East Europe and Politics of Dissolution
A perspective we could, albeit quite loosely, denote as “East European viewpoint” is to a large extent absent from, mostly anglophone, internet media and internet mediated intellectual scene.
However, much like decades ago, people living further West seem to hold some common notions about the nature of “East Europe” and “Eastern Europeans”.
The new breed of intellectuals is around – mostly “wannabes”, one should add – whom internet provided with an opportunity to let their voices be heard with more or less unbridled pitch.
In these circles, usually of some variety of political Right, there is a noticeable tendency to consider East Europe as a bulwark of tradition and/or conservative mentality, instinctively protecting itself from the ills that engulfed more developed Western parts of the continent and the globe with nigh a voice of protest.
One can, for instance, once again hear that tried and spent diatribe about “noble Slavic spirit” resisting the evils of the modernity, now refashioned to face the postmodern deluge of the politics of dissolution.
By politics of dissolution we denote policies intended to “deconstruct” anything in social and personal life of man that could be suspect of being “substantial”: culture, customs, traditions, classical art and philosophy, biological – especially sexual – determinations and, finally, substantial character of intellectual soul, also known as “person”.
In this sense, the politics of dissolution is an intentional, semi-conspiratorial, action intent on revoking the autonomous human activities, i.e. those acts of human being that can be qualified as more or less free. The paradox of its method lies in an attempt to erase human limitations or, better to say: it defines all those qualities that constitute the human being as limitations to be “deconstructed” or “dissolved”.
So having an ancestry, religion, naturally determined sexual identity and, ultimately, a mind of one’s own, limits the freedom of being what one wants to be.
However, those are precisely determinants of one’s being and, if threatened by dissolution, the active agency of man shifts to the outside: self re-identifying, for instance in sex change, is an act of freedom which requires essentially an action from the outside. Sex cannot be changed in the sense that nature of person determined by it can be changed; this nature was not created by the one determined by it and he or she is thus not able to re-define or re-create it. Nature, being an inner principle, is not liable to outside act, only it’s outer manifestations can be impeded and/or changed in this way. In this – and only this – respect there is no moral or legal limit to dissolution – from gender fluidity, and, presumably, eradication of sexual duality, to merging humans with machines.
Thus, the main weapon of politics of dissolution is changing of the language and patterns of economic and social behavior that constitute the framework within which our lives are acted out. It doesn’t order or indeed propose anything to its subjects. It weaves the net and merely goads them into it.
While second and third sphere of social life are very hard to engineer because of their unpredictable, spontaneous and complex nature, public speech can indeed be controlled by relatively simple means of refashioning the school curricula, introducing politically correct norms – seldom in the form of coercive laws, mind you – in everyday communication, etc.
Dissolution of substantial language traditions or forms of expression is indeed hard to deny and at the very least there’s a plethora of UN policy documents which promulgate it quite openly.
This state of flux we call modern life in the West is being experienced, at least by some people, as disaster that it is. However, their reactions to it vary and the most common is, unfortunately, the knee jerk one.
It is a simple syllogism which goes something like this:
“West is dissolving = West is bad
East appears not to be dissolving = East is good
Eastern Europe has ‘East’ to it’s name = Eastern Europe participates in the Good”
With a corollary:
“If only it was in Russia, it would be the heaven on Earth …”
This kind of logic, a precious few exceptions notwithstanding, is more or less what comprises the limits of the bulk of internet mediated intellectuality of both Right and Left flavor.
In the age of the moving image, reading a book is a revolutionary act and having a coherent belief system based on it makes one a revolutionary leader, if only for his twitter followers.
Yet, to oppose the politics of dissolution one needs far more than that. For one thing, one has to to oppose the spirit of the age and that includes not being satisfied with measuring one’s own intelligence by stupidity of others.
For instance, Alternative Right luminaries pride themselves for being intellectual vanguard, yet their ideas are very superficial distillation of at least hundred years old philosophies, which makes them quite akin to surviving remnants of the old Left, still clinging to old fashioned Marxism or Jacobinism, secretly harboring faith in rag tag socialist regimes from North Korea, Westwards (Slavoj Žižek is a good example of this, although expertly concealing his true pitch).
Slavoj reveals his true colors
In this sense, East Europe appears to be an emanation of Rightist version of Soviet Union for postmodernity: Russia, the place where ethnic slurs won’t give you a jail time.
However, this is not the only parallel Communist and Rightist Shambalas share.
The supposed inherent traditionalism of East Europe, at least in that part of it I’m familiar with – It is a rather big and diverse place, after all – is to a large extent the consequence of decades of the Communist rule.
