"The victory of BUSHISM,
or why I dislike intelligentsia".
Moscow , 22 nd October
"The victory of BUSHISM, or why I dislike intelligentsia?"
Moscow , 22 nd October 2004.
Neo-conservatives and intelligentsia: on one modern debate with the most ancient origins.
To Mademoiselle Natali Bulaev
For having given and
Ever giving me happiness.
Epigraph 1: "I would be the last to believe that sheep is of lesser conscience than any of us is".
Epigraph 2: "The relation between God and anything instinctive, sensual, sexual, is of a more scale than one between God and mind, even than one between God and conscience".
Epigraph 3: "The difference between us, Wells, is fundamental. You don't care for humanity, but think they are to be improved. I love humanity but know they are not".
Joseph Conrad to Hugh Walpole in 1918 concerning Conrad's remark to Herbert G. Wells when both agreed their friendship was over.
The victory of BUSHISM,
Or why I dislike intelligentsia?
On November 2 nd , 2004, we have again this phenomenon as if designed to astonish the rest of the world -the American election. The post-11/9 epoch has brought something new -or should I say -something so ancient in so new a form only few can endure. Post-11/9 military campaigns have made this election's favorite an object of perhaps the most severe criticism Rights in the West ever knew. It seems the more victorious and productive Rights become, the sharper the reaction of those ever opposing them -of thinking class -of intelligentsia -but why?
Even as a person, George Walker Bush embodies almost all things left liberals ever hate. Even his language has become an object of ruthless mockery, and so-called BUSHISMS -his wrong expressions -are widely used as sort of fun. His provincialism, his conservatism, his distrust to intellectuals, his Reagan-like distrust even to the establishment, his speaking straightforwardly about everything from conscience to missiles -all these are made proofs of his simplicity, even rudeness, and, of course, his rigidity. Yet this marks the waterline between 2 schools or rather movements -right conservatives and left-liberal intelligentsia -whereas the former rely upon instincts and believe in human being without idealizing it, the latter rely upon thinking process and believe fair thoughts may reform humanity in times to come. And this where cul-de-sac of left idea was created: they have gone too far in believing in a force of the word, good or bad, thus underrating the nature of things, something beyond good or bad, something warm, pulsating, good in itself.
Although the first serious attempt to propose and justify a totalitarian state of mind, for which culture is a prerogative of elites rather than common heritage, dates back to Plato, it was Francis Bacon, this co-father of modern materialism, who proposed to limit education to the elite to prevent others from being too skeptical. Also to Plato dates back even the more dangerous idea, the idea of dualism of any kind -of intelligible and sensible things and of higher world and lower world, the idea, on which to base the said totalitarianism. Consequences this course of events has plenty of.
In religion it's a dualism of things celestial and corporeal, however awkward it is in the light of the monism of Christ's two natures. This sort of dualism produced an alleged necessity of the vast church establishment. This self-reproducing institute of mediators between God and human beings succeeded in spite of all the attempts mystics made in order to show such mediators would undermine personal responsibility. In philosophy it's a one-legged idealism of German school, which failed to propose the metaphysical ethics to explain human freedom and conscience simultaneously. In science it's a Cartesian dualism between soul and body, with various effects felt up to now in modern sciences from microbiology to psychology and anthropology. Cartesian dualism, however influential, was shown as devastatingly wrong only in 1970s, when systemic approach, already remarkably successful in biology, revolutionized psychology and physiology as well, by uniting them.
All these destructive effects of Platonism were slowly yet certainly diffusing -sometimes unnoticeably -into the realm of culture.
This mechanism is known as enculturation. It's especially sharply felt in our era of secularism, when so-called high ideas -and ideals -of philosophers and theologians lose their traditional forms and diffuse into the spheres where they are least to be expected. Anyway, the less the freedom of personality, the more the likelihood that one may be enslaved by disastrous dogmas, however ancient and allegedly forgotten they are. Take politics within the culture. In Russia the ancient dogma of God-given power is no longer expressively religious, but up to now it's strongly influential throughout the country -and, alas, not only amongst power-holding elites. And isn't it true that once you accept the rules of the game, you are to share the responsibility, no matter how passive you are? In social life too strict rules and vertical structure of families tend to destroy life prospects and expectances of youngsters and diffuse into the army to create the phenomenon of initiation violence towards young soldiers. Needless to say, we deal here with the 2 nd level of the diffusion of the said dogma of God-given power, whether political, family or military.
