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Egor Kholmogorov: Solzhenitsyn Against US-Soviet Convergence
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Translator’s Foreword (Fluctuarius Argenteus)

The doubtless success of the “primer” for Kholmogorov’s Solzhenitsyn treatise has compelled both the author and the translator to publish another “juicy bit” from the sprawling work. This part of the article analyzes Solzhenitsyn’s rejection of the Enlightenment that led him to lambast Andrey Sakharov’s project of a gradual “convergence” between Communism and Capitalism, causing a split within the dissident movement. It serves as a useful and engaging glimpse into Solzhenitsyn’s anti-Enlightenment, anti-Globalist, outspokenly nationalist philosophy that has reacquired relevance in recent years.

Most of the footnotes and tangents of the original text have been truncated, paraphrased, or incorporated into the body of the article proper. Several insignificant abridgements have been made, with the author’s consent.

***

The Enlightenment of Our Discontent

Solzhenitsyn was 20th century’s most consistent and paradoxical opponent of the Enlightenment. The paradox lied in the fact that he did not challenge Enlightenment secular humanism from the standpoint of a reactionary anti-humanism. Solzhenitsyn’s criticism came from a humane viewpoint, consistent and empathetic towards both the nation and the individual. This paradox was something that didn’t escape André Glucksman’s attention during his discussion with Solzhenitsyn on French TV: “For me, this man directly belongs and adheres to a group of writers who dedicated their talent to the cause of struggle for justice. However, some of those writers, such as Tolstoy, Zola, or Hugo, completely accepted and completely corresponded to the Enlightenment ideology. But Solzhenitsyn is now critical of this ideology, hence the paradox.” (Le Bouillon de culture talk show , broadcast on 17 September 1993 )

Solzhenitsyn resisted the Enlightenment by employing the language of suffering and acting as the voice of pain endured by those martyred for the cause of “Enlightenment ideals” during two Enlightenment-inspired revolutions: that of the French Jacobins and that of the Russian Bolsheviks. From this viewpoint, he definitely belongs to the “naturalistic” strain of Conservatism. However, he explicitly spurns Rousseauist naturalism and rejects its “noble savage” and his society-dependent “nobility”: “I am most unlike Rousseau in my views. Claiming that humans are good by nature but corrupted by their environment and circumstances was a grave error. I have always said, many times, that the line between good and evil is not drawn between governments, parties, or nations, but through every human heart. A human being is naturally inclined to both good and evil.” (Die Zeit interview, 1993)

Transferring the burden of responsibility for a moral choice between good and evil is the main sin against humanity committed, according to Solzhenitsyn, by the Enlightenment philosophy: “When religion started to wane in the 18th century (the 19th in certain areas), this faith was transposed onto the social system alone. After the loss of religious sentiment, the route of individual self-perfection, the way of individual education started to weaken, and the center of gravity shifted to this: once we change society, we’ll fix all of our problems.” Attempts at transforming humanity via a social transformation of the society were paid with the bloody toll of the guillotine and the Gulag.

That is why “Enlightenment” is one of the most negatively charged notions in Solzhenitsyn’s lexicon. “If the Earth is finite, then its spaces and resources are finite, and it is unfit for the sort of endless, limitless progress that was hammered into our heads by Enlightenment fantasists”, he wrote in his 1973 Letter to the Leaders of the Soviet Union.

A quarter of the century later, and the Limits to Growth myth-making of the Club of Rome, so influential in Solzhenitsyn’s early writings, is nowhere to be seen. Instead of a technological and environmental crisis, the West is faced with its own imperial Globalism. This was the subject of one of Solzhenitsyn’s last notable discourses, Degeneration of Humanism, read in December 2000 at the award ceremony for the Grand Prix of the French Académie des sciences morales et politiques. Once more, Solzhenitsyn drives an onslaught against the Enlightenment and its usual companion, secular humanism, as the main culprits of the modern crisis:

“Humanism was captivated by the seductive idea of taking from Christianity all of its noblest ideas, its goodness, its compassion towards the oppressed and the wretched, its acceptance of free will… while somehow doing without the Creator of the Universe.”

From time to time, humanism did succeed at assuaging cruelties. Nevertheless, over the course of the 20th century, the world was wrecked with two terrible wars, and in their wake, trying to preserve its zealous idealism, humanism morphed into a “humanism of promises”. Promises of establishing a rational worldwide order, giving equal rights to the entire population of the globe, creating a world government…

And, in its turn, this round of promises ended in falsehood.

“The term “progress for everyone” started to lapse from common usage. If some concessions are to be made by someone, somewhere, why should it be us, the most effective and developed nations, the Golden Billion?.. The gap between the most and least advanced countries keeps growing instead of shrinking. There is a hard rule: you fall behind once, you are to doomed to falling behind forever… If someone on this planet must dampen their industries, why not do it at the expense of the Third World? There are powerful financial and economic tools for that: world banks, transnational corporations… Is such a change completely unexpected for Humanism? Let’s recall that, during its development, there was a period, after d’Holbach, Helvétius, and Diderot, when a theory of “rational egotism” was proclaimed and gained significant traction… And now the current Russian press writes about an “enlightened egotistical interest.” Egotistical, but still enlightened , you see…”

As the zeitgeist changed, so did intellectual movements that influenced Solzhenitsyn. From a partisan of the Limits to Growth theory, he turned into a caustic anti-Globalist, pulling the mask off the same anti-industrialism that used to enthrall him, revealing it as an ideology of saving resources at the expense of the weak. There is one constant, however: Solzhenitsyn traces the evils of the modern world to the Enlightenment paradigm. “From the Age of the Enlightenment”, he argues, “grow the roots of Liberalism, Socialism, and Communism alike.”

This Enlightenment humanism led to making it “possible – with only the most humane of goals in mind! – to carry out a three-month long bombing of a European country populated by millions, robbing large cities and entire regions of electricity, so vital in our day and age, and destroying without hesitation marvelous European bridges over the Danube. Is it in the name of saving one part of the populace from deportation – and dooming the other part to the same fate? Is it in the name of healing a country branded a “sick man” – or is it in the name of stripping it of a lucrative province?” The 1999 Kosovo War, a watershed of Russian consciousness in its relations with the West, was, for Solzhenitsyn, the latest fruit of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment of Solzhenitsyn’s writings is a composite image, if you will, a general metaphor of the evils of modernity that he was opposed to. The two millstones that his grain has been caught between – those of Communism and Western Liberalism – are, essentially, parts of the same Enlightenment windmill. Two roads to the same abyss, to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn’s ally Igor Shafarevich, were laid by the same motor grader, with Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau pulling its levers.

Feud with Sakharov

The entire period of Solzhenitsyn activity as a publicist, thinker, intellectual, and political prophet is a constant and fierce duel with the Enlightenment. And it begins with a resistance to the menace of convergence, that is, a rapprochement and a fusion of the two versions of the Enlightenment project: Soviet Communism and Western Liberalism.

To properly understand what the concept means, we should turn to the reality of late 1960s – early 1970s. For an analyst at that time, it seemed beyond any doubt that “convergence” was the keyword of the decade. A democratic West and a Communist East were drawn together, heading towards a complete merger.

In the West, the Left reaches the apex of its power. Leftist parties, and Leftist ideas even more so, influence the policy-making of most Western countries. In the US, Lyndon Johnson ushers in his Great Society programs and rapidly does away with racial segregation. In the UK, the Labour are almost always in power (and when they aren’t, Tory policies aren’t that different). In France, General de Gaulle not only pursues friendship with the Soviet Union but also strongarms entrepreneurs into a system of sharing their revenue with their workers. In Germany, Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik ends an acrimonious confrontation between its West and East. The youth revolution of 1968, despite its defeat, changes the paradigm of social consciousness.

The USSR and its satellites, dubbed as “the East”, undergo a different revolution, social and psychological in character. While the official Soviet Union is engaged in a confrontation, and sometimes even a war, with the West, the average Soviet citizen craves nothing else than becoming Western in all respects – in fashion, music, books, ideas, living standards and lifestyle. Consumerism becomes the foundation of life choices. The main grievance with the Soviet regime has nothing to do with its suppression of freedom, persecution of religion, stifling of free thought, exploitation or expropriation. The main discontent is that it fails to provide living standards commensurate with the consumption standards of the West (or their imitation, such as a Lada instead of a Fiat). The Prague Spring of 1968 is a suppressed revolution just like the Paris Spring, but it is also seen as a major paradigm shift – a complete loss of faith in Soviet Communism by pretty much everyone.

The development of this situation, it seemed, could follow but a single scenario: a Détente and a gradual waning of hostilities and erasure of borders between West and East, with a well-fed European demi-Socialism at one end of the bridge and a famished Soviet demi-bourgeoisie at the other. Both sides would, of course, stamp out the “radicals”: the “Stalinists”, hell-bent on continuing class struggle until the bitter end, and the Right, made of out reactionaries, nationalists, and Christians rejecting Communism specifically because of its radical secularism and lack of nationality.

