“First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.”
As many of you will know by now, I am somewhat obsessed with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. He has fascinated me for some time now. With the recent events in Ukraine I have been reading more about him in an effort to understand what is happening.
I believe that he is an underestimated threat to the liberal values of individual freedom and human rights. I recommend two readings and one interview for your consideration. The first is a short article in Foreign Affairs, then an in-depth biography, and finally an insightful piece from NPR’s Fresh Air.
Putin’s Brain: Alexander Dugin and the Philosophy Behind Putin’s Invasion of Crimea by Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn examine the roots and current expression of Eurasianism, the philosophical and mystical idea of Russian exceptionalism.
I find these ideas chilling. Unless we recognize the deep background of Putin and his patrons, including the Russian Orthodox Church, we will fail to understand the danger facing western society and our ideals. Putin is not a teapot dictator. The combination of his ideology and nuclear weaponry are a major, if not the foremost, threat to peace in our time.
Masha Gessen’s book The Man Without a Face: the Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin tells the story of the man who came to embrace a view of his own importance in history. Gressen’s portrait gave me a frame to place Putin’s behavior into context. It is longer read (or listen as take my books these days) but well worth the effort.
Lastly, I recommend listening to an interview from NPR’s Fresh Air last month. Kimberly Marten offers interesting insights into Putin’s actions around the annexation of Crimea.
There’s no question [Putin] is stirring it up, and the thing that I found very striking in his major address to both houses of the Russian parliament a few days ago — for the first time, he switched from talking about Rossisskii, the interests of the Russian state, to talking about Russkii, the interests of the Russian people. There are two ways that you can talk about being Russian in the Russian language: Rossisskii means Russian citizens and Russian statehood; Russkii means the Russian ethnic group. And Putin’s language in the speech a few days ago really started emphasizing Russia as an ethnic concept rather than Russia as a state concept, and I found that very disturbing because it’s an indication that Putin is really throwing in his lot with the members of the elite who consider themselves ethnic nationalists.
It is imperative that we not ignore or underestimate Putin as we have done up to now. He was given a pass in Chechnya and Georgia. He will not stop at Ukraine. To be completely clear, any move on the Baltic States or Poland will mean a real and very hot war. We may have hardship from an economic war with Russia. A military engagement will bring disaster and a suffering that will last throughout our lifetimes.
I am reorganizing my social media participation.
I found it too distracting, too open to share personal stuff, and basically evil.
Twitter: Still active
This will be for quick links, funny thoughts, important immediate news happenings, civic society activities, and rants in 140 charters or less. And cat photos.
This Blog: Continuing
Find here reflections, poems, n’at.
A new weekly letter for friends:
TTYS Talk to you soon
Not hope for love but
refuge in wisdom/compassion
refuge in love . . .
I take refuge in boundless compassion
I take refuge in infinite light and life
I take refuge in love . . .
The world is stressed
Fear is all around
Remember that the opposite of love
is not hate
I Take Refuge in Love!
Remember there are always more going on than we are being told.
Originally posted on Caracas Chronicles:
Dear International Editor:
Listen and understand. The game changed in Venezuela last night. What had been a slow-motion unravelling that had stretched out over many years went kinetic all of a sudden.
What we have this morning is no longer the Venezuela story you thought you understood.
Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting. People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street. And that’s just…
View original 376 more words
To Be Clear™
The myth of a “Golden Age” is so pervasive we think we need to look for historical precedents for the acceptance of gays and lesbians, transgender persons, middlesex identities, marriage equality, even women’s and civil (race based) rights.
I there is NO need, or even viable historical precedents for these and many other developments in our social values and culture.
It doesn’t matter one bit if an idea has historical roots or that some small society in inner-trans-pacific-noncolonial-land has had these ideas for 10,000 years. Good for them.
We CHOOSE to change our worldview to include women, middlesex, gender non-conforming . . . persons as whole complete members of society and not slaves, property, acceptable objects of violence.
There was no Golden Age.
Nor is this a Golden Age. It’s just our time. We need to travel by our lights into the future.
And there is no Golden Age there, either. They too will will walk their own path, make their own missteps, and pass a legacy on to their decedents.
No divine right of kings. No serfs. No women-as-property transactions (“traditional and biblical marriage”). No slaves by right of capture and race. We changed these things and we choose to change other things.
