Merry Christmas to my long suffering readers.
Hopefully I'll be less slack and put up a few more posts next year.
Best wishes to all.
Saturday, December 24, 2022
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
One of the recurring tropes seen in conservative blogs is the opposition of modernity to religion. The implication of this line of thought is that somehow a return to pre-industrial society would shore up the decline of Christianity. I don't particularly subscribe to this point of view but I can understand how it came about. That the the collapse of religion in the West is correlated with the industrialisation of Western society is true but as all the good text books say, correlation is not causation and the relationship of modernity to religious decline is much more complicated.
But first we need to define terms.
Modernity as a concept has both temporal and qualitative aspects. Temporal, in that it acknowledges that that whatever modernity is, it marks a discontinuity with the past in time. Qualitatively, it acknowledges a civilisational change irrespective of time. I think that one of the reasons why modernity is so difficult to define is because its is one word linked to two different two concepts.
The first thing to consider the is the temporal component of the concept which I think is its least important aspect. The Latin root of the term, modo, defines the present or contemporary. So the concept refers to the here and now. But the important point of the word modernity is that it is meant to distinguish a now that is different from the past, yet time itself is neutral with regard to modernity's qualitative aspect. The modern world is not modern because it is five hundred years away from the the 1500's, it's modern because there has been a qualitative change since then and its the change in things, not the passage of time that gives the term its major meaning. The reason why the 1500's are not modern is because the civilisation experience of then is different to what it is today.
So what then are the major qualitative changes in modernity? From the point of view of Western History, the two main factors would be the development of technology and the change in values, with technological aspect having greater value. Simply put, the modern world would be impossible without the technological innovations particularly of the last two hundred years. Technology has given Western modernity a large component of its qualatative aspect.
But technology does not apply itself and requires human agents for its implementation. Therefore the the expression of technology is conditional on the values used in its implementation. If a society decided, because of its values, to reject technology current technological modernity would be impossible. The point I'm trying to make here is that technology is "captive" to the values of society and these values modulate the expression of technology, and hence modernity. The interesting thing about this line of thought is that modernity can have many forms and the modernity we currently have is not necessarily the only modernity that could have been.
However, qualative changes can also occur in a society in the absence of technology, and history is full of societies which were technologically backward but which culturally changed over time. Here it's the change of values and not the passage of time which is the marker of change. The late Roman Emprie was "modern" in that it differed from the founding values of the Republic. Looking at the decadent values of the late empire and ours now, are we really that modern? Strip away the technology and we resemble a lot of "old" decadent societies.
Whats been interesting about the West is that it has undergone two transformations over the past few centuries. First, the material one, driven by technology, and secondly the cultural one, driven by other factors.
When religious conservatives talk about modernity they have to be quite specific. It needs to be understood is that incorporation of technology into our civilisation has bought, quite literally incalculable, benefits. The production of medicines, diagnostic equipment, food and safe transportation for instance, sits atop a vast mountain of technological capital. Turning the clock back would come at the price of an ocean of human misery. A more simpler existence, i.e. agrarianism, would be a more painful one as well.
Of course, none of these religious conservatives would dream of getting of getting rid of the beneficial effects of technology what they want to do is simply change morality, but even here we have a problem.
Now, while I have separated technology and culture, treating them separately, the reality is there is an interplay between the two of them. Formally, technology shouldn't really impact upon our values system but materially it does, and the medium of the interaction, from a civilisational level, is the midwit. Culture isn't just a product of the guys at the top of the intellectual food chains, it is a product of all levels of society and I don't think what isn't recognised enough is just how powerful this midwit engagement with science and technology is in the shaping of culture.
The point here is that technology, in it's success, undercuts a powerful psychological mechanism which powers moral values, namely dependency, especially in the midwit class. As they say, "there are no atheists in foxholes" which simply is a recognition that in desperate times the midwit is prepared to give God some consideration: atheism and degeneracy being luxuries of comfort.
Christian forensic philosophers have laboured to identify and combat the errors of modernist thought but the fact is that stupid ideas have been around since time immemorial. What distinguishes the modern world from the past is the traction these stupid ideas have now, or appear to have now. The average man does not engage life like a Pascal, Nietzsche, Heidegger or Kant: in fact he's probably never even heard of them. The fault of Christian philosphers has been to map the thought of dissident philosophers on the brains of midwits, combating a process that isn't naturally occurring in their minds, wondering why their arguments don't work. The fault lays in the failure to recognise that Homer Simpson doesn't do Heidegger and the widespread consumption of internet porn is not due the average man's acceptance of the arguments of Foucault.
