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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Dr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: integraldeeplistening.com and his YouTube channel.
The Ukraine Crisis
An Opportunity to Wake Up Out of Groupthink
What is it about the current Western mentality that demands a black and white instead of a multi-perspectival view of the world?
It was an unexpected pleasure to find in my mailbox a very thoughtful and thorough response by Frank Visser to my essay "Is Putin Red and the West Green?" Visser's essay, "Hubris and Hypocrisy Are Present On Both Sides", reflects a major reason I value Visser and his IntegralWorld.Net website: Visser has created a platform for the airing of multiple perspectives by many intelligent and thoughtful people, which, after all, is fundamentally what an integral worldview is supposed to not only do, but encourage. In this respect, I consider Visser to be one of the most integral people I know. Visser strives for objectivity and impartiality while sticking to his guns and taking principled positions. His adherence to a welcoming of all viewpoints without imposing editorial guidelines reflects an openness and absence of censorship I have not found on other integral platforms. For that, we all owe Visser a great debt of gratitude. I have found that regardless of the specific Integral AQAL idea, it is thoughtfully explored in multi-colored hues in multiple essays, if I simply do a search of Integral World.
What Visser's response allows me to do is to answer his very common and sensible objections with data points and facts that I didn't have room for in my initial essay. I do so in the knowledge that all information is partial and incomplete; that there are counter-examples, and that we all harvest and present those data points that bolster our own position. I also know that raising any points in support of the perspective of Russia and Putin get me dismissed as a “Russian bot,” “useful idiot” of Russian propaganda, as not supportive of the plight of Ukrainians, and so forth. I cannot even state facts that support Russia's interpretation of events without being labeled a “Putin apologist” or worse. What is that? What is it about the current Western mentality that demands a black and white instead of a multi-perspectival view of the world?
Knowing that I am not going to be changing minds of those sleepwalking in groupthink, in what follows I am not attempting to be “fair and balanced,” because the opposing viewpoint is over-represented in the public sphere and the evidence for the position I lay out is vastly under-represented. Just because I do not acknowledge opposing arguments doesn't mean I am not aware of them and have not considered them. I am presenting evidence for my conclusion that mainstream Western narratives, blasted daily into the ears and eyes of WILPs (Western, Integral, Liberal, Progressives), is not only one-sided, but unjust, either in the contexts of social norms, international law, or both.
It is unrealistic to expect Integralists to see eye-to-eye on everything; such disagreements are important to the development of integral perspectives. It is possible to agree with Visser in many, if not most of his observations.
For example, I can agree
In the past, for most of my life, that would be enough—end of story, which means that the majoritarian narrative we hear every day and is amplified in an Integral context by Robb Smith in his essay, would be sufficient to haul Putin before the international court and put him in jail.
The problem is that when one backs off, attempts to understand both history and context, it is easy to understand Russia's and Putins perspective, reasons, and justifications, if not to support them. To say so drives those who demand simple, clear answers and moralistic positions crazy. Their response is to point out the rational inconsistency and immorality of the justification of evil of such a relativist position. If one does not understand and expect such responses, they are better off keeping their head down and their mouth shut, except to occasionally bray the party line of whatever the current collective groupthink happens to be.
The problem is that when one backs off, attempts to understand both history and context, it is easy to understand Russia's and Putins perspective, reasons, and justifications, if not to support them. To say so drives those who demand simple, clear answers and moralistic positions crazy.
Balance, reciprocity, and interdependence
Dillard's main point has always been that "balance is more important than transcendence." He has objected to what he sees as an overly individualistic emphasis in integral thought, restricted to the Upper Left quadrant, and its spiritual levels at that. In his opinion, this has lead to hubris and a lack of consideration for the well-being of others, especially out-groups, and for their opinions of us. This way, he has offered a way of “healing integral”.
Ethically, I frame balance in terms of reciprocity: what is allowed for me is allowed for you; what is not allowed for me is not allowed for you unless I give you permission or don't care. I frame justice in terms of interdependent co-origination and tetra-mesh. Interdependent co-origination is as fundamental to Buddhism as liberation is to Hinduism, salvation is to Christianity, obedience is to Judaism and Islam, and harmony is to Chinese humanism. While growth in lines favors this or that quadrant, the interdependence of the four quadrants necessary for individual/societal growth from level to level, requires some degree of balancing of all four holonic quadrants (interior consciousness, values, behavior, and relationship), which Wilber calls “tetra-mesh”. If that balancing doesn't occur, then at some point justice and injustice become unavoidable issues, because justice is ground zero for the LR, interpersonal, systemic quadrant of human and collective holons. Visser has made a similar point numerous times regarding Wilber's treatment of evolutionary science. It's also demonstrable that Wilber has a track record of ignoring, dismissing, or distorting the arguments of those who disagree with his UL quadrant idealism.
Are higher memes worth upholding?
I agree with Visser that higher memes are worth upholding. I see WILPs upholding those higher memes in words much more than in deeds. Examples abound. How do we square WILP identification with higher memes with Western support of Mohammad bin Salman and his murderous war in Yemen, Israeli genocide (if only by our intimidated silence), our arming of jihadist terrorists in Syria, and avowed neo-Nazis in the Ukraine? As citizens of the US or its affiliated vassals, we are giving tacit, if not overt support. Why, given such examples—and many, many more are well known—should one conclude that “even an imperfect democracy is preferable to repressive dictatorships”? How do we manage to conclude that we represent a morally superior position?
Is Russia a repressive dictatorship?
Visser regards Russia as a repressive dictatorship, inferior to Western pluralistic democracies. Visser notes,
… the West has produced pluralistic democracies, especially in Europe (though not yet in the US or somewhat in the UK), whereas Russia has turned into an autocratic dictatorship with severe repression of its dissidents (not to mention poisoning or being sent to detention camps).
The definition of a “repressive dictatorship” is by no means established. For example, some 91% of Chinese say they trust their government. Are all those Chinese, who on the average have IQs 3-4 points higher than Americans, cowed into lying, and are really repressed? Are the 70+% of all Russians who say they support Putin and the war really repressed? Could it be that the belief that Russians are lying in such polls is a way for WILPs to avoid dealing with inconvenient truths?
It is possible to point out the many limitations and corrupt aspects of any government, including Western ones, without thereby concluding that they are repressive dictatorships. Certainly the citizens of Russia themselves do not share that conclusion. According to the latest polls I've seen Putin has a 79% approval rating. Do repressed populations give their leaders that degree of support? By that measure, the US, which gives its Presidents support on the average in the 40-50% range, is repressive. While there are legitimate “yes, buts” about Russian elections, Russia is a democracy. It holds open, internationally supervised elections. Russia's form of government is technically a semi-presidential republic, with a president, prime minister, three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial), and a legislature. For every limitation of Russian democracy (there are many) one can think of at least one US/Western one. For example, consider Western limitations on a free press. Has anyone noticed the “Hate Speech” laws in the EU that can put you in prison? How about the censorship campaigns by Google, Facebook, and Twitter, at the behest of the government? Regarding “severe repression of dissidents,” in Russia that are often cited as proof that Russia is a repressive dictatorship, what are we to make of the fate of Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange? If censorship is a hallmark of totalitarianism and fascism, what are we to make of current national claims of democratic pluralism?
At a virtual meeting with recipients of presidential awards for achievements in fine arts and literature, Putin said, “Today, they are trying to cancel the whole of our thousand-year-old country, our people…” The president blasted what he called “growing discrimination of everything connected to Russia” in some Western countries, adding that cultural and societal censorship was “tolerated and sometimes encouraged by the ruling elites…We remember it well from the footage of book burnings on city squares…” Putin was referring to the practice of burning books by Jewish authors and other works by German National Socialists in the 1930s.
The so-called 'cancel culture' has turned into 'the canceling of culture'. [Composers] Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff are getting erased from concert programs. Russian writers and their books are also getting banned. Such a massive campaign to destroy undesirable literature was carried out last time by the Nazis in Germany nearly 90 years ago. Aren't the cancelling of culture and broad-based censorship common markers of repressive dictatorships? Have WILPs turned into enablers of fascism but are so immersed in collective groupthink that they can't see it?