In the long run, it would lead to a fusion of the Soviet Union with the West as its demi-periphery with a sizeable geopolitical autonomy, a consolidation of all versions of the Enlightenment historical project, and the coming of a Euro-Communist, Socialist, and Liberal Reformist “end of history”. This would be exactly the future envisioned by one of the heroes of the age, Academician Andrei Sakharov, in his Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom (1968):

Stage 1: […] A growing struggle of ideas between Stalinists and Maoists on one side and realistically minded left-wing Leninists and “Occidentalists” on the other leads to […] chartering the course to a deeper peaceful coexistence, a stronger democracy, and wider economic reforms (1968 to 1980).

Stage 2: In the USA and other Capitalist countries, the assertive demands of real life […] lead to the victory of the left, reform-conscious wing of the bourgeoisie. In their actions, they adopt a program of a rapprochement, or “convergence”, with Socialism… This program envisions a stronger role for the intelligentsia in the struggle against racism and militarism (1972 to 1985).

Stage 3: The Soviet Union and the USA, leaving their differences behind, solve the problem of rescuing the “poorer” half of the globe… They construct enormous chemical fertilizer factories and nuclear-powered irrigation systems… At the same time, disarmament is well underway (1972 to 1990)

Stage 4: A Socialist Convergence leads to weakening the contradictions of social structures… to a world government and a mollifying of national antagonism (1968 to 2002)”

The picture of a consolidated Communo-Liberal world, built on a common Enlightenment foundation and unfit for nations and national uniqueness, where Red atheists continue to lord over the destiny of the Russian people (who will also be subject to, in Sakharov’s term, a “very cultured world management” – all of this was so repugnant to Solzhenitsyn that he wasted no time in rushing into battle.

By the point of Solzhenitsyn’s transformation into a public civic thinker, his views solidified around an unwavering opposition to the entirety of the post-Medieval “orbital route” of humanity, starting with the Renaissance and the Reformation. For Solzhenitsyn, the only difference between Soviet Communism and Western Liberalism is the intensity and the degree of violence in their imposing of godlessness. In the Letter to the Leaders, he emphasized that “atheism was the main emotional center of inspiration for Marxism, and the remainder of its doctrine was tacked onto this.”

Solzhenitsyn equally rejects a Western ingrowth into Communism, leading to lenience towards totalitarian Soviet repression, and an ingrowth of the USSR into the Western system through its acceptance of consumerist behavior patterns. One of the final chapters of Cancer Ward is a peculiar manifestation of these anti-consumerist views, shown through Kostoglodov’s confusion and irritation at a Tashkent department store during his attempts at buying a “lightweight smoothing-iron”. The extremely meager range of goods on sale is portrayed as an unnecessary and obscene opulence, as a meaningless clutter of useless objects, and an overheard snippet of a conversation about a “size 50 shirt with a size 39 collar” nearly drives the protagonist into a frenzy.

The main spiritual foe of Solzhenitsyn’s is not Communism by itself and not the liberal West but what they have in common: a project of improving human life without God, the general preference given to the material over the spiritual. The greatest danger for him is a threat of consolidation of the two Enlightenment projects on a single platform. Such a consolidation would lead to an unstoppable reinforcement of the Enlightenment world order and a doubling of the negatives of the two Enlightenment “schools of thought”.

It was entirely logical that Solzhenitsyn’s first attempt at political debate, the As Breathing And Consciousness Return article opening the seminal dissident anthology From Under the Rubble published in Paris in 1974, would be a dispute with Sakharov’s Convergence project.

Solzhenitsyn argues that a conflict between Stalinism and Leninism is impossible because Stalinism is Leninism put to practice. Socialism, as a revolutionary ideology, is incompatible with any sort of ethics or nonviolence and thus cannot lead to a peaceful coexistence.

As a counterweight to Sakharov’s globalism, Solzhenitsyn consistently emphasizes nationalism:

“Against the current of Marxism, the 20th century gave us the limitless strength and vitality of national sentiment, which impels us to ponder more thoroughly over this conundrum: Why is humanity so clearly quantified in terms of nations, no less so than in terms of individuals? Is this national faceting not one of the greatest riches of humankind? Should it be erased? Can it?”

In the text of his Nobel lecture (1970), the Russian writer is even more assertive in formulating his nationalist and anti-Globalist manifesto:

“Lately, it has become fashionable to speak of an erasure of nations, of peoples vanishing in a melting pot of modern civilization. I disagree… the disappearance of nations would make us even poorer than making all humans alike, having the same character, the same face… Nations are humanity’s treasure and its collective personalities; the smallest of them has its own colors and conceals within itself a special facet of God’s design…”

Finally, Solzhenitsyn lands a powerful blow against his main unspoken enemy – the Convergence theory.

“For solving the ethical problems of humankind, the prospect of a convergence is a rather dreary one: two flawed societies with their own vices, slowly coming together and turning one into the other, what can they produce? A society that is doubly immoral.”

A convergence does not produce a mutual transfer of advantages, just a duplication of vices typical of either type of society. Those vices are rooted in their common foundation – the Enlightenment, and, consequently, atheism.

Solzhenitsyn is very well aware of Sakharov’s true intentions behind his statement that a Globalist convergence would produce a planetary government best described as a “very cultured world management”. This program of transit from a “Socialist democracy” and plain old “democracy” towards an authoritarian rule of Enlightenment “holy orders” forces Solzhenitsyn to lay out a completely opposite plan: an exodus from Communism via a nationalist authoritarianism heaving closer to earth, to the soil, to the breath of historical tradition.

Continuing his debate with Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn grinds his axe particularly against the “democratic” utopia of Occidentalist dissidents.

“An external freedom, freedom by itself, can it be the ultimate goal of sentient creatures? Or is it but a form for accomplishing other, loftier tasks?”

“In a persistent search for political freedom… it would be useful to understand what to do with it. We achieved this freedom in 1917 (and it kept expanding month by month) – and how did we use it? Grab your rifle and go wherever your fancy takes you. Cut off the wire from a telegraph pole for your own personal use…”

To debate democratic utopianism, Solzhenitsyn employs a principle of historical duration. The bulk of human history unfolded under an Ancien Régime, but people still could live, and their lives weren’t particularly bad.

“…In the long course of human history, there have been rather few democratic republics, but people kept living for centuries, and not always in a bad way. They even felt this much-vaunted happiness, which is sometimes called pastoral or patriarchal and wasn’t simply invented by literature. And they managed to preserve the physical health of the nation (it is apparent because nations haven’t lapsed into degeneracy). They also preserved a spiritual health reflected, for example, in folklore and proverbs, a health much greater than the one expressed nowadays in ape-like radio melodies, musical hits, and bothersome commercials. Can a radio audience from outer space guess that this planet once had – and then left behind – Bach, Rembrandt, and Dante

Among those forms of government, there were many authoritarian ones, that is, based on a submission to an authority of a widely divergent source and quality… For many centuries, Russia endured many forms of authoritarianism but preserved herself and her health, and avoided the self-destructions that would happen in the 20th century. Millions of our rural forefathers who had existed over ten centuries did not feel at their deathbeds that they had lived overly intolerable lives…”

This argument, of course, could only be thought of by an anti-progressive, by someone not enthralled by the achievements of the industrial age, with its automobiles, TV sets, a developed medicine and supermarkets round every corner. Solzhenitsyn rejects an implied postulate of the progressive model: the relative growth of historical weight depending on the century, where the 19th century is infinitely more “weighty” than the 13th, and the 20th more so than the 19th. After enduring the main horrors of the 20th century, Solzhenitsyn is thoroughly skeptical of this thesis, and deliberately paints in the first chapters of August 1914 a near-pastoral picture of an Old Regime annihilated by the revolution.

Within the historical optics where the 20th century is not more important or relevant than the 10th, millennia of authoritarian, patriarchal regimes definitely have more weight than the short span of “democratic republics”, which has yet to demonstrate its stability and long-term effectiveness. Solzhenitsyn is more perturbed not by the autocracy of the past but by the “autocracies”, or rather totalitarian dictatorships, of the present (in the form of Communist partocracies) or the future (in the form of Liberal technocracies run by “very cultured people”).

“What is truly terrible is not authoritarianism by itself but regimes that bear no responsibility to anyone or anything. The autocrats of bygone religious ages, invested with a seemingly limitless power, felt their responsibility before God and their own conscience. Modern-day autocrats are more dangerous because it’s hard to find higher values that are binding for them…” As Solzhenitsyn’s main value is not progress, not consumerist plenty, not external freedom but a possibility to direct one’s soul to God, his rejection of Communism is logically followed not by an embracement of Occidentalist democracy but by a system more conducive to “render unto God the things that are God’s”.

“If Russia had been accustomed to living under authoritarians system for centuries, and a democratic system brought her to unraveling in the course of just eight months of 1917, then – I do not claim it, I merely ask – perhaps one should accept that an evolutionary development of our country from one type of authoritarianism to another would be more natural, smooth, and painless?” Without this polemics against Sakharov’s Convergence one cannot comprehend other principal ideas posited by Solzhenitsyn in his articles published in From Under the Rubble and his Letter to the Leaders.

Introspective Anti-Globalism

The principle of self-restraint and the plan of Russia’s introspection, the inward turn towards its own North-East, were markedly anti-Globalist. When two globalizations, that of Soviet Communism and that of American Liberalism, intertwined in a bizarre antagonism/symbiosis known as the Cold War, their entanglement threatened to become a fusion. And the Russian writer proposes Russia to take a unilateral psychological and geopolitical leap out of globalization.

