Voices from Russia

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Why America is the World’s Most Uniquely Cruel Society… Or, How Punching Down Became a Way of Life

Filed under: politics,Uncategorized,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00
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CIA Torture and the American Army at Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq

Max Ginsburg



This is a routine SOP for Americans in foreign parts. ROUTINE. Both the Trumpkins and the Clintonistas applaud this. I call this (and them) evil. I’m not alone in thinking that way…


In this essay, I want to share a theory of what it means to be American. As ever, it’s up to you to judge whether it carries any weight. All that I’ll say is that when I look around it explains a little about what I see. Any theory of being American must explain one salient and striking fact… cruelty. America is the cruellest nation amongst its peers … even amongst most poor countries today. It’s something like a new Rome. It has little, if any, functioning healthcare, education, transport, or media… it has no safety nets, no stability, and no security. The middle class is collapsing, and life expectancy is falling. Young people die from a lack of insulin they can’t crowdfund. Elderly middle-class people live and die in their cars. Kids massacre each other in schools… when they’re not self-medicating the pain of it all away. The combination of these pathologies happens nowhere else… not a single place… in the world. Not even Pakistan, Costa Rica, or Rwanda. Hence, the world is aghast at the depths of American cruelty… yet, somehow, it seems bottomless.

Of course, I don’t mean that all Americans are cruel. I just mean it in the same way we say countries have attitude, dispositions, that there’s such a thing as a French or German national attitude or disposition, so, too there’s an American one. Nor do I mean America is “the cruellest society in the world”. Could we really ever judge that? However, it’s uniquely cruel … a kind of special example… in weird, needless, and singular ways. Let me throw that into relief. Scandinavians are the happiest, longest-lived, and most prosperous people in the world because they don’t punish one another constantly, but lift one another up. However, Americans don’t believe this reality. The underlying sentiment that unites America’s manifold problems is a myth of cruelty.

Where did the myth of cruelty come from? That’s the question before us if we really want to understand America. I’ve wondered about it since I was a kid, to be honest. Once, I thought it was about capitalism, patriarchy, and race. Now, I think that those are expressions of it. Something more primary, fundamental, and unique happened. America was a strange improbable combination of things, singular in history. A Promised Land… but one for the despised. Waves upon waves of them washed up on its shores. First, the Puritans… mocked and loathed in England. Then, peasants, farmers, and outlaws from across Europe. Then, Chinese, Japanese, and Latinos, and today, Muslims.

These emigrants tended to share a common trait. They were at the very bottom, the lowest rung, of social and economic hierarchies in their own countries. All of them. That changed a little recently… but America was founded by and for the despised, loathed, and hated. People referred to as trash, nobodies, serfs, exiles, outcasts… who were never given an ounce of respect, dignity, or even belonging in their societies of origin. Let me make that clearer. We didn’t see nobles and landed gentry migrating to America… British Lords, German Counts, and Italians Barons. We saw German peasants, Irish villagers, Swedish farmers, and the dwellers of Italian slums. People from the very lowest of hierarchies elsewhere, the oppressed and the subjugated, came to this Promised Land. First, the English and French settlers supposed that this New World was theirs (and began a kind of genocide against its natives, of course). However, they didn’t just come to hate the natives for threatening their natural right to this Promised Land. It was the next waves of settlers, too. The English settlers hated the French. The French hated the Germans. They all hated the Irish. The Irish hated the Italians. And so on. That much is historical fact. Do you see the pattern forming yet?

This is very abstract, so let me make it concrete. Here came one wave of settlers… the English. They dominated their way to the top of a hierarchy, above natives and blacks. Then came a new wave… Germans. They were punched down too… and began punching down… to establish themselves in this hierarchy, as high up as they could. Then, another wave… the Irish. Punched, punching down. All desperately vied for relative dominance amongst the rest. You see, the crucial fact is that this didn’t happen elsewhere in the world … waves of settlers, all desperately trying to establish themselves above the next, last, most recent, in a hierarchy, all the more so because they were despised, at the bottom, to begin with. In Europe, Asia, South America, hierarchies were long-established and broken only by revolution. America was the only nation where this constant reconstruction of hierarchy happened to such a degree, repeatedly. Hence, the establishment of cruelty as a way of life… how else but to establish one’s self above the next wave of migrants?

Each new tribe that came to this Promised Land brought the burden of being despised, subjugated, and oppressed with them. They were finally above someone else in a social hierarchy. They weren’t at the bottom anymore. However, to be above requires someone else to be below. Therefore, there was a constant battle for relative position within a growing hierarchy… hence, dominance, competition, and conquest soon became prized cultural values, norms, and institutional goals. Cruelty as a way of life was born. When we note that the despised of England hated the newly arrived despised of France hated the newly-arrived despised of Germany and so on, not to mention natives, blacks, and Asians, in an endless vicious circle, we also say that America was learning to be cruel, by forever constructing greater hierarchies to seize the fruits of a Promised Land. However, greater hierarchies require greater cruelty to climb up, too. Moreover, the irony is that all this is what the despised came to America to escape.