Ironically enough, the ultimate progressive political theory of modernity, in practice ended up being an ultimate cultural preservative, conserving everything that it didn’t destroy in it’s radical early phase. More than one truly intellectually sensitive East European was astonished how, from the Nineties onwards, new way of life flowing or, depending on how well developing the given country was, merely sipping from the West dissolved societal structures which not only survived decades of open and concentrated onslaughts of Communists, but in some cases even thrived under the rule of radically hostile political idea.
As Communism is economically and politically absolutely conservative, i.e. it is based on purely theoretical and completely closed system that is not supposed to change, the East European peoples for more than forty years went, literary, nowhere.
And this is, I propose, one common ground most East Europeans share.
We were nowhere for a long time. Some of us still are.
On the one hand, this means that, when Communism broke down – leaving only secret services cadres standing on their own two feet, as they were in fact the ones actually running the society – the shock of ever flowing and transmuting Western economy and social mores swept away a lot, before people realized what’s happening.
And by realizing what’s happening we are talking about ten to fifteen years of hindsight dawning in preciously few minds.
Politics of dissolution is not oppressive, as Communism was; it is, in a perverse way, a politics of gifts: to dissolve the determinations of human being one doesn’t revoke but inflate its rights.
For example, the ever increasing regulation for the protection of children successfully, albeit step by step, reduces the role of parents in their upbringing; the move towards ditching the classical authors from school curricula certainly adds to lessening the strain on pupils who are not very eager to wrestle with Homer at 15 years of age; the LGBT…XY rights – an alphabetic inflation worthy of the inflation of Reichsmark in the days of Weimar Republic – are certainly rights and no obligations for their consumers.
The reason why good deal of people, albeit smelling the rat, tend to approve of those policies in public or are unable to articulate their dissent even to themselves, is the “moral capital” politically correct norms offer; their effectiveness comes from willing and essentially non-coerced compliance of people who secretly want to feel good about themselves. And those people are – just about everyone, yours truly included.
The astonishing speed with which political correctness gains ground and controls the populace is due to a secret, intimate deal each person makes with himself: I will sell my autonomy for an outside appearance of being good.
The ‘outside’ moment primarily refers to how each person observes himself and only secondarily how he appears to others; the PC norm fulfills this unconscious desire for being recognized as good, by simply changing an outward verbal expression, without having to pay the price real morally relevant action would entail.
PC is essentially a magical act where words are considered to be realities and if the right words are used, the desired realities are produced.
I would argue this is probably the most effective form of social control of modern age because it is essentially a franchise leased to people who proceed to control themselves; and it would never have been possible if people wouldn’t gain something from it, in this case a kind of instant sainthood where everyone is a perfect word processing machine of inoffensive and offense condemning expressions.
In this sense the end of PC is dissolution of moral substance or substantial morality, bought for a price of the ever increasing vocabulary of words which keep PC infected subject in the state of virtual goodness as opposed, not only to real goodness, but even to the real evil as well.
So how is all this different for East Europe?
For the most part, we are simply late comers on the scene. Elites are, mostly, either compliant and servile to EU bureaucracy and its ideology of sustainable development1or are flirting with an anti-EU powerhouses like Russia or Turkey. People, on the other hand, feel the bitterness of politics of dissolution being slowly poured into their eyes and ears – because, after all, the tip of the spear in this particular politics is always the control of perception and expression, a sort of, not soft, but liquid power – yet, at the same time, they have no illusions about political enemies of their ruling class.
Pole can be a staunch Catholic conservative and at the same time, to say the least, be vary about what Putin’s Russia intends. Some American authors are prone to lecture people of European border lands about this caution of theirs that seems to lead them into indecision: for them, there is only one evil empire and it is their own USA.
This is the point where the glimpse of East European mentality can be grasped.
As one Polish politician said: “In East Europe, we know we are mortals.”
This sentence sums up perhaps the most valuable possession still inborn even to most unremarkable Croat, Slovak, Romanian or Pole. Each one of them lives and dies with underlying awareness of his own insignificance. And this is what makes them remarkable when contrasted to Westerner proper.
For American anti-Imperialism is quite obviously a glorification of American empire. There is no paradox there. The American who lectures Estonians about Russia being a friendly, but misunderstood, neighbor whereas US and NATO are absolute evil considers his own country and its global army to be the only force to reckon with in the world, their evil notwithstanding.
This is manifestly not true. Only absolute evil is absolutely evil. The hidden reason why the American intellectual would try to convince himself and his audience that this great Satan is in fact his own country stems from the unconscious belief that its power is limitless.
