Leap aboard the Lyttenburgh Omnibus; what follows is a looonnngg guest post by Lyttenburgh, one which is going to be like the blind men who are trying to describe an elephant. “An elephant is like a rope”, says the one who is holding the trunk. “An elephant is more like a tree” says the one standing at the foreleg. “An elephant is warm and squishy”, says the one standing….well, never mind that for now. I suspect it is going to be about different things for different readers, but I believe I can promise it will make you think. We are all aware that English is Lyttenburgh’s second language, and he has a unique – though accomplished – delivery which I have not edited (much) so as to preserve its colourful flavour. Without further ado, light it up, Lyttenburgh!
On the current problems of Shamanism of the Global North.
“Let’s decide already,” the PhD began seriously, “what we’re talking about.
Okay. The second question: how do you personally feel about the problem of shamanism in certain areas of the North?
The PhDs laughed. Gleb Kapustin also smiled. And patiently waited for the PhDs to finish laughing.
“No, you can, of course, pretend that there is no such problem. I’m happy to laugh with you, too… ” Gleb smiled generously again. Especially he smiled at the PhDs wife, also a PhD, a PhDess, so to speak. “But from that, the problem as such will not cease to exist. Right?”
” Are you serious about all of this?” asked Valya.
“With your permission, ” Gleb Kapustin rose and bowed slightly to the PhDess. She blushed. “The question, of course, is not a global one, but, from our point of view, it would be interesting to know.”
“But which question? ” exclaimed the PhD.
“Your attitude to the problem of shamanism. ” Valya again involuntarily laughed. But she quickly stopped and said to Gleb, “Excuse me, please.”
“It’s nothing”, said Gleb. ” I understand that maybe I did not ask a question within your specialty…”
“There is no such problem!” the PhD again rushed with a categorical answer. That was his mistake. He should’ve known better. Now Gleb laughed. And said:
“Well, that solves it!”
The local folks looked at the PhD.
“Good riddance”, Gleb said. “There is no problem, but these …” Gleb showed something intricate with his hands, “they dance, they beat their tambourines… Yes?” But if you wish… ” Gleb repeated ” If-You-Wish they do not exist. Right?”
Paging through old blogposts of the fallen Russia-watcher, I’ve been always thinking about Russia and the fates (c). “How come?” and “Why?” are the questions I most often ask myself – facepalming all the way.
For my more than 6 years of Russia-Watching (as, if you will, an “insider” from Russia’s side) I saw a… process… so to speak… of this field both changing and staying the same. i.e. I saw a general trend of it getting worse and worse. No, seriously – the book of Ecclesiastes makes more fun reading, and leaves a much more positive lasting impression afterwards, than any attempt to delve deep into the Wonderland, which is the collective world of those who, correctly or not, are considered to be gurus of Russia Watching.
If you’d like a (probably completely inaccurate, but very colorful) comparison, then the modern and much lauded Global Village of the highly opinionated people is a village indeed. They have at their fingertips the highest amount of data ever accessible to humanity and who either don’t access it at all, or access it without thinking, replacing with this raw, undiluted knowledge without the understanding.
But don’t worry – the globalized world of all-knowing know-nothings is not really a Village! It’s a Cave. Populated by the primitive cavemen. Yup.
Primitive early humans had their own primitive, early worldview. One of the many things they did believe in was the Magic. Before going out and try to hunt a savage beast that could easily defeat and devour one of them, they took all possible precautions. Besides arming themselves with spears they will surely go and visit their local Guru, Shaman, a Wise Person, reputedly all-knowing about the unsafe world beyond and above. Here in Guru’s personal Cave (who, despite not engaging oneself in the daily chores of the Tribe, was always well-fed and taken care of no matter what) they underwent the Ritual, which was, they were assured, to make them successful in their hunt and helping them slay the Beast. After working themselves up into rage, the hunters will then participate in the piece de resistance of the ritual – they will come to one particular wall in the Shaman’s cave where the dreaded Beast is pictured and start hurling their spears at it, imaging that this flat surface with some pigment on it is something more, that it IS the Beast itself, and that they with their sticks do magic – that they are harming the Beast even without engaging it.
Our continuing existence today demonstrates that the Hunters of yore were, mostly, successful in their beast-slaying food-procuring expeditions. The same cannot be said about modern Us. It’s because of the progress, and the urgent need for one. Primitive Hunters were not content to stay Primitive – they had all the incentives to see their “Spears”, to be something more than Pointy Sticks, they fought the Beast, survived the encounters, gained invaluable experience and passed it on to other hunters. Moreover, they took a logical jump from “engaging your enemy from afar” on the example of spear-throwing sessions during the Ur-example of the future “5 Minutes of Hate” at the cave painting of the Beast, and they DID invent something to make it a reality. Because more often than not Shaman’s magic sucked. Still, the sly wily bugger got his share of the kill and was taken care of.
Nowadays, wherever you cast your gaze you find instead our modern-age Cavemen engaged in fighting their Beast of choice in its harmless, painting-on-the-wall incarnation, and calling that process a real fight – while abstaining from the real, physical, up close thing completely. This arrangement is to the mutual enjoyment of both the highly opinionated Hunters/Warriors for such and such cause, who simply MUST have their very valuable opinion (and we are told that ALL opinions are valuable, even the wrong ones, and that trying to suppress the factually incorrect opinions is a despicable Censorship punishable with the Civilian Death) while avoiding making any effort over themselves and to the modern day. And Wise People/Gurus can still live in comfort while basically doing nothing, compared to their less wily and sly Cavemen.
“There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.”
– Deuteronomy 18:10-11
Magic(k) operates on one basic principle – it works with the Symbol (image, representation, effigy, etc.) of the Target with the aim to influence it – like throwing Pointy Sticks at the painted Beast. Or the Symbol of an Action is enacted, to bring forward said action in reality – like beating in the drums, calling forth the rain. i.e., if the event “A” is followed by the event “B”, then in order to cause the event “B” you must symbolically recreate the event “A”.