The Enlightenment doctrine had two essential foundations. It could be the Lockean principle of mutual limitation of individuals and limitless freedom where no such limitation existed, which led to the Liberal strain of the Enlightenment and the concept of human rights. It could be the Rousseauist principle of a fusion of individuals into a super-subject, an unrestricted collective sovereign; this paved the way for Enlightenment radicalism and Jacobin/Bolshevik practices.

Solzhenitsyn spurns this idea in favor of self-restraint, a personal limitation from within as a basis for true liberation. After quoting an Old Believer journal (“No true human freedom except in self-restraint”), he adds: “After a Western ideal of boundless freedom, after the Marxist notion of freedom as a deliberate and inescapable yoke comes the truly Christian definition of freedom: freedom is SELF-RESTRAINT! In the name of others!”

Once again, here we can discover a remarkable polar opposite to Sakharov’s famous formula “The meaning of life is in expansion”. For Solzhenitsyn, the meaning of life is in a rejection of expansion and a voluntary introspection, the development of what one already owns.

Hence both Solzhenitsyn’s anti-industrialism of this period and his geopolitical program championing a settlement of the Russian North-East. He attempts to get rid of the globalizing factors that kept drawing the USSR (and, consequently, Russia) into a closer entanglement with the West, hastening the dreaded Convergence. In From Under the Rubble and Letter to the Leaders, Solzhenitsyn seeks to convince both the Russian society and the Soviet regime to reject a competition with the West that draws them to a merger and turn inward, to improving their own homeland, the economic and geopolitical foundations of their civilization.

It is hard not to notice how directly opposed is Solzhenitsyn’s program of developing the Russian North-East as a home to Sakharov’s Globalist project of involving the USSR and the USA in solving Third World problems, as if the Russians really had nothing to do at their own home.

“We are tired of these global tasks, so useless to us! We must walk away from this heated global competition, from this much-advertised space race that we don’t need. Why should we plan building villages on the Moon while our own Russian villages are decaying and growing unfit for living? In an insane industrial race, we have herded immense human masses into unnatural cities with hasty and shoddy buildings, where we poison, overstrain, and debase ourselves starting with our youngest age. An exploitation of women instead of their equality, a dereliction of family education, alcoholism, loss of interest in work, the decline of schooling, the decline of our language – such are the spiritual wastelands that keep scouring our livelihood… And still, flaunting our “advancedness”, we have slavishly imitated the Western technological progress, only to thoughtlessly run with it into the impasse of a crisis that threatens the existence of humanity itself…”

A “convergent” globalization drains Russian natural resources and draws Russia into a pan-Western technological crisis, intensifying Russian de-nationalization. Most importantly, a US-Soviet cooperation/rivalry consolidates their materialist Enlightenment platform. Solzhenitsyn craves a change of direction: “We should stop running out into the street to pick each and every fight; we should humbly withdraw into out own home while we are in this state of disarray and confusion.” Instead of a globalizing Soviet outward expansion, Russia should turn to internal empty spaces, the key to Russian spiritual reintegration.

«The North-East is our vector, chartered long ago for Russia’s natural progress and development…

The North-East is a reminder that we, Russia, are the North-East of the planet! Our ocean is the Artic, not the Indian one, we are not the Mediterranean, we are not Africa, and we have no business there! Our hands, our sacrifice, our labor, our love is needed by these limitless spaces, recklessly abandoned to freeze in neglect for four centuries…

The North-East is the key to solving many allegedly unsolvable Russian problems… Its spaces give us a way out of the global technological crisis… Its cold, mostly frozen spaces are yet unready for agriculture and would require an immense investment of energy – but the very depths of the North-East conceal this energy, which we haven’t yet put to waste…

The North-East is larger than its name and deeper than its geography. The North-East would mean that Russia has eagerly taken the route of SELF-RESTRAINT, a choice of depth and not surface, an inward, not an outward choice. It would mean directing all of the citizens’ development – national, social, educational, family, and personal – toward an internal, not external prosperity.”

It was a brazen attempt to play at an “anti-Sakharov” field by pitching to the Soviets, instead of the globalizing Convergence of the Détente, a “divergence”, a planned de-globalization of the USSR in the name of Russian interests. “I write this under an ASSUMPTION that you have mostly the same concerns, that you do not shy away from your origins, your fathers, grandfathers, ancestors, and the nature you grew up with, that you are not devoid of nationality…” Solzhenitsyn addressed the Soviet leadership. He was mistaken: a clear national identity and national consciousness were something that his addressees sorely lacked. A telltale sign of this nihilism was Solzhenitsyn’s emphatic deportation from the USSR soon after he had sent the letter.

However, if the “ideological” part of Solzhenitsyn’s proposals was completely unacceptable for the Soviet establishment, some of his proposed routes of national development were either appropriated by the Soviets or masterfully predicted by Solzhenitsyn himself. Let’s check the timetable:

September 1973. The Letter is written and sent.

February 1974. Solzhenitsyn expelled from the USSR.

March 1974. The first of CPSU Central Committee plenary sessions devoted to the “Non-Chernozem Zone”. The Zone (essentially, the core of Russian territory) is in the center of Soviet government policies and sees real investment.

April 1974. The Baikal-Amur Railway is declared a construction project of national importance, both pursuing an anti-Chinese policy and developing the North-East. Peter Stolypin’s project of an Amur railway from nearly 70 years before had been explicitly mentioned in Solzhenitsyn’s Letter.

 
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  1. This paradox was something that didn’t escape André Glucksman’s attention during his discussion with Solzhenitsyn on French TV: “For me, this man directly belongs and adheres to a group of writers who dedicated their talent to the cause of struggle for justice.

    That sounds like an endorsement of Solzhenitsyn by Glucksman. Given that Glucksman was a deranged anti-Russian hysteric at least in the last years of his life, that’s probably not something one should draw attention to when one wants to paint a positive picture of Solzhenitsyn.
    Didn’t read all the rest of the article…this total bashing of the Enlightenment and yearning for some supposedly idyllic pre-modern past when everybody believed in God and knew his place is tiresome. I find it hard to see how this can be politically relevant today.

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  2. Nice to see someone at Unz saying something nice about a refugee to America.

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  3. Too late, Anatoly. And no, I’m not a troll and if you continue to insist I am than by your insane Russian logic, you are too. And, fyi, I have no Russia phobia. I’m not afraid of the Russians. I feel sorry for them. For you. Russians are a tragedy in perpetuity.

    [MORE]

    In Russia, McDonald’s Golden Arches Have A Russian Shine

    When McDonald’s opened its first Russian restaurant in 1990 in Moscow, it was not unusual to see wedding receptions held there, so strong was the appeal of the quintessential American brand at the end of the Cold War.

    In recent years, with U.S.-Russia ties increasingly frosty, the fast food chain has pursued a different strategy: go native.

    “We say it every time: we are a Russian company,” Khamzat Khasbulatov, the head of McDonald’s Russia, told Reuters.

    “I don’t think there’s a single company that can call itself more Russian than us.”

    Nearly all the restaurant’s suppliers are Russian and its executives are all Russian, Khasbulatov said in an interview. The familiar McDonald’s logo outside the restaurants is all in Russia’s Cyrillic script.

    As for the golden arches, he said: “They are Russian arches. They shine wherever they are.”

    The company has reason to play down its U.S. associations.

    After Washington imposed sanctions on Russia over its role in Ukraine in 2014, Russia’s public health watchdog briefly closed down dozens of McDonald’s outlets, including its original Moscow flagship in Pushkin Square, citing hygiene concerns.

    Some Russian politicians called for the chain to be shut down completely.

    Khasbulatov acknowledged the link with the United States was sensitive.

    “We don’t want to be drawn in when something’s going on,” he said.

    A wholly-owned unit of the firm headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, McDonald’s Russia has 609 restaurants around the country and plans to add at least 50 more in 2017 after expanding last year to the far-flung Urals and Siberia.

    McDonald’s does not disclose its Russian unit’s profit numbers but counted it among high growth markets in its 2015 annual report, with high expansion and franchising potential. Its Pushkin Square branch is one of the busiest in the world.

    It reminds me of the quote per the following clip from the excellent Coen Brothers film, No Country For Old Men.

    You Can’t Stop What’s Coming.

    I wrote about this Russian McDonald’s phenomenon several years ago. It’s as pertinent today as it was then.

    Na Zdorovie (Nostrovia) – You Deserve A Break Today!

    Wow! If the vodka doesn’t kill the Russians, McDonald’s will; both take a deleterious toll on the liver and many other organs as well. Maybe Morgan Spurlock can do a sequel concentrating on the success of McDonald’s in Rusĭska Zemlya. As the former Soviet Union was expeditiously downsized, the Land of the Rus said, quite emphatically by virtue of McDonald’s record growth in Russia, Super Size Me. You don’t believe me? You think I’m lying, even though this blog is about the lying that is our reality? Here’s an article describing how ready the Russkies were for McDonald’s. The most iconic corporation in the world and the progeny of Vladimir Lenin were always a match made in heaven. It was just a matter of time. Per this article from the new & improved Pravda, RT (Russia Today), McDonald’s was clamoring to serve the Russian people many years prior to the fall of the Soviet Union and once it got through the doors, there was no looking, or turning, back. As Ellis says to Ed Tom Bell in this clip from No Country for Old Men, “you can’t stop what’s coming. It ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.”

