog gone it–RG. Now I have to look up Irascibly. Wish you guys would quit using obtuse words.

  12. rg the lg says:

    Obtuse … ‘blunt, as in dull’ … or, as ‘an obtuse angle is one of more than 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees’ …

    Abstruse …also dull, but … “imperceptive, unintelligent, unthinking” … probably abstruse as in “difficult to grasp or comprehend, needlessly complex, impossible to understand”

    Guilty … not to be dull, though blunt might fit … could be “imperceptive, unintelligent, unthinking” … just blathering on both irascibly and truly incorrigible … to be always the iconoclast, no matter the position … but it was unintentional if I was “difficult to grasp or comprehend, needlessly complex, impossible to understand” …

    Guilty, as a person who strives to find just the right word for just the right context to explain just the content of words … I am a pain in the ass. For that I don’t apologize, but it was not meant to be a cause for being abstruse … for anyone at any time.

    Ah well …

  13. rg the lg says:

    Russian writers [… Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Nabokov … Denis Fonvizin, Nikolay Karamzin, Ivan Krylov, Mikhail Lomonosov … Ivan Goncharov, Alexander Griboedov (Gore of Uma), Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Timur Kibirov, Dmitry Vodennikov, Mikhail N. Epstein, Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov, Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, Sergei Alexandrovich Yesenin, Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, Vladimir Georgievich Sorokin, Maxim Gorky (Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov), Tatiana Tolstaya, Mikhail Bulgakov, Anna Akhmatova …] I have read … novels, short stories, poetry … the gamut … . Most, alas, in translation since my read Russian is at best problematic. I am penultimately a reader … and to suggest that I read Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский is almost insulting. Almost … not quite. It has been a while … his “Записки из подполья, Zapiski iz podpol’ya” is one of my favorite existentialist works … and from him I quote (translated): ” … and it was all from ennui, gentlemen, all from ennui ; inertia overcame me.” Notes from Underground, ch5.

    Remember, the lg does mean ‘library guy.’

  14. B Miller says:

    I always think of Herzen when I think of the soul of Russia: both noble and peasant beating in the same heart. It has been years since I read his memoirs but in it he relayed the following story (I think, although it could of been Mikailovsky).

    During the revolutionary ferment of the late 19th century the anarchists were setting fires to buildings. The owners/elite called a meeting and demanded of the St. Petersburg fire marshall “what are you going to do about these fires!” He replied, “You leave the fires to me. Instead you should worry about the fires in the minds of men.”

    Now that is the essence of what I think is the Russian soul. A Fire In The Mind may be what is needed.

    • Disaffected says:

      B Miller,

      Yep, agreed. Anarchism, in it’s truest sense, is what I think of when I imagine a “Russian soul.” It’s hard to capture that exactly, as it always was. Or perhaps, is that just the western mindset reaction against “anything capitalism?”

      Good question? I dunno?

      A fire in the mind, indeed! A fire in the mind, indeed!!!

      DA

      • john patrick says:

        Does Sandy come across as a philosophical anarchist? Just a humble question. The RU people have a long history. Perhaps when we suffer through the same things, we’ll know the RU soul? What do you think, DA.

        • Disaffected says:

          JP,

          Could VERY well be (although, in truth, I doubt he’s anarchist enough!). Nonetheless, I sense you’re trying to start some shit where such shit doesn’t necessarily already exist, you little fokker you! Shame on you!

          The term “little shit-ass” comes to mind here. Are you one of those?

          DA

        • kulturcritic says:

          JP – I wrote this back in May on the blog, lest, ye forget:

          “If revolutionary forces succeed in mobilizing this passion for disintegration, and if such passion can fuel the anarchist’s vision for community without authority, without a head of state, then perhaps this hegemony can be dismantled and “we, the people,” can rediscover a renewed form of community — real communities built upon simple respect for the other (including the earth), an appreciation of self-sufficiency born of cooperation, and an expansive sense of kinship – both consanguinal and affine relations. But let’s not hope for it; there’s already been too much of that “hopey” thing lately.” (The Stricken Empire: The Shadow Of Our Hegemony)

          I believe you could call me a post-critical anarchist of the primitivist persuasion.

          • john patrick says:

            Reminds me of ancient myths. Of a darkness that has always been.

            But this dark thrust that we hate, the beast that creeps closer to Bethlehem each day, is what makes us great. It forces us to create.The black hole inside us makes us rush to the outer edge. Prepare! For the end is near!

            Goddamn. Grab the spam and bullets.

            Left to our own devices, (I think) we would dance around a marshmallow fire like tree faires and exclaim all is great.

            What is great? If we haven’t created a damn thing.

            [all rhetorical–not directed at you, Sandy]

    • kulturcritic says:

      I like the idea, Miller!

  15. rg the lg says:

    JP, I am not here to think about answering your question …

    DA … a mind on fire … nicely repeated … and twice worthy …

    But …

    I find it fascinating … we were so close, once, to seeing what we needed to do … but we blinked. I, perhaps harder than you … and am only now recovering slightly.

    Teapartiers to the right of us … OWSers to the middle of us … no one,
    it seems truly on the left … so how can we go forward, the 500?

    The empire wavers … the top 1% do as they have always: projecting, displacing, denial … and we, our politicos in the lead, swallow …

    The question:

    Will we go back to an imaginary past in which we are hopelessly
    confused and mislead by a welter of different defense mechanisms
    hiding painful truths from ourselves?

    Or

    Will we go forward into a future we knowingly shape together for the
    mutual benefit of all?

    I am betting on the former … even when we have almost nothing, as the descendants of European hustlers, we shuffle to protect even our little and thus side against our own best interests.

