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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).
Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10
From Russia with Hate
Ukraine in Russian War Propaganda
Hate-speech from the Kremlin
In a recent post on Twitter Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president (2008-2012) and current Deputy Chair of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, wrote the following chilling and openly cultural—if not physical—genocidal message:
Here's the full text of this tweet:
WHY WILL UKRAINE DISAPPEAR? BECAUSE NOBODY NEEDS IT
Wikipedia explains the loaded connotation of the term "Little Russia":
Anachronistic, imperialist, disparagingyou get the idea.
The term "unterukraine" hasn't made it yet into the dictionaries, and seems to have been minted by Medvedev himself. Compared to these unhinged rants of Medvedev, Putin's speeches and essays seem measured—even though they are full of pseudo-history and myth. But then again, politicians in Russia have always revised history to suit their current power-hungry strategies with versions of their own liking.
An even more paranoid anti-Ukraine and anti-Western diet is served up by the Russian sponsored state TV shows, that are viewed by millions of Russians, often as their only source of information about what goes on in the world. Julia Davis, Columnist at TheDailyBeast, and creator of the Russian Media Monitor on YouTube, frequently shows brief fragments with English subtitles on her Twitter account. Here's a recent example, featuring the popular talk show host Vladimir Solovyov:
From the video:
Let's destroy the city of Kyiv, to hell with it... Wipe it off the face of the earth... This is it, jokes are over... You can fight the unclean only with a holy fire falling from the skies. Fire and brimstone, like Sodom and Gomorrah... They have to be destroyed, and that's it!
What these quotes from Medvedev and Solovyov show is a worldview, deeply entrenched in absolutist, mythic-literal Orthodox-Christianity, in which good and bad are clearly set apart from each other. Moscow is seen as the Third Rome (after Rome and Constantinopel), and the home of "true Christianity". All who think differently are part of the world of the devil (remember Putin telling us he is fighting Satanism in Ukraine?). In Spiral Dynamics jargon this is, approximately, Blue (absolutist) with heavy Red (violence) undertones. When people who think like this have nukes, this creates an explosive and dangerous mix. Especially when a former super-power like Russia has the ambition to become a world-player again, next to the US and China.
The Making of Modern Ukraine
It's time to switch gears and present a voice from Ukraine. I give you Marci Shore, author of Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution, who featured as guest speaker in one class of the "The Making of Modern Ukraine" series presented by Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University Timothy Snyder, her husband. In class 23, the last of the series, he raised the following questions to his students:
Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?
In class 20, Marci Shore relates how she experienced the Maidan revolt in 2014, which is also known as "The Revolution of Dignity". It followed up on the Russia-minded president Yanukovych's refusal to sign the trade agreement with the EU, which he had promised to do, much to the delight of the younger Ukrainian generation. Peaceful demonstrations resulted, that over time morphed into large crowds, both of younger and older people, opposing the government. Many European countries, and the US, supported this revolt, and the upshot was that Yanukovych fled to Russia and a new government was chosen. Russophile propaganda channels like to frame this as a "US coup", but the Ukrainian population obviously thought otherwise. It was a genuine longing for freedom and democracy, even if only in a very fragile form, and an equally strong desire to move away from decades of Russian and Soviet Union domination.
From the video:
Likes Don't Count
What this fragment shows is a totally different mind-set and value system compared to the Russian examples I gave. This time, the dominant colors are, again, approximately, Orange (for individual freedom) and Green (for humanistic values). Obviously, the Ukraine-Russia conflict is a conflict between these meme-complexes. The question then becomes: what can a higher-meme country do when it gets invaded by a lower-meme but more powerful country? (Compare this to the two centuries that early Russia got invaded by the Mongols. And it was only when the Mongols retreated that Moscow could become the center of power, no longer Kyiv.) It is helpless if not supported by like-minded Western countries. And this is exactly what we see happening now, with many European countries sending arms and funding to Ukraine, to supplement the support already given by the US.
The Case of Joseph Dillard
It is this legitimate vertical urge, for freedom and dignity, that is totally overlooked by those who are inspired by geopolitics, and are usually called "realists". Realists look down upon so-called "idealists", who talk about a rule-based order, but ignore the power-play of super-powers. They seem proud of their 19th century realism (subscribed to by Putin as well) and despise the "naive" 21st century idealism, championed (at least in name) by the West. Now, it is important to see that there is a big difference between Western ideals and how they have worked out in practice. Whatever the shortcomings of Western foreign policy have been, the ideals itself should not be neglected, at least that is how I see it. And in their zeal to criticize Western misbehavior, russophile commentators run the risk of missing out on this vertical dimension.