    The horse branded with the Golden Arches is not only out of the gate, but as we’ve witnessed in Russia, the Golden Arches are really just a reconfiguration of the hammer and sickle. McDonald’s in Russia is really just the perfection of Sovietization coming home to its birth mother after spending its formative years with its foster parents, The Americans. So, it’s a reunion of sorts. The child’s come home to the prodigal and recalcitrant parents to teach them some new tricks in an old game. Some of the parents resent the reproach, obviously. Too bad. Get used to it. Choke on your Big Macs, you thugs. They (the Big Macs and French Fries) speak louder than your empty words and promises and that’s not saying much since the patties aren’t much more than reconstituted fecal matter.

    Earlier, I implied Russia was a place of desolation, hopelessness and defeatism who’s inhabitants long for the apocalypse they hope never comes. The Rus’ wear their suffering like a badge. They embrace it. They exploit it. They cherish it. They flaunt it. And their vodka nourishes it. If there’s a dearth of suffering, the Russians will grow it and nurture it into bumper crops season after season. The bleaker and darker, the better. Do you think I’m prejudice and stereotyping in my painting Russophiles as somber, froward, forboding, brooding and brutal? Unlike the taciturn monk who’s quite content to flog only himself, the Russian must not only flog himself for the insult that’s his miserable existence, but everyone else too in an orgy of castigation, condemnation and flagellation. Russians are not a happy people, and no amount of Happy Meals can change that. Perhaps McDonald’s Russia should call them Sad Meals. It’s more fitting.

    But don’t take my word for it. I’m a liar, remember? We all are and all of this, and that, is a lie. But some lies are better than others; more entertaining and enlightening. So, what better source to turn to for examples of Russian character and culture than the budding Russian cinema. I like deep, dark and bleak movies. Perhaps it’s because some of the blood that runs through my metaphorical veins is of the Polish variety so I have a certain kinship with the Slavic psyche. Slavic equals slaves to suffering. I enjoy a diversity of films across many genres and dark, desolate and bleak is no exception. There’s plenty of that when it comes to Russian cinema. In fact, I’d say Russian cinema does it best. In the past couple of years, I’ve viewed several Russian films that for ordinary Western people are suicide-triggering. Don’t get me wrong, I thought they were excellent movies, but they do leave you with a horrible feeling of emptiness and hopelessness. If you have the nerve to watch the following offerings, schedule a trip to Disney World afterwords to counteract the effects and bring your spirit back to center. These movies don’t shake off easily. They’ll haunt you for days and exploit your psychical vulnerabilities if you’re still emotionally and mentally alive. In the least, if you didn’t like vodka before watching them, you will when you’re finished. Finally, you’ll understand. Here’s several to add to your Netflix queue if you have the patience…and nerve.

    Click the link for the list of movies.

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  4. AaronB says:
    @German_reader

    this total bashing of the Enlightenment and yearning for some supposedly idyllic pre-modern past when everybody believed in God and knew his place is tiresome. I find it hard to see how this can be politically relevant today.

    And yet, your grandchildren, if you have or will have any, will be living in a world far more similar to that than we are, and it is you who are becoming politically irrelevant.

    The age of the Enlightenment is drawing a close, and you are on the wrong side of history, lol.

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  5. @AaronB

    And yet, your grandchildren, if you have or will have any, will be living in a world far more similar to that than we are

    I probably won’t be having any children or grandchildren since I’m poor and physically decrepit, but how do you know that? Do you have a crystal ball where you can see the future? I know there’s all this talk about the “return of religion”, but this is only true insofar as it regards the demographic expansion of fertile and religious global South populations. The established populations everywhere in the developed world actually seem to be getting more secular, that is true even in the US which traditionally was somewhat of an outlier.
    “Wrong side of history”…what nonsense.

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  6. Not Raul says:
    @German_reader

    I found Glucksman’s assertion that Tolstoy completely accepted Enlightenment ideology to be quite odd.

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  7. Sean says:
    @Cold N. Holefield

    If you have the nerve to watch the following offerings, schedule a trip to Disney World afterwords to counteract the effects and bring your spirit back to center.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperreality#Simulacrum
    In his work Simulacra and Simulation, Baudrillard argues the “imaginary world” of Disneyland magnetizes people inside and has been presented as “imaginary” to make people believe that all its surroundings are “real”. But he believes that the Los Angeles area is not real; thus it is hyperreal. Disneyland is a set of apparatuses which tries to bring imagination and fiction to what is called “real”. This concerns the American values and way of life in a sense and “concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.”]

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  8. DFH says:
    @AaronB

    You’ve wasted too much of your life reading pointless mystical crap, lol

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  9. Dmitry says:

    Solzhenitsyn was surely a somewhat talented artist at the gloomy level (I have no read any of his books).

    At the same time, looking for the future paths of development in a depressive, gloomy, difficult non-conformist, artist of the 1960s, with zero experience of real management or governance – it seems like some morbid tasseography.

    If we want figures or oracles to future development in the 21st century, from the 20th century – the practical and wise example of actually successful for their countries reformers exist (and deserve the time for study that could be wasted on some gloomy 1960s artists): e.g. Augusto Pinochet and Lee Kuan Yew

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  10. Dmitry says:
    @German_reader

    won’t be having any children or grandchildren since I’m poor

    It’s no great excuse – I’m pretty sure the poorer someone is, the more kids they usually have.

    The real problem is that you’re probably too educated or intelligent – factors usually inversely correlated with having children, or many childen.

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  11. AaronB says:
    @German_reader

    Yes, I have a crystal ball. Does that shock you with your rationalist preconceptions.

    Europe is sunk in apathy and has lost all motivation. It will either become Muslim or return to some form of Christianity very soon. Getting more secular in the short-term is part of the longer-term trend of collapse. America is close behind Europe.

    Since life on Enlightenment ideals has proven impossible, any society that wholeheartedly adopts them – not merely utilizes technology, for instance, like the Japanese – will not survive.

    I don’t believe in the progress of history, that was tongue in cheek. Like any sensible person, I believe history is cyclical. And the wheel of history is about to turn again.

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  12. Dmitry says:
    @Cold N. Holefield

    There’s nothing particularly unhealthy with Macdonald’s, in moderation. They also generally have quite modern level in things like food hygiene.

    No – the nation is not dying from the existence of a few Macdonald’s. And the government pressure to make them Russian, has resulted in benefits for local farmers and industries.

    Perhaps you can find some other strange thing to put your hopes on.

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  13. AaronB says:
    @Dmitry

    Too educated in the western mold, too intelligent within western culture. I myself found that the more I seriously engage with western culture, especially the Enlightenment part of it and especially as it gets more modern, I become apathetic and lose any sense of purpose. Existence becomes pointless. Turning to pre-Enlightenment works or other cultures does wonders for restoring self-confidence, motivation, and zest for life!

    One is not fated to be a weary, decrepit, childless German reader. A course of reading the works of Bertrand Russell – which I once subjected myself to – is enough to rob any man of zest for life or a sense of purpose. Despite the fact that the man is brilliant, a great stylist, and full of perception. But the cold chill of an empty rationalism – a skepticism that shrinks your vision into an arid patch of desert rather than enlarges it, like Montaigne’s life-giving skepticism does – is a creeping death.

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  14. @Not Raul

    Tolstoy was a YUGE fan of Rousseau, quoted him at length, and translated some minor works by the French philosophes (e.g., Bernardin de St. Pierre); his agrarian utopianism has deep Rousseauist roots. His debt to the Enlightenment may not be immediately apparent, but is generally accepted as fact.

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  15. Dmitry says:
    @AaronB

    For some autobiographical interest, how does your passion for life express itself? How many children do you plan to have?

    Because having children early, I fail to see how it will improve one’s passion for life – but rather an opposite, by ending all kinds of future adventures.

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  16. Brabantian says: • Website

    Follow-up to AK’s earlier piece on ‘The Alt-Right is Dead’

    Tho the site was not so interesting recently, as AK pointed out

    The altright com domain has apparently been seized by GoDaddy and is offline

    The Great Purge continues

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  17. AaronB says:
    @Dmitry

    First of all, what do you mean ending all future adventures. I have seen happy families with young kids hiking the mountain trails of Nepal, having the time of their life. What’s more, children can help adults recapture the sense of adventure and a bright, fresh view of the world. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is a delight. Hiking trips, camping trips, fishing trips, trips to ruins and castles – these are all a pleasure with children. And in general being surrounded by love and companionship is one of the ingredients of the good life.

    That being said, not everyone must have children, and monasticism and celibacy was respected in most traditional cultures. Nor must everyone settle down early – for some, their life path may involve many solo adventures before they settle down, if ever. It is a question of vocation – but surely, a loving family is an ideal, and suitable for most.

    As for myself, I’m in my thirties, and don’t yet have children (that I know of). And I may never. But I recognize it as an ideal. Notice that German reader did not say he has no kids because he has too many adventures yet to live through, but because he’s decrepit and poor – a vision of modern western wearinness, not vitality.