These truly venerable principles are alive and well to this day. Symbolic dumping of “Russian” (actually – Latvian) vodka by the proponents of the Universal and LGBTIQ+ rights serves the ritual denunciation of the “widely condemned” ™ Russian law about “gay propaganda”. Changing your social media userpic to #JeSuis[something currently trending] serves to show solidarity and (magic(k)al) reversion of the aftermath of this or that tragedy. Ritualistic demolition of yet another statue to Lenin in now Free and Independent Ukraine ™ serves as the Symbolical (i.e. – magic(k)al!) act of severing all ties with the past, while summoning the Bright European Future. Also, the now toppled bronze Ilyich could always be sold to the scrapyard dealers .
It might all look funny, clumsy or even sickly adorable – on the outside. Unfortunately, the laws of the magic(k) are implacable and are not the stuff of the jokes. In the end, the most powerful medium and symbol to conduct it is the Blood. Seeing that beating the drums failed to summon the rain, Shamans and Gurus of the world (and blindingly trusting them ordinary population) won’t take the cue that, you know folks – magic doesn’t work, so you better start working hard if you want to survive. No – they will resort to the plan “B”, where “B” stands for “Blood”. They always do. When all the whining and highly publicized coverage by the Free and Independent Media of this or that “peaceful protest” fail to result in the desired magic(k)al effect – a Sacred Victim is bound to be sacrificed. If your country 3 years after the glorious Peremoga of the Revolution of Dignity looks worse than under the Zlochinna Tyranny – you find the scapegoats, lots of them, and sic the crowd (and the TerrBats of the NatzGuard) on them. And when you lose elections to a Deplorable – use your magic(k) to start a Witch Hunt.
Nowhere is this Shamanistic, magical approach more apparent than in the sphere of Russia-Watching, Russian analysis and, the so-called “Putinology” (a personified “Kremlinology” v. 2.0.). The sad thing is – people, so-called professionals, “respected scholars” with a lengthy shop-list of awards and recognitions, published in all handshakable mainstream Free and Independent Western Media ™ – virtually all of them SUCK. And when they suck – it blows. Nevertheless, the wide desperate and ignorant cavemen masses of the so-called “thinking” people keep coming to them, not hindered by the fact that the faces of their Holy Gurus are always smeared by crap they eat regularly.
One of such lauded, respectable and nearly worshipped by both the ignorant masses and the political class of the Western establishment (which is also none the wiser about Russia than the people they rule over) is Mark Galeotti, owner and proprietor of the “In Moscow’s Shadows” blog full of self-aggrandizement and Russophobia du jour.
Actually, it doesn’t matter who in particular we gonna discuss as the example of the present day horrifically degraded level of the Russia-Watching professional (read: paid) or not. They’re all more or less the same. Modern Gurus fulfill several important functions to their easily panic-stricken passive-aggressive and tad bit butthurt flock. First of all, there is a task of Explaining the World. It’s done in the typical Shamanistic way, i.e. with as little scientific support as possible, while committing an absolute maximum of false cause and effect equivalences. Why the rain pours and the lightning flashes in the sky? Why, because the Sky Spirits are unhappy with us! Is it true that Putin is trying to re-create Russian Empire/USSR? Why, of course – otherwise why would he order the return of the old Soviet anthem and embrace the pre-Revolutionary paraphernalia? This type of “analysis”.
This magical worldview operates on providing the Masses with 2 essential thing. First – the Poison. People are told that the world is ultimately Unknowable by them (emphasis here – on “them”). This serves, primarily, as a venue to scare these poor “them” (because, what’s bigger than the fear of Unknown?), while, simultaneously putting them at a resigned ease of a wounded animal, who found itself sucked into the swamp. People in the West don’t really know a thing beyond the obvious stereotypes about Russia – now you ensure that it stays the same, by claiming that any knowledge they access pertaining to the real picture of Russia and which is not vetted and approved by the Shamans is a false one. Thus, not only the minds of the people are poisoned – entire wellsprings of knowledge are poisoned as well, along with the desire to independently go forth and get the world around you known.
Pre-existing fears are worked with, i.e. they are pandered to and exaggerated. Everyone now in the West knows about “Russian Aggression in the Baltics” ™. It doesn’t matter that any given American can hardly point out where Estonia is, or who knows a thing or two about Lithuanian medieval history, but your average member of the Flock knows like a Gospel (now fallen out of use, ‘cause, you have to actually read it) that
The Russians shall not have Constantinople Vlad Putin must be stopped from invading Europe. The best way to conduct that is to be super aggressive towards Russia. Pathetic dangerous weaklings “understand only the language of force” (c) and “the negotiation from the position of strength” (c) are the must. The West is bound to Win! After all, “We’ve fought the Bear before”!
See? Our Shamans prove themselves the Medicine Men! After delivering poison, they are right here peddling their Cure, while ensuring that they will remain the monopolists on the market and that no one will denounce their snake-oil wonder drug as a fraud. In this, they are no different from drug pushers indeed – they get the people “hooked” on their expensive poison, and then use the same poison to “cure” them from their developed craving addiction… for a time.
They are a class of parasites (both in the biological and the Ancient Roman sense). And they are here to stay and feed.
________________________________________________________________I.47. If a man or a woman practice sorcery, and they be caught with it in their hands, they shall prosecute them, they shall convict them. The practicer of magic they shall put to death.
– Assyrian Law, c. 1075 BC.