I’ll add a peripheral point. The despised, when coming to a Promised Land, are the least likely, perversely, although we might not immediately think so, to want to share it … because they, at last, have something that they feel is theirs. Today’s servant wants to be tomorrow’s master. Today’s peasant wants to be tomorrow’s landlord. Today’s victim aspires to be tomorrow’s oppressor. What was really happening here, in more modern terms? People were learning to “punch down”, as we might put it today. Americans were being taught to take out their anger, rage, and fear on those less powerful than them… usually, the most obvious and immediate ones they could find. An Irish mutt bastard moved into the neighbourhood? Get them. No Chinamen allowed. Those Italians? We’ve got to move them out of our city. Intern those Japanese. Punching down began to be institutionalised and normalised. Cruelty became a way of life and a norm. Tribe after tribe of the despised fled to the Promised Land, but each one demanded their position above the last, having never had anything before. People who were hated outcasts had status and belonging at last, but only by punching down the next wave. Therefore, no mechanisms ever really developed to allow them to share the Promised Land wisely, well, or reasonably. Might became right.

American leaders tried to intervene every now and then, such as FDR’s second bill of rights, JFK’s vision for a fairer society, and so on. However, they weren’t very successful because they were fighting a history of cruelty that they didn’t really understand, one that went to the heart of what it means to be American itself. So they never really said:

Wait. What do we all really have in common, us Americans? We’re the despised and mocked of history. Its outcasts and its exiles. This is what unites us! Let’s stop punching down, then. Otherwise, what have we really learned? We’re only repeating the very history of cruelty that we tried to escape from.

How sad. How funny. Americans came to a Promised Land but they couldn’t escape themselves. Each new wave tried to rise above the next and built a world even crueller than the old one. Punching down, down, down, endlessly. Therefore, today, here we are. Punching down became a national institution, a norm, and a way of life. School shootings? Can’t ban guns; let the kids have “active shooter drills”. We’re punching all the way down to our little five-year-olds. Life expectancy falling? Can’t have healthcare, let them self-medicate with opioids. We’re punching down to the poorest. Education cost a fortune? Too bad, take out debt. We’re punching down to our young people. I could give you endless examples. However, perhaps, you get the point by now.

What does it mean to be American? To really “be”… to see, feel, think, and act American, so much so that you aren’t self-aware of it, because it’s unconscious, reflexive, invisible, this way of “being”? Well, it means what it always has. Punching down, not lifting up. Punching down is hardwired into America by now, thanks to a unique history of settlers… who had never had any status… punching the next wave down for a relative hierarchical position. An attitude of cruelty was born. Therefore, today, cruelty is the point of its institutions, the purpose of its norms, and the linchpin of its perverse idea of virtue, that by punishing people, we can better them. It’s all that Americans expect from each other, and give to each other. That’s the terrible burden of this Promised Land… history’s despised warred among one another for domination of it.

The problem is this. A society of people punching one another down must collapse. What else could it do? It can’t rise, can it? If I’m punching you down, and I’m punching the next person down below me, how can anyone ever lift anyone up? However, without lifting one another up, a society can’t grow in quantity or quality of life. America has never reckoned with its history of cruelty. Instead, it developed a defensive mythology of being welcoming, even while every new wave of immigrants had to fight, sometimes quite literally, street by street against the last wave for a piece of the Promised Land. Like all myths, that one was a lie that revealed the truth… America was a Promised Land for the huddled masses to roam free, but only if they could fend off the other tribes by punching them down endlessly.

A Promised Land is like a Garden of Eden. However, who can live in the Garden peacefully but angels? Human beings… flawed, indelicate things… can only be cast out, they’re ever in conflict, in tension, hungry and ravenous. That’s never truer than for their most despised, who need healing the most, or else they’d ravage their Gardens worst. In this way, a Garden given to the despised is a war waiting to happen. A war against itself. America is at just such a war and has always been. The name of this war is cruelty. However, the end of this war is not victory, but collapse. I don’t say any of this to blame, shame, or judge. Only so that, perhaps, we can, at last, reckon with this history of violence.

20 February 2018

Umair Haque




Sunday, 29 October 2017

Xi Seeking “Rich, Democratic, Modernised Socialist China”

Filed under: China,politics,Uncategorized — 01varvara @ 00.00
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Andrei Karneyev, deputy head of the Institute of Asia and Africa at Moscow State University, told us that whilst it demonstrated commitment to a policy of openness, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) placed emphasis on people’s ever-growing needs for a better life, ecology, deep reforms, and law-based governance. He commented on the Resolution of the 19th National Congress of the (CPC), which took place in Beijing between 18 to 24 October 2017.