While there are legitimate “yes, buts” about Russian pluralism, Russia is comprised of some 193 ethnicities and the extent of minority protest in Russia is insignificant, even in the absence of repression, compared to that in the US. Consider the riots and property destruction in the US after the police murder of George Floyd. Of course, the standard Western gloss on that is that Russia doesn't have such riots because of “repression of dissent.” It is true that Russia doesn't allow its police to stand by and watch while people riot, burglarize, and burn down buildings, as happened in multiple cities in the US in 2021. While repression of dissent takes many forms and functions in many societies, the idea that Russia is some sort of Gestapo police state does not match the viewpoint of the average “man in the street” in Russia. While Putin has openly viewed the minority Atlanticist oligarchy in Russia with contempt, he began his career under Yeltzin and then as President supporting mergence with the West and NATO, and has co-existed with Atlanticists in Russia, even within his government, for some twenty years.
Visser notes that “at least Ukraine has a multi-party system of government…” I suspect he wrote that before it was reported that Zelensky “banned eleven opposition-owned news organizations” and tried to bar the head of Ukraine's largest opposition party, Viktor Medvedchuk, from running for office on a bogus “terrorist financing” charge. Zelensky published an English-language transcript of this speech on the official website of the office of the president, boasting that Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council was banning 11 opposition political parties, half of which are left-wing. Some of the parties that were criminalized include the Left Opposition, Union of Left Forces, Socialist Party of Ukraine, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, and Party of Socialists. To justify illegalizing these left-wing forces, the Ukrainian government accused them of being pro-Russian, or having “ties” to Moscow. However, some of these opposition parties have publicly condemned the Russian invasion. On March 20, Zelensky also signed a decree to seize control of all private media outlets, combining them into one state-controlled platform, with a “unified information policy” that ensures no deviation from the official Ukrainian regime propaganda line. Ukraine is using the war with Russia to crush all political opposition. There is currently no multi-party system of government in the Ukraine. The US, NATO, and EU are staunchly supporting the regime as it consolidate absolute power.
This rips the facade of moral rectitude off WILPs, revealing a fundamental delusion. WILPs tend to believe that their intentions in the UL and their values in the LL justify whatever they do in the two exterior quadrants, behavior and interpersonal relationships. An example is that many assume that because Lawrence Kohlberg found a developmental hierarchy in moral judgment, that a high score in same equates to moral action. But it doesn't. Just consider Obama's extra-legal drone assassinations of hundreds of individuals, or the way businesses easily rationalize putting profit before human welfare and the environment. WILPs tend to excuse amorality and immorality when they are in the service of pluralism, egalitarianism, freedom, democracy, and humanitarianism. However, the majority of the world, outside the echo chamber of the self-described “international community,” does not agree. We know that from the abstentions in the UN General Assembly vote of condemnation of Russia's invasion of the Ukraine by countries representing the majority of the world's population and over half of its economy. Multi-perspectivalism requires that we consider why that is so and how that reality requires a revision of the WILP worldview. What sort of pluralistic democracy arms neo-Nazis and fascists? What are we to make of those nations which we label as repressive authoritarianisms, like Russia and China, that refuse to do so?
Was Russia's invasion blatant aggression?
Visser refers to Russia's invasion of the Ukraine as “blatant aggression.” I agree, and yet that conclusion ignores a vital context that multi-perspectivalism demands that we take into account. Is “Putin's mindset one of grabbing countries to increase his empire's power?” Visser states, “Russia has always expressed an interest in incorporating the Baltic states, or other satellite countries…” Russia is not the Soviet Union. Putin is not Stalin. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989, Russia allowed Belorussia, the Baltics, the Ukraine, Kazhakstan, and Georgia to become independent. Regarding Russia's prior history, whether under the Soviet Union or Tsars, how is blaming Putin for events of his distant national past different from blaming Biden for say, the US history of slavery? Russia allowed Ukraine to remain independent until it became a de facto NATO member with strong neo-Nazi elements that discriminated against and attacked its Russian-speaking population. That's not what empires typically do.
What countries has Putin added to Russia? The Ukrainian province of Crimea is the only instance I know of since before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, and the facts around that event do not support a grabbing of another country to increase the power of Russia. We know that Russia and Putin had been content to abide by the terms of its long-term lease of its Crimean military base until the coup occurred. We know that the US Department of Defense advertised for contracts for the refurbishing of buildings at the Russian base at Sevastapol before the coup that overthrew the democratically elected government in February of 2014, indicating the US government was planning to occupy the base. Crimea was known as the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea” after the dissolution of the USSR. Putin did not “annex” Crimea. Crimea had a referendum and the people overwhelmingly (>95%) chose to go with Russia. The US, NATO, and the Ukraine provoked Russia's action.
Some Eastern European countries hate Russia because they were occupied by the Soviet Union, not because of anything Russia has done to them post 1989. They forget that if it were not for the Soviet Union they would all be speaking German today. A good two thirds of the Wehrmacht was destroyed on the eastern front by Russians before D-Day. Russians did most of the killing and by far most of the dying in WWII. Russians viscerally reject Nazism—considering that virtually every Russian family has at least one ancestor killed during the Great Patriotic War. From the perspective of wartime psychology, it makes total sense for Russia to talk of “Ukro-nazism” or, straight to the point, a “denazification” campaign.
Putin did indeed promise to respect Ukraine's integrity, as Visser points out. However, that was conditional on the Ukraine respecting Russia's integrity, including the integrity of Russian speaking citizens of the Ukraine. But the Ukraine did not; instead, it doubled down by outlawing media and political groups that might provide an alternative to that of the ruling party. It continued to shell and kill its previous citizens in the Donbass. Captured documents prove it was planning a massive invasion of the Donbass in March, which Russia's invasion aborted. Based on previous indiscriminate shelling and killing of civilians over eight years we can predict that if the Ukrainian attack had occurred that masses of civilians would have died.
If you respect my integrity but I refuse to respect yours, what are your alternatives? In most situations, we avoid or ignore those who do not respect us. If we cannot, then we have a choice: we can either submit and accept not being respected or we can demand that we be respected. If verbal demands are unheeded, but are instead viewed as a sign of weakness, followed by increased exploitation, and help is unavailable, then our available options are force or submission, are they not? As I have pointed out, there exist many legitimate circumstances in which force is the only effective option. After all, that is why police and courts exist.
Is Ukrainian neo-Nazism similar to that in other countries?
Visser draws an equivalency among the Nazism in the Ukraine and other countries, such as Germany and Russia. The difference is that Nazism is a significant part of the national government and military of the Ukraine, carefully nurtured by the CIA over decades. Branches of the United States government have admitted to neo-Nazis entrenched in the Kiev apparatus. On June 10, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act from Reps. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, and Ted Yoho, R-Florida that would block U.S. training of the Azov battalion and would prevent transfer of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to fighters in Iraq and Ukraine. Congressman Conyers described Ukraine's Azov Battalion as a 1,000-man volunteer militia of the Ukrainian National Guard that Foreign Policy Magazine has characterized as “openly neo-Nazi” and “fascist.” Azov is not some obscure force. Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who oversees Ukraine's armed militias, announced that Azov troops would be among the first units to be trained by the 300 U.S. military advisers who have been dispatched to Ukraine in a training mission codenamed “Fearless Guardian”. However, the amendment was later removed in November 2015, with The Nation reporting that the "House Defense Appropriations Committee came under pressure from the Pentagon to remove the Conyers-Yoho amendment from the text of the bill."
This is a particularly revealing information because it proves beyond doubt that the US was very well aware of the Nazi nature of the Azov Battalion. The government did what needed to be done to overcome any decisions due to democratic pluralism that would block any aid to Ukrainian neo-Nazis.
In an article by correspondent Tom Parfitt of the conservative London Telegraph, we learn that
… battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf's Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.
Based on interviews with militia members, the Telegraph reported that some of the fighters doubted the reality of the Holocaust, expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and acknowledged that they are indeed Nazis. According to the Telegraph article, Biletsky, the Azov commander, is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly. It quotes a commentary by Biletsky as declaring:
The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.