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  18. DFH says:
    @AaronB

    Since life on Enlightenment ideals has proven impossible

    Yet somehow people coped for the last 300 years

    Like any sensible person, I believe history is cyclical

    In other words, sometimes events at one time vaguely resemble events at some previous time (if you squint at them)

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  19. DFH says:
    @Brabantian

    The altright com domain has apparently been seized by GoDaddy and is offline

    If I were Richard Spencer I’d be grateful for the excuse to shut down that awful, awful website gracefully

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  20. AaronB says:
    @DFH

    Yet somehow people coped for the last 300 years

    It’s a progressive disease. People cope fairly well the first few weeks of cancer. One may even experience a burst of activity.

    How well are we coping now, that the disease is in an advanced stage?

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  21. Dmitry says:
    @AaronB

    Theoretically, sure.

    But people I personally know who had kids already or younger – they are usually acting older than their age (even before this happened), and generally seem to have less passion for life or for even leaving their hometown, or their bad income job.

    In my experience, the people who are having kids too young, on average people are, usually either (1) disorganized (losers), or (2) more boring, older seeming personality (people without the same passion for life, and not only in the sense of wanting to stay with a girl which something different).

    Obviously in America, it can be different, as there are statistically significant amounts of religious people who don’t use birth control so for that reason already have a lot of kids in their 20s.

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  22. DFH says:
    @AaronB

    One may even experience a burst of activity.

    Nice, you don’t often get to see unfalsifiability being built into a theory in real time.

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  23. AaronB says:
    @DFH

    The full extent of the calamity takes several generations to manifest. But significant disorders begin appearing immediately – shortly after the Enlightenment, the Romantics were already complaining, and pessimism and anomie became a significant and growing factor in European culture by the 1850s.

    What difference does it make? We know now. Your comment is stupid.

    @German reader – I’m not attacking you personally – I hope you realize that. I find you a highly intelligent and sympathetic commenter. I merely focus on your disease, not you.

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  24. Dmitry says:
    @Dmitry

    Obviously in America, it can be different, as there are statistically significant amounts of religious people who don’t use birth control so for that reason already have a lot of kids in their 20s.

    I mean groups like the Mormon

    Amish

    Haredim – well basically kind of heavily religious lumpenproletariat there, where the kids can look after each other.

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  25. @German_reader

    since I’m poor and physically decrepit

    You’re speaking in jest, I hope (especially with regard to the latter).

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  26. AaronB says:
    @Dmitry

    Dmitry, you’re doing that famous secular Jewish pastime thing where you’re trying to tear down down higher values again. It’s perfectly fine if your vocation is to have many solo adventures before you settle down, or never.

    You’re being like a gay person who’s trying g to impose his lifestyle on society and suggesting it as the standard of health for society as a whole. Be gay, Dmitry, by all means – but stop universalisng your personal predilections. (Analogy)

    It’s a very bad intellectual habit of modern liberalism, this desire to “standardize” ones personal quirks and eccentricties. It’s narcissism. I may choose never to have children – but I’m not so narcissistic as to universalise my personal vocation.

    That said, who cares about the people you know – maybe they’re doing it wrong. Society is very diseased today, maybe today all the cool and best people don’t have children. The fact remains that correctly done, it is a healthy spiritual ideal that need not involve loss of vitality or a sense of adventure, and is an enhancement to life. Not for everyone, but the majority, and many of the best and most vital people.

    Anyways, my point is not primarily about children – and I think my position is adequately nuanced on this, taking full recognizance of the many exceptions. This seems like a sore spot for you. But let’s not get bogged down.

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  27. @AaronB

    I’m not attacking you personally

    No problem, I’m not offended that easily.
    I just don’t get why you believe a return to religion will be a magical solution to Europe’s current predicament. And I actually even agree with some of your points like the importance of community, the desirability of family life as a cultural norm, a rejection of hyper-individualism focused purely on transient pleasure etc.
    But I’ll be honest about my position. I’m primarily a nationalist. The ongoing flooding of Europe with racially and culturally alien foreigners which will turn Europeans into minorities in their own countries sickens me, stopping this is the one, absolutely non-negotiable demand for me, everything else is secondary. And the simple fact just is that the entire Christian establishment in Europe is actively aiding and promoting this process of our demographic displacement, through a universalistic suicide cult supposedly founded on “love”, but actually built on the ostracism of anybody who objects. And I don’t buy the explanations “Oh, they’re understanding the faith wrong”, “Oh, they probably don’t even believe in God and are influenced by those evil secularists!”. No, those obsessive God-mongers do what they do because they really believe that’s what their Lord commands them to do and they don’t care at all about the predictably disastrous consequences of the policies they favour. And there’s enough in Christian scripture to justify their positions.
    Anybody who refuses to grapple with this reality and just claims “godlessness” is the problem is quite simply a mindless reactionary who’s utterly useless to any nationalist or even just any genuinely conservative cause.
    Now maybe the situation in Russia is different. But since Mr Kholmogorov seems to be an explicitly nationalist writer who goes on and on about the plight of Russians as an ethnic group, their shrunken living space etc., I can only wonder about his fusion of religion and nationalism which seems absurdly naive to me given what’s currently going on in the West.

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  28. DFH says:
    @AaronB

    But significant disorders begin appearing immediately – shortly after the Enlightenment, the Romantics were already complaining, and pessimism and anomie became a significant and growing factor in European culture by the 1850s.

    The prevailing attitudes of the English ruling classes in the early to mid 18th century were much more atheistical and similar to those of the Enlightenment (in a strict sense) but they didn’t have a problem with ‘pessimism and anomie’. Their attitudes in the 1850s on the other hand didn’t have much to do with the actual Enlightenment, but much more to do with a revived Christianity, particulalry as propagated in the public schools following Thomas Arnold.

    But who needs this sort of pedantic attention to detail when you have vague mysticism?

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  29. @for-the-record

    No, serious, my personal situation isn’t good. Admittedly I probably made some poor choices in life…but I don’t think those have anything to do with lack of “faith in God” as AaronB would like to claim. My physical health issues certainly don’t.

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  30. Dmitry says:
    @AaronB

    It’s a very bad intellectual habit of modern liberalism, this desire to “standardize” ones personal quirks and eccentricties. It’s narcissism. I may choose never to have children – but I’m not so narcissistic as to universalise my personal vocation.

    The personal quirks and eccentricities seem a little more in your view, though.

    I want to keep in touch simply with real world, and how life actually is.

    Having kids suddenly and too young, generally corresponds either somewhat boring people (who have less dreams of adventure), or disorganized people, and even rebel teenagers.

    That’s just how it is in the town I come from.

    As for having large very numbers of children is mainly only religious groups like in America with the famous Mormon, Amish, Haredim, etc – people who reject birthcontrol and also create their own worlds. I don’t envy those religious sects.

    Dmitry, you’re doing that famous secular Jewish pastime thing where you’re trying to tear down down higher values again. It’s perfectly fine if your vocation is to have many solo adventures before you settle down, or never.

    You’re being like a gay person who’s trying g to impose his lifestyle on society and suggesting it as the standard of health for society as a whole. Be gay, Dmitry, by all means – but stop universalisng your personal predilections. (Analogy)

    The Jews have very large numbers of kids, and will start to have children young.

    And gays are currently petitioning politically to be allowed to have children all the time.

    The higher value with children by the way, is to look after them carefully, and only have the number which matches your economical and personal ability to make them into a civilized people.

    That said, who cares about the people you know – maybe they’re doing it wrong. Society is very diseased today, maybe today all the cool and best people don’t have children.

    I think it’s an idiocracy situation which is how I started the conversation with German Reader.

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  31. Dmitry says:
    @German_reader

    Now maybe the situation in Russia is different. But since Mr Kholmogorov seems to be an explicitly nationalist writer who goes on and on about the plight of Russians as an ethnic group, their shrunken living space etc., I can only wonder about his fusion of religion and nationalism which seems absurdly naive to me given what’s currently going on in the West.

    He’s just interested in a local audience. I don’t think he is so serious about his espoused beliefs though.

    Of course immigration policy is irrelevant to religion. All that has to be done is enforce border control and repatriate undesired immigration. The more boring and practical are arguments presented against the current immigration, will be probably more effective.

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  32. @Dmitry

    Of course immigration policy is irrelevant to religion

    The pope disagrees (and iirc the catechism of the Catholic church even has a section about the “duty” of rich countries to take in immigrants for economic reasons, though pro-immigration restriction Catholics try to explain that away and use it as an argument for their own position), as do most of the establishment Protestants in Europe.

    I don’t think he is so serious about his espoused beliefs though.

    I have to say I find Mr Kholmogorov’s beliefs very incoherent. He doesn’t even seem to be aware of any tension between his nationalism (which seems quite one-sided to me, all he does is constantly go on about how Russians are victims) and his promotion of religion. If one were religious, one might even accuse him of cynical instrumentalisation of faith for idolatrous purposes.

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  33. AaronB says:
    @German_reader

    Well, first of all I would say that if you genuinely believe in the positions you just enumerated than you are already crypto-religious – what I mean is you are not a hard matetialist. Materialism destroys belief in community, nationalism, family – basically, in anything other than individual self-interest.

    Logic cannot provide a basis for these values on a long-term basis – individual self-interest, as I once explained elsewhere, may in some circumstance dictate betraying family, nation, and community, and in other circumstances may dictate supporting them. So materialist logic cannot provide a consistent long-term basis for the values you subscribe to.