    I am also betting that we are going to see the end of what has been called civilization … the end of the west as the user (rapist) of the planetary resources … all in the name of gain, more stuff, the ultimate winner is the greatest consumer. Not simply because we need, but because we want (whether as a function of our own lousy dna or as a function of marketed desire) ever more.

    Will it be the end of life? Hell no … will another species rise like genus homo to rape and destroy? Perhaps. Whatever, I am betting our descendants will resemble us in much the same way that the descendants of dinosaurs, birds, resemble them … . Maybe, all for the better … maybe, not.

    April 1, 2012, is the estimated date for the 7 billionth human … remember 1970 … when the population was a mere half of that? Knowing that … what we did was breed … creating the one thing the planet did not need … more humans …

    Ah, the idealism … the half-assed dreams …

    • john patrick says:

      Eh. I do not think we can go backward. Like a dinosaur going on a diet. I think it was Churchhill who said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going!”

      Some things we will lose. For sure. And be happy for it.

    • Disaffected says:

      rg,

      Great stuff as always. I have to say, you and I are birds of a feather. When I read your stuff it’s like I’m reading it back from myself. To the letter.

      That said, I’m 53, and I feel (perhaps like you), that I’ve reached the end of the line. Not because I’m in any way “worn out” or any of that shit, but simply because I don’t know what else I have to “add” anymore to a society which seems hell-bound on destruction, and which has an abnormal fixation on “youth and beauty,” even beyond the clearly narcissistic standards we created back in the 1980’s (and before!). That said, I’m not apologizing in any way for the stupid shit we did back then, nor for the repercussions we experience today. Hey, we did it, I was a part of it, and I’m here to experience the results – one way or another – either way.

      All that said, youth is youth, and reality is reality. We’ve got some REALLY serious bullshit to deal with in the next few years, and SOMEONE damn sure better wake up and realize it. The youngn’s? For whatever reason, they’ve been lulled asleep. Might JUST be time someone woke them up. Not that they’re likely to listen to old fools like us anymore. All the same! It’s ALL WE HAVE to give them! IT’S THE LEAST WE CAN DO IN OUR TIME LEFT!

      DA

    • kulturcritic says:

      Love the cynicism, Rg!!

  16. javacat says:

    Go watch NOW. OWS NYC: http://occupytheplanet.org/?p=537

    Live streaming from Broadway.

  17. rg the lg says:

    DA and Co …

    Cynicism is the shell an idealist grows to protect idealism from reality …

    Skepticism … the scientists true art form … has never had much affect on the genetic tendency of our species to hide its head in the sand unless, of course, it produces stuff for consumption …

    I am crowding 65 … some days thinking I am far younger … mostly wishing I had an inkling at some point about what to do then to prevent now … but knowing that time may flow many directions but we are fortunate not to be able to.

    Youth? The future … encumbered just as the present with lies, liars, and …

    I work, as I have mentioned, with youth … and one of my tasks is to delude them from the standard curriculum … to teach them that the same formula one uses for figuring simple interest can be used to project population change … to expose them to the reality that the US has really never ‘won’ a war without substantial help against a real enemy … that Carter wasn’t evil and Reagan NOT a saint … that the Declaration of Independence is something the Patriot Act renders illegal … that slavery was the cause of the revolution … that the end of slavery was not due to kindness, but to economics … that government regulates for oligarchies and against others …

    And to what affect?

    Not much … and over time, almost nothing.

    In the dark ages, the mid-60’s, I dated a girl named Sivinski who turned me on to Russian Literature … (actually I took Russian in order to have a class with her) … a totally unintended consequence was a life long passion to under stand the soul … not so much of Russians, but of all of us … . Good intentions encrypted with ultimate greed … the good, the greedy, the grind …

    And life? It is resilient at the macro level, but tentative starting at the level of the species and going down to the highly irrelevant individual. We don’t have much impact because we are not much to begin with …

    In spite of our delusions …
    Or, as a friend has said: to spite the delusional …

  18. Mean Mango says:

    I found your blog via the rusty grumblings of Mr. Kunstler and I’ve been reading it for a few months and I quite enjoy it! And the comments as well. I am surprised you haven’t touched upon the Russian-Vedic connection yet. Raduga, krasota, kultura, pravda, pravilo, vera, radost, razum, kramola, krai, gora, rab, rabota, zhar, pora, rano, rasa, brat, sestra. The RA of Ramayana. Mahabharata. Rama. Some Russian scholars claim that the Russian roots {or what was later to become ‘Russian’} laid the foundation for the Vedic civilization and not the other way around. It would be interesting to find your thoughts on this.

    • kulturcritic says:

      MM – perhaps I need to do more research, but most current scholarship suggests that any attempts to show a Euro-Russian origin of Vedic culture were racially motivated, and that the Vedic culture originated among the indigenous peoples of Northern India and not by means of migration or invasion. But, I personally have no opinion at present on this topic, which is certainly of great interest.

    • kulturcritic says:

      MM – I am thrilled you have joined the discussion. Please stick with us and let’s here more from you. sandy

    • kulturcritic says:

      Of course, diffusionist v independent development has always been an intriguing issue for scholars. However, the attempt at attributing developments independently to various indigenous cultures may itself be a racial assumption, i.e., that civilization is a good thing and we should let others share in the glory of its emergence.

  19. Mean Mango says:

    Well, when we talk about history in sequential terms and compare cultural influences, we are bound to make “racial” assumptions one way or another. The “rusian” cultural heritage – the soul and the spirit – preceding and then influencing the development of the Vedic civilization is a very controversial perspective, indeed, but this makes it very interesting, doesn’t it? Perhaps, material for a new article on kultircritic…?

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