Regarding neo-Nazis in the Ukraine, there is no historical doubt whatsoever of Ukrainian nationalist forces active support of Nazism and participation in genocide, not just of Jews and Roma but of Poles and religious minorities, or of US support for same. Pablo Escobar writes:
The United States government openly cheerleading neo-Nazis in Ukraine is hardly a novelty, considering how it supported Hitler alongside England in 1933 for balance of power reasons. In 1933, Roosevelt lent Hitler one billion gold dollars while England lent him two billion gold dollars. That should be multiplied 200 times to arrive at today's fiat dollars. The Anglo-Americans wanted to build up Germany as a bulwark against Russia.
Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera is considered a hero to Ukrainian nationalists, and a television host in Ukraine, Fahruddin Sharafmal, approvingly quoted Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in calling for the murder of Russians and their children. Western Ukraine has been a neo-Nazi stronghold since WWII. In 2018 a bipartisan letter by 50 US Congressmen condemned multiple events commemorating Nazi allies held in Ukraine with official Ukrainian government backing. As reported in the Times of Israel, hundreds took part in a demonstration in Kiev in May 2021, and others throughout Ukraine, in honor of a specific division of the SS. The US was the only country (besides the Ukraine) that refused to endorse UN Resolution 459 denouncing “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” How is it that “repressive authoritarianisms” denounced Nazism but the foremost “pluralistic democracy” somehow couldn't bring itself to do so?
Far before Zelensky's recent actions, after the US-backed and financed “Maidan” coup in 2014, the Ukrainian regime effectively declared war on the left. Kiev banned all communist parties and launched a far-right “decommunization” campaign that made it illegal to be a communist. Simultaneously, the Western-backed Ukrainian government gave state honors to Ukrainian fascists who had collaborated with Nazi Germany in the Holocaust. Britain's establishment newspaper The Guardian admitted this in a 2015 article titled “Ukraine bans Soviet symbols and criminalises sympathy for communism.” The Guardian wrote,
Two new laws that ban communist symbols while honouring nationalist groups that collaborated with the Nazis have come into effect in Ukraine, raising concerns that Kiev could be stifling free speech and further fragmenting the war-torn country.
Craig Murray asks,
…why does the United States Government believe that avowed Nazis have freedom of speech, but that Julian Assange does not? You can have freedom of speech to advocate the murder of Jews and immigrants, but not to reveal US war crimes.
Ukraine's post-Maidan coup regime made it a crime to criticize ultra-nationalist Nazi collaborators, including the fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Leaders of these far-right Ukrainian death squads, including Hitler collaborator Stepan Bandera, have become state heroes. The United States and European Union strongly supported the right-wing regime in Kiev as it passed these extremist policies, blatantly violating the civil liberties of left-wing Ukrainians.
Following the US-sponsored coup in Ukraine in 2014, neo-Nazi militias like the Azov regiment were officially incorporated into the National Guard, while the fascist Aidar Battalion became part of the Armed Forces. After Russia invaded, Ukraine's National Guard posted a propaganda video on Twitter boasting of a neo-Nazi fighter from the Azov detachment greasing bullets with pig fat in order to kill Chechen Muslims, which the Ukrainian state institution dehumanized as “orcs.”
NATO member states have sent weapons to these Ukrainian neo-Nazis, and have even trained them. This has been going on openly since the 2014 coup, but Russia did not invade. Instead it protested and pursued diplomacy.
Collusion with fascists and neo-Nazis by successive Ukrainian governments is not a new thing. It's been going on for at least seventeen years:
As a direct result of Yushenko's ascent to the presidency in 2005, a new faction began to rise in Ukraine that had hitherto not exercised power on the national level. (He made) the historic decision to start legitimizing and integrating the Galician right-wing radicals (often labeled “neo-Nazis”) into his government.
Once Yushenko began injecting die-hard Galician faction members into the security apparatus of Ukraine, they quickly carved out a niche for themselves in the secret police (SBU) and began taking up key positions in the military and defense offices. Assassinations, intimidations and power-grabs became the order of the day... Yanukovitch, who retook office soon after, did nothing to undo what was initiated by his predecessor and continued funding this operation up to the day that he was chased out of the country by many of these very same people working against him in the security services and in the mob that had gathered in the Maidan Square beneath his presidential residence.
(After Yanukovitch) was gone, the Galician faction got to finish their takeover of the entire security apparatus of Ukraine, helped along by the rebellion in Donbass and the annexation of Crimea, which gave them carte blanche to purge the ranks of unsympathetic officers, spooks and bureaucrats.
Kholomoisky of Dniepopetrovsk has successfully raised his own private army (the infamous Azov battalion) and he has defeated the Donbass mafia with targeted assassinations and because of his strategic alliance with the Galician faction, which runs the government. This is the power coalition running Ukraine now. The Galician faction runs the security apparatus/military with their gang and Kholomoisky controls the economy and media of the country with his gang. Needless to say, both groups have the support of Western spook agencies. And both groups believe that Ukraine is their turf and are willing to kill a lot of people to keep it that way.
But the largest feather in Kholomoisky's cap is no doubt President Zelensky himself. Kholomoisky's channel created and ran the “Servant of the People” show that featured Zelensky as an honest and intrepid President of Ukraine dedicated to fighting corruption and defending the Ukrainian people. When the elections came around, Kholomoisky's people and his media resources went all out in campaigning for their man.
There is good reason to believe that neo-Nazi elements, along with Washington, control Zelensky.
Is NATO expansion eastward really a threat to Russia's security?
Visser finds this hard to believe. He equates the Iraqi and Ukrainian wars on the basis of both being “imagined threats” to the existence of the aggressors—the US and Russia. Were they imagined threats?
Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO:
Since 2014, [NATO] Allies have trained Ukraine's armed forces and significantly strengthened their capabilities. They are putting that training into practice now, on the front lines, with great bravery… [NATO] (has been) providing anti-tank and air defense systems, drones, fuel and ammunition. As well as financial aid.
Stoltenberg is stating that NATO was turning the Ukraine into a de facto member state. Russia views the stationing of offensive weaponry by NATO on its borders as an existential threat. It views the “salami slicing” moves by NATO to its borders, the attempted color revolutions in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, as well as the successful coup in the Ukraine, as existential threats.
As Noam Chomsky put it,
… for Ukraine to join NATO would be rather like Mexico joining a China-run military alliance, hosting joint maneuvers with the Chinese army and maintaining weapons aimed at Washington. To insist on Mexico's sovereign right to do so would surpass idiocy. Washington's insistence on Ukraine's sovereign right to join NATO is even worse, since it sets up an insurmountable barrier to a peaceful resolution of a crisis that is already a shocking crime and will soon become much worse unless resolved—by the negotiations that Washington refuses to join.
Russia also views Zelensky's declaration of the intention to develop nuclear weapons as an existential threat. It views the continued attacks on dual citizenship citizens of the Donbass, with over 13,000 killed over eight years, as genocide. It views the establishment of a state with neo-Nazis in government and the military as an existential threat. It views the establishment and funding of at least 16 bioweapon labs in the Ukraine by the US Department of Defense as an existential threat. Russia did not view what was going on in the Ukraine as an imagined threat, regardless of Western denials or portrayals of Ukrainian and NATO intentions. WILPs can protest that Russia is delusional, but that does not change how Russia views these actions: as existential threats.
“… for Ukraine to join NATO would be rather like Mexico joining a China-run military alliance, hosting joint maneuvers with the Chinese army and maintaining weapons aimed at Washington. To insist on Mexico's sovereign right to do so would surpass idiocy.” — Noam Chomsky, truthout.org
Many Western voices have stated publicly for years that Russia viewed the eastward expansion of NATO as an existential threat. In 1998, George Kennan, an American diplomat and historian known as the 'architect of the Cold War', said NATO expansion would mean nothing less than “the beginning of a new Cold War,” warning that it would be a “tragic mistake.”
Of course, this will provoke a bad reaction from Russia. And when that happens, [those who made decisions about NATO expansion] will say that we have always told you the Russians are like that. But it's just not true.
In 1997, 50 prominent foreign policy experts, including former senators, military leaders, and diplomats, sent an open letter to then-President Bill Clinton outlining their opposition to NATO expansion. “It is a policy error of historic proportions,” they wrote. Conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan wrote in his 1999 book 'A Republic, Not an Empire', “By moving NATO onto Russia's front porch, we have scheduled a twenty-first-century confrontation.” The current director of the CIA, William Burns, said in 2008 that for Russia, “Ukraine's accession to NATO is the brightest of all red lines.” “I have not yet found anyone (in Russia) who would consider Ukraine in NATO as something other than a direct challenge to Russia's interests,” he said.