Magic(k) is awe-inspiring to the people ignorant of its inner workings. When your computer suffers some trouble, glitch or problem – as they often do – you, for the most part, go to techno-shamans of the Technical Service, who, by means arcane and profane (the last thing is obligatory) try to cajole the Machine Spirit to perform the task properly. Awed by their shiny instruments, mysterious slang and ease with which they make the impossible (for us, mere mortals) become a reality, an adoration replaces all other thoughts in the brain. So we are willing to follow their advice, to do as they say in fear of, accidentally, incurring the displeasure of the Machine Spirit again, and don’t try to do anything ourselves.
At the same time we are willing to pay any price they charge, to acquire any bell and whistle they claim would be working as a magic(k) talisman and ward for our temperamental Machine Spirit, and, most of all, we are left beholden to them. After all – you’ve just witnessed a work of magic(k), something impossible (for you) made possible (by them). How can you question this authority?
The tragic fact of human life is that we can’t know everything. None of us has the time, or inclination, or the capacity to become an all rounded specialist in all possible fields. So we will have to delegate our trust to often complete strangers, who are specialists in their respected field and that other people will trust us in return, when they will be in need of our skills and knowledge. Ideally, such a system is easy to maintain. If you do deliver a net positive, satisfactory or even above the average result as a specialist there is a good chance that the people around you will keep regarding you as the worthy depository of their trust. If you repeatedly fail to do that due to any combination of factors, the trust in you will disappear sooner than the unlucky caveman hunter’s body parts into a bestial maw.
But we don’t live in the ideal world – and yet strive to perfect the world currently existing, as to make it more resembling said ideal. Rightfully not trusting human nature, we have Rules and Regulations since time immemorial. Amazingly straightforward Assyrian laws punished the architect of a collapsed house with death, and the doctor, whose patient dies due to his actions, should also have his life taken. Thus it’s been ensured that even if the people themselves would be incapable of punishing the one whom they trusted, there will be some external force (e.g. the state) that will do so.
None of these seems to work with the post-modern magic(k) of the Gurus and the Shamans of the Global North. They suffer no consequences for misplaced trust, for either making mistakes or lying outright repeatedly to the very people, who held them, previously, to be the Voices of God(s). They always have an appropriate explanation! What, your horoscope predicted a good fortune and success in all endeavors in the coming week but the opposite happened? Why, the Venus was in Mercury, d’uh! Russia failed to act in accordance with your prediction? Oh, you know – those Russians! Sounds lame? Because it is. It is lame. But no one is calling their bluff – the Flock lacks both the knowledge and the will to exercise this knowledge in order to get their Gurus in line. And, besides – the Shamans are on your side, buddy! Arguing against them is like, siding with the Beast – the dark, always hungry ravenous Beast that’s simultaneously everywhere in the surrounding Darkness beyond the cozy Cave – and nowhere to be found.
By means foul and fair the so-called Russia-Watching experts acquired their own “street-cred” years ago – and now they just live off it, like the rentiers. Maybe there was genuinely a time when they were spry and active, and did try to make an effort over themselves while writing articles, conducting the research or pontificating on this or that issue. Say, when the field of Russian studies and Russia watching became a barren desert following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, only to become a hunting ground for a few crazies with outdated or just simply too wrong to sustain beliefs, they established their respectability just by stating things less crazy and more grounded in reality. When everyone and their dog were barking, that “Russia is dying out fast” (c) or “The territorial collapse of Russia will happen any moment now” (c), they cited hard data showing the amazingly persistent (and still alive and kicking among the Flock) myth about the “Dying Bear” to be a matter of fiction. As for the “Crussionality” of Russia, they had to be more circumspect – after all, denying it outright would be akin to saying that the Beast will always threaten the Flock. So, if these Shamans had the “Hawk” as their Totem, they just postponed the “inevitable” (while not contradicting it), while their colleagues following the “Dove” spirit claimed that the Beast, while still sub-human animal with no positive qualities at all, is too old and frail now and of no danger to the Flock.
With their credentials established, trust gained and then steady flow of income assured, the Gurus became lazy and opinionated. They no longer conducted the actual research or used their brainpower for the lowly matter of real analysis. No, they found out that they can still maintain their life-style, all perks and benefits plus the love and adulation of the not so Enlightened Masses, simply by conducting the most primitive of the rituals. Instead of Research and Facts, they now peddled as the Real Thing their own Opinion. Their opinion was so wrapped in thunder and bluster of the ritualistic magic(k), that the Flock (already not the ones to question their trusted objects of worship) was incapable of distinguishing something that might not be true with the truth itself.
“…You, who talk of superstitions, have you realized that this house is a house of spells? Don’t you know it is chock full of charms and magic rites, only they are all done backwards, as the witches said the Lord’s Prayer? Can you imagine how a witch would feel if two words of the prayer came right by accident? Crundle saw that this clown from the country was reversing all the spells of his own black art. If salt was once thrown over the shoulder, all the great work might yet be undone…”
– Gilbert K. Chesterton, The House of the Peacock
To showcase how the supposedly “professional” (read: paid) analysis of Russia, its past, present and future, have become a shallow exercise of empty formulas and chants of no substance, I’ve chosen the recent activity of the Big Name in the World of Russia Watching – Mark Galeotti. My hope is that my attempt will show all those who are willing to see, that this one Guru (and many, many like him) is not only “naked” like a pretentious king from Andersen’s fairy tale, but also covered in some icky and non-hygienic substance of repugnant manner.
With the power granted to me by Time itself, I will dissect and analyze some of the “analytical pieces” and predictions made by the esteemed (by some) Mr. Galeotti in the November 2015 – March 2016 period, plus some earlier predictions made about 2016 in general, and compare it with the reality at hand – nearly a year after these “prophecies” were made.