Equally underrated the positive side of enculturation seems to be, but not, as we shall see, paradoxically. I mean the phenomenon of religious minimalism, when any modern religion experiences the deep reduction of its outer expressiveness by becoming a mere part of human privacy. It is said humanity is not ready for this, but hardly there exists the phenomenon of our full readiness to anything whatsoever. The more private religion becomes, the sharper the provocation, and, therefore, the higher the reliability of anyone who has passed the test.
This positive side of enculturation includes also the indirect -yet far from being insignificant -influences of religion upon our cultures. It is I deem enough to point to the problem of the nature of sin and evil and to the problem of the primacy of personal existence over essence to understand just how close philosophy and day-to-day life are! If one sees God as being absolutely beyond any creation of evil and, subsequently, attributes sinfulness to anything "low" (that is, matter), then one is no longer a monk deep in scholastic battles, but rather a man or a woman who cannot live peacefully by accepting kindly and hopefully the whole world as it is. If, further, one puts ideas over human beings, then one is no longer a half-forgotten philosopher in his trying ever fruitlessly to get away from it all, but rather a man or a woman who believes in happiness for all -at the price they're usually quite ready to pay -at the price of personal happiness of others -at any price.
Back to Plato, we have also his rebellious pupil Aristotle, exactly to whom dates back that 2 nd line of the world thought, religious minimalism. In sum, it prescribes not to weaken one's religious sense by asking others to represent it or by explaining everything through it -or by ritualizing it much too much. In the Middle Ages it was called the Ockham's razor. In 18 th and 19 th centuries it was called the principle of the economy of thinking. In 20 th it was called the principle of Lloyd-Morgan. However called, it remains basically the same: religion is a matter of personal privacy, and serves as an explanation only when all other explanations -scientific, philosophical and esthetical -fail.
Not surprisingly, then, that the aforementioned problems -one of the genesis of evil and one of the correlation between existence and essence -were resolved by Aristotle and Aristotelians in the way much different to one I described above. For religious minimalist with all his or her monistic belief in human potential, there is no problem in accepting God might assume evil by the very act of creating the lesser world, and there is no problem in accepting human existence as a highest value without seeking for any universal ideology to justify it.
So we still have -as our ancestors had circa 2500 years ago -2 ways of feeling this world -one of Platonic dualism, according to which we and God live in separated worlds, whose relations are vertical, deterministic, coldly rational; and one of Aristotelian monism, according to which God is kind yet free, therefore wants us to be such too, therefore our relations are horizontal, free for our choosing everything, irrationally warm. These ways come into being absolutely disregarding are they conscious at the time given or not, what makes the process as dangerous as it is productive. Dangerous, because, thanks to enculturation, one may behave ruthlessly rational or exceedingly irrational, without realizing the deeper-laid reasons causing such behavior. Productive, because it may redirect our attention to the very nature of our subconscious heritage, to how to differ between and use these enslaving and freeing forces of it.
But what does intelligentsia have to do with all this?
This Russian word has a Greek root, which is apparently common for "intellectuals" and "intelligentsia". This, I am afraid, leaves the other spaces for differences between the phenomena. It is a common place to write about intellectual clashes between intelligentsia and right parties in the West, with the peaks of these clashes since a Neo-conservative era up to now, when the mere figure of George W. Bush outrages anti-American ideologists throughout the world. Of course, intelligentsia, intellectuals, elites and establishment are not the same thing, however dynamic, interdependent and variable from culture to culture they are. In Russia, say, where the very term was coined, the phenomenon dates back to the 18 th century, and through this we may see just how intimately close the history of intelligentsia and the history of political power were and are -too close. As it's true for any natural thing, the phenomenon came into being a good deal before the term itself was coined, in our case the lag was of around 150 years. Why? The extremely -and extremely artificially -complicated character of the genesis of Russian liberal thought may explain this.