Is “NATO… a defensive institute”?
NATO armed and trained terrorists in Syria. It bombed Libya, once the wealthiest country in Africa, into a Mad Max world of tribal warfare. It has been arming neo-Nazis in the Ukraine since 2014, because that's “defensive.” While the Eastern European countries asked to join NATO, as has the Ukraine, Russia has pointed out that Western countries made a treaty commitment, the Collective Security treaty, or the CSTO Charter, in which they committed to not taking actions that violated the security or sovereignty of other signatories, including Russia. Regarding NATO's move to the east and its arming of the Ukraine, EU member states conveniently forget or ignore that part of their commitment. Russia has asked Western countries to respond to the question, “How is your support of the extension eastward of NATO, despite promises made and against our will, not in violation of your treaty commitments? It has not received answers from Western countries individually, but only a non-answer from the EU in general. Russia is forcing other signatories to either abide by their treaty obligations or face the consequences.
But why would the US want to provoke a Russian war in the Ukraine? European countries were in danger of becoming more economically linked to Russia, moving it away from the US sphere of influence. This war has reversed that, increasing the economic dependence of EU and NATO countries on the US. The EU has agreed to buy gas from the US, reducing its dependence on Russian gas by one-third. Germany has agreed to increase its military budget by 100 billion, with some of that going to buy American weapons, fattening the bottom line of US arms manufacturers. All of the weapons that Russia destroys in the Ukraine represent opportunities for US arms manufacturers to make more money.
Was the US turning the Ukraine into a de facto member of NATO?
NATO conducted cyber security training at Zhytomyr in September 2018 and described Ukraine as a “NATO partner.” Zhytomyr was the primary training and logistics center that NATO and EUCOM used to supply fighters and weapons to Ukraine. In the third week of March, 2022, Russia made multiple missile strikes on what are huge de facto Ukrainian NATO bases. Zhytomyr was destroyed with hypersonic missiles and Yavoriv suffered a similar fate. A large number of the military and civilian personnel, including CIA, Pentagon, and MI6 “advisors” at that base became casualties.
Why didn't the government of Germany guarantee in writing that it would veto any additional NATO membership? It would have solved at least half of the problems that led to the Russian invasion. Instead, Germany, with its history of Third Reich Nazism, is actively arming neo-Nazis in the Ukraine. That's beyond bad optics; it's hari-kari for democratic pluralism. Why didn't any other NATO government produce such a guarantee? As Caitlin Johnstone has observed, “If you looked outside right now and saw a mushroom cloud growing in the distance, how good would you feel about the decision not to guarantee Moscow that Ukraine would never receive NATO membership?”
Was the existence of at least 16 US Department of Defense bioweapons labs in the Ukraine a threat to Russia?
Bioweapons research and attacks have been part of the US modus operandi for the last 50 years or more. The US maintains its mass destruction bioweapons and global bioweapon laboratories in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention, which prohibits effectively “the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons.” This is the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. As stated by the UN, “Biological weapons disseminate disease-causing organisms or toxins to harm or kill humans, animals or plants.” US-run biolabs in Ukraine have allegedly been used to develop bio-agents capable of selectively targeting certain ethnic groups. These US Department of defense bioweapon labs in the Ukraine are not just about specific diseases; they are weapons of mass destruction. Would any NATO country view the installation of bioweapons labs by Russia or China next door as an existential threat? Emails of Hunter Biden prove that he was funding bioweapons labs in the Ukraine, through relationships linked to his father, who was not only Vice President at the time but actively influencing decisions made by the Ukrainian government.
The reality on the ground in the Ukraine
If you examine Ukrainian and Western claims of Russian atrocities in the Ukraine you will find a high incidence of either fakery or non-collaboration. While the verdict is not yet in, to this point it is simply not true that Russia is destroying Ukraine's cities, cultural treasures, or citizens to a degree that is in any way comparable to that of NATO in Syria, Iraq, or Libya. Russia could turn Kiev or Kharkiv into Falluja or Mosul or Aleppo. Does anyone doubt that? Why hasn't it done so? In cities and towns that it has captured Russia has kept the local administration and even, in some cases, like Chernobyl, maintained joint security with local police. In short, Russia in the Ukraine is not acting like the US, NATO, or an empire. It is even allowing neo-Nazis and other Ukrainian military to leave with civilians through humanitarian corridors in Mariupol and elsewhere. Why? I think it is because Russia is following similar military strategies that it has used to good effect in Syria. This involves negotiating terrorist withdrawals from cities in order to limit civilian and municipal damage. It has not created an empire by expanding into Syria, Georgia, or Kazakhstan. Russia is not “bogged down” in Syria the way it was in Afghanistan or the way the US was in Vietnam or Afghanistan, nor is it likely to be.
The destruction of NATO supply and training bases in Western Ukraine by Russia was a direct attack on the United States in Ukraine. The US government knows it, but there has been almost nothing in the media about the deaths of American and British agents, trainers, and special forces stationed there. With those highly significant attacks Russia was putting the US on notice: “We mean it when we say that our intention is to disarm you in the Ukraine, and if you do not leave we will make you do so.” So far, the US has blinked; it seems to have gotten the message. There has been no attempt to violate the Russian de facto no fly zone or import jets, and no publicity regarding the highly significant destruction of US/NATO military assets in at least three different Ukrainian staging areas. However, the US continues to arm the Ukraine, using its Western allies as conduits. The thinking seems to be, “If Russia gets into war with our allies, it will further move Europe into dependency on Washington and isolate Russia. Our allies may die; we won't.”
Russia destroyed the air force, navy, communications, air defense systems, and logistics of the Ukraine military in the first 24 hours of their invasion. While Russia is indeed occupying Ukrainian towns and villages, is not entering Kiev, Kharkiv, and other contested large cities, but is opening humanitarian corridors to limit civilian casualties. It is allowing enemy combatants to leave, without weapons, through the corridors. However, the Ukrainian military has largely, to this date, prevented citizens from leaving through these corridors, instead holding them hostage as shields against Russian attacks. There are many reports of citizens putting the location of Ukraine military snipers and equipment up on public media, indicating that some percentage of the Ukrainian population does not support the Ukraine military. Some of those citizens that do manage to escape such circumstances tell of being held as human shields or citizens short dead who were trying to flee. In cities and towns that Russia has occupied, it has allowed the local administration to continue to provide services. In other areas, such as Mariupol, Russians, Chechens, and military from the Donbass are retaking the city, block by block, because the Azov battalion of the Ukrainian military refuses to either surrender or leave via the humanitarian corridors. The Ukraine military has no way to resupply its soldiers with all the necessities required to fight a war. Knowing this, in some sectors, Russia is simply waiting, knowing that as the Ukrainian forces run out of supplies that surrender is inescapable. It is clear that Russia has the capability to completely crush resistance in the Ukraine. It has essentially done so with an invasion force of some 200,000, against a Ukrainian military of some 600,000, which, despite determined and valiant resistance by the Ukrainian military, is collapsing like a trailer park in a hurricane.
Economic wake-up calls
Most of my argument has dealt with the nature and reasons for the psychological blindness, deafness, and muteness of WILPs.
Most of my argument has dealt with the nature and reasons for the psychological blindness, deafness, and muteness of WILPs. However, economic factors that tend to bleed through chronic denial and evoke wakefulness are quickly moving to front and center of the lives of WILPs. Steadily rising inflation is being made much worse by sanctions on Russia. For the elites, as they signal their virtue, this is a “sacrifice” they can afford, because they are members of the middle or upper classes. How much sacrifice to show solidarity with Ukrainians and demonstrate defense of groupthink will the citizens of the US and EU tolerate? This is the trillion dollar question. If the elites have this wrong, they may well get overthrown.