The basic questions are: was the Russian invasion in any way legitimate (at least from their realist perspective)? But equally: was the Ukrainian revolt of 2014 in any way legitimate (from their idealist perspective)? And how do we get out of this mess? The first step, indeed, is trying to understand the behavior of countries, especially those we are in conflict with. But the next step is aiming for some integration, or at least some common ground every party in this conflict can live with. Dillard has spent thousands of words explicating the Russian perspective, but relatively little on integrating this with other points of view.
To be fair, geopolitical realists see a different kind of verticality, we can call it the "escalation ladder." From a regional conflict in the Donbas, it spilled over into a bi-national war between Ukraine and Russia, which in turn due to the Europe/US support for Ukraine threatens to widen itself further into a European or even a World War, with potential dire consequences. That point too must be honored.
What hampers a constructive debate so far, as far as I can tell, is that geopolitics authors tend to focus on the upper two levels (multi-national and global), whereas those who specialize in the Ukraine-Russia historical relations are strong in the lower two levels (bi-national and regional). Both distrust the other and accuse them of being naive or lacking the proper expertise. For realists, it doesn't matter if you like the political system of your neighbor, as long as you can get along with him. For idealists might should not make right and we should stand for our (higher?) values.
On the other hand, the Maidan revolt is another example of many "color revolutions" all over the world, where the population protests against its dictatorial regimes, often at the risk of becoming imprisoned or even killed on the spot. Seeing all of these revolts as ever so many "coups" sponsored by the US "Empire" overlooks, again, the real and legitimate needs of the people involved for more individual freedom, especially where dogmatic religion dominates the state. It is a cynical stance that plays to the hands of exactly these repressive regimes.
Speaking of which, when multiple democracy (or press freedom or corruption) indexes by various research institutes show that Russia consistently performs worse than Ukraine, the facile reply by russo- or chinophiles is: these are all Western efforts sponsored by the state. Well, show me Russian or Chinese reports that have an equally global and comparative scope, if there are any. Cultural biases are always possible, of course, but even if these indexes only measure how far non-Western countries have "progressed" towards Western ideals, it means something that these same Western countries, especially those in Northern Europe, consistently end up high in happiness indexes.
When it comes to the question if the West has recklessly expanded NATO, supposedly breaking a promise to Russia, what is usually overlooked by russophiles is that these countries were not invaded by NATO but joined that organization by their own free will. That gives a message to Putin that is hard to swallow: none of the Warschaw Pact countries were, understandably, willing to stay within the Russian sphere of influence, and it has become very clear that Ukraine has expressed the wish to follow—for the very same reasons.
Not to get mired again in quotes and sources and their interpretations, my reply to Dillard's pro-Russian perspective would be (as I have argued on various occasions): transcending our Western group-think should not mean trading it for Russian group-think, least of all of the apocalyptic and aggressive variety we have encountered in Medvedev and Solovyov above. And even if the West has displayed hypocrisy by starting various wars abroad "to bring freedom and democracy", this should not lead to the cynical conclusion that these values cannot be realized. Autocratic rulers may laugh about the often messy and imperfect democratic processes in Western countries, but they avoid such at high costs for their own population. Ukraine, to my mind, has taken steps towards freedom and democracy, even if the war with Russia have now made harshly restrictive measures necessary.
Joseph Dillard has argued many times that we have to transcend our Western group-think and include the perspective of Russia in our multi-perspectivalism. As valuable as that can be as a first step, if group-think seems unavoidable, choose your group wisely, I would say.
 Dmitry Medvedev, twitter.com, April 8, 2023. This tweet got 14 million views.
 "Little Russia", en.wikipedia.net
 M. Galeotti, A Short History of Russia, Penguin, 2021/2022.
 Julia Davis, twitter.com
 "Revolution of Dignity", en.wikipedia.org
 But do check his series "Characteristics of Our Emerging Worldview", www.integralworld.net
 See: Ray Harris, "A Case of Gaslighting", www.integralworld.net and comments by Jan Krikke and Joseph Dillard.
 Marnie Hunter, "The world’s happiest countries for 2023", cnn.com, March 23, 2023. Based on publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Dimensions investigated are: healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support, low corruption, generosity in a community where people look after each other and freedom to make key life decisions. So there is hardly a bias towards individualism and materialism. And relevant for our topic:
The Baltic nation [Lithuania] has been climbing steadily over the past six years from No. 52 in 2017 to No. 20 on the latest list. And the other Baltic countries, Estonia (No. 31) and Latvia (No. 41), have been climbing in the ranks, too. "It’s essentially the same story that’s playing out in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe," Helliwell said. Countries in those regions "probably have normalized that post-1990 transition and [are] feeling more solid in their new identity" as the years pass, he said.
Sounds to me that Ukraine aspires to follow that same post-Soviet trajectory.
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