Policy of Openness

He said:

The Chinese leadership will continue to act in the world arena within the framework of openness, regardless of the difficulties [it faces] in the way of globalisation and emerging anti-globalist and protectionist bias in some countries. China is an important participant in the international system, contributing to world development through its ability to provide dynamic economic development whilst maintaining internal social-political stability. However, new phrases such as “great cause”, “great struggle”, “great dreams”, and “great project” appeared in the Congress’s resolutions.

“Large-Scale Processes Within CPC”

Karneyev highlighted:

These formulations indicate that complex and large-scale processes are taking place within the [CCP]. After Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he launched an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign. The fight against corruption intended to clear [CPC] ranks of those who abused their power and authority.

Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption efforts saw about 1.34 million grassroots-level officials, as well as tens of thousands of high-ranking officials, punished. However, many criticised the policy, arguing that Xi targeted his political opponents, including former security chief Zhou Yongkang, politician Bo Xilai, and Lin Jihua, an aide to former Chinese president Hu Jintao. Yet, according to Karneyev:

By solving the corruption problem and improving executive discipline at all levels, the country’s leadership is seeking to boost the CPC’s ability to manage an increasingly complex Chinese society. Therefore, one of the 14 points that form the CPC’s basic policy aimed at developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era is to uphold absolute Party leadership over the people’s forces.

Rule of Law

Karneyev suggested:

President Xi announced the establishment of a government group aimed at maintaining a law-based state and creating verification mechanisms to ensure that the decisions made by state bodies comply with the country’s constitution. Apparently, China will soon create a controlling body… a State committee for supervision.

One of the Congress resolutions emphasised:

We must uphold the authority and centralised unified leadership of the Party Central Committee, closely follow the Party political line, strictly observe political discipline and rules, and closely align ourselves with the Central Committee in terms of political stance, direction, principle, and path.

Karneyev pointed up:

The CPC congress also focused attention on the need to redistribute power between the centre and local governments and announced other important initiatives in the sphere of public administration. They follow the same logic adhered to during the anti-corruption campaign… to boost the role of the state and to make management more efficient and transparent. Xi and his team [took these steps] to implement a new package of economic and social reforms that’d turn China into a rich, powerful, democratic, harmonious, civilised, and modernised socialist state by the middle of the 21st century.

Speaking to us on Thursday, Ding Xueliang, a political analyst and a social science professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, reiterated that President Xi seeks to consolidate his power, but faces opposition from some CPC members.

“Moderately-Prosperous Society in All Respects”

Karneyev noted:

The CPC regards the principal contradiction in Chinese society as being between unbalanced and inadequate development against the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life, whilst proclaiming the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Previously, party documents put an emphasis on contradictions between the material needs of the Chinese people and the relative underdevelopment of productive forces. Additionally, the new vision highlights the importance of harmony between mankind and nature. What’s more, the document promised the CPC’s adherence to a people-centred approach.

A Congress resolution stated:

With this, [China] can be better placed to meet the ever-growing economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological needs of our people, and to promote well-rounded human development and all-round social progress.

Karneyev observed:

The 19th Congress of the CPC was an important event, both for China and for its international partners. It met most expectations surrounding the forum’s political course and decisions. Xi’s report both summed up the results of the party’s work over the past five years and formulated new ideas and approaches for new conditions. Additionally, the Congress pledged to modernise the country’s armed forces to make them a world-class army and voiced its commitment to implementing the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project. Following the final day of the congress, Xi introduced five new members of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), but he evaded naming his potential successor.

26 October 2017

Sputnik International


Thursday, 13 April 2017

13 April 2017. Remember the Departed Servant of God Vladimir… Вечная ему память


I can’t say that I agreed overly much with Vladimir… he’d spent much of his life in the Belly of the Beast in the District and was a member of Potapov’s “party”. Yet, he was a man of good character, honour, and probity… unlike many in the District, he remained mostly clear of “Inside-the-Beltway-itis”.  You don’t have to agree with someone to pray for them (and our disagreements weren’t on basic matters… they were on political and historical questions). Indeed, it’s our Christian duty to pray for the sick, the poorly-off, those in harm’s way, and the dead. OUR DUTY. We’re Christians; that’s what we do.

I bow before Vladimir’s memory and give my heartfelt condolences to his loved ones. His fortieth day is on 21 May 2017 (a Sunday). Have your priest say Pannikhida for him and commemorate him at the Proskomidi.



Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016: The Year Washington Lost Its Mind

00 Vitaly Podvitsky. Putin did It! 2014


Seismic is the only word to describe 2016, especially when describing the USA-Russia relationship. Paraphrasing Gramsci, it was a year when we witnessed the dying of an old world and the birth of a new one. However, by no means, was the birth painless… nor is it complete. Western hegemony… geopolitical, military, cultural, and economic… has never been so fiercely contested as it was in 2016. Surveying a year in which anti-Russian hysteria became the new normal in Washington, London, and Paris, not to mention across Eastern Europe on the part of governments that deployed Russophobia as a convenient scapegoat to deflect from their own political and economic shortcomings, it’s a reminder that no empire ever forgives its defeats.

If this past year was anything, it was a year that hammered the final nail into the coffin of neoconservatism and its Masters of the Universe conceit. It saw humanity travel full circle from the starting point of the boast by American academic Francis Fukuyama that the demise of the USSR heralded the End of History, wherein Western liberal democracy had triumphed and would now reign supreme forevermore. Those who allowed themselves to luxuriate in this conceit have just lived through a year of unparalleled agony and anguish, defined by the collapse of this liberal order under the weight of the misery and despair it succeeded in sowing over the past decade and more at home and across the world.

For the first time since 9/11… when Western hawks declared war-without-end in the cause not of security, democracy, or human rights, but instead domination, hegemony, and unipolarity… the Western project of régime change was thwarted in Syria, though not without huge cost and suffering. It was a seminal defeat marked by the liberation of Aleppo, followed by trilateral talks between Iran, Russia, and Turkey with the objective of ending the conflict. The exclusion of the USA and European powers from these talks was hugely significant, evidence that we’re increasingly finding solutions to the crises created by Western hegemonic policies in the East rather than the West.

The election in November of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the USA, following in the wake of Brexit, confounded a Washington political and media establishment that had grown complacent over the years in a bubble of self-aggrandisement in which they detached themselves from reality. Indeed, their inability to come to terms with the shock was such that rather than look to their own failures, they sought to scapegoat Russia as the primary cause. Never mind the millions of Americans who opted to vote for a maverick billionaire businessman rather than a machine politician whose record was a monument to mendacity. No, Trump’s election had nothing to do with them. It was all Russia’s doing. In what can only be described as an insult to those voters and their democratic rights, no sooner had the election result been announced than the forces of hell were unleashed against Moscow, accused of hacking the DNC, and passing the results on to Wikileaks, whose release of the so-called “Podesta emails” provided not only the American public but also the entire world with an insight into the inner workings of what passes for democracy in Washington.

Just think about this for a moment. According to the DNC, Clinton’s supporters, the CIA, and many more besides, Russia effectively forced millions of Americans to walk into a voting booth and vote for a candidate whose suitability for office was considered so outlandish that he was ridiculed throughout both the Republican primary process and ensuing presidential election campaign thereafter. Such a rendering is so desperate and deluded it could only gain traction in a period of huge and momentous transformation, such as took place over 2016, involving the decline of what is and the rise of what will be. Over the past year, the resulting flux and discord succeeded in turning rational human beings into irrational and paranoid wrecks, people who found themselves being swept away in the currents of historical change.

It was a year that we witnessed countries responsible for the destruction of entire countries lecturing the world on the meaning of democracy and human rights. They depicted President Putin as an amalgam of every James Bond movie villain this decades-long movie franchise unleashed. Meanwhile, rather than the largest and most populous country in Europe, with a history as rich in culture and civilisation as any on the planet, they reduced Russia to a vast criminal enterprise as part of the same exercise in demonisation. In 476 AD, what was then known as the Western Roman Empire came to an end, after a century of successive “barbarian” invasions finally succeeded in bringing it to its knees. The symbols of Rome’s power… the emperor’s imperial vestments, diadem, and purple cloak… were sent to Constantinople, the seat of power of the eastern half of the empire, to bring the curtain down on a millennium of history. It was proof that no empire, regardless of its economic and military power, lasts forever.

Rome fell for the same reason that all empires fall over time… greed… greed for wealth, for power, and for domination. Our time is no different. The economic crash of 2008 was the result of greed in Wall Street and the City of London, the twin engines of Western economic growth and hegemony over so many decades. Allied to the triumphalism with which Washington (and the West in general) met the demise of the USSR in the early 1990s, the result was overreach. In 2016, we witnessed the culmination of what has been a slow but inexorable decline in the West… a political order with no answers to the crises that they in their ideological fixation with domination and hegemony caused. Blaming others rather than look in the mirror and accept responsibility was their only answer.

As the Roman philosopher Seneca reminded us, “For greed, all nature is too little”.

Western ideologues take note.

31 December 2016

John Wight



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