Western pluralistic democracies have traditionally been in the service of an amoral economic system that does not care who or what it exploits as long as there is money to be made. By “amoral,” I mean that, when people, animals, and resources are exploited by such an economic system, it's “just business;” its nothing personal. Business doesn't have anything to do with social norms, except when observing them fattens the bottom line. These people push envelope of personal advantage as far as it will be tolerated by social norms and the law, and then a bit further, just to make sure one can't get away with it. If this seems too cynical to you, contemplate that there have been almost no white collar prosecutions in the West in some thirty years. Why is that? What is that about? What does it signify?
The result of setting amoral economic priorities has been that the “International Community,” meaning the Atlanticist alliance (including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea) have consumed far more energy and gobbled up far more than their fair share of the earth's resources since each entered the industrial revolution.
For those who are unfazed by reason and discount the threat of nuclear war, there is always the “argument from economic collapse.” The EU and US are economically dependent on Russia to the point that their economies will implode without Russian gas, oil, and precious metals. This is a wake-up call or fundamental functional reality which no amount of propaganda or wishful thinking can or will eliminate. However, Western elites are so into denial, after some seventy years of cushy living, that they can't imagine a scenario in which they are no longer Masters of the Universe. That is the only way I can explain the suicidal doubling down on sanctions on Russia. When inflation causes food riots and mass migrations from the the Middle East and Africa, when EU and US costs of living go through the roof, that may provide the necessary wake-up call.
The hysteria of Western leaders over Russia's transition to payments for the supply of energy resources in rubles demonstrates that the Western leadership still cannot realize and accept the new reality they themselves have largely created. Today, the shouts of Washington, London and Brussels have become perceived only as annoying squeaks by Russia. The economies of Western countries are slowly but surely moving towards collapse. One of the few ways out is to get access to large quantities of cheap energy, natural resources and foodstuffs. This could only be achieved by dividing Russia into several small parts that are in a state of permanent conflict under Western control. The West has brainlessly destroyed on its own almost all the means of interaction, and therefore of pressure on Moscow. Upton Sinclair's famous dictum, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it,” is true enough when it comes to understanding why politicians. employees, and boards of directors easily and often wear moral blinders. We can amend it to make it more broadly applicable to WILP groupthink regarding owning considerable responsibility for the Ukraine war: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his identity depends on his not understanding it.”
Is there an equivalency of hubris and hypocrisy of Russia/Putin and the West?
WILPs, not Russia, make strong and chronic claims of superiority in values, justice, governance, democracy, freedom, humanitarianism, and quality of life (the “American Dream”). I am not saying that Russia never makes such claims but that its claims are minor in comparison to those of the West, both in quantity and quality. In addition to being fueled by an amoral economic system, the pluralistic democracies that the West has produced have been maintained by an immoral power structure of “might makes right.” Instead of subjecting itself to international law, the West has carved out a “rules-based order” exceptionalism, because well, pluralistic democracies are exceptional. It is true that non-democratic and non-pluralistic nations pursue amoral economic and immoral political policies as well. But isn't the basic claim of WILPs that their worldview is superior? If pluralistic democracies are driven by amoral and immoral priorities, just what sort of superiority is that? This is the question Russia, China, India, and most of Asia, Africa, and Central and South America are currently asking. Do they not have a point?
The degree of injustice on the WILP side is many times greater than the injustice represented by Russia's invasion, and it is on this point that I think WILPs and I have the most fundamental disagreement. The title of Visser's essay, “Hubris and Hypocrisy are in Evidence on Both Sides,” seems to assert either a misrepresentation of degree of injustice or a false equivalency, when integral prioritizes both injustice and justice in terms of breadth and depth. Some injustices are more unjust than others, and that difference cannot be glossed over; it matters. Is there an equivalency of hubris and hypocrisy of Russia/Putin and the West?
WILPs say, “Yes, the crimes of the West are bad, but they not only do not excuse the crimes of Russia, but Russia's crimes are equivalent.” No they aren't. Both in quantity and quality the crimes of WILPs are vastly greater. In both quantity and quality, the degree of hubris and hypocrisy of the West is far worse, based on a far longer and more destructive pattern of injustice in three areas:
Injustices do differ in quality, degree, and quantity, and those differences do matter.
WILPs are much more likely to accept an equivalency of injustice than face the possibility that they inherit and reflect a rich heritage of profound injustice that is far worse than that exhibited by Russia and Putin. To go beyond equivalency to accept a majority of responsibility for the current world crisis is a threat to the self-image of WILPs as moral individuals, and we can't have that.
While Russia's invasion is unjust in the context of international law or social norms, how is the WILP context, which generated that invasion, or the WILP response to it, just in the context of international law or social norms? Is there an equivalency between those two varieties of injustice? The invasion of the Ukraine by Russia, is an instance of criminal injustice, while imperial wars, colonizations, and exploitations of choice are patterns of criminal injustice that have occurred over five centuries and continue to occur. WILPs tend to ignore the pattern of injustice while decrying a specific instance of injustice that happens to be perpetrated by a perceived enemy of their value system. The message is, “One standard of justice/injustice for us (the “rules-based order”); another standard (international law) for you.” What does this have to do with respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, or empathy? Isn't such a double standard a fundamental marker of hubris, hypocrisy, and exceptionalism that includes and transcends specific instances of injustice?
The invasion of the Ukraine by Russia, is an instance of criminal injustice, while imperial wars, colonizations, and exploitations of choice are patterns of criminal injustice that have occurred over five centuries and continue to occur. WILPs tend to ignore the pattern of injustice while decrying a specific instance of injustice that happens to be perpetrated by a perceived enemy of their value system.
Here are a couple of examples. Slavery is an institutional injustice. It happens over entire lifetimes and generations of lives. It is a chronic injustice. It constitutes a pattern. However, when slaves rebel and burn down Massah's house, or you have some event, like the abolitionist John Brown taking up arms, you have instances of injustice. Similarly, you can have a pattern of spousal abuse and instances of when the abused spouse gives up trying to reason or getting the police to intervene, and shoots the abuser. There is injustice in both instances and on both sides, but the quantity and quality of the injustices are vastly different. To make them equivalent is itself a variety of injustice.
Given those realities, we have to ask, “Is Western democratic pluralism and the WILP worldview worth upholding, given its fundamental hypocrisy, hubris, amorality, and immorality?” The answer given often is similar to Churchill's: “…democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried…” But if the Chinese are happier with their form of government, by far, than are most Westerners of their own, what is that? If Russians are more supportive of their leadership than are most Westerners of their own, what is that? WILPs don't want to seriously consider those realities, probably because to do so creates cognitive dissonance that threatens their basic sense of self.
Do WILPs recognize the “red” aspects of their worldview?
So much for the Tooth Fairy mythology that the West has done nothing to provoke this war.
So much for the Tooth Fairy mythology that the West has done nothing to provoke this war. At what point does Russia insist that its interests and perception of threats to its sovereignty be taken seriously? If eight years of negotiations are ignored, while perceived aggressions continue and escalate, what are the realistic alternatives open to Russia? Does WILP unwillingness or inability to respect Russia's perception of multiple existential threats reflect a lack of understanding of or empathy with the Russian perspective, or both?
Of course “Putin red, the West green,” is a vast oversimplification. However, it does its job of pointing out the basic problem: a good/bad, white/black, bipolar prepersonal mindset among WILPs. Those who claim a broader worldview and a greater degree of enlightenment, take on a greater responsibility and accountability. They can't just claim superiority and not expect greater scrutiny or consequences when they are mistaken. This assumption is based on the nature of power. If greater power is not controlled by greater limits, bad things happen. What we find in the human and particularly in the political sphere is something different. Due to basic aberrations of human nature, such as the “Halo Effect” and the “Dunning-Kruger Effect,” both cognitive biases that are genetically baked in, powerful elites not only hold themselves unaccountable but the general public doesn't hold them accountable either.
Behaviorally, in terms of the UR and LR quadrants, both Russia and the West demonstrate a mid- to late prepersonal center of gravity, based on the combination of amorality and immorality discussed above. WILPs are in full-blown denial of that reality. As Freud pointed out, denial (Verneinung) is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. WILPs deny the significance of and worse, their responsibility for, their “might makes right” immorality and “profits over people” economic amorality. Those are “red,” prepersonal competencies.