No East European who has even the semblance of common sense would seriously fall for this fallacy. He knows, or at least senses, that there’s no such thing as absolute power or absolute evil that can be pinpointed in geopolitical sense; if religious, which is more often than not the case, he feels that there’s a distinct note of blasphemy in the idea.
And no man in possession of sensus fidelium would tempt the devil by robing him of his prerogatives to allocate them to the geopolitical entity. It would be an insult to God, but, above all, it would be an even greater insult to Lord of flies himself, and, in contrast to his Creator, he is know to be not particularly forgiving.
Years of Communism preserved a lot in East Europe, but this was merely the work of inertia. In order to really oppose the politics of dissolution, far more is required: a conscious mental action of understanding and rejecting it and, then, providing others with means to accomplish the same. Being humbled for generations pays dividends in common sense, but also in megalomania, maniacal nationalism that thrives on almost imperceptible differences between peoples, stemming from the acute sense of worthlessness and humiliation.
Even the evil of East Europe is older than the good of the Far West, but, make no mistake, it still is evil nonetheless; ridiculous Nineteen and early Twentieth century ideologies are no match for something like sophisticated web of sustainable development, but they are still destructive.
Someone like Alexander Dugin will readily be recognized as a clown, from the Baltic to Adriatic, but we won’t forget that his number would end in bloodshed; Russia is not a global ruler, nor will it ever become one, but even in the process of trying to appear as such, it will cause misery to others.
Does God work by way of misery? Is there some Hegelian List der Vernunft at work in Ukraine or, only recently and to a lesser extent, Bosna where Russian fingers are clawing at the roots of social stability – so ironic that stability is the catch phrase and the holly Grail of Russian backed or at least inspired media – so chaos making and opening of the wounds that haven’t properly healed will by way of negation lead the world back in the embrace of God seated in the Third Rome?
The answer is for me, as for more or less any average East European, so obvious that it is very hard to formulate it in words, as is the case with all obvious things. That is perhaps the reason why there are not so many voices from East Europe to be heard on internet: to debate such plain idiocy is well nigh impossible because it is so alien to historical reality we all share that it could just as well be something from another planet. To see Americans praise Vladimir Putin for what he says without pausing to think that what he says might not exactly be what he intends calls rather to silence or cynical smirk than to debate.
Quite frankly, persons under thirty years of age should by law be prevented from debating and the stance we described is on the level of belief in fairy tales or, more adequately, belief that Hollywood movies are the actual reflection of reality.
This is the level of immaturity that invites ridicule, not a conversation.
And so we end up with other peculiar East European quality – a peculiar cynicism towards power.
This is not to say that people are simply mean spirited and Machiavellian in their political dealings – if they indulge in any at all – although they more often than not are, but that they don’t take transforming potential of politics as seriously as people in the West do. Those among East Europeans who let themselves be thoroughly Westernized usually smirk at this habit as the clearest sign of backwardness and inertia inherent to the mentality of their compatriots.
There’s a lot of truth in that standpoint, but not all of it.
The cynicism, at its core, stems from the awareness of one’s own insignificance.
No one here really believes himself to be so important as to be able to substantially change the world; truth be told, neither does anyone draw conclusions as to whence this awareness, which in fact stems from only superficially submerged religious root that is still providing the sustenance to the trunk and branches of one’s being.
Yet it is there and it goes far deeper than changes that followed transition to post-Communism and, nowadays, to postmodernity with its politics of dissolution.
So this would be as much as one can distil of East Europe mentality without impeding the diversity of this big, history laden, space. If it is a bulwark towards something, it is not consciously so and I for one am not prone to Hegelian – in actual fact Faustian – belief in the power of the negative where good can be conceived as born from evil or freedom as born in a roundabout way from inertia. Such ideas we can leave to wannabe prophets with their deeply rooted Calvinist or Puritan mentality. What we can safely assume is that East Europe is always balancing on the scales of desire for greater prosperity, which nowadays, intentionally or not, entails politics of dissolution as a necessary part of the package, and the instinct to preserve its own being; an instinct far more fundamental than mere biological survival – a metaphysical instinct through which higher influences touch man’s heart.
How will it all play out?
We cannot know, because, albeit not conscious of it, we are still free in a very peculiar sense of not being privileged to see ourselves as masters of the world. In this, and only this, respect the cynical wisdom of borderlands like Croatia, Poland, Ukraine or Romania has merit that can produce, or, to be more precise, nourish something essential and protect the expressions of our inner nature.
These expressions might not be very pretty to look at, but they’re human. And in the age when revocation of being human is a serious intellectual assumption of academic, scientific and, to a degree, political mainstream, this in itself is much. A seed of something that could sometimes in the future keep bearing fruits, as it did from the time immemorial.
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