Mr. Galeotti is not a shy one. He rushes head-first into the ugly business of making predictions about Russia’s future, knowing full well he won’t suffer the consequences. This “Three Russias” fantasy by Galeotti reads like a “program statement” of what he wants to be true and in accordance to which he conducts his further analytical activity – ignoring the facts and changing circumstances when needed. The following theses were made by Galeotti, the all-knowing Guru of How Russia works:
A) Russia is facing increased dissatisfaction of the general population with the “Regime”, as it is exemplified with the “increased” labor “unrest” (gee, if he calls the heavy trucks dalnoboishiki drivers protest an “unrest”, then how’d we call a riot in Ferguson and all the fracas past Trump’s election?).
B) The three causes of the “failing standards of life” of Russians are the fall of the oil prices, the international sanctions and “official corruption”. We are not told how, why and to what degree.
C) On Duma Elections of 2016: “[I]t will crucial to the government to ensure a high turnout and strong support for its chosen candidates”. Why? We are not told why. We are kinda bludgeoned to assume that low (as in – European and American low) turnout in elections would be something bad for the “Regime”. We are also told that while not an outright revolt (as some Westerners did hope back in early 2016!), the combination of “active anger from the working class (increasingly Putin’s main support base)” and the krealkian bitching over (naturally!) “blatant rigging of the elections” could “prove a serious embarrassment… – and a major challenge” for Putin. He also predicted that “the more vocal and effective Kremlin critics [will be] systematically excluded, vilified and pressurised”.
D) Finally – the main part. The pulsating core of Galeotti’s Credo, on which he bases all his analysis – an attempt of strawmanning and an illusion of choice. It’s a staple of Russia watching. A must-have. In reality, it’s nothing more or better than a juvenile faux “prison folklore” attempt to troll your equally juvenile (and, therefore, not so bright) interlocutor, with the “riddle”, when your interlocutor is faced with the moral dilemma of choosing sitting arrangements for oneself and one’s mother, while having to do with two chairs of unusual construction. In Galeotti’s edition these “two chairs” are rebranded as “Three Russias” (no proof provided to, well, prove his point that they exist in the first place, besides the usual bleating of chants and spells) and Putin is forced by Mighty Marko to deal with the dilemma – or else! And no matter what Puny Putin (compared to Mighty Marko) chooses – he will lose, and his Regime will face the inevitable, right-around-the-corner-but-not-quite-immediate collapse.
E) Mr. Galeotti calls his exercise in soothsaying “a potentially upbeat one” (c). That, I remind you, was done by the people and for the people who considered the election of HRC an inevitability.
That’s the core of his predictions for Russia in 2016. Well, how did he fare in this regard? Abysmal. No – pathetic. Yeah, that’s the word – pathetic.
Galeotti insisted that the upcoming (for him, now safely passed for us) Duma elections of 2016 in Russia will be seen as “a referendum on the regime” (c). Whyyyyy? We are not told. Again. Nevertheless, United Russia won the elections, steamrolling through all opposition like an unstoppable Juggernaut. Butthurt (as always) free and independent media-sources had to admit that EdRo won fair and square – i.e. without unnecessary ballot-stuffing, carousel voting and other vote-rigging shenanigans. Galeotti also began with a strawman in his prediction, claiming that only the UR and “its affiliated pseudo-parties” will control the Duma in the aftermath of the elections, while all brave, talented and potentially successful Real Opposition Parties would be brutally shafted by the Regime.
If we are to believe Mr. Galeotti’s narrative, then according to dear Marko, “the liberal leader” Mikhail Kasyanov’s ParNaS, Grigoriy Yavlinskiy’s “Yabloko” and once again re-animated pathetic rotten liberal undead of a party “Party of Growth” (all very handshakable so-called liberal, democratic parties), plus 30+ “independent candidates” funded and supported by Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s “Open Russia”, were Kremlin Stooges (™). Because the Regime not only allowed them to run in the 2016 elections, it also (unbelievable!) allowed them to have a free time on the national (read: Kremlin controlled TV) where they amazed the commoners with their agitation and propaganda, and also engaged each other in the political debates – uncensored and unhindered. Horror, horror!
And with all these incentives, the long-suffering Russian people still voted for the “Party of the Crooks and Thieves” (™), plus for the Systemic Opposition. Even Yabloko finally fell below 3% of the vote, a direct result of their anti-Crimean rhetoric – not some dark Kremlinite magic. Galeottis of this world not only exploit other people’s ignorance for their own profit – they are themselves often clueless and ignorant when it comes to Russian realities, of which they are supposed to be “experts”. All and any accusations of something untoward done by the “Party of Power”, or of some suppression of the votes for the “True Opposition”, i.e. these typical conspiracy theories that “the vote results doesn’t really reflect the opinion of Russian people” (remember how earlier I mentioned Shaman’s desire to poison the well of knowledge?) comes crashing down if you compare the results of regional elections with the federal. The correlation is obvious to anyone – both the total percentage of votes given to United Russia, let alone in the number of the single-mandate districts won by the EdRo candidates, not to mention the general pattern of the voter’s turnout for the last 2 years.
Elections happened and… nothing happened. One might expect this from some old, boring, “civilized” European country, but, apparently, not from Russia. Because, indeed, there was a faction expecting blood-curdling news coming from Northern Mordor – a faction supported, to a degree, by a team of professional soothsayers like Galeotti. For them, Russian “Regime” must time and again “prove” its legitimacy to… someone. Once again – they don’t regard Russia as a normal country. No one really spends so much ink and energy writing how, say, Danish government must once again prove their “legitimacy”. Why? Apparently, Danish legitimacy could be sourced by the Heavenly Mandate coming from the twin capitals of the Western World – Washington, D.C., and the Brussels. Works kinda like the Pope’s blessing for the monarch… only with less theology. Oh, and on the inside these old, boring, predictable European countries have their own Regimes legitimacy ensured by the Competent Minority, i.e. by the Creative Class and Big Capital.