In the West -with all regional differences taken into account -the greatest Hellenist tradition of democracy, the no less ancient Celtic tradition of human freedom, Magna Carta, early parliaments and medieval wars for the sake of independence of church from state et vice versa -all these features of Western Christianity's evolution were spreading and ongoing. Not to mention the impact of Protestantism! They were not local events to be repressed by totalitarian central power, whether papal or royal. Something of the sort is hardly to be found within Russian history. Even when proto-democracy started to take shape, like in Great Novgorod (XI, XII-XV), it was an oligarchy system and regional phenomenon to be repressed already by the end of 15 th century by central power in the most ruthless way history knew. Back to Greece, in Russia there was no fresh and direct influence of Hellenist democracy and syncretism, for only by 10 th century Russia accepted Christianity, yet naturally it was not the early form of it, the Christianity of Armenians, Georgians, Celts and Ethiopians. It was an Orthodox Church Christianity of Byzantium , precisely to which the aforementioned dualism of God-chosen elites and people, body and soul, and things celestial and earthy dates back. In 12 th century there were disintegrating trends, which were amongst main causes of Mongol occupation. The rule of law, however primitive, was neglected (it was introduced by the second Christian tsar, JAROSLAV the Wise, and even earlier by his grand-grandmother Queen Olga, then to be neglected by JAROSLAV'S sons). In 13 th century till 15 th century there lasted Mongol occupation, but Russians seemed to study carefully Mongols' model of boundless power and their military culture rather than their unique practices of religiously pluralistic disputes Mongols were fond of, at least before they accepted Islam in 1314. But whereas since 16 th century Mongols continued to practice some sort of ecumenism -albeit a limited one -in India during their reign there -Russians preferred to repress their Northern democratic city-states (Great Novgorod, Great Oust'yug, Vologda, Pskov) even before they overthrew Mongol dominion (1461-1480). In 16 th century Asiatic-style despotic absolutism had come to its zenith under Ivan the Terrible. He finally defeated Mongols -yet it was he who finally destroyed the Northern democratic tradition of Russia , whose links with Norwegian proto-democracy are now beyond any doubt. So by 17 th century Russian heritage was far from being beneficial for any sort of Western-like democracy. Hence the specifics of the Russian establishment we can see. The famous Peter's the Great reforms, however healing after the so-called era of Confusion, at the end of which Romanovs came into power, were fruitful in many senses -yet extremely Asiatic in their methods. Yet it's worth remembering that there were namely his successors -Elisabeth the First, Peter the Third and Katherine the Second the Great -who launched the long and painful project of liberating Russian elites. They were freed consequently from obligatory military service, then from humiliating practice of body punishment, then from the doubtful benefit of holding peasants as slaves.
Surely, almost all of these practices returned, especially in Soviet era, but, as it were, business was done. Since the Enlightenment brought forth by Katherine the Great, what we now call Russian intelligentsia began crystallizing. But, thanks to dualism of the whole system, right from the start -as if a curse -Russian intelligentsia exists in 2 opposing camps. One was -and is -servile intelligentsia, thus traditionally inclined to the same model of state, which state itself prefers, that is totalitarian model of preserving the silent patriarchy at any cost. The other was -and is -always opposing to anything state does, in fear of responsibility, in fear of mistake, in fear of power. Formally, as some sort of opposition for ever, it did and does some good, but isn't constructive in itself, since it is secondary, that is wholly dependent upon the object of criticism. So when I said "2 opposing models" of intelligentsia, I meant, of course, RELATIVELY opposing, since both of them were and are co-diffusing and, worse, of dependent mind.