Rather, how modernity attacks religion is "psychologically", through material comfort, security and abundance. The "argument" of modernity is not logical but existential. God is not needed, or sought, among people who are fat, happy and in-control enough. Stupid ideas, which never would have been given the time of day in a precarious world are suddenly given a hearing. Hubris, ingratitude and sloth act on a population-wide level consigning "hard" religion as an irrelevancy. The rejection of God is more pragmatic rather than philosophical. The relationship of Christianity to modernity is much bigger than just the world of ideas.
Sunday, October 16, 2022
Vladimir Solovyov is one of Putin's chief propagandists.
Back in 2008 he sang a different and more sensible tune.
As many Russian analysts have recognised, the Ortho-con policies of Putin have pushed the Ukrainians away from the Russians. Had Putin simply followed the the ideas expressed by Solovyov in 2008, he--and Russia--would he would be in a much stronger position than now.
It even gets weirder than this. Here's a link to Solovyov and Zelensky singing together on Russian TV in 2013.
Bonus: For Comrade Vatnik who likes to populate my comments thread with vulgarities. It appears that Solovyov is a bit of a fan of Mussolini.
Russia's war against Nazism in Ukraine is in safe hands!
You can't make this stuff up. This really is Clown World.
Thursday, October 13, 2022
The truth is this war has its roots much further back than Obama. If you want to point to an incident as a starting place, it would be American involvement in the Balkan war during the Clinton years. American support for Kosovo against Serbia was the start of a new conflict with Russia. At the time, it was viewed in Moscow as a deliberate offense to the Russians. In the years that followed, this affair has become a warning for the Russians about what Washington plans for them.
One of the things about being of the right it is the desire to calibrate one's beliefs to reality. So its with some surprise that I read the above over at Z Man's blog. Quite simply its a revision of history.
Unlike the current situation in Ukraine, when the war in Yugoslavia started the American's did all they could to stop the country from breaking apart, including placing an arms embargo on the Croats, Slovenes and even the Bosnians. The Americans was so concerned about the stability of the former Soviet Union that they did not want to set a precedent by recognising the breakaway republics. Even the Baltics had a hard time gaining recognition from the U.S. The fact of the matter is that the Bush administration of the early 90's did all it could to support the continuity of the the former Soviet Union and turned a blind eye to much of the slaughter in the former Yugoslavia. The Republicans, for all their mouthings of liberty, did bugger all.
The entry of the Clinton administration initially didn't really change much. But it was the nightly reports of slaughter and murder, perpetrated mainly by the Serbs that turned public opinion in the U.S. and Europe against Serbian/Russian interests. By the time the issue of Kosovo had come around, the largely accurate public image of the Serbs had taken such a beating that Serbian claims to Kosovo fell on unsympathetic ears. American policy in Kosovo was designed to save lives and if the Serbians hadn't a policy of extermination I doubt that there would have been any intervention at all.
This of course bothered the Russians and their apologists who somehow felt that their right to dictate what happened in that theatre of operations trumped the human rights of the inhabitants of that region. What's really weird about this is that it was supported by large sections of the American "right".
While the fine detail of U.S. foreign policy towards Russia is beyond this blog post the fact of the matter is that U.S. Russian relations were quite cordial, even to the extent that Russia was mooted as a potential NATO member until the Orange Revolution where the Russians were outmaneuvered by the Americans, failing to get their man installed. (Unlike in Belarus.)
It's clear now that the U.S. is hostile to the Kremlin but it wasn't always this way and while both sides are responsible for this deterioration in their relationship. The way the Kremlin and their apologists paint it, one would think that the Russians were victims of exploitation instead of contributory agents. Putin is a Russian Nationalist with an imperialistic vision and his desire to restore a modern version of the tsardom is what rubs many people the wrong way and in the playbook of Russian diplomacy, when Russia doesn't get what it wants it is a "victim."
While it is true that Putin's nationalism is in someways more "wholesome" than Western Liberalism in some ways it's far more rotten. Putin's anti-sexual-deviancy needs to be balanced by his disregard for the loss of innocent life. His appeal to family values has to be balanced by his blind eye to civic vices. What surprises me is just how many of the right are blind to them, or even worse, how many of them see as justifiable. From my perspective Putin's "badness" is a different "badness" to the "badness" of the West: But it is still bad.
Just as Neoconservatism wants to build a conservatism without reference to Christ, Orthoconnery wants to build a conservatism subordinated to Russian/Orthodox Nationalistic interests*. In this schema, the Church blesses whatever the State wants and reinterprets facts to further that narrative. The truth be damned. The idea that NATO is a threat to Russia is laughable as is the idea that Ukraine is a fascist state and so on. The fact that many on the Western Right buy into this is a measure of how pitiful their understanding of when membership of the right entails. i.e. a commitment to the truth and justice.