Russia, understandably, does not fit into this Procrustean frame – it frankly never did, what with Russia being an Orthodox country and the so-called European Christendom starting out as Roman Catholic. The way Galeotti wrote everything he wrote demonstrates not only his ignorance. While soaking every line on every page of his diatribes with an enormous dose of disdain, typical for a person, who won’t work for a living with his hands even if his own Shamanistic life would depend on it, he stumbled upon the fact that the working class Russians (i.e. the absolute Majority of Russians) DID support Putin. This, paradoxically, makes him less legitimate from the Western point of view – as Galeotti will surely tell you.
So the Gurus had to lie. They had to present the “the growing rash of local labour and social protests” (without providing evidence, naturally), as the proof that Putin’s personal popularity is made up, and that the “unrest”, or better yet (for the West), the proverbial Russian Revolt (Senseless and Merciless (™)) is around the corner, as the facts – not as their deluded opinions.
Galeotti, in his “upbeat” prophecy about Russia in 2016, talked about “labour unrest”, “suicide rates” and “support for local civic initiatives” seen by everyone with the eyes to see as the sure signs of the Regime’s unraveling and the quiet, huddled masses of Russians reacting to that. Did it come to pass?
A little bit of history about the “labour question”, and then we will tune back to the “Downtrodden Russian masses”, and how they reacted to the policy of the Regime. First, the data about the strikes in the Russian Federation’s modern history:
By Heaven Above – what do I see here!? The peak of the strikes happened during the Blessed Democratic 90s?! Why – the West, probably, doubted the legitimacy of Boris Yeltsin’s (Truly) Bloody Regime and predicted with glee its downfall any day now! And the second peak coincides with the still very controversial and the one and only, to boot, genuinely widely unpopular reforms of Putin – the so-called “monetization” of the benefits for the retirees and receivers of the social payments. Were there also talks about the Regime’s imminent collapse then?
The answer to both of these questions is a resolute “No”! Boris the Drunk was the Friend of the West. And even post-Khodorkovsky Putin was still fairly handshakable person, whose soul-possessing trait had been confirmed by the today’s newest darling of the Free and Independent Press (and back then – by Buffoon in Chief) George W. Bush.
Right, but what about the 2008-2012 period? After all, the World Financial Crises surely had done its share of damage to the Regime in Russia! What about the pinnacle of the working class protest, the “strikes” in this period?
According to not “neutered by the Kremlin” yet Lenta Ru, 2012 saw the absolute 5-year maximum of worker strikes in Russia. The progression since the beginning of the World Financial Crisis was the following:
2008 – 93
2009 – 272
2010 – 205
2011 – 262
These were the alarming days, full of (for the time being) vague allusions, like the fact that according to one think-tank’s research, the index of social anxiety has reached the early 90s level. These, I remind you, were the times of the fashionable Bolotnaya Fronde, and when a not so insignificant number of the so-called professionals fell into the trap of wishful thinking, passed as their own analyses.
And so – what can be said about Neo-Putin labour protest?
Huh. How odd! One can imagine that the egg-headed Gurus (with no knowledge of Russia, labour relations or economics) just chanced upon a trend that was, well, trending right before their eyes and then just simply extrapolated it into the future because, obviously, what else is our life if not one giant exponent? Just ask the Sci-Fi authors from the 1950s about the all-conquering atom. Or their counterparts slightly down the historical road who couldn’t ever imagine that humanity by 2010s will not only abandon all attempts to break through to other planets, but instead trust blindly the commercial spacecraft design to a modern version of the carney-barker and all-round fraud Elon Musk. And while you are doing these inquiries, go and troll “futurists” of 1920-30s on whether the fabulously novel invention known as the “airplane” managed to replace the car as the go-to common mean of transportation for the masses.
In short, those who have eyes and can see are gonna notice that despite all doom and gloom, the deepest heart desires of Galeottis of this world failed to materialize. Moreover – Russia have withstood much more serious problems and “unrest” with not much ado.
Right, what’s next? Suicide rates? Anti-Kremlin feisty pro-liberast RBK reports that 2016 was the 50-year all time low in suicides in Russia (yes, that’s right – lowest in FIFTY years), and that the trend of them dropping yearly was not interrupted in 2014-2015 period by the “annexation of Crimea” or the sanctions. Galeottis must be inconsolable! How come Russians are not killing themselves in droves over the lack of jamon and having to withstand the “diplomatic isolation of Russia”!?
Galeotti singles out something ambiguous as the “support for local civic initiatives”, as if it must be something anti-governmental by default. He doesn’t supply us with criterion by which we can judge what he means by that. Did the Russians became suddenly enamored with the foreign NGOs, or the foreign agent local NGOs? Nope. Did they vote for the “true opposition” in the protest of the Regime? No. Are we more likely to embrace freaks and weirdos, who claim to be the “true voice of the Russian civil society”? No again. Is there any sympathy for the “artist” (sorry for the word artist) Pavlensky among the ordinary Russians and his “art performances”, i.e. the acts of criminal hooliganism? Na-ah. Are Russians becoming in their values more like Westerners? What a silly question.
On the other hand – you know what’s true? That by the end of 2016, 81% of Russians considered themselves happy. And that during “crisis” 2014-2016 the index of happiness of the Russians never fell below 80%. Want more Zradas for Russophobes? I’m always happy to oblige! Nearly 150 000 Russians have returned to their ancestral Homeland in 2016 alone, thanks to the state-sponsored program of repatriation – 30 000 of them from the EU countries. Hard year, hard year indeed! Well, so much for the downtrodden masses.
“I know of a magic wand, but it is a wand that only one or two may rightly use, and only seldom. It is a fairy wand of great fear, stronger than those who use it – often frightful, often wicked to use. But whatever is touched with it is never again wholly common; whatever is touched with it takes a magic from outside the world.