The specific of Russian scientific intelligentsia is a case in point. We may appeal to the Academician Vladimir Vernadsky, the greatest Russian liberal-minded natural scientist of 20 th century, on the matter (VIDE his COMPLETE WORKS & LETTERS published by Russian Academy of Sciences, the volume « Труды по истории науки », Москва , Наука , 2002, PP. 196-198). "For Russia it was extremely usual that all creatively scientific works during 18 th century and, again almost wholly, 19 th century were closely related to state's institutes -whether directly or indirectly. . As far as state saw intelligentsia's activities useful, in a sense, it supported them -yet it used to leave intelligentsia alone, should someone decide to go truth-seeking way. Yet neither Russian Orthodox Church nor landlords -intelligentsia not in civil service -was much interested in this process of silent resistance to state for truth's sake. In sharp contrast with Western churches' clerics, Russian Orthodox Church did indeed traditionally refrain from any truly serious work in natural sciences. History of Western scientific thought has shown something opposite, as so many monks were natural scientists who worked in an independent way, within a church, not state. . It is perhaps enough to point out to Mendel at his Moravian monastery and to Secca at the Papal Observatory to show just how progressive Catholicism was even in 19 th century -not to mention times to come -not to mention Protestant liberties! . In Russia , again, natural sciences renaissance of 19 th century had been taking shape without much affecting Russian Orthodox Church, for which science and Christianity were inter-contradictory at least. Nor Russian scientists paid much attention to clerical or even theological arguments, for those arguments concerned anything save natural science! . And in spite of apparent advantages this system brought -Russian scientists were free from permanent need to prove their status facing clerics' activities in scientific fields -Russian society was disrupted, living as if in 2 worlds, 2 different outlooks torn apart. In Russia even in 20 th century you might well have been thought to be very educated, even if you knew almost nothing about what is now thought to be a cornerstone of modern civilization! Humanitarian education was seen as main task -and quite enough. . But what was really insufficient became painfully clear soon -and it was culture of precise and natural research. Therefore, Russian Orthodox Church's weakness in all activities missionary did only add to the difficulties: to explore the world is to explore the nature first, as history of Western missions in America in 16 th -17 th centuries proved. . With New Testament missioners often brought natural science books along as well. As was the case in times of Celtic (especially Irish) Christianity, monks made science worldwide. . In spite of always sensing the beauty of places, in which to build the distant monasteries, and in spite of rich culture of reflection closely related to it, neither Russian monk nor Russian village deacon were of much desire to see nature scientifically, to discover its laws and riddles. Nor Russian landlords took essential part in creating scientific culture by supporting it financially as well as intellectually. . Yet by the time landlordism had been softened as a result of the ban on slavery (1860s), new strata appeared, namely free-of-state-service intelligentsia and bourgeois free traders, both quite rich. . The extremely poor state of Russian agronomy by that time was a case in point. . New town-born, in no way aristocratic, intelligentsia did even more in this sphere than landlords themselves! .".
Yet this 2 nd camp of intelligentsia, however dependent and disorganized, always serves as a channel, through which Western liberal thought finds its way to Russia . But, again, the great hope has turned out to be futile. This opposition forever found itself relying on the source they were least searching for. The very opposing nature of Russian liberals made them right-wingers in the Western sense, albeit skin-deep. But it was rather Left not Right heritage, which Western intellectuals could offer, for they were opposing their powers, mostly Conservative ones, since the fall of Napoleon, i.e. Right powers! But don't things go a good deal beyond any party clashes?
The problem is neither Right nor Left conceptions were forged on Mars or Venus. They came into being interdependently with all other spheres of life, as always the case for any complex system, biological or social. Both represent, then, not only the style of thinking, but also the style of living, the way of sensing this world we all live in. So, don't we have a right to put the question straightforwardly? In the West liberal intelligentsia's opposition to the Right movement has now approached its zenith, right at the time when all industrially developed countries enjoy the results of economic normality launched by Neo-conservatives in 1980s. In Russia , after historically short easiness under late Gorbachev and early Yeltsin, there again came (I fear the long-expected) chill under Vladimir Putin, and not only servile intelligentsia started serving, in a manner of speaking. The Western-style right-wingers, too, have found themselves having doubts, and either join the establishment (like Anatoly Chubais) or are politically marginalized (like Grigory Yavlinsky) -or again become active, albeit few, dissidents (like Valeria Novodvorskaya). So the question is: do all intelligentsias have something in common, which prevents them from taking power fully, thus sharing the responsibility? Something, which prevents them from accepting fully this life on this planet, not only intelligible ideals of it?
Yet Russia was and is not unique in Asia in the aspect concerned. Long, too long in history, such cultural regions as Tibet , Iran and China implemented the model within which intelligentsia's role was extremely dubious. Long, too long in history intelligentsia maintained rather than questioned its loyalty to despotic powers in case such powers gave it a shelter in return. Without such shelter, it was thought, intelligentsia would not flourish, for high arts it created could not allegedly be created without huge organizational and financial support only despotic power could provide. It was a really old alliance.