WILPs have met with great success for centuries in responding to adversaries not by showing respect, understanding, or empathy, but by doubling down. If exploitation, war, and sanctions do not work, more exploitation, war, and sanctions are sure to do the job. We see that in the piling on of sanction after sanction onto Russia. This approach has worked in the past because WILPs have applied it only to weaker countries, such as Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and not on military or economic equals. Russia is a military equal, and the US knows it. China is an economic equal, and the US knows it. This reality has given WILPs pause: no attempt to enforce a no-fly zone over the Ukraine; a professed unwillingness to get into a direct conflict with Russia over the Ukraine; a dawning understanding that if the US censors China to the point that it stops its exports to the US, the US economy would collapse in short order. This confrontation of WILP hubris and hypocrisy is unprecedented in the last 500 years.
Those who support some version of “Russia/Putin Red/West Green” are either professing a greater injustice by Russia/Putin than by WILPs or an equivalency. Both conclusions are delusions, and maintaining them does not prepare WILPs to deal with the momentous events that are unfolding today in our world.
That is the bigger issue. Who cares if Russia/Putin is more or less just than the West if the entire Western civilization of the last 500 years collapses? My two essays on this topic are really about the causes of that ongoing collapse; the Ukraine is simply a trigger that has immensely speeded up that dystopian process. The blindness of mainstream Integral supports that collapse.
The “boiled frog” syndrome has been at work on WILPs since they were born. Fascism isn't fascism if you are born into a world that calls it “pluralistic democracy.” Adaptational groupthink never even considers the possibility, and if it does, it rejects the possibility without giving the long US and Western history of the enabling of fascism the consideration it deserves.
My two essays on this topic are really about the causes of that ongoing collapse; the Ukraine is simply a trigger that has immensely speeded up that dystopian process.
Fundamentals of human relationships that tend to be ignored in the WILP worldview
Society rewards us handsomely for zooming ahead in one line, like cognition, or another, like mathematical ability, while generally ignoring or misconstruing balance. Hierarchy is structural, like our skeleton, a trellis on which a climbing rose rises toward the sun, or like developmental psychology in general. Hierarchy plays a supportive role in relationship to manifested form. Developmental processes play a supportive role not only in our individual growth but in relationship to human relationships. That is, in human relationships, the fundamentals are not so much about dealing with the structures of developmental levels, as Integral AQAL would have it, but about questions and interests that are endemic to any and every level: “Do they respect me?” “Do they reciprocate?” “Are they trustworthy in ways that matter to me?” “Are they empathetic?” These “values” are prior to any form of government. That is, they are not either unique to or intrinsic characteristics of, for example, pluralistic democracies. Pluralism, egalitarianism, claims of freedom, democracy, and multi-perspectivalism by integral, are derivative and secondary values. Western pluralistic democracies claim to possess the higher moral ground while others, particularly those in second and third world countries, judge them by those four questions. When we break human morality down to these lowest common denominators, Western pluralistic democracies fail in the eyes of many people in the global community. WILPs either don't recognize that or don't care.
Western pluralistic democracies claim to possess the higher moral ground while others, particularly those in second and third world countries, judge them by those four questions.
There is extensive evidence this is the case. To give just one recent but astounding example, the US has frozen the assets of Russia (gold, currency) held outside its borders. This is simply theft. The West has signaled to the entire world that the US and its allied financial partners are not a trustworthy depository for one's financial resources. How can a country have confidence in a dollar-based economy if their dollar and gold-based resources abroad are not protected? What does that lack of protection say about the values of pluralism, egalitarianism, freedom, and democracy professed by pluralistic democracies? Are the resources of others respected? Is this something the US would want to have reciprocated? Does it increase a sense of trustworthiness? Does it reflect empathy in how others are likely to perceive this decision?
Denial, cognitive distortions, and other methods WILPs use to avoid reality
Social norms and laws exist for very good and important purposes. Psychologist Frank Hernandez views worldviews as methods of self-justification. We all want to justify our violations of social norms and legalities. Robert Heinlein has noted that humans are not rational but rationalizing animals. Still, the argument that allowing social norms and laws to be broken in one instance allows others to do so as well, is one I agree with. It sets a bad and dangerous precedent, and that is exactly what has happened in this instance: centuries of breaking both social norms and international laws by the West has inevitably generated an unjust blowback, a war in the Ukraine, in which many innocents suffer the worst. This principle is perhaps easiest to see in stock market crashes, but it is now occurring on a broader, civilizational scale, something equivalent to the Fall of Rome. That will sound hyperbolic to some, and it may be. 95% of fears and worries are unnecessary and unhelpful false alarms, but the other 5% can kill. So developing the discernment in what to ignore and what to pay attention to matters.
It is fascinating to observe how WILPs attempt to dodge such inconvenient truths. One of their preferred responses (but not Visser) are ad hominem attacks. When facts are lacking, they often attempt to change the subject by attacking the character of the opponent. A frustrated, enraged, and increasingly impotent President Joe Biden has taken to calling Putin a “killer,” a “murderous dictator” and a “war criminal” who has launched an “immoral war.” I am accused of moral superiority because I point out the injustices of WILPs. But the reality is that I am as morally flawed as the next person; I don't claim any superiority in either motivation or behavior. My overall level of development is mid-prepersonal. Another common ad hominem attack is to claim I am a Russian bot or “useful idiot” for Putin, as if to make such a claim in some way compensates for an absence of fact. Some US Congress critters and Senators are accusing those who deviate from accepted groupthink of being “traitors,” instigating a full-blown regression into McCarthyite witch-hunting, “A Red under every bed.”
In my previous essay I noted the importance of a cognitive distortion, black and white or polarized thinking, to this debate. It seems WILPs cannot or will not grasp the concept that it is possible to care deeply about the plight of Ukrainian refugees and citizens, to denounce the injustices that have caused them to flee their homes, jobs, friends, livelihood—almost everything and everyone that constitutes their comfort, security, and sense of identity—and to still, at the same time, acknowledge the injustices that created their plight in the first place. In fact, if one cannot or will not do so, war becomes inevitable, because supporting and feeling compassion for the weak without constraining and holding accountable the strong simply perpetuates cycles of abuse and victimization. The common response of WILPs is to agree, and to say that is why Putin and Russia need to be constrained and held accountable, never recognizing or taking responsibility for the need for WILPs themselves to be constrained and held accountable.
There are important reasons for this blindness. An important one, which I have often pondered, is the human tendency to identify with intent and use it to justify any and all behaviors. For WILPs, identification with “green” values of egalitarianism and pluralism, democracy, freedom, and for integrals, identification with cognitive multi-perspectivalism and a hierarchy of breadth and depth of caring, justifies behavior. This leads to the rationalization and excusing of all sorts of atrocities because of the purity of WILP intention. Obama's drone assassinations, Bush's extraordinary rendition, alliances with out-and-out totalitarianisms, like Saudi Arabia and Mohammad Bone Sawman, the flattening of Mosul, Falluja, the ignoring of decades of genocide against Palestinians by an allied nation-state, and the arming of forces causing widespread famine and the deaths of at least 10,000 children in Yemen are obvious, low-hanging fruit. The justification of behavior via enlightened intent leads to the rationalization of mental, physical, and sexual abuse of students by “enlightened” gurus, such as Andrew Cohen and Marc Gafni. There is no immoral or amoral behavior that cannot be glossed or justified by appeal to this or that value or noble intention.
The response of WILPs may well be, “Yes, and that's exactly what you are doing by excusing and justifying the behavior of Russia and Putin.” I understand and respect that criticism; do those who pronounce it recognize their own hypocrisy? Do they not understand that instances of injustice are different in quality and quantity from patterns of injustice?
Here is an example. Hippocrates proposed in about 300 BCE, “First do no harm.” It's a good principle or value that I support. Yet most every medical intervention has side effects that do harm. Surgery destroys healthy tissue; medicines have side effects that can kill you. So it is obvious enough that medicine and healing often cannot be done without violating this fundamental principle. It is the same with justice. We might say an equivalent is, “First do no injustice.” But to make this into a black and white intention or value ignores the fact that we do injustice simply by being a member of imperfect societies. We commonly recognize that the type and amount of injustice matters. Yet, in areas where our worldview and identity is strongly enmeshed we pretend that every instance of injustice is equivalent and that instances of injustice are as harmful as patterns of injustice. That's a delusion that we use to justify or rationalize our injustice and to construct standards of values that excuse our injustice while holding others accountable to a higher standard.