“What is your wand?” cried the King, impatiently.
“There it is,” said Wayne; and pointed to the floor, where his sword lay flat and shining.
“The sword!” cried the King; and sprang up straight on the daïs.
“Yes, yes,” cried Wayne, hoarsely. “The things touched by that are not vulgar; the things touched by that-“
King Auberon made a gesture of horror.
– Gilbert K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Nottinghill.
Another quite predictable augury by Galeotti was made regarding the ultimate “futile” attempts of Russian “intervention” in Syria, with this ageing Guru demonstrating what an agile contortionist he is, turning himself into a human-pretzel, trying to unite his desire to jump on “Russia’s Syrian Quagmire” (™) bandwagon (he uses the term “mire”) and to dodge the blame for a factually incorrect and sometimes simply lying narrative of this prophesy.
The genre of “Russia in Syria” predictions is yet another one of those, when the supposedly mature and thinking analysts fall to the level of the above-mentioned prison themed “riddles”, with which they try to “contain” Russia in reality. Mark Galeotti surely does it a lot in his other “program work” of “Russian Intervention in Syria can only Slow Down Assad’s Defeat” (25 November 2015).
As he points out elsewhere, Mighty Marko truly believes that Putin is surrounded by lying sycophants and, therefore, has no idea about the reality around him. These lackeys are either too afraid of the “Tsar” or have ulterior motives for distorting the information. Naturally, we are told to simply accept this dogma with no proof presented – and then carry on with the wild-wild ride which is the thought-train of one certain professional (read: paid) Russia Watcher, who, subsequently, bases constantly all of his conclusions on something he didn’t even bother to prove.
Magic of spells, chants and words is amazing thing – and as helpful as Dale Carnegie’s self-help books which, nonetheless, are sold by the millions. So it’s no wonder, that Galeotti resorts to it, repeating ad nauseum all the usual clichés and tropes about post-2014 Russia, that it is “diplomatically isolated”, that it’s “bogged down in the Ukraine”, that “attempts to persuade the West to lift its sanctions regime have failed” (no arguing here that Russia ever tried to do that in the first place!) and that Russia spreads chaos around the world for… evulz. Couple the fact that this meme (“Chaos as the only Russian export”) with, apparently, the sincere dogmatic belief of Galeotti that Putin is not a rational actor, and you have a recipe to create an ideal villain for the Western propaganda to crush repeatedly from the safe confines of their Cave.
Galeotti gives voice to his belief when saying the following:
“[T]hey’d like to get out of that particular mire, it’s costing them money and political capital, so given that the West isn’t willing to cooperate, they intervened in Syria and more or less said: “Look, we are willing to play nice in Syria as long as you basically allow us to rectify ourselves from the Donbas,” which is really what they’re after.”
Ah, Mr. Galeotti, Mr. Galeotti, sir! When you say “and [the Russians] more or less said” do you have, more or less, proof or is this yet another of your opinions pulled out of your all-knowing aphedron? Hey, did you see what I just used here? I ran with the idea (unproved!) that Mr. Galeotti, literally, pulls insubstantial ideas out of his rectal orifice, and then capitalized on that claim even more by going an extra mile, with the claim that Mr. Galeotti’s end of the feed tract possesses the absolute knowledge! And you know what? This is exactly what Professor Galeotti does ALL THE TIME in his so-called analysis. Galeottis of the Russia-Watching world simply dictate us the terms of the narrative. You dare to disagree with them? Bash-bash you on your stupid head, you… stupid caveman!
Pfft – who cares about other damned facts?! Not Galeotti, that’s for sure. Otherwise, he’d know that Russian Ministry of Defense, lily-livered market liberal zealot and ex-Finance Minister Kudrin, sickeningly handshakable kvetching hole of RBK and openly Russophobic rag Financial Times were of one opinion – the military operation costs Russia mere peanuts, figuratively speaking, probably in the area of 10% of the overall military budget. And it became apparent to none other than the guys in the Pentagon just one month after Galeotti made his prediction, and 3 (three) months since the inception of the campaign. The same article stresses that:
“Russia’s intervention also appears to have strengthened its hand at the negotiating table. In recent weeks, Washington has engaged more closely with Russia in seeking a settlement to the war and backed off a demand for the immediate departure of Assad as part of any political transition.”
There you go, Mr. Galeottis’ claim about “wasting” political capital – in the trash can where it belongs. And that was, I remind you, just late 2015. Further down the road to the future (our present) all think-tankers will keep wailing and gnashing their teeth, that Russia “cheated” and “unfairly” inserted itself in ranks of decision makers and lords of fate for the entire Greater Middle East. Where was the promised “tradeoff” of Assad for Donbas – or vice versa? I remember how such speculations were all the rage for anyone who is someone in the tight knit of professional (read: paid) Russia watchers.
No, we are told – “Ignore that! Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain”. Didn’t Marko – The Magnificent Prestidigitator! – explain to the dumb-stuck audience in no-uncertain terms that:
“Assad’s losing, the ground offensive they launched has bogged down, they’ve had a few minor gains but nothing else. All this current intervention can do is slow down the rate at which Assad losses, that’s the best they can really offer.”
“Perversely, although everyone thought that Russia went to Syria to save Assad, what they are actually doing is going there so that Assad can be negotiated out rather than just losing power or facing a coup or whatever.”
And when asked about Putin’s prospects in 2016 vis-à-vis the West:
“He basically burned his bridges in terms of friendship [with the West]: No one is going to be a friend of Russia in the West under the current regime”.
It was, I remind you, late November 2015, when all interviews with the Big Names of Russia-Watching were the same. I wonder – does Professor Galeotti feel himself, now, in the Year of Our Lord 2017, a tad bit… stupid? Humbled? Proved wrong? Or does the money he receives regularly for his chutzpah-filled auspices indeed, act as the best healing balm for a so-called expert proved time after time wrong and full of it?