*Note: I'm not criticising legitimate Orthodox patriotism but its a patriotism that must be grounded in the truth.
Saturday, July 02, 2022
Saturday, April 30, 2022
I'm getting a bit of heat from the idiot Right in criticism of their view of Russia the new defender of Christianity. So I wonder how the guys will spin this.
Russia is rehabilitating the Soviet Union and our idiot "Christian" Right are cheering them on. Let that sink in for the moment. The Christian "dissident" Right is supporting the party of Marx and the Gulag. Let's not forget which country spent millions of dollars trying to undermine the West. A lot of the Globohomo that we have now was a direct result of the subversion policy's of the USSR from a long time ago.
This is why the Right loses all the time: They're too stupid to see that they're supporting the forces that will ultimately undermine them.
Saturday, April 16, 2022
I got a fair amount of grief from the pro-Russian crowd in my last post about the Russian Military Cathedral which I felt tried to reconcile communism with orthodoxy. Commo-Orthodoxy much like Judeo-Christianity is fundamentally incompatible due to their foundational premises. As I tried to point out in my last post, patria and Christianity are compatible, Communism (and fascism for that matter) is not.
The allies destroyed of confiscated a lot Nazi art following the war, and I'm not sure how much of it had a religious element. But I managed to find an example of religious art produced in a time of totalitarianism that gets it right.
Oskar Martin Amorbach was a well renowned painter during the time of the Third Reich. He painted one of my favourite works from that time, The Sower. What I was not aware of is that he also painted a mural in the The Holy Trinity Chapel in Waldsassen. The mural was completed in 1940 while the Reich was on the rise. Titled, The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the mural of the German soldiers is seen as an allegory of the corporal acts of mercy. Of note, you have to look very carefully to see any Nazi imagery. The emphasis is clearly on German soldiers being good Christians.
They guys are clearly Wehrmacht but it's very difficult to see an Nazi symbolism at all. In this image we see the German give a drink to French, Italian and Spanish prisoners of War, visiting the sick...
...and burying the dead. Note, the grave next to German grave is French. The imagery is clearly one of Christian morals, rather than a celebration an attempt to reconcile Nazism and Christianity.
Even this sort of thing from another Church and from the First World War, put in a Russian context would have been more appropriate.
I'm not an artist, but it isn't too hard to see how faith and patria could be depicted in a way which acknowledged historicity while criticising totalitarianism. Even some of the icons of Alexander Schmorell, a saint of the Russian Church, acknowledge his German military background in their depiction of him:
Note the German uniform under the white overshirt.
Now the guys who built the Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces weren't stupid, they could have chosen to depict the Russians who fought during the Soviet era in a way which emphasised the faith and downplayed the Soviet.
They didn't and that's the problem, they're trying to reconcile the two.
BTW, I have taken most of the images here from the site of a Russian Photographer, Vladimir Pomortzeff, The Woe of the Vanquished. Great site, have a look.
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
I meant to write about this last night but got stuck with other things.
Russia has built itself a new cathedral for its armed forces, and I've got to admit, on first impression, I really quite like it. It's a spectacular building of relatively traditional design which is very impressive. I think the use of glass and color in the building is particularly imaginative and overall produces a grand ecclesiastical space with a sense of grandeur and sanctity that is completely lacking in most modern religious architecture. I've never really liked byzantine art but I've really warmed to this.
I'm not a big fan however, of how they have sited the building, placing a military "theme' park/museum next to it. I feel it detracts from the gravity of the space and it detracts from the sanctity and seriousness which the building itself so successfully evokes. The building has had it's critics, complaining about its color, which I like: it's glorification of the military, which I also think is appropriate in the right context, and some of the stylistic choices which I think are petty.
In the previous post, Commetator Joseph A said:
I'd think the most controversial iconography in the military temple is the resurrection icon in the apse. I admit its rad coolness, but it strikes me as pretty innovative, as far as temple iconography goes. Not as wild as Jesus as Thor in D.C.'s National (R.C.) Basilica, but pretty wild for the Orthodox.I personally think it is fantastic and great example of how a modern stylistic element can be incorporated into a traditional style in a way that adds to the intended effect. It's modern but synches with the old. When I first saw it, I was gobsmacked.
Till I started noticing a few details.
Like the hammer and sickle on the ceiling, the abundance of unabashedly Soviet military officers and commemorations of the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution and the Prague Spring. Original proposals even included the image of Stalin, cast in a positive light. (Removed after protest from the Orthodox community.) Hmmm, I thought to myself, something's not right.