    So already these values require a non-rational understanding of “invisible”, non-demonstrable connections between yourself and something larger than you.

    But there are graver issues at hand.

    The main issue is having a way of life that is intrinsically satisfying and worth living, and thus capable of generation enthusiasm and the motivation to sustain it and defend it, both from internal decay and the depredations of outsiders. The things which make life worth living are non-rational, do not yield to logical demonstration, and have a substantial emotional component – beauty, aestheticism, appreciation for nature, poetry, myth, family, love, and most importantly and significantly and which deserves special mention as the underlying basis of everything, a deep sense of connection to others and something larger than yourself – a sense of not being merely an isolated atom, but intimately part of a larger whole that is sacred and numinous.

    An exclusive focus on material reality, and the excessive cultivation of logic and science, leads to the atrophy of our capacity to experience these things which give life it’s savour and significance, and thus to loss, of motivation, enthusiasm, will to life, and will to self-defense.

    As Nietzsche said, the kernel of life without which the nut would be hollow – is “values”, “ideals”.

    When I say religion I contrast it with materialism and logic – a sense of the numinous, the sacred, of the unseen non-demonstrable side of life that nevertheless seems indicated on a deep level by reality itself and without which history has shown we cannot thrive.

    Equally deserving of emphasis is morality, self-sacrifice, and a sense of underlying unity with others. Love. Deny it as you will, this remains one of the major sources of motivation for people and one of then major sources of a sense of meaning and emotional satisfaction. Few people can sustain a high level of motivation and enthusiasm for purely selfish ends, and can only give their all in an endeavour if they feel they are helping others for a larger goal – and the few who can, are narcissists and psycopaths. That is modern America.

    By encouraging individualism, and failing to cultivate a sense of underlying unity, modern culture has deprived many of the best and most vital people of a major source of motivation, leaving the worst elements of society in sole possession of the field.

    Now you are perfectly correct when you say that the major religions have betrayed us all and are massively contributing to the decay – I could not agree with you more. But this does not mean we can dispense with the religious sensibility, or, ultimately, a religion.

    There are no guarantees in life, and life remains an inherently dangerous proposition. We cannot live without risks. And all institutions decay. But just because passion can lead to folly, does not absolve us of the responsibility to wisely guide our passions – Voltaires “surtout, pas de zele” was an attempt to abolish passion because it can be a source of self-destructiveness. But it is also the source of all life.

    We see now that everything is a double edged sword, and we live on a knifes edge.

    Religious institutions today are corrupt and major contributors to decay – but just as we cannot abolish passion, we cannot abolish religion. In both cases we lose the major sources of life.

    So let us lose our childish fantasies of a “safe” life, and live dangerously. No more dreams of a perfect religious institution that will not betray – they all, eventually, will. We should expect that.

    In the meantime, the task is one of renewal and a return to healthy religion, and living as humans always have done, dangerously on a knifes edge, striving for wisdom, free of the Enlightenment dream – nightmare – of “perfect safety”. An inspid dream.

    In brief, the corruption of today’s churches are no reason to discard religion.

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  34. AaronB says:
    @DFH

    It’s not a very difficult concept – the disease advances at different speeds in various limbs of the population, and at any given moment various mixtures of decay and health can be observed.

    Small cancerous spots began appearing shortly after the enlightenment, and gradually spread until today, we are riddled with cancer cells, a putrefying mass of corrupted issue, a walking corpse.

    If it amuses you to point to some healthy limb from the past three hundred years in an effort to deny the disease, by all means amuse yourself on the way to the graveyard.

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  35. AaronB says:
    @Dmitry

    want to keep in touch simply with real world, and how life actually is.

    This is materialist code for – I refuse to see values and ideals.

    “Realism” is code for – I will only see the harsh, negative side of life.

    Maybe the married people in your small town are boring losers – I do not have to tell you, dmitry, since you are clearly educated and we’ll read, that one can adduce any number of historical examples of the most vital, interesting, successful, and adventure l oving people from history who were in fact married with children, and such people are clearly in the majority.

    So how is focusing on your small town more “objective” than looking at the grand sweep of history? Your choice of narrow focus is disngenous, not “realism”.

    Even such a die-hard and incorrigible adventurer as Sir Richard Burton, who went on endless expeditions to remote places and took incredible risks (he’s one of my favorites), had a wife and fathered children!

    Don’t be such a “realist” :)

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  36. @AaronB

    In brief, the corruption of today’s churches are no reason to discard religion.

    There are plenty of other reasons to discard at least the claims to truth of revealed religion (and regarding Christianity, some of those were already made by pagan intellectuals in late antiquity, in striking parallel to what critics of Christianity came up with in the 17th and 18th century). It’s not just an issue of the behavior of churchmen today.

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  37. Dmitry says:
    @AaronB

    Sure – of course, in the end, most people have at least 1 child before they get too old (except perhaps in Singapore and South Korea, where total fertility rates are approaching 1).

    I’m talking about general personality of men who are having children when they are in their early 20s, now in 2018.

    In the 20s mostly every man is healthy, energetic and also economically not in a great situation. So that even if you’re in a good relationship, having children is quite a way to not take advantage of this disrupt life for many, and in many cases reflects the personality of these people (people that don’t leave their hometown and are not exactly role-models for passionate living).

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  38. AaronB says:
    @German_reader

    Religious truths are not assertions about material reality – and before the age of science, were never taken literally in the sense we do today. Don’t founder on that. Many religions – like Buddhism and Zen – connect you to the sacred and numinous precisely by denying the validity of any assertion about reality whatsoever as inadequate.

    The matter can be put thusly – your own great Kant showed that logic applied with absolute consistency, produces contradictions. Therefore our minds cannot give us ultimate truths, but proximate symbols that help us navigate an unknowable reality. So even “literal” truths aren’t truths.

    This applies to science – our formulas work, but we don’t know what the underlying reality is. Religion are symbols that help us navigate an unknowable reality – but are “real” in the a sense that everything that is most significant to us seems indicated by these symbols. My favourite analogy is gray matter – can’t see it, but math doesn’t add up without it.

    The hard and fast distinction between truth and falsehood is a modern idea, and you’re trapped in logic – which has only proximate validity.

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  39. AaronB says:
    @Dmitry

    But historically, in healthy societies, matters stood differently.

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  40. Jayce says:
    @DFH

    I thought it was pretty funny watching as it got worse and worse more of it disappeared behind a paywall. It’s like one of those infomercials you used to see and wonder if there was really someone out there getting out their credit card and actually paying for this junk.

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  41. Dmitry says:
    @German_reader

    I have to say I find Mr Kholmogorov’s beliefs very incoherent. He doesn’t even seem to be aware of any tension between his nationalism (which seems quite one-sided to me, all he does is constantly go on about how Russians are victims) and his promotion of religion. If one were religious, one might even accuse him of cynical instrumentalisation of faith for idolatrous purposes.

    I think you are right. Although this author has had a religious education – sometimes of this Tsargrad TV type of stuff in general, seems posing more for aesthetics, than a genuine ‘godfearing’ people or audience (although it is a surprisingly intellectual channel). But what would you expect in 2018 .

    The pope disagrees (and iirc the catechism of the Catholic church even has a section about the “duty” of rich countries to take in immigrants for economic reasons, though pro-immigration restriction Catholics try to explain that away and use it as an argument for their own position), as do most of the establishment Protestants in Europe.

    Misapplication of private religious views, to practical political questions.

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  42. @AaronB

    Religious truths are not assertions about material reality

    Of course they are, at least in revealed religions like Christianity and Islam. Belief in Christi’s crucifixion and resurrection – events which supposedly really happened at one point in history – are central to Christianity, as are predictions about the future course of history like the coming of the Antichrist, the Last Judgment etc. Same in Islam, Muslims really believe that Mohammed received orders from an angel. These aren’t just metaphors for some eternal truths about human life (like pagan myths), they are about events that supposedly really happened just like that or will happen.

    Many religions – like Buddhism and Zen

    which aren’t revealed religions as far as I know.
    The problem imo is you have some broad category of religion (which supposedly is always good and interchangeable) and don’t distinguish enough between different religious systems.

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  43. @Dmitry

    Tsargrad TV

    Tsargrad TV? What’s that, a television channel about the reconquest of Constantinople?

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  44. AaronB says:
    @German_reader

    So don’t focus on those aspects of religion, if they disturb you.

    Religion is a “way” – a system of life that connects you to the numinous and sacred, to the non-tangible dimension of life, to the divine – they do not stand or fall by any literal assertion.

    Previous generations did not emphasize the literal aspect – just as physics has invaded the humanities, where it’s standards of precision and clarity don’t apply, it has previously invaded religion. But that is a modern corruption.

    Your concept of reality is sharp, well defined, and clear – the result of physics. But the most advanced thinking (Kant) shows that physics concept of a well defined reality is itself an illusion. Popular culture merely has not caught up. We need to cultivate more subtle modes of thought – and realize our minds give us proximate symbols, not truth. Loosen the tight grip of your belief in hard logic and hard facts – they are an unecessary straightjacket with no support from the most advanced science or philosophy, and only a proximate truth, useful for technology, and it cuts you off from the divine. Cultivate intuition.

