Ideology & Pragmatism

I am passionate about not being poor.

The recent interview with the Russian president has made waves. It was interesting to watch a lengthy monologue – hardly a dialogue – not only about the Russian history, but also about the Russian way of thinking, about the Russian vision and the Russian standpoint in the world. And, given the authoritarian nature of the Russian leadership, this mentality is identical with the one belonging to the Russian president and his close friends. So, it was the vision of one guy, but one should not let oneself tricked: the vision of that one guy echoes the vision of his people, as the majority of the Russian people identifies with him, making his leadership possible. Wouldn’t be so, he should’ve been long gone…

Almost everything the Russian president evoked was actually common-sense. He is an awkward person – the interviewer felt uneasy, as pretty much everyone around him – but he has proven that, despite his age, he remains fairly competent. With the exception of some farfetched issues, such as, for example, the denazification of Ukraine (of which he was hardly convinced, but serves well as a pretext for the invasion), he remained largely coherent. He was mostly in control of the interview, imposing the tempo and the subjects, which is a proof of rigidity and of an authoritarian leadership style in which the interviewer does not simply have an interactive conversation, but rather shuts up and listens. Such a lack of flexibility can be seen as an exploitable weakness but it is also required if one wants to rule a huge country like Russia, where democracy would probably be impossible to implement due to the variety of beliefs, languages and cultures that would make the integrity of the territory impossible to maintain. The exposé of the “authorized version” of Russian history at the beginning of the discussion, although boring for some, was actually largely correct, with the notable exception regarding the Ukrainian ethnic group as belonging to the Russian one, which is false, both people equally being of Slavic origin and not of Russian origin (another pretext for invasion). On the other hand, the interviewer was astonishingly poorly prepared, despite being trained as a historian: his dumb way of staring at the president (as if he was caught in an absurd dream), his noisy counterpoint remarks and his questions revealing a total lack of deep understanding of the matters being discussed, made the interview resemble an odd circus performance.

The West was pictured as being ruled by incompetents; at some point the Russian president knocks the wood of the table in front of him, an easily recognizable message that one has the head as empty as a wooden box. Judging by the way the West functions today, I agree with him: the geopolitical decisions of the European Union leadership do fit the depiction of the Russian president. Not knowing history and not living in Europe (and particularly in Eastern Europe), one might be tempted to side with the Russian president’s vision about the world and about what should be better done. After all, he was so convincing and so articulate in his statements and his description of his reality that one would be easily tempted to choose “the Russian way”…

However, I belong, by birth, to the former Eastern bloc. As a consequence, I have what might be called a “traumatic wisdom”. The Romanians were under the Russian and then the communist rule for tens of years, and this has completely destroyed the Romanian national spirit; we have been crushed beyond recognition and we have become what our current “country brand” says about us: “thieves and beggars”. We owe a large chunk of this to the Russian leadership during the 20th century, as we were subjected to “sovietisation” in the same way the nowadays Russian president deplores and condemns the Ukrainian “nazification”. And this happened because there is a huge gap between what is imagined in theory and what happens in reality.

The socialist (leftist) ideology is brilliant on paper. It guarantees that people receive a fair part of the benefits of being part of a socialist society. It’s a utopian paradise. In reality, corruption and greed are part and parcel of the human psyche, so the socialist society inevitably ended in polarization between a rich and powerful clique, and the bewildered and uneducated mob. The leftist mentality simply doesn’t work because it is disconnected from the realities of the human mind and those of the psychology of the masses. The West is currently in the grip of the same mentality, with the woke and the postmodernist movements, and we are already seeing the results in the form of an increasingly dysfunctional and polarized society. And the Russian president was quick to point this out. Ironically – he emphasized – the West feared the westward Soviet expansion during the Cold War, and some years later the West did exactly the same thing by expanding eastwards the NATO and the European Union territory. The inclusion of Ukraine in the Western World was the last straw for the Russian president and, to be honest, I can understand his reasoning.

Now, a question: What would you prefer: the Russian way of life or the Western way of life? Would you prefer to be part of a system with a dictator as your “daddy” and lacking any basic freedom while living a predictable life? Or would you prefer to be part of a system plagued by anarchy, where you are free to do almost everything, yet there is another elite ruling the chaos and you are “forced to be tolerant” versus any absurd ruling or ideology clouding the minds of the ones in power?

There is no right or wrong answer. But I personally go by the rule at the beginning of this article: I’m passionate about not being homeless and starving.

The Russian rule and mentality has historically brought poverty to Romania, so I stick with the Western world despite its moral relativity and hypocrisy, as the lesser of the two evils. Those who never experienced communism and the Russian rule, and who are curious to experience it now, are much welcomed to try it. I can already see that the leftist mentality is being imposed in Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and increasingly in the rest of the European Union and the United States, so perhaps this experience is necessary to be lived by the people of those places as well, learning from the East European history obviously not being enough. I already see the poverty originating from the left-leaning political ideology engulfing the West; so, it has already begun! This does not apply to rich and powerful people, as they are untouched by politics or economic hardships; they are invulnerable and they can’t care less about what I write here. But the common folk should ponder deeply before siding with the Russian president’s vision.

Another issue worth discussing is the incompetence of the Western leaders, as exposed by the Russian president. I genuinely think that the war in Ukraine happened as a reaction to incompetence: the Americans and the Europeans knew well the Russian sensitivities and the “spheres of influence” mentality of the Russian leadership. Fully knowing this and yet expanding eastwards into Ukraine is similar to the moves of a very young child who experiments with fire; the only difference is that the Western leadership is no child. Or is it? Did the adults in the West really left the room? Judging by the reaction of the Russian president who does not seem to find someone in the West capable or sane enough to negotiate with (or at least this is how he puts it), I fear that this is the reality. Using my own judgement of what I saw while I lived in France – an utter psychotic management – I tend to believe he’s right. And if this is so, the future does not sound good.

The image of this article is an isolated house in the middle of a field, fully exposed to various winds. It is a metaphor for each family, or country in Eastern Europe, caught between the Western wind and the Eastern wind (or between the West and Russia, to be more precise). Each “wind” exhibits an opinion, tries to seduce with its respective ideology the inhabitants of that particular family or house. The internet is full of comments belonging to many people (and to an impressing number of bots controlled by both sides) and the air is misty, eerie at times, just like in the image. Occasionally, various rainbows (or chimaeras) can be glimpsed, metaphors for various promises made by one side or another. It is an assault of contrasting ideologies; the household is caught in the crossfire of two viewpoints. But… a truly wise family, or house, should always stay pragmatic; it should evaluate ideologies based on their results, and aim at its own survival. The Russian ideology has led to a closed regime from which normally rich people (that is, not the oligarchs and their families) try to flee if they can, seeking a better life. A rich minority lives well but most of the folk are quite deprived and lack any horizon. On the other hand, the Western ideology has led to a better life, to democracy, cooperation and scientific evolution, and even the poor members of the western society do have access to quality services or at least decent ones. The difference is obvious; beyond the ideological discourse, facts speak louder than words. And a wise man, or family, or house, needs to remain pragmatic if it is to survive. It will seek the benefits of the Western wind, the one that brings rain and hence prosperity, while shielding itself from the dry Eastern wind, or at least maintaining a fair balance between the two winds. For the Eastern European states it was always this way. I wish the Western European states could learn from us before sharing our historical past and its lasting negative consequences.