This perverse ethics of intelligentsia-establishment relations changed the very course of Russian intelligentsia's development, and by 19 th century we faced the dominion of namely intelligentsia with its dualistic views, not of just pluralistic society of intellectuals -not to mention the bourgeoisie -not least because we never experienced the classical form of knighthood (thanks to dualism of body and soul, freedom and service), nor its ethics (thanks to dualism between man and woman, masculinity and feminineness), nor the romanticism that naturally followed (thanks to all these causes aforementioned). Bourgeoisie's precursors were so few too. In the West by 15 th century this cornerstone of all, middle class, started crystallizing as a result of complex mix of sophisticated craftsmen and midsize landholders. In Russia, again regretfully, there was -and is -none, for long, too long in history both strata, what would become intelligentsia, and what would become middle class (if any), accepted the rules of other people's games, serving church's and state's establishments vigorously as the time went by. It's a chain of slavery, for tsar suppresses liberties of landlords, whereas landlords themselves suppress craftsmen's liberties and peasants' liberties. Yet besides this eternal problem of control and trust, there is a no less fundamental problem of the role of free trade in creating bourgeoisie. Neither closed character of Russian society nor Russian Orthodox Church's dualistic distrust to money and moneymakers can be especially satisfactory for middle class and bourgeois ethics and aesthetics to take root.
The only regions, in which Western-style middle class MIGHT have been created, were those that were mentioned above as victims to the despotic central power in 16 th century. In Great Novgorod and other cities closely related to it, since the beginning of 12 th century midsize free landlords as well as free craftsmen had been developing under the rule of proto-parliament laws. As everywhere on our planet, to make it all happen, milestones as well as cornerstones were private ownership on lands (no royal domain existed there) and minimum of barriers for free trade.
So, by restoring the back perspective outlined above, from dualism to the perverse need (obsession) to control everyone and everything in a social life, we may point out to the following features of intelligentsia, thanks to which it doesn't develop into the ever-creative bourgeoisie..?
Too distrustful to everything sensuous.
Rigid idealism with its emphasis on vertical structure of things high and things low tends to disrupt the world by seeing its "low" part as an object of reforms. So everything sensuous (in their term "low") makes them very suspicious, at least uneasy. Their aim remains to make it "higher", to conceptualize it.
Too much inclined to attribute evil to the matter.
As a result of lowering the status of instincts and senses, it's easier to attribute evil to the matter, thus transferring the responsibility to something beyond human control that is to the nature of things. But they put their trust.in what?
Too trustful to anything written and literary.
Again as a result of vertical model of conceptualizing the world, they put their trust in anything written and literary, in "high" things, in the reforming force as they see it. Hence, for instance, the overrating of the role of mythology and literature in Russia , because of which Russia prefers to live as if in a dream rather than in this colorful challenging world. But to make our world dreamy is not to accept it, but rather to accept we can understand it, and this leads directly to the role of ideology.
Too inclined to the ideological understanding of the world.
Totalitarianism of any ideology, good or bad, is all about emphasis slightly removed. Once one starts feeling world is not perfect (once one starts requesting it must be!), one's on the road to reform anything save oneself. Neither mere existence of the world nor its development towards more freedom makes such person happy. So one is in desperate need of the weapon, of reforming tools. Ideologies are the media to control things beyond any human control, that is, to control nature of things; so, as the dream eventually fails, to control some sort of dreamy world (utopia), some surrogate of nature. Yet nature prevails, and our reformer meets the foe beyond his or her fighting abilities, and one is either to pretend he or she can destroy that foe (to lie in order to save the face) or to fight blindly (to destroy oneself). I mean the irrationality of personality. However ugly it became under communism, it didn't die away at all.
Too careless about the phenomenon of personality.
Hence the cost of personal freedom and happiness ideologues are pretty ready to pay in their dreaming wildly about better world to come. Personality needs realization, its senses open, breath free. It cannot wait for better world, its needs knocking from within. Personality is too complex and too irrational for any conceptualization universally aimed. Personality indeed is a best test for real maturity and tolerance, for personality it's much harder to love, to accept and to define than abstract phenomena like society or humanity. Personal instincts help us to keep ourselves alive, buoyant, cost-conscious, and thirsty for prosperity.
Too much dependent upon the state regulation.