    Christianity is true in a “deep” sense that cannot be fully explained, as a “way”, and I would have a deeply religious experience in a church ceremony even if I did not believe every literal assertion.

    And for literal minds who need literal assertions, let them have them. They are supports not to be despised.

    And there is always eastern religion – they ate quite as capable of delivering you from the aridity of modern life.

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  45. AaronB says:
    @German_reader

    Better men and more inspired men than I need to make these distinctions, and for the moment each individual must choose for himself.

    The times are bad.

    The limit of my understanding is the reality and vital necessity of religion.

    It is not perfect, but it is the first step towards health.

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  46. @AaronB

    Previous generations did not emphasize the literal aspect – just as physics has invaded the humanities, where it’s standards of precision and clarity don’t apply, it has previously invaded religion. But that is a modern corruption.

    Not true at all, Christians in antiquity adduced various prophecies in scripture which had supposedly come true as proof for the truth of their beliefs.

    And for literal minds who need literal assertions, let them have them.

    Sure, what could possibly go wrong with religious zealots who believe in the literal truth of their scriptures…

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  47. AaronB says:
    @German_reader

    Sure, what could possibly go wrong with religious zealots who believe in the literal truth of their scriptures…

    And yet as we now see, we cannot avoid danger by eliminating these things from our life either, as the enlightenment project tried to do. That results in loss of enthusiasm for life, and a loss of will to defend ourselves from foreign depredations – heck even a loss of a sense of beauty and community.

    I don’t deny that it’s dangerous. But life is dangerous. There is no way out. Trying to escape danger has landed us in danger.

    We must do our best, and maybe well be destroyed by apathy or maybe by zealotry. The last few hundred years have shown we cannot escape the burden of striving for wisdom. Perhaps that’s it’s lesson.

    Even so, it is possible to have faith in such a manner that these literal questions are not paramount, and that has historically been achieved at times, and as the “strong” notion of a “hard” reality recedes with the growing collapse of science, it grows more likely.

    But of that is your concern, eastern religions are quite as good.

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  48. AaronB says:

    And in the end perhaps western religions are flawed with their concern with literal assertions. Perhaps you are right.

    It does not follow we can dispense with a connection to the sacred and the numinous, with morality and the supernatural, with ideals and values, with the intangible side of life.

    That is the firat step back to health. In that sense religion is necessary. What comes after that I do not know. You make many good points.

    But a first step is needed.

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  49. @German_reader

    A conservative Russian TV channel founded by Konstantin Malofeyev. Presumably they chose the name as part of a larger Russian Third Rome theme. I like the fact that they are showing some ambition.

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  50. utu says:
    @Dmitry

    Solzhenitsyn was surely a somewhat talented artist at the gloomy level (I have no read any of his books).

    I strongly recommend reading him. He is not gloomy. Quite the opposite. Most importantly he gives you faith in humanity. Try ‘Cancer Ward’ and ‘In the First Circle’ and short stories. They are good to read when you are down. They had similar effect on me as the ‘War and Peace’ when I read it last time during a serious sickness. They might be not ‘true’ just as Tolstoy might be no ‘true’ but they give you hope and teach to appreciate life and people if you are not completely lost to jadedness. His historical novels like ‘Lenin in Zurich’ or ‘August 1914′ are something else but I also liked them.

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  51. @German_reader

    I probably won’t be having any children or grandchildren

    QED. The future belongs to those who bother to show up. (And they won’t be secular humanists.)

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  52. @Sean

    Disneyland is literally (literally!) fake and gay.

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  53. @Dmitry

    In my experience, the people who are having kids too young, on average people are, usually either (1) disorganized (losers), or (2) more boring, older seeming personality (people without the same passion for life, and not only in the sense of wanting to stay with a girl which something different).

    Here’s a mindblowing factoid: even winners with brilliant personalities will eventually die in 70+-15 years, just like boring losers.

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  54. Mitleser says:
    @anonymous coward

    Not even that is certain.

    Meanwhile, in Spain’s Aragon region, people are protesting against depopulation and the closure of public services in the province of Teruel.

    With a population density of 9, people who have 1.35 children on average want the government to somehow keep the same level of public services and to prevent depopulation. This absurd idea that a few roads, train stations and clinics stop depopulation is deeply rooted in Spain it seems.

    http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showpost.php?p=148091687&postcount=6271

    They showed up, but that is not going to solve their problem.

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  55. @German_reader

    Sorry to hear about your situation, and I fully share your aggravation at the attitude of “saints” like AaronB (who is eagerly awaiting my departure from this world so that the world can move to a more enlightened state characterized by those of his exalted consciousness).

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  56. @Mitleser

    They showed up, but that is not going to solve their problem.

    Who did? Their children certainly didn’t, seeing as their parent opted out of their very existence.

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  57. @AaronB

    The age of the Enlightenment is drawing a close

    This is empirically true. The World Hegemon, the USA, is based on Enlightenment principles-Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness et al, however debased and disregarded these principles have become in practice. It is being replaced by China, which despite the merest of lip service to Marx, is very definitely not based on Enlightenment principles.

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  58. @German_reader

    I can only wonder about his fusion of religion and nationalism which seems absurdly naive to me given what’s currently going on in the West.

    What is going on in the West? Here’s a little clue.

    https://www.christianpost.com/news/liberal-church-of-sweden-lose-1-million-members-selling-property-217971/

    All over the West, Christians are leaving the Established churches, bedevilled by political correctness. Many are joining independent, socially and politically conservative churches. Looking out of my window of my house, I can see 2 of these churches.
    The mainstream political parties in Western Europe have cucked over open borders, 3rd World immigration et al in the last 40 0dd years. Many voters have defected to dissident nationalist parties as a result.
    An analogous process can now be seen with regard to religion.

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  59. Mitleser says:
    @Verymuchalive

    I am skeptical that there are that many Waldemar Herdts.

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  60. @Verymuchalive

    Hence the growing popularity of Orthodoxy (especially Russian, because duh) in Western conservative/far-/alt-right circles, seen as “uncucked”, “based”, or even “the last Church of the White Man”.

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  61. 5371 says:
    @Not Raul

    Equally bizarre to say that about Hugo. Zola could be associated with a generic “enlightenment” ideology, but certainly not the other two. From a modern perspective, Rousseau is at least as much an anti-enlightenment as an enlightenment thinker.

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  62. @AaronB

    one can adduce any number of historical examples of the most vital, interesting, successful, and adventure loving people from history who were in fact married with children, and such people are clearly in the majority.

    Those who could afford any adventure, also didn’t have to raise their children themselves. Jilly Cooper wrote in 1978 (so the granny generation had had their kids in the 1950s):

    Upper-middle-class grannies invariably had nannies to bring up their own children and cannot understand why their grandchildren should be so exhausting, or so much more badly behaved than their own children were. They forget that they only saw them when they were presented, newly washed, for an hour after tea.

    E. M. Delafield in 1932, about her daughter’s governess:

    …Mademoiselle does not appear at lunch, and both children behave extraordinarily badly.

    (Mem.: A mother’s influence, if any, almost always entirely disastrous. Children invariably far worse under maternal supervision than any other.)

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  63. AaronB says:
    @for-the-record

    You are so self-important. All you can focus on is that I dared to insult your generation. Instead of prompting introspection, your precious pride is all that matters. But you don’t matter – I don’t matter – your generation doesn’t matter. There are larger issues than either of us at stake here. I am harsher towards my failings than I am to yours.

    You would do well to emulate German reader, who is a class act. Despite my admittedly intemperate attacks on him, he doesn’t take it personally and tries to genuinely engage with the issues, which he realizes are larger than either of us.

    It is a sign of the times that raising the issue of morality elicits sarcastic comments about me being a “saint”. We have grown so cynical.

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  64. Anon[198] • Disclaimer says:
    @German_reader

    striking parallel

    It’s not a particularly striking parallel, because 18th century philosophes, while generally no great shakes as scholars, were at least familiar with the more easily accessible writers of antiquity. The arguments for and against Christianity or even religion in general are fairly obvious, it’s really just a matter of selecting which one favours. Very few people approach the question rationally at all, certainly not either late Romans or philosophes.

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  65. Dmitry says:
    @utu

    Well thanks for the recommendations.

    Yes I should read somethings by him – maybe one of the smaller stories like Matryonin dvor?

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  66. Anon[198] • Disclaimer says:
    @AaronB

    You are so self-important.

    Well, I don’t know– breaking into someone else’s conversation with that takes what one might call chutzpah.

    And yes, I’m aware of the joke.

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  67. Dmitry says:
    @anonymous coward

    Yes sure, we’ll all die soon. So I’m not sure being awoken at 5am (I often wake at 5am, but by my own choice), to change diapers while in an old apartment bloc in your hometown, etc, before going to work to make money to spend on diapers (instead of – at least – coffees, air tickets and nice sneakers), is a great blessing for one’s youth.

    For some people – sure. If you have a certain kind of stoical personality.

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  68. Dmitry says:
    @Toronto Russian

    Those who could afford any adventure, also didn’t have to raise their children themselves.

    It’s the ideal combination.

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  69. Anon[198] • Disclaimer says:
    @anonymous coward

    losers

    Not losers, just playing a different game.

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  70. AaronB says:

    German reader, I’ve been thinking about your point.