The purpose of any religious decoration is to convey the religious theology in some kind of visual form. So the presence and positive context of Soviet imagery in an Orthodox Church was either a mistake or some attempt to "synthesise" the two. Theologically, the synthesis is impossible since the ideals of Communism and the Ideals of mainstream Orthodox theology are oppositional. The only way such a synthesis can be achieved is by elevating the Russian commonality between the two extremes. In such a schema the only way that communism and Russian Orthodoxy can be reconciled is because of their Russian-ness. God matters less than being Russian.
Stalin's image was removed after an outcry from members of the Orthodox Church.
Commentator Joseph A also said:
Many cathedrals and temples depict significant historical events. The National Cathedral in Washington D.C. (Anglican) has depictions of the War between the States among other important episodes in the life of the American nation. The Russian military sobor in this article does the same -- it is a temple for the armed forces, and there is an emphasis on WWII.This is true but the issue is how to depict the art while being true to the religion. I fully understand that the "Great Patriotic War" was both an exercise in the expansion of Communism and a war of liberation against the Genocidal Germans, so Russia does have something legitimate--from a Christian perspective--to celebrate about it. How to depict it is the problem, since what you don't want to do is elevated the anti-Christian in a such a depiction. I don't think the art achieves this balance, neither do quite a few orthodox.
Lest anyone think that my comments are due to my inherent anti-Russianism, this interesting article by the Russian, Alexi Lidov, raises similar objections:
And from the perspective of social psychology it is interesting that many people are quite comfortable with this sort of understanding of Christianity, with the love of God soothingly transformed into the veneration of power.
It seems to me that the church we’re talking about aspires to become a monument of the era and a bright reflection of contemporary Russian religious consciousness[ED], as the most vivid manifestation of the deepest spiritual crisis but nowhere near a manifestation of triumph. And there is something paradoxical in this. I think this ambiguity and incongruity has been felt by many Orthodox people and this is precisely why the military church has evoked such an explosive reaction, and occasionally also deep antagonism, despite the unprecedented promotion of the project via state mass media. And it seems to me, too, that this will live on as a memorial of sorts to the era. But in my opinion, the proposed path is — undoubtedly — a ruinous dead end and should certainly not become an example for imitation.
Bonus: Lidov actually gives a very good talk here about the cathedral and various other Russian relgious topics. Worth a listen.
Fun fact that I didn't know: Stalin, after mercilessly persecuting religion in Russia only allowed it to practice again in order to get Lend Lease American military supplies. Apparently the Christians in Congress were refusing to the let the appropriate legislation pass because of Stalin's brutality towards religion. The only reason he opened the Churches in Russia was to win favour with the American Congress!
*Images are not mine and have been used under fair use provisions.
Monday, April 11, 2022
Some interesting religious art from the newly consecrated Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces.
The one on the left is the original version, the one on the right is what is considered theologically acceptable. (Stalin's been rubbed out.)
The Church also commemorates the crushing of the Prague Spring and Hungarian Uprising.
Some interesting theology going on there.
Thursday, April 07, 2022
The Pseudo Right support of Putin only results in the furthering of the causes of the Left.
The facts were quite clear. Among Putin's four military interventions in the former Soviet space, three targeted Christian and Orthodox countries. The direct aggression against Georgia was to the benefit of the Muslim Abkhazians. During the last conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the French far right and the Republicans (Les Républicains) called for Christian solidarity against the Turkish-Muslim threat. I had reminded them in an article (Le Monde, 18 November 2020) that the Russians were on Azerbaijan's side and not at all on the Armenians' side. They let the Azeris take over Karabakh and then pretended to intervene. In the wake of the war in Chechnya, Putin supported the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The only place in geographical Europe where Sharia law is applied is in the Republic of Chechnya, in Russia. The attack on another Orthodox nation, Ukraine, will further accentuate the divisions in the Orthodox world but also in the Christian world in general (the Ukrainian Catholic Uniates are a bastion of Ukrainian patriotism). The only Ukrainian patriarch who still recognises the supremacy of Patriarch Cyril of Moscow, Onuphre, has just called on the faithful to defend the Ukrainian homeland. Putin has lost his claim to represent the Orthodox world.
Great essay by Oliver Roy. Note, in quoting Roy I don't agree with all that he says. I'm a big believer in the Clash of Civilisations theory. The problem isn't with the theory but in what is considered a civilisation. Samuel Huntington painted with too broad a brush, failing to appreciate that local factors--which cause the formation of identity--modify this theory quite a bit.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
Commentator Sean took offence to my comment about the eternal Russia and I felt trying to justify myself would really be counterproductive.
