The price of success

All aboard the Bad Analogy Express!

I always understood that if this blog were to achieve significant notoriety it would necessarily earn a lot of flak. Even when I started it in 2013 I knew it would be seized upon by the RT fans, but I also expected a lot of foreign white ribbon wannabes. During Maidan I maintained a principled stand and in so doing, earned plenty of enemies on both sides. Too easy.  Lately thanks to Twitter, views have increased radically over the past few days, but of course this means the haters have appeared.

Note that I do not call them trolls. Trolls don’t debate; they come to get a rise out of somebody. To my haters’ credit, they have at least tried to make coherent arguments, though they are the same canned talking points I’ve heard dozens of times last year.  The thing is, I think I’m letting some of these people down.

When I read their attacks, I often feel they’re imagining some scenario as they’re crafting their arguments, and I’m not living up to that expectation. They post something like “What about the US invasion of Iraq? Ferguson! Libya!” Then, as near as I can tell it seems like they expect me to respond with something like the following:

“What? How dare you bring up those historical facts! There are absolutely no problems with America’s society, its government, or that government’s foreign policy! The Iraq War was totally justified because of OUR FREEDOMS! Everything America has ever done is righteous and just because AMERICA! America is the Greatest Country on the face of this earth and we alone won the Second World War! Bleeeargh!”  

Needless to say, I have thus far failed to live up to this high standard.

Let me make something clear for the next batch of dipshits who comes in here with another inaccurate comparison or who thinks that this is some kind of pro-US government blog. I’m not going to get into the details, but if I was such a fan of the US government, I wouldn’t have moved to Russia in 2006. I wouldn’t have hatched such a ridiculous plan to do such a thing six years prior to that. I was reading fuckin’ Chomsky in high school, and one of my final projects in senior year was entitled “American War Crimes,” which contained a great deal of material about the NATO campaign against Serbia. Chances are I was raging against the machine while you were still eating graham crackers and drinking juice out of boxes just before nap time.  I got this edgy anti-American shit down. You don’t even know.

There was just one problem though. First, I was an ignorant teenager. I had no frame of reference and not nearly the requisite amount of historical knowledge to have a realistic ideology. While American history classes teach you almost nothing about the wider world, they seem to be deliberately crafted to give you a largely incorrect understanding of your own country’s history. Second, when you actually care about what you believe and whether or not it fits material reality, you tend to develop this pesky thing called principle. Let me tell you, principle is a real pain in the ass. Here’s how it works.

See my problem with American imperialism wasn’t that it was American, but that it was imperialist. Imperialism forced the US to adopt hypocritical positions on the world stage. It  was arrogant. After all, the US boiled down the complex, multi-sided conflicts of the former Yugoslavia to: Serbs = Bad, Everyone else = Good. They dictated which side was right in a civil war in Kosovo. What if someone told the US it couldn’t put down an armed insurrection threatening to take a state out of the Union? That’s precisely what the US had to do in 1861!

I know that some people are reading that and thinking, “Yeah! Exactly!” That’s all well and good, but what some of you fail to do is detach those deeds from a flag, a symbol. Arrogance and hypocrisy are wrong no matter who’s engaging in the behavior. There was a time when in my naivety, I fell for Putin’s posturing as a defender of national sovereignty against intervention and aggression by powerful countries and their blocs. I believed that he was helping Russia, making it stronger. The Western media said as much. I believed that a rising Russia could be this other pole that would have a positive effect in the world. Then I moved to Russia, and I saw that I had been wrong. So I stopped believing in things that were obviously the opposite of reality. Sorry.

Also, my inkling that Putin had no qualms against military intervention were vindicated long before the events in Ukraine last year. I knew it back when they announced that Russia would be buying those Mistral-class helicopter carriers. Fleets are the tools of empires- British, Japanese, German, American. In fact, I probably realized that even earlier, just from talking to “anti-imperialists” who were really “anti-American imperialists.” It became painfully clear that if Russia could project its force in the way the US did under Bush, the government would. In a way, they have done something like that, though on a much smaller scale.

Another inconvenient aspect of this pesky thing called “principle,” is that you don’t hold your tongue about the evils of one government just because the other government you don’t like criticizes them. The enemy of your enemy isn’t your friend. Moreover, what right have I ever had to say that I, as an American, may criticize my government to my heart’s content, and then condemn Russians for doing the same?  Why can I sever myself from my state, but the Russians and Russian identity should be linked with Putin and his ruling party? My politics changed radically over the years due to a wealth of experience, but I can say one thing has been consistent since I moved here. I oppose policies which abuse, exploit, or otherwise negatively affect the majority of people in any nation. Pro-American? Pro-Russian? Pro-Ukrainian? I am all three at the same time, and I strongly suspect that those who pick only one of those do not truly love their people at all. They love symbols, flags, and abstract concepts, not the concrete nation, the people.

I fully admit that given the transformation this society has undergone in the past, I have reacted with much hostility. Part of my unwillingness to credit these “what about” fallacies is the fact that the United States to me has as much bearing on my life as it does for the rest of the people living in this country, which is to say very little. If you read my words and conclude that I hate Russia then you could not possibly be more mistaken. I question whether you even know what it means to love Russia, even if you are Russian yourself. Nobody who loves their country makes excuses for corrupt leadership. They do not deny the problems that exist in their society; rather they talk about them louder than anyone else. They do not attack others who point those problems out. They certainly do not make idiotic excuses about how those problems exist in some other countries so it’s all the same and nobody should bring it up. Anyone who is too cowardly to speak out against the ills speaking their nation is free to maintain their silence about the things they see right in front of their eyes. They do not, however, have the right to call themselves patriots and condemn as traitors those who show more courage.

So please, come on and accuse me of working for the US government. Some people say I work for the Kremlin because there happened to be a different article on the homepage when they clicked the link to this blog. One might think they can’t all be right, but this is Russia and it is the internet, so why not? Just a word of caution though. If all you can bring is “what about…” you’re not going to like the results. And if you’re entertaining enough, you may just get an article of your own.

3 thoughts on “The price of success

  1. Asehpe

    Again, I couldn’t agree more.

    I will say only this, though: one thing that comes with “principles” and the capacity to criticize your own country’s faults is the risk of “useful-idiotism”: your criticisms are cited by people whose interest is to defeat your country, not attack the flaws you criticize. In other words, one’s anti-imperialistic writings against American policy might be used by anti-American imperialists as evidence that they’re right. They might say you’re on their side, or they might only indirectly imply it, while using your arguments to further their goals. RT is very good at doing that.

    I think there are some people who keep silent or stop criticizing because they fear their words will be misused by people they don’t really support. And since keeping silent is not something I see as a good option either, I admit I am baffled as to what a principled person should do. If one writes things that are then misused to imply things one hadn’t meant to say, and if this plot works and convinces others, it’s hard not to feel somewhat responsible.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Waaaaaaaaay ahead of you there.

      I too feel that vibe from time to time, but I can’t let that make me compromise core principles. The thing about those RT types is that the audience is largely idiots. The critical thinking people will investigate and upon seeing a representative sample of this blog, they will conclude that I work for neither side.

      That, incidentally, is the basis of my objectivity here. I have my side, but it doesn’t have a stake in their games.

      1. Asehpe

        Just a question: how many critical thinking types are there in average in Russia, as far as politics is concerned? RT and similar networks just need numbers in order to succeed, after all, so as long as there are many more idiots than critical thinkers their business is safe.

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