Sign and Sight

Worth rereading, 3 years later, at

Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists?

Pascal Bruckner defends Ayaan Hirsi Ali against Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash, condemning their idea of multiculturalism for chaining people to their roots.

and also the much more recent

Right life in the wrong life

Joachim Gauck talks about Ossis and Wessis, opposition, conformism, and the long-term psychological effects of a dictatorial regime. An interview with Joachim Güntner.

The decline of Russia’s intellectual community

Paul Goble’s Window on Eurasia has a link to an interesting essay by the Russian historian Irina Pavlova which examines the way in which Russia’s intellectual class has declined under the influence of the Soviet past and the readiness of most Russian intellectuals to put power before moral and ethical principles. Excerpt [my tr.]:

I am struck, for example, by the image that has emerged of Vladislav Surkov as the cleverest man in Russia, to whom the members of the Academy of Sciences listen with servile attention. And the “talking heads” Sergei Markov and Maxim Shevchenko, who have never done any historical research, but who give instruction to historians in how to study the famine of the early 1930s. And the specialists, rendered wise by experience, who support the chairman of the recently created Historical Memory foundation, Alexander Dyukov. With enviable fervour this young man is bringing to life a new prison-guard conception of Soviet history that is based on blind faith in the documents given to him from the archive of the FSB. And the liberals, who are placing their hopes in a new democracy led by President Medvedev. And the abuse and invective hurled at the Russian people, who don’t want democracy and support the current government. All this, in my opinion, is evidence of a profound intellectual and moral crisis, which is no less dangerous than the economic one. Whom God wishes to punish, he first deprives of reason.

A state of euphoria

Alexander Dugin, interviewed on August 27, 2008 – Excerpt: [my tr.]

“At present we are in a state of euphoria: we have defeated Georgia’s military machine, destroyed it, have recognized the our friends’ independence. Now we must hold on to that situation. But this is not a local issue. Holding on to the situation does not mean simply preventing a counter-attack by the Georgian aggressors. Now we will have to stave off a massed attack by the United States on the territory of these republics. The most difficult part is still to come: we have won a battle, but by no means the war. In order to deal with this situation, Russia must rebuild its society, its economy, its politics, its media and educational spheres – everything, in fact – along military lines. We have gone to war. We need reinforcement, the consolidation of society. We will never go back to the Russia of before August 8, 2008. We will now stand on the brink of nuclear conflict for a long time. So now, in my opinion, South Ossetia and Abkhazia will become less important than the global restructuring of the world’s architecture with which we dealing. The fate of their peoples is secondary to what now awaits the entire world. For the world stands on the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

– – – –

“The masks have fallen. We have gone to war. Now Russia must fight not only outside but also within, with its fifth column. The liberal westernizers, the employees of all the various NGOs and foundations, must now be interned. In war as in war. If prior to August 8 these people had a right to their point of view, today they have only one right: to be isolated and saved from inevitable retribution, for I do not think that in this situation the patriots will sit idly by. The hour of the patriot is at hand. The hour of revenge for the humiliation that we have endured from these citizens for more than a decade. I think that some Georgian public figures who are particularly active in Russia must also share the same fate, as they are representatives of the country with which we are at war.”

The Russian Idea

Marko Mihkelson has an interesting post (in Estonian) about the current rebirth of imperial ideology in Russia. In the context of the Russian invasion of Georgia Mihkelson mentions the “Eurasianist” ideologues of the “Russian Idea” who are now coming into their own – with official encouragement – in their native land, and quotes one fairly chilling example of such writing and thinking, which is widespread now among “intellectuals” in Russia:

“It is clear that we need the kind of idea for which one will not be sorry to give one’s life. And the building of civil society, of the rule of law, of a prosperous society we find uninteresting. Indeed, we would rather squander everything and end our lives with suicide, than scrupulously count the credit and the debit, invest, corporatize, organize on cooperative lines, and so on. We find that tedious. We would rather try to absorb the enormous spaces of Siberia and the Far East, so that the islands of the Pacific Ocean become indigenously ours, we will fight for centuries with Europe for the Baltic States, and with Turkey for the Dardanelles – that is our way.”


“Obviously, in those parts of the world which have not yet come under the totalitarian yoke, this peculiar logic has not had all its implications worked out. The statistical method is, as it were, dumped down well outside the gates of the palace of art, but for how long? It is permissible, at least, to ask whether in this realm, as in many others, the totalitarian countries, with their brutal way of freezing out the nonconforming artist, have not merely confined themselves to drawing the proper conclusions from premises that are, in fact, accepted by everybody for whom statistics provide a sufficient criterion for the administration of human affairs.”

Gabriel Marcel, The Mystery of Being, Vol. I (1950)