So I thought I would bring a different perspective to the claim.
Marrti Kari is a former colonel in Finnish Intelligence. Apart from losing some territory to the Soviets in the Winter War, Finland was never occupied by the Russians, so was spared most of the cultural trauma that Central Europe went through.
He has two good talks on You Tube about the Russian mindset which I would urge my readers to look at. Since everyone is time poor, the fist four minutes of this video explains a lot about Russia.
The interesting stuff begins at 6:37.
He also gives another good talk, How Russians Think and Why They Do What They Do and a summary of this talk can be found here.
Saturday, March 19, 2022
Sometimes even though world events are complicated and require nuance, the moral response to them is not hard. One of the most depressing things about the current war in Ukraine is watching some of the leaders of the the "dissident Right" cheer on the actions of Vladimir Putin. It's a gross moral failure.
Russian claims about being threatened by NATO are quite simply, rubbish. Does Switzerland feel threatened, surrounded as it is by NATO. As you read this blog, there are probably three or four Russian nuclear armed submarines just off the U.S. coast, closer to the American shoreline than Kiev is to the Russian border. Likewise, there are probably a similar number of U.S submarines off Russian waters. When it comes to nuclear war, the presence of nuclear weapons on the Ukrainian soil is largely an irrelevancy. It's the subs that are the scary weapons.
So why did the Russians decide to go to war?
The Kremlin's anti NATO and anti Ukrainian propaganda has a familiar tune to those who remember the events that led to War in Yugoslavia. Because the Kremlin's arguments are exactly the
same--except for the place names--as the one advocated by Serbian Nationalists in that war.
Russia sees Ukraine, just like Serbia saw Croatia, as its rightful clay. Even Kiev (with its historical role in the foundation of the Russian
state) is analogous to the Serbian spiritual claim over Kosovo. And the reason why Russia did not want Ukraine in NATO is because it would have frustrated this ambition. The Russians don't want to fight a nuclear armed power.
The Poles understand this, as do the other former Warsaw Pact nations, the problem is that those in the West, particularly the Germans, don't. It also seems that many "conservatives" in the West fail to grasp this fact. Nationalistic Russia is a predatory power.
So while Putin's forces have violated a country borders whom they promised to respect, and are bombing civilian targets indiscriminately we have many "conservatives" cheering him on. Mark Twain once said, history may not repeat but it sure does rhyme and there's a lot of the 1930's in the air at the moment.
Back in the 1930's socialism was rapidly taking over the mindset of the elites in the West which challenged the pre-existing social order. Many of the traditional approaches at combating them were ineffective, and men like Mussolini and Hitler earned a lot of 'respect" from the "Right" for their apparently ability to curb the Left. The problem, however, was that the "Right" that these guys represented was superficial, and deep down it carried with it all of the metaphysical poisons of the Left.
If you were a conservative in the 1930's there was a lot to like about Hitler and his mates. For instance, he was profoundly anti-degenerate, but then again that depends on how you define degeneracy. From a Christian perspective, it's no use being against the globohomo if you embrace murder of the innocents, deliberate lying and widespread theft. You might not go to Hell for buggery but you're still going to go to Hell.
Likewise it's also understandable to see why many conservatives would see something beneficial with Vladimir Putin. He is also against the globohomo, strongly nationalistic, "Christian" and is trying to restore "family" values in Russia. I strongly advise anyone who wishes to understand him to study the concept of Russkij Mir. The problem with the ideology behind this "Pax Russia" is that it is profoundly anti-Western, not in the sense of the Modern West, but also also in the sense of the the "Traditional West". Our idiot conservatives are cheering him on.
The image of modern Russia is in many ways akin to the Potemkin villages of the past. Superfically attractive but deep down rotten to the core. Russia has some serious cultural problems, and they're not simply the legacy of Communism but a problem with its history and relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church. Stephen Kotkin in an interview with the New Yorker, gives a great talk on this subject. This is the Russia that Putin is championing, and this the Russia that the "useful conservative idiots" in the West are cheering on.
The Russia that these idiots are championing has the highest rates of abortion, homicide, divorce, suicidality and criminality in Europe. Google it up. Much like German--and European--society in the the 1930's, Russian society is profoundly morally sick. It is no moral exemplar. The fact that many "dissident" conservatives are cheering it on shows just how distorted their moral compass is.
And in criticising modern Russia I'm in no way vindicting the modern West, both societies are profoundly diseased. European civilisation is a profound moral crisis and the only way out of it, as I see it, is through a rejuvenated civic Christianity which can steer itself between the brothel that is the modern West and the spiritual wasteland of the East.