There was no Eden, nothing to harken back toward, no Golden Age.
There is only today.
humbly and respectfully,
I know that some of my younger friends don’t really have a clear idea of the person we are honoring today.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Questions to explore:
Where did his method of nonviolence originate?
Why did he choose it?
Did he wrestle with it?
How has his legacy been carried on or corrupted?
Learn for yourselves.
I realize that I have not properly introduced you to my guy nor told you the details about how we met and such. It is time to catch up on the story so far . . .
Last year I took advantage of spring break not to go to Cancun but to make a pilgrimage to visit my second family, the Euclid Street house of L’Arche Greater Washington DC. When I arrived I was introduced to a new member assistant from Hungary, Erhard. After establishing the “vibe” that gayfolk use to discern and recognize our kind, I observed how he interacted with the core members of the house. It was clear right away that Erhard got it. He understood and had a real relationship with my friends. More Important, the core members liked him and, in their own ways, told me he was a good guy. So he passed that test.
Needless to say I started visiting DC a bit more frequently and soon we were seeing each other almost every week. Most of the time Erhard endured the Megabus ride up to Pittsburgh for a quick two-day visit. We made the most of that time, went for long rides in the countryside, visited my mom and dad, and took in Pittsburgh events.
Erhard? He is intelligent (he taught himself English), skilful (he made me curtains and he is a jeweler), handsome (you can see that), enchanting (his smile makes me forget anything that is bothering me), perceptive (he can tell my mood instantly).
As we learned more and more about each other we realized that we needed to make plans for what would happen after his volunteer visa expired. We proposed marriage to each other several times, and still do (he keeps on saying, “yes”). It remained to see how we could make that happen. Our first plan was for Erhard to move back to the USA after he returned home as required. In fact, I was following a live feed from SCTOTUSblog the day the Supreme Court made it possible for us to apply for a fiance visa by striking down DOMA. I called Erhard moments later and proposed to him again. He said yes again.
It became increasingly clear, however, that our future lay in Europe, specifically western or central Europe.
School and healthcare will be much more affordable there. Gay married couples are welcomed there. Combined with the growing culture of violence, religious ignorance, and guns here, and the stronger culture of human rights and enviorenmental stewardship there, I knew I wanted to live there. That, and it will cost roughly $1000 to $2000 a year to go to school. Yes that is only three zeros not four. I guess I am better suited to a communitarian society than an individualistic one.
I struggle with the prospect of leaving Pittsburgh, however. I moved here to be close to my parents and return to the land of my roots. Studying at the University of Pittsburgh has opened up new worlds and possibilities to me. I have friends here.
As Erhard and I researched places to live we settled on Belgium because of the culture and our ability to integrate into society. Because of changing rules we find that we need to establish residency for ourselves sooner rather than later. This means that I will be moving there earlier than I expected. I will return to Pittsburgh when my parents need more physical help. That could happen quickly or, given the longevity of both sides of my family, several years off.
So this is the plan as it stands today. In the next few days Erhard will be moving to Antwerp to join the L”Arche community there. I will begin to search for work and start the process of applying for a visa to emigrate. I don’t anticipate this happening before June of course. I am finishing this year at Pitt. Once we become established in Belgium we will evaluate our next step. I have been looking into degree programs at universities in Belgium and The Netherlands. I found one bachelor degree program in psychology that is offered in English just an hour train ride from Antwerp. Almost all master’s level programs are taught in English.
My educational goal remains the same, to gain a master’s level degree that will enable me to provide psychotherapy. I will change my focus from becoming a licensed clinical social worker to a master’s level psychologist according to the European practice. I think that I will be able to establish myself in a practice serving English speaking clients.
In the meantime I am learning Dutch :-)
So that is the plan at least as it stands. Recognizing that the nature of things is change itself I don’t expect it will play out exactly like that. But the journey begins.
If anyone has insights, connections, or recommendations that might help us in our plans please pass them along.
For every inside there is an outside, and for every outside there is an inside; though they are different, they go together. —Alan Watts
” … any complex system, as defined below, has the basic attributes of mind and has a minimal amount of consciousness in the sense that it feels like something to be that system. If the system falls apart, consciousness ceases to be; it doesn’t feel like anything to be a broken system. And the more complex the system, the larger the repertoire of conscious states it can experience.”