The Collapse of Communism and Capitalism, Part 2
The Collapse of Communism and Capitalism, Part 2
Someone from a Baptist Church in Kansas sent me a nasty, Muslim-hating mass mailing in reaction to my last column. It goes to show that people can proclaim a belief in God and still be godless, which has nothing to do with belief (or deity for that matter).
I’m reminded of a remark made by a man in Gorbachev’s inner circle to his counterpart in the Bush Senior Administration in the late ‘80’s: “We are going to do the worst thing to you; we are going to deprive you of an enemy.”
That statement demonstrated an uncanny understanding of Americans. Unfortunately, it was neither heard nor understood here. The transition from communism as the great evil and enemy, to Islamic fundamentalism as the great evil and enemy, has been so seamless that one can hardly blame the conspiracy buffs for believing that 9.11 had to have been carried out by the US government.
Conspiracy theories have had so much traction because the mass murderers who flew the planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field perfectly filled a vacuum in the American psyche.
And because few people understand and distinguish between the physical and metaphysical dimensions in human consciousness, there is fertile ground for conspiracy theories on both sides of the spectrum.
Still riding the worthless wave of American exceptionalism and triumphalism when Bush Junior ineluctably came to power, the United States desperately needed an enemy, one that would allow us to remain on permanent war footing, without actually having to go to war or conscript young Americans.
But isn’t Islamic terrorism an existential threat? Global terrorism is very real, but it’s only a threat to world civilization if governments continue to react and exploit it for policy and propaganda purposes.
Economically, a strategic policy decision was made during the transition from the Bush Senior Administration to the first Clinton Administration to go global with markets, rather than bilateral with Russia. That, history will judge, was a mistake of monumental proportions.
After I went to Russia at the beginning of ’90, I exchanged letters with the incoming Secretary of Labor in the first Clinton Administration, Robert Reich. In response to my passionate proposal that they focus on building a market in the former Soviet Union, with an emphasis on US manufacturing, he said they were going to take a multilateral market approach. We (not just America but the entire world) are reaping the bitter harvest from that decision after the baseless boom that ensued in the ‘90’s until 2008.
Barack Obama is still making the same essential mistake, not with respect to Russia (it’s way too late for bilateralism now), but because he hasn’t broken with the Clinton mindset about America’s place in the world, much less with Bush’s economic and political policies.
I never saw my trip to the Soviet Union in January of 1990 as essentially economic or political, though they were the ostensible reasons. But I was surprised nonetheless when one morning the wife of my host, and my female interpreter, announced, “we want to take you somewhere.”
After a long drive from Moscow, we came to a small city where thousands of people were converging. Many looked like they had just stepped out of feudal times.
“Today we celebrate 1000 years of Christianity in Russia,” I was told upon entering the geographical and religious center of the Russian Orthodox Church. Jesus, I thought. Though I’d seen the whole endeavor as basically a spiritual and philosophical experiment, that day confirmed that larger forces were indeed at work. Some of those forces, I was to learn later, were the antithesis of the brightness and beauty of that day.
The following week my interpreter and I were walking up to street level from Moscow’s stupendous subways after a meeting, when she spotted an old woman with a begging cup. A lifelong Muscovite and former head of the under-40 communist party organization, Alla shocked me when she said, “that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.”
A chill ran down my spine. I replied that if the reason I’m here fails to materialize, you’ll see more of it than you can imagine exists on earth.
I’ve always felt like an exile in my own country. I connected with Russians so well in ’90 because many, if not most of them, felt the same way. Now I know that many of my countrymen also feel that way, though they deny and hide it.
Lately a long conversation I had with Gandhi’s grandson, who’s also a philosopher and was teaching in San Francisco around this time, has come to mind.
We explored the relationship between adversity and spiritual growth. Not personally, but in terms of peoples and the whole of humanity. The insight we had—that human beings need psychological adversity to grow, now that the physical world has largely been ‘conquered’—doesn’t provide an answer, but perhaps it provides an intimation.
At the end of the conversation, he said, “don’t tell too many people.” I understand why he said that, but it no longer holds true, if it ever did.
What will the global revolution look like? When, in a sufficient number of people, the identification with particular groups—nations, religions, ethnicities, gender, etc.— gives way to the realization of shared humanity, the cliché “all politics are local” will be turned on its head.
In reality, all politics are now global. Like it or not, we are no longer creatures of place, but of the entire earth.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.