Because come late February of 2016 and Mark Galeotti was singing a different kind of tune. Suddenly, a heretic notion has wormed its way into the esteemed Guru’s cranium – and writings. His Faithful would suddenly have to deal with the uncomfortable to even read and comprehend notion that “many of the rebel groups, some of which are little more than bandits and warlords’ retinues” are, maybe, not so brave, courageous and democratic after all. And saying out loud, in the early 2016, that “the rebels are a ragtag collection of units, leaders and movements, with often wildly different aims and approaches” – gah, what made the Professor so courageous after all?! Did the Kremlin pay him to write that?
What about yet another Downfall of the Regime (™) , propagated by the West – the one of Bashar al-Assad? Nothing… and Galeotti’s moaning could be practically heard while reading this comment:
“The Assad regime, which had been on the defensive and even facing potential fragmentation, has been stabilized and revived. Moscow’s claim to a say in Syria’s future cannot now meaningfully be challenged.”
But-but-but! What about Russia’s diplomatic isolation then?! What about “wasted political capital”?
“In the process, Western attempts to isolate Russia have been all but abandoned — most vividly shown in January, when US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland sat down with Russian Presidential Representative Vladislav Surkov to talk about the future of eastern Ukraine.”
Obviously upset (and extremely… astral-fisted) Marko the Magnificent had to admit:
“[T]he Russians defied Western expectations and their own track record. The furious “optempo” (operational tempo) was maintained, with sometimes a hundred sorties a day being launched. Planes were generally kept flying; there were not the disastrous mechanical failures one could have predicted.”
By withdrawing, Putin avoids getting sucked into an open-ended commitment, reassures the Russian public that this is no rerun of the 10-year Soviet war in Afghanistan, presents himself as a peacemaker, and reduces the risks to his forces in Syria….”
Suddenly, our brave and outspoken Mr. Galeotti becomes more and more morbidly subdued and quiet on that. What a miraculous transformation indeed – no doubt, a result of this particular Guru’s constant exercises aimed to open all of his chakras and clean his Third Eye’s connection with the Supreme Realm of Gods and Spirits! And, btw – from this very moment onward his articles will go downhill – less blister and jingoism and more whining and pleading. Improvement in quality? Naaaah.
“Modern civilization has bred a race with brains like those of rabbits and we who are the heirs of the witchdoctor and the voodoo. We artists who have been so long the despised are about to take over control”.
– Ezra Pound
But there were other – many-many of them! – screw ups in the analytical and saying of sooths field by Mark Galeotti – less global but screwy none the less. Here are some of them, “worthy” of mention.
1) Galeotti infamously claimed on the pages of such “august” magazine as “Foreign Policy” that Putin “has even physically withdrawn…”, that “in today’s Russia, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appears not to have been part of the final discussions on whether to seize Crimea” and, most of all, that Sergei Lavrov – of all people! – is sidelined by the increasingly insular and paranoid Putin. Obligatory unsupported claims of “a distinct neo-Soviet flavor that doesn’t even play well on domestic TV” from Galeotti are… obligatory.
This moment is probably as good as any to inform the general public that Professor Mark Galeotti has neither Diplomatic, nor military, no, Heaven forbid, actual political (as being in charge of anything) background. He, as I’ve been saying since the beginning of this essay, is a Guru – a person lacking needed experience in the vast majority of the spheres and who, nonetheless, gets his valuable and purely dilettante’s opinion taken seriously by everyone.
This is also a good moment to draw your attention to the fact that Galeotti claims to have access to many numerous “insiders” all across Russia… and that no one questions his bullshit claim. Like the one source of his, allegedly “close to the Foreign ministry”, which claimed that: “…what Assad was given is you are going to be going. We’re going to help you make sure that it’s as congenial a process for you and your family as possible, but frankly start getting your head around that, you are going to be going.”
We are talking about 100% reliable Mark Galeotti, trusting however imaginary obscure source way back in late 2015 – early 2016. Well… look at the world we live in now! Either our esteemed Russia Watcher was owned, or he made up the source to begin with.
2) An obligatory exercise in Putinology, when Mark Galeotti explains (without any proof, of course!) to the hoi polloi what Vladimir Putin wants; really, really wants:
“In many ways Putin’s view of Russia these days is that he wants it out of the global order… Now he’s come back, in part because his views have changed, in part because he feels the West betrayed him and in part, I think, because he is increasingly looking at his historical legacy. In some ways his catchword these days is sovereignty, but when he says sovereignty it’s a slightly different sovereignty than we might understand it. His notion of sovereignty, to be blunt, is that Russia stands alone and that Russia should not be dictated to by any outside force or power—so not the United States, not the European Union, but also not necessarily international law, not necessarily international institutions. It’s frankly a very 19th century notion that we are strong enough to ensure that no one can tell us what to do. And it’s a sovereignty that is clearly linked to your capacity to defend it.”
Perceptive readers, who’ve read all linked articles provided by me here, might notice that in virtually all of them Professor Galeotti basically just repeats the same old and tried clichés one article/interview after another. He said the same thing in the previously mentioned article, when he talked about the horrible gall and nerve of Russia’s which, therefore:
“…deserves to have a voice, to be listened to, he feels Russia deserves to be able basically to veto the impact of international norms and organizations inside its own borders. His sense of Russian sovereignty is that the Kremlin should be able to control everything that happens within Russia’s frontiers and have influence over what happens beyond it.”
For Mark Galeotti, these are Bad Things! In this regard, he reminds of the slavishly faithful to their barin “house serfs” (rus. “дворня”), wistful and hateful when they see another ordinary peasant serf buying himself and his family out of the bondage and becoming a free man. Envy and horror drives them nuts, because serfdom became in their minds a norm and a preferable alternative to the repugnantly dangerous freedom.