    You’re right, literal beliefs are essential to religion. One must literally believe in God, the supernatural, the underlying connections between things (love), the sense of being a part of something larger. These are all clear cut beliefs. I was too wishy washy, and religion does involve clear cut, definite, precise beliefs – while retaining an element of mystery. But lack of clear beliefs vitiates ones motivation.

    However, one need not believe every last historical claim of any given established church, or every claim for a miracle, or even most of them. One may believe the core minimum – while thinking that a particular religion provides the best path to the divine. But definite beliefs are surely involved.

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  71. AaronB says:
    @Anon

    But I do it on behalf of a higher power, not to defend my petty little ego.

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  72. Anon[198] • Disclaimer says:
    @AaronB

    So how is focusing on your small town more “objective” than looking at the grand sweep of history?

    Your small town actually exists.

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  73. AaronB says:
    @Dmitry

    Surely it depends on one’s intellectual framework.

    Material things like coffee and nice sneakers, are surely less satisfying than a sense of being part of something larger than yourself, a community that spans generations, creating a loving family – not to mention the pleasures that come when your kids are older and you can go camping with them.

    My god, you are such a materialist :) Sneakers, and coffee…I weep for you. And the aversion to any self-sacrifice – the decline of the West in a nutshell.

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  74. DFH says:
    @AaronB

    So how is focusing on your small town more “objective” than looking at the grand sweep of history? Your choice of narrow focus is disngenous, not “realism”.

    As your other comments show, you’re not interested in actual history, but just your mystical interpretation of them

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  75. @Anon

    It’s not a particularly striking parallel

    From my admittedly limited reading it is, because some of those authors like Celsus or Porphyry weren’t that commonly read in the early modern era and/or their writings had only survived in fragments, so those parallels are striking because at least in some cases Enlightenment thinkers independently arrived at similar conclusions.
    There’s a good (at least imo) book about this in German: Winfried Schröder, Athen und Jerusalem. Die philosophische Kritik am Christentum in Spätantike und Neuzeit (2011).
    Maybe you might be interested in looking that up, it can make the arguments (which you may of course regard as irrational) much better than I ever could.

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  76. @AaronB

    You are so self-important. All you can focus on is that I dared to insult your generation . . . You would do well to emulate German reader, who is a class act. Despite my admittedly intemperate attacks on him, he doesn’t take it personally and tries to genuinely engage with the issues, which he realizes are larger than either of us.

    You’re right, German Reader is a class act. I’m not, so f*** off. You don’t know me, I’m not self-important at all (certainly no more than the average person), I simply called you out for a stupid, gratuitous comment.

    By what right do you arrogate to yourself the right to tell someone 30 years older than you that your enlightened comments should promote introspection on their part? And how can you talk about morality as if you represent it because you are “religious” and I am not?

    Because you are mystical and religious or whatever, you apparently think you have learned more about life than I have. Good luck with that.

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  77. Dmitry says:
    @AaronB

    My god, you are such a materialist :) Sneakers, and coffee…I weep for you. And the aversion to any self-sacrifice – the decline of the West in a nutshell.

    It reminds me of an experience of a couple years ago,

    I was walking on my own, and this guy starts talking to me, begging for money from me in the street (‘I need to buy a train ticket, etc’ ).

    So I say to him ‘I’m a poor fellow just like yourself, why are you bothering me?’.

    And he’s like ‘no you’re not, look at your sneakers.’.

    So all materialism aside, be careful in what shitholes you are walking with the ten thousand ruble nikes.

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  78. Dmitry says:
    @for-the-record

    Lol AaronB is being rude to get a negative reaction again from people. In this topic though, I think he was being more constructive in the discussion.

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  79. AaronB says:
    @for-the-record

    You seem very caught up in the personal here. I am more interested in the ideas.

    I advocate for certain ideas, which I find lacking in people your age. No need to take it personally.

    This isn’t an ego fight. But you are an American, and half-Jewish – so of course for you if can’t be anything other than an ego fight.

    Europeans, by being less defensive and consumed by ego, are actually in a more hopeful position than Americans, all appearances to the contrary.

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  80. AaronB says:
    @Dmitry

    So, your obsession with sneakers is putting you in danger, and creating unpleasant encounters for you.

    The universe is telling you it’s time to abandon sneakers for children , dmitry.

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  81. @AaronB

    But you are an American, and half-Jewish – so of course for you if can’t be anything other than an ego fight.

    lol, aren’t you of pretty much the same background (and unlike for-the-record I assume that you haven’t lived outside of the US for decades)? Rather strange argument!
    Anyway, instead of attacking others for their personal background, you might think about what kind of religion exactly you want people to adopt…the vague mysticism you’ve shown so far isn’t sufficient.

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  82. Anon[198] • Disclaimer says:
    @German_reader

    Porphyry

    Sure about that?

    German

    Sorry, I don’t read German. I do find this sort of thing interesting though, like this blog, not always the best use of my time.

    I found one of Schroeder’s articles in English (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17496977.2018.1402437) which I might read at some point in the future, so thanks for the name.

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  83. @Anon

    Sure about that?

    No, not really, I can’t claim to know how familiar Voltaire was with Porphyry’s thought.
    That article you found sounds like a continuation or elaboration of the part in Schröder’s book about miracles, so it will probably show you at least a small part of the argument.

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  84. DFH says:
    @German_reader

    Even Blake had access to Porphyry’s Cave of the Nymphs in English translation by the end of the 18th century

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  85. AaronB says:
    @German_reader

    I am exactly the same background – but in fact I have lived overseas for most of my life since 22, with periods in America, which is why I can see the West from the outside.

    People have to decide for themselves what religion to adopt. I am most inspired by the kind of taoist/Buddhist synthesis that existed in East Asia, but I would not foist it on others.

    I merely wish to introduce people to the core elements of religion, and explain why everything that gives life meaning depends on it, and why our current collapse and apathy is caused by lack of it.

    That his enough for one man.

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  86. @DFH

    Yes, but iirc the argument is more about Porphyry’s anti-Christian writings which only survived in a few scattered fragments and weren’t that well-known in the 18th century (though some editions of them were available). I definitely can’t claim to have any deep knowledge about those issues though.

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  87. @Dmitry

    You are usually a reasonable fellow, but this is one of the few times I am truly aghast at your pronouncements.

    10,000 ruble nikes….. Why??

    Good summer sandals – no more than 1,500 rubles (at most). Good winter boots – no more than 6,000 rubles (at most).

    They also look horrific from an aesthetic viewpoint.

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  88. utu says:

    Thank you for making this article available. Finally I had time to read it. I did not know the text of Solzhenitsyn’s1973 letter. Very interesting and I approve.

    The North-East is larger than its name and deeper than its geography. The North-East would mean that Russia has eagerly taken the route of SELF-RESTRAINT, a choice of depth and not surface, an inward, not an outward choice. It would mean directing all of the citizens’ development – national, social, educational, family, and personal – toward an internal, not external prosperity.

    No 10,000 ruble sneakers for Dimitry, though.

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  89. Not Raul says:
    @Darth Pepe

    That may have been true of Tolstoy when he was young; but he grew out of it in middle age.

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  90. utu says:
    @Not Raul

    Nothing wrong with being influenced by Rousseau. It all depend what you are going to take form him.

    http://discussiontable.org/tolstoy-and-rousseau/
    As a young man, Tolstoy was so devoted to Rousseau that he wore a medallion around his neck with Rousseau’s portrait on it. Tolstoy wrote much later that reading Rousseau’s Confessions and Emile had an “immense influence” over him.

    As thinkers, both were deeply interested in philosophical issues, but neither really brought a philosophical approach to the matters they were so passionate about. Instead of arriving at their views through reason and deduction, they seem to have found their beliefs more by intuition. Indeed, both had an active distrust of reason. Both seemed to think that the force of of their heart would bring them to the truth far more reliably than mere reason.

    Both could be megalomaniacal in their dealings with others. Both usually fancied that they lived according to a higher moral sensibility than nearly the rest of humanity. (And therefore each would frequently be tormented by feelings of shame and moral failure when they allowed themselves to consider their sins.) Both were essentially loners, strangely at odds with the world. Yet the delusions of grandeur that each held propelled them to accomplishments far beyond those of nearly all more ordinary men.

    What medallion AK wears around his neck? Ayn Rand? Robert Heinlein?

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  91. @AaronB

    It occurred to me, reading him, that he has no awareness of himself as part of a community at all. Its amusing in how it is argued to be “rationalistic” but in fact almost completely untrue(akin to the illusion of free will).

    I suppose the positive aspect of it, one can hope, is that such attitudes are self-terminating.

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  92. Dmitry says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    I have plenty of community with my family, my language, my culture, and even my hometown people – especially feeling more now when I am living away from home.

    Not sure that people that mix up Chinese and English names, or AaronB – who told me already that he dislikes his country – are so aware that these kind of accusations, are usually projections of their own emotions.

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  93. @Dmitry

    As your reasoning originates on an initial error(that there is in fact, such a thing as an individual as some sort of authentic being), everything building on it is further an error.

    Obviously this is not my real name. My actual name is a pretty extensive and complex relationship of parental wishes, historical surname(and familial position), and poetic alliteration/imagery like a lot of Chinese names.

    But not being doxxed is quite nice.

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  94. Tulip says:

    Thank you for translating/publishing this piece.

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