We tend to believe that everything gets decided by the government. We even believe that the executive, the legislature and the courts can create new realities. Even new values.
At present, America is undergoing a cultural revolution. It began during the Vietnam era and has proceeded apace, with ups and downs.
We are so fully confident of our revolutionary values that we are selling them around the world, in term of liberal democracy and human rights.
America is now thoroughly open about all things sexual. We do not merely obsess; we show off our new liberated attitude toward all things sexual.
We continue to flagellate ourselves for the sins of the past, the better to create a culture where guilt prevails. America’ success was purchased on the backs of the oppressed and now we are duty-bound to make reparations. Everyone who is not a privileged white male can now line up to receive some form of largesse. It’s not about any oppressed minority, because the oppressed are a majority now.
America has