January 28, 2002
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We was had, is had and most likely will continue to be had.
My recent excursions into Russian history reveal patterns and parallels etched deeply into Russian being which reach forward to now. In parallel, we have patterns and parallels in our ways of perceiving, acting and reacting which are as deeply etched, even if differently.
I am chagrined, shamed and embarrassed to learn how deeply distortions of history, our perceptions of history are deeply etched into my own assumptions, into how I was taught, into what I was taught, how we are taught and how we live history, how we are guided to conclusions which fit only the greed and lust for war common to and linking us all. What we, humankind, hold in common is lust for war. We sacrifice nearly everything for war and invest little in peace.
It may be said that there is neither good nor evil, only some persistent amalgams surging between dominance of one and the other over time. Whether I approve or disapprove of the current balances seems quite irrelevant in actuality.
Previously, I have noted that Lenin, Stalin and the Soviets invented nothing. Rather they quickly evaded the liberal possibilities of 1905 and 1917 revolutions, seizing upon the persistent patterns which characterize what it is to be Russian. Before Russia consolidated as Russia around the 1500s, after Russia emerged as a state with Czar, Tsar and all the trappings of a state including aggressive wars of expansion west, south and east; the principalities which were to converge as Russia were even then warring against Moslems, Islamics, Mohammedans of Central Asia. There were parallels to the Crusades of Christendom which come from Russia rather than Europe.
As soon as Siberia was collected within the embrace of Mother Russia in the 1600s, gulags were opened and stayed open to present times. Peter, the Great, early in the 1700s created the first state-wide secret police. He personally presided over torture and execution. He established a reward and promotion system for spying on friends, family and neighbors. Show trials were the norm then, too. Military tribunals are not a Bush II invention, either.
Slave labor was a consistent theme in Russia. Not only farm workers as serfs but also workers in early industrial establishments were slaves. Russia's infrastructure was built by slaves. Under the Czars' absolute power, that is, God-given absolute power over life, death, everything, resided solely in the Czar. Ivan, the Terrible, and Peter, the Great, predecessors and successors used that power absolutely, capriciously and whimsically. Absolute power is not a Soviet invention.
Russia is, then, a coherent pattern which persists. The patterns which characterize history throughout the great expanses of geography within which Russia, however organized and governed, expands and contracts are welded into the consciousness that is Russia. Today's Gazprom was yesterday's Stroganovs. The Stroganov family emerged as exploiters and developers of Siberian and other Russian resources. They were the very Savage Capitalists of their time as Gazprom is today.
To understand the behavioral probabilities of a man like Vladimir Putin, I suggest we need to look at Russia with blinders removed. To understand the probabilities which emerge, I suggest we look clearly at the ebb and flow of Russian history. And notice the parallels and patterns in our histories.
Russia butts against the peoples collected along its borders, along the great swath from Atlantic to Pacific which cuts through Central Asia. Russia lusts for warm water ports through which to control its commerce and through which to launch naval forces. Russia butts against Europe on the West. Wars and intrigue related to Europe have seen Russia often control what we understand as Poland, parts of Germany, Balkan and Baltic states.
To the west, the broadest physical expansion of Russia was that which was agreed upon at Yalta and Potsdam Conferences during WW II and only rolled back after 1989. To the east, that physical expansion was land seized from Japan, carved from China in 1945.
Notice the words, "agreed upon." Just as Russian troops held back outside Warsaw while the Nazis killed off the last desperate survivors of the Ghetto, Allied forces held back from Berlin, Central and Eastern Europe to permit Russians to take it. The lines which were to establish Eastern and Western Europe were established by political processes among the then Allies of WW II. Forget what you believe to be Cold War history in that regard. The "Wall" was primarily an Eisenhower and Churchill construct.
In fact, forget most of what you believe to be Cold War/Soviet history as something unique to Communist times. What went on since 1917 is little different in pattern than what went on since Peter the Great beat Sweden back in the early 1700s. In 1914, Russia controlled or exercised hegemony into what is now Iraq and Iran and parts of Afghanistan. The imperial Great Games which engaged Russian and British forces in Central Asia are predecessors, antecedents to the present War on Terror in Afghanistan.
The many processes over many hundreds of years which relate to Russia's borders and relationships from Adriatic to China and beyond record comings and goings mostly related to extremely brutal and barbaric wars and aggressive actions against others. Those others were just as quick, when appropriate in their eyes, to do brutal, barbaric and aggressive things to Russians a pattern which persists to now.
As Lukacs notes and I now grok, liberal versions of history are ahistorical and unhistorical. My prattling and persisting in ignoring that actuality severely distorts my judgments and perceptions. What I was taught in excellent schools, college and beyond is ahistorical and unhistorical.
We was had by our teachers and professors. We was had by our belief in what we were taught. Using that belief as primary guidance is a monumental charade. How horrible! How utterly beyond the capacity of words to encompass!
The safe war being waged in Afghanistan at the moment may be, at least in some senses, historical then barbaric. That barbarity is more consistent with history than my liberal prejudices like to concede.
Chagrin. Shame. Embarrassment. Peace is an illusion of power.
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Milo G. Clark 2002. All rights reserved.
This Week's Internal Links
On What Authority? - by Stephen Gowans
History, from Historians to Hobbesians - by Milo Clark
On Fantasy - by Alma A. Hromic
"Changer of Days," - Book Review by Jan Baughman
Renewing the Earth - by Michael W. Stowell
Man vs. Machine - by Deck Deckert
Oasis - by Sandy Lulay
The Brown Man's Burden - by Henry Labouchère
The White Man's Burden - by Rudyard Kipling
Milo Clark on Swans
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