Part of the reason I take this somewhat radical position is because I have worked with the interviewing of dream monsters and villains, as well as the personifications of persecuting life issues, such as chronic pain or disease, for decades, as an aspect of my professional role as a psychotherapist. The result of becoming, or taking on their perspectives, has been for me the recognition that what appears to be injustice can and often does serve a greater good. For instance, if you have a terrifying nightmare of a snake that is coiled around you and biting you, and you interview the snake, you are likely to find that it presents itself as a wake up call and justifies its fearfulness and violence as necessary to get you to pay attention to something important in your life that you are blind to. For example, the dream persecutor could be the personification of an addiction that is squeezing the life out of you; it could be a symbiotically co-dependent relationship in which you are locked in cycles of abuse.
Part of the reason I take this somewhat radical position is because I have worked with the interviewing of dream monsters and villains, as well as the personifications of persecuting life issues, such as chronic pain or disease, for decades, as an aspect of my professional role as a psychotherapist.
The point is that what is experienced as injustice and is in fact injustice, often is a necessary wake-up call because other methods have failed to get through. Less violent or fearful or abusive wake-up calls have been ignored or rationalized. Surgeons have to cut when less invasive methods have failed or are insufficient; children have to be given consequences that limit their freedom and they view as unfair and hate, when polite requests over time fail.
I see this same principle at work in the actions of Putin and Russia. It is not as if Putin has not tried negotiation, reason, and understanding. There is not only some, but an enormous amount of evidence, that Russia has done so, but this has been, and continues to be, either ignored or trivialized by WILPs because it threatens their narrative of self-righteousness and alignment with righteous victimization.
Mattias Desmet's theory of mass formation psychosis is relevant here. He makes an important distinction between ordinary dictatorships and true totalitarian states. Dictatorships based on rule by the most powerful have been typical throughout history. Totalitarian states, where a seemingly insane portion of the population dictates reality for everyone else, is a very specific phenomenon. Desmet cites Rousseau's Reign of Terror and Nazi Germany as examples of societies that have undergone mass formation psychosis. Desmet also cites four specific conditions that need to be met in order to transform otherwise peaceful societies into societies capable of mass atrocities. They are Prolonged isolation, Lack of meaning, Free-floating anxiety, and Free-floating aggression/ frustration without options.
If we stop and think about it, WILPs are isolated in the bubble of their exceptionalist worldview, and in the case of the US, in the bubble of imagined invulnerability behind two oceans. Meaning has become trivialized and a la carte, that is, individualized and based on the meme of the moment. It is difficult to build a meaningful life on a diet of superficial values. Free-floating anxiety, aggression and frustration may not be everywhere, but the media in which we swim feeds us a constant diet of it. Some of that has to get absorbed, generally out of our awareness. So perhaps WILPs have more in common with Robespierre and Goebbels than they realize. People are looking for someone to blame, and the powers that be are more than happy to give us various objects for what feels like our hourly Orwellian 'Two Minutes Hate.' Now, if we don't hate the Russians, we're traitors.
While a good case can be made for something like “mass formation psychosis” as a definition of the pervasive groupthink that has enveloped the “International Community” regarding Russia, I think Sheldon Wolin's description of “Inverted Totalitarianism,” which ends up looking more like Aldous Huxley's dystopian Brave New World, in which the public is bought off with “bread and circuses,” is closer to our version of dystopianism than is George Orwell's 1984.
WILPs and the Drama Triangle
The Drama Triangle is a concept developed by Stephen Karpman, a Transactional Analysist, in 1968. Traditionally used to describe and explain dynamics of interpersonal relationships, in 2017 I expanded the concept in Escaping the Drama Triangle in the Three Realms: Relationships, Thinking, Dreaming. The current crisis provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how usefully it can also be applied to geopolitical realities.
The Drama Triangle is comprised of three roles, Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer, capitalized to differentiate them from persecution, victimization, and rescuing outside the Drama Triangle. The difference is motivation: Persecutors are self-righteous and see themselves as exceptional, functioning outside the laws that apply to others. Animals, when they catch and kill their prey are, on the other hand, persecutors, not Persecutors, because they are not motivated by selfishness (because they lack self-awareness) or self-justification. Victims are helpless and powerless and use their Victimhood to claim special, sacrosanct status and special rights. However, we can all be victimized by tornadoes or car accidents. Rescuers don't ask before “helping,” don't check to see if their “help” is helping, and don't stop—they keep on “helping” because they are doing so for their own benefit, perhaps to demonstrate what great people they are and to compensate for their fears that they are actually inadequate in important ways, or to hide their corruption and criminality, say, with “philanthropy.” However, firemen, doctors, and police are socially sanctioned rescuers. They have social permission to do things that otherwise are seen as aggressive or Persecutory.
The most important thing to understand about the Drama Triangle is that if you play one role, you will end up playing the other two at some point. That is, all three roles are interdependent and do not exist without the others. Refuse to play one and you can stop playing all three. Simple, right? No, it's not simple at all, because we are generally convinced that while others are stuck in Drama, we recognize it and refuse to play. This is almost always a mistaken conclusion. The safe assumption is to assume you are in the Drama Triangle right now, at this very moment, and at all times, but just don't recognize it. That applies to me as well, and I am in the habit of asking myself that question several times a day.
The Karpman drama triangle is a social model of human interaction proposed by Stephen B. Karpman. The triangle maps a type of destructive interaction that can occur among people in conflict. The drama triangle model is a tool used in psychotherapy, specifically transactional analysis. The triangle of actors in the drama are persecutors, victims, and rescuers. (Wikipedia).
Now let's apply this highly useful concept to the world of geopolitics. WILPs see themselves as helpers, acting outside of the three roles. However, if you look at the history of the Crusades, colonialism, and Western aggression, you will find chronic examples of the West intervening without invitation, assuming they are “helping” when they are terrorizing and exploiting, and not stopping: establishing colonies, military bases, and economic hegemony. Of course this is by no means limited to the West, but in this essay we are looking at WILPs and their responsibility for the present geopolitical crisis. Therefore, on the one hand, WILPs are actually Rescuers while imagining that, due to their exceptionalism, they are merely helpers. However, in the eyes of those who are victimized by them, WILPs are Persecutors. But WILPs vehemently deny this and if you say they are, they will persecute you via censorship, ad hominem attacks, or whatever other means are available to prove they are not Persecutors.
You can see that we already have a conceptual goulash: people who think they are helpers when they are justifying Persecution by Rescuing. There is an easy test for this: you can ask WILPs to stop “helping,” or to consider other motivations and justifications for their worldview than their preferred dogma and see what happens. If they are open to change and actually can and do change their behavior, you have evidence that they are not in the Drama Triangle in that instance. If they double down and tell you what an unenlightened traitor you are, that's pretty strong evidence that you are dealing with someone hopelessly stuck in the Drama Triangle. The funny thing is that Rescuers and Persecutors feel chronically misunderstood and unappreciated; they are Victims in their own minds. If the Russians would only wake up and realize that WILPs are a force for good in the world, everything would be OK. The problem is, Russia tried that in the '90's under Yeltsin. How did that turn out?
Besides seeing themselves as victims, Ukrainians, including the Ukrainian government and military see themselves as victims, and the WILPs agree. Ukrainians are indeed victims. However, the Ukrainian government and military are Victims, meaning they use Russian persecution (and yes, there is real Russian persecution) to validate their special status, requiring a no-fly zone, the cancelling of all things Russian, and military intervention by the West. This has caused WILPs to take a deep breath and ask themselves, “Are we willing to kill ourselves in a nuclear war because Ukrainians not only are victims but play the Victim? Do we so need to portray ourselves as rescuers that we are willing to escalate to a hot war with Russia, one we know we can't win? Do we really want to commit suicide?
WILPs currently are running a full blown propaganda campaign to maintain the following narrative: “We are outside the Drama Triangle. When we play the Rescuer, we are really rescuing the victimized Ukrainians. When we play the Persecutor by moving NATO eastward, setting up bioweapons labs and instigating color revolutions, we are really only helping. If you dare to think otherwise, we will cancel you, but it will be for your own good, done out of the kindness of our exceptional nature and morality.”