3) Most hilariously (and unfortunately) of note, was Galeotti’s prediction that KPRF will turn into a serious challenge come the September elections in 2016. He wasn’t alone – a couple of other pundits on the West (most notably – Fred Weir from the Christian Science Monitor) raised their hopes high in regards of the KPRF future prospects, while, deep inside, they surely were trembling at the thought that their own Russophobia and the personal dislike of Putin made them to root for the gosh-damned-commies! Galeotti in one of his previous articles called the KPRF electorate lumpens (wow… how… thoughtful, humanistic and… handshakable!).
Galeotti is, of course, lying in his piece while perpetuating the fable that Bolotnaya protests were “the largest anti-government rallies since Soviet times”. Saying otherwise would draw attention of goldfish-attention-span Westerners to such “ancient events” as the iconic (back then in 1998) miners’ strike on Gorbaty Bridge in Moscow, or, indeed, to the hundreds-of-thousands-strong protests against the monetization of benefits in 2004-2005. No, the West desires to feel the Sympathetic Magic – to see kreakls and so-called members of the “middle class” protesting – not the filthy proletariat! They, for the west, don’t count.
Another extremely naïve belief held by Galeotti (and by a few western so-called “honest” journalists who bothered to report on KPRF in the 2016 electoral year) was that there appeared “a new generation of Communist Party members, disgruntled 20- and 30-somethings, for whom it offers the only structure able to articulate any kind of opposition politics. They are generally not Soviet-style communists, actually being closer to European social democrats”. Needless to say – not true. Believe me – the Russian LEFT is nothing akin to the SJW-ridden Western Leftists hell of Trots and Identity politics fanatics, though the West did have short period of wishful thinking and Galeotti serves here as an apt example of such misconceptions.
Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh
– Ecclesiastes 12:12
In the late Perestroika period there was a gigantic paradigm shift, as the people saw old truths and their entire world around them crumble. Non incidentally, it was a time when the great “Healers” and “ESPers” like A. Chumak and A. Kashpirovsky became idols of millions all across the USSR and then Russia. People believed them more than they believed the political leaders and their promises of the miracle. Instead, the people chose to put their trust into words (and intricate hand waves) of peculiarly dodgy characters, who claimed to be “instructed in Arcane arts” by the voices in their heads and who propagated the ideas of “non-traditional medicine”.
They were superstars. They were media legends. They were unquestionable authorities for a people who suddenly rushed with reckless abandon into the dark area of thought of “Nothing is True – Everything is Possible”.
The most memetic achievement of Kashpirovsky and such was the fact that they were allowed on the central Soviet TV (obligatory – state controlled) in prime time for the retranslation of their “séances”. The power of mighty “wizards” was such, that they could “charge” various liquids, salves and objects with their “positive energy”. And they were SO mighty, that could do this even through the TV screen! A picture of 3 liter glass jars, usually used to can tomatoes or cucumbers for winter, now filled with water instead and now standing in line before the TV screen, while the entire family was watching with half-beating hearts the act of magic – these were the pictures of that era.
“Blessed Democratic 90s” (well, “Blessed” according to a certain rather tiny group of people) saw a sucking hell-hole of irrationality and massive all-believing psychosis taking a bold step forward to a full blown Abyssal Pit. It was a time of various totalitarian sects and cults running free and unhindered (Russia’s Western partners call it “freedom of consciousness and religion”), when people were willing to surrender their will, personality – and personal wealth – to various mystic Gurus. It was a time of financial pyramids and fraudsters, of banks going bust on a regular basis and of people willing to surrender their trust, their future – and their remaining personal savings – to various financial Gurus. It was a time when Kashpirovsky volunteered to help resolve the hostage crisis in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Budyonovsk in 1995 – by using his mighty hypnotic powers to put Shamil Basayev and his goons to sleep. Kashpirovsky fainted at the sight of the hostages, bloodied and frightened, kept in an animal-like state in small tents, 20-30 in each.
It was the time when the Russians were told to “vote with their heart” and surrender their trust, their future – and a mere remaining handful of money somehow preserved to that moment – to the Great Democrat Boris Yeltsin.
…Magic. Hell, yeah… Do you think that you are immune to it?
Magic is a prosthesis of thought for a monkey-like creature which “thinks” itself human, but which, in fact, has not yet learned how to think (or, in our case, it has already forgotten how). Magic is this terrible Law of Simulacrum, unequivocally demanding to eat worthy fellow cavemen to become like them. Magic is the Law of Symbols, when for self-assertion it is important not what you are, but what you have.
Magic is the Law of the Herd, of flocks and generic thinking, when you are not separate, when you are self-identified in the world only insofar as you identify yourself with some gang (group, clan – or a “safespace” in the web). After all, what is “magic(k)”? Magic(k) by definition is the manipulation of information (words, symbols, signs) in order to manipulate reality.
That’s what they do – Gurus. The proverbial Legion of them. They lead the process (and in some areas – the Progress) so back in time to the magical, to the tribal form of existence, as was necessary for them to eke for themselves a lofty parasitic niche, which would allow them carefree irresponsible lifestyle for centuries to come.
And while I don’t hold high hopes for humanity to come back on the road of rational thought and march away from these self imposed intellectual Dark Ages any time soon, there is one nasty thought that makes me smile nevertheless. Even early civilizations, even Dark Ages primitives despised magic – and fought against it and its practitioners. Having for a change one particular parasite stripped of his patchwork “sacral” cloak, magic wand or stuff, of his poultices and potions and just thrown out of his cozy picture-covered cave into the world and told to pull his weight like everyone else – that would be nice. Because the patience of the Tribe is not boundless. And one day, one mistake and false incantation too many, the Guru, the Shaman will find on its own skin a plethora of problems typical for our Global North.