Therefore, the less the role of personality, the more the role of anything constructed above, i.e. state. Without state and its great support -especially financial support -arts and literature and science find themselves trying to survive, given the toughness of capitalism. What for Rights is vividness, for them toughness. For them state regulation, which in fact promotes dependency culture and destroys initiatives, is the best and simplest way of obtaining the shelter, some sort of state umbrella, under which they are to create the means (high arts) by which, however the cost, they are going to reform the world to make it happy and easy for all. Without much caring about people's own desires, intelligentsia and state have an idea coined long ago on how to renew what they fear and hate most -the world of instincts, desires, needs and mistakes. They hate it because it is "low" if compared to ideas. They want to reform it because it is thought to have a need to become "higher". But I fear people just want to remain people, no more, no less than people.
Too haughty when it comes to the role of economy.
Thus we have come to the very nerve of the problem. For intelligentsia's haughtiness towards economy reveals the most debated subject of globalism, meaning, of course, its challenging nature. But, if the reality of the world economy and its cultural patterns are to be taken into account, it seems at least many prefer challenging world of globalism rather than the artificial comfort of state regulation. Funny, but left liberals pay the least attention possible to the facts (it may be explained through their distrust to the material world), for it seems that the more evident the collapse of world communism and socialism becomes, the greater the energy with which intelligentsia defends its ideals! Not surprising, economy is hated, for it is most near to the material world, to which evil and lowliness are attributed.
Too alarmist-way minded.
Of course, globalism is hated not only because of economy itself, but also because of the impact of economy upon the world. The case is our left liberals are characterized not only by their obsession of global reforms, but also by their alarmist, dramatic, even catastrophic consciousness, also possible because of their being unsure and uneasy about the world outside and inside of them. Ecological alarmism is a case in point (vide: Baroness Thatcher, Margaret, "The Downing Street Years", L., Harper & Collins, 1993, pp. 563, 638-641; and Baroness Thatcher, Margaret, "Statecraft: strategies for a changing world", L., N.Y., Harper & Collins, 2002, pp. 449-458). For instance, the classical American belief in economic laws as the only means to preserve the nature while creating these ever-improving life standards yet without demanding the utopist no-mistake-no-sacrifice way, this belief is most hated. Kyoto Protocol is a case in point. Nothing -neither scientific evidence of temperature's increase as a geological cause of carbon dioxide's increase, NOT vice versa, nor the fundamental role of plants in producing biological organics and oxygen out of carbon dioxide, nor the role of clouds in making temperature low, nor sun's circles' and earth's precession's influences on atmospheric temperature -nothing makes alarmists optimistic in the slightest.
Too skeptical of the humanistic role of pop art.
Pop art is perhaps even more hated just because our protagonists of "high arts" cannot compromise with the fact that even their traditional realm is invaded. Pop art -along with another American achievement of abstract expressionism -brings arts so close to people's day-to-day objects and needs that it is usually unseen that they do so in order to praise the mere existence of things and the ways things are (ontological logic), and they do so in the way much different to one adopted by servile realists of Soviet bloc (given its epistemological logic). Through the worthiness of the artful act itself, there comes not only funny side of pop art and action painting but also their honesty, openness and straightforwardness in the fields traditionally hidden or left unspoken or seen unworthy. That's what's seen -rightly -as an attack upon any ideology, good or bad. The traditional haughtiness towards entertainment culture and towards advertising culture is a case in point. Pop art's games with forms and images have a fundamental liberating force -one of letting anyone fill the forms by oneself without being trapped into any ideological content. Moreover, the very slightness in difference between image and reality (the very notion that reality is everything) helps people to learn about certain mechanisms, which may be used not only to refine human imagination, but also by ideologies in order to enslave it. (For details VIDE "World History of Arts", by H.W. & A.F. Jansons, NYC, ABRAMS, 1986, p. 717-722.) It is of a more fundamental significance than it is usually recognized whether one prefers to shut one's eyes to despotism as a price for one's enjoying the pleasures of high arts or one prefers to shut one's eyes to some extremes of free market advertisement as a price for living in a democracy!
Too skeptical of the secular paradigm.
Secularism is a final test, widely misunderstood by intelligentsia. But we can assure them: God isn't dead -He's just hidden Himself in our souls. Time for direct miracles is gone. Let's make them.