On a geopolitical level, the Drama Triangle is a form of deadly groupthink. There is no peace of mind, and no world peace possible either, within the Drama Triangle. Until and unless we wake up out of it we are stuck in a circle of self-generated self justification that only creates misunderstanding, misery, and death.
What's in store?
At this point, the Ukraine has been effectively de-militarized. Not only will the loss of Crimea be agreed in a final peace treaty, but so will the Donbass, but no doubt at the original, much larger borders of the two republics. Will Russia carve all of the Black Sea coast, including Odessa, off from the Ukraine, leaving it a rump state in the West? I don't know. It may not care, as long as a politically neutral and disarmed government is established. None of these tragic events, including the invasion of the Ukraine and the resulting suffering of its citizens would have occurred if the US had never instigated a coup in Kiev, armed neo-Nazis, or insisted on turning the Ukraine into a de facto NATO member.
How will Russia manage its other major objective, the de-Nazification of the Ukraine? The best it can do is supervise elections and the creation of a government and constitution that prevent Nazism in the government or military. How far west Russia will go and what it will do about Galicia, a hotbed of fervent Nazism since the Second World War, remains to be seen.
None of these tragic events, including the invasion of the Ukraine and the resulting suffering of its citizens would have occurred if the US had never instigated a coup in Kiev, armed neo-Nazis, or insisted on turning the Ukraine into a de facto NATO member.
Virtue signaling, by demonstrating how supportive we are of the plight of the Ukraine and Ukrainians, may make us feel better and actually help some people, but it won't stop WWIII. Detente and nuclear disarmament will. WILPs and Ukrainian flag huggers in the West have yet to awaken to this reality. Russia has been willing to negotiate, but the US has withdrawn from or broken multiple treaties with Russia. The US government retains the right to break or overturn any treaty agreement that a previous administration has made, as Trump did with Obama's JCPOA treaty with Iran, the EU, and Russia. Under such conditions of non-reciprocity, in which others are required to fulfill commitments while we break them at will, who would want to waste their time in negotiations?
WILPs think this war is about the Ukraine. Russia understands that Ukraine is simply the latest tool for the US to encircle and dismember Russia. Russia is clear that it is not fighting with Zelensky or neo-Nazi terrorists, both of whom are supported financially and militarily by the United States. The United States is at war with Russia to the last Ukrainian, just like it was in Syria in a war to topple a democratically elected President, to the the last Syrian and Arab jihadi. Ukrainians are instrumental and expendable, a means to an end. To the extent that Ukrainians are useful in limiting and weakening Russia, they will be supported. When they no longer serve that purpose the US will regard the Ukraine and Ukrainians as it does Biafrans or Yemenis. Some observant people get this.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov:
This is not about Ukraine, this is about a world order in which the United States wants to be the sole sovereign and dominate… This all is about removing the obstacle in the form of Russia on the way to building a unipolar world.
Don't want to believe Lavrov, because after all, he's Russkie? Then how about hearing it from former US Undersecretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz:
Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.
Russia is a “hostile power” because it sits atop an ocean of oil and gas reserves and because it “defiantly” conducts its own independent foreign policy. What an outrage. Right now we are in the midst of the most severe global crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis. It may even be worse than that. However, the public does not seem to be responding with the alarm and fear of nuclear holocaust and winter the way it did when I was a boy. Why not? The lack of alarm is troubling and itself alarming. This situation could very easily end up in a full-blown nuclear war.
So Ukraine, with its pathetic neo-Nazi gangs, is just an—expendable—pawn in the desperate drive to stop something that is beyond anathema, from Washington's perspective: a totally peaceful German-Russian-Chinese New Silk Road.
Russophobia, massively imprinted in the West's DNA, never really went away. Cultivated by the Brits since Catherine the Great—and then with The Great Game. By the French since Napoleon. By the Germans because the Red Army liberated Berlin. By the Americans because Stalin forced to them the mapping of Europe—and then it went on and on and on throughout the Cold War.
We are at just the early stages of the final push by the dying Empire to attempt arresting the flow of History. They are being outsmarted, they are already outgunned by the top military power in the world, and they will be checkmated. Existentially, they are not equipped to kill the Bear—and that hurts. Cosmically.
Economist Michael Hudson:
The only lever that (the US) has left is to… make the world look like Ukraine. So from the U.S. point of view, Europe's future and Eurasia's future is the Ukraine. (It says,) “Look at what we will do to you if you don't follow our policy.” America has just moved al Qaeda very heavily in(to) the Ukraine to sort of repeat in Ukraine and Europe what it was doing in Syria and Libya. And the United States says this is what we can do. “What are you going to do about it? Do you really want to fight?”
This is “might makes right” exceptionalism: “Rules-based order for me, international law for thee.”
Putin has said, “well, do we really want to live in a world without Russia? If the United States is to attack us, we might as well end the world.” The United States says, “Do we really want to live in a world that we can't control? If we're not completely in control, we feel very insecure and we're going to blow up the world.
Hudson's analysis throws light on the relative motivations of these two conflicting superpowers. For Russia, we have seen why and how the encroachments of NATO are an existential issue of life or death. For the US, winning in the Ukraine is an issue of maintaining and increasing control. Control is everything. The human psychology of control goes something like this: “Without self-control, I don't know who I am; I can't grow. Without control of others there will be threats to my self-control.” This leads to domination, power, escalation, and doubling down. We use psychological compartmentalization to defend against cognitive dissonance that threatens our worldview and hence our identity and sense of control.
The problem is that fear of loss of self-control breeds loss of self-control. Fear gets in the way of being in control, and fear of loss of self-control is a very, very basic, primal human fear. It is associated with thoughts like, “I could be wrong. I could fail. I could be rejected. I could discover I am an immoral, amoral person.” To which the appropriate response is, “Well, yeah. Who isn't? So what?” Control, and self-control, are highly over-rated, particularly when we wake up to the reality that we are a figment of our own imagination, that there is no self to have control over or that needs to be or stay in control.
To wake up out of groupthink we have to educate ourselves and call out injustice, particularly that done in our name. We have to do better at walking our talk, to make our behavior align with our intentions.
To wake up out of groupthink we have to educate ourselves and call out injustice, particularly that done in our name. We have to do better at walking our talk, to make our behavior align with our intentions. Regarding education, we have to read outside the “approved” Western media. I once again recommend John Mearsheimer. Other sources worth following are Pepe Escobar, Michael Hudson, Scott Ritter, Bernard Hoffman at Moon of Alabama, Max Blumenthal and Aaron Maté at the Grey Zone, and Caitlin Johnstone. Read Putin's major speeches and then tell me if he sounds like a mad man or dictator. He not only is perfectly rational; he explains his actions and motivations in a way that is far more direct and candid than is normally the case with Western politicians. Definitely continue to read Western media but compare the information with non-aligned sources. Sadly, there is good reason and justification why Putin refers to the US government as “The Empire of Lies.”
To recognize our failures as individuals and as a civilization typically brings up not only remorse, but shame and guilt. While there is a place for remorse, shame and guilt are toxic and only feed more of the same bad behavior. Instead, what is required is a solution focus, with the South African “Truth and Reconciliation” process providing a good model.
Regarding calling out injustice, we have to stop protecting and excusing our political, business, and spiritual leaders. We have to hold them to a much higher standard.
Regarding walking our talk, we have to ask ourselves, “What would out-groups, those who do not share my worldview, think of my behavior? Would they say I respect them and their needs? That I reciprocate? That I am trustworthy? That I am empathetic?
Perhaps humanity is finally awakening out of those idealisms that imagine there can be freedom without responsibility, healthy relationships without reciprocity, and spirituality without justice. It's high time.
The fellow that is laid out on the left is the Donbass, Ukrainians not allowed to leave cities by humanitarian corridors set up by Russia, and Ukrainians in general, tools for NATO expansion. The people ”taking care of” that fellow are the Ukrainian government. military, US, NATO, and the West in general. The pig watching is the third world: Asia, Africa, and Central/South America. If Russia were in the picture, it would be a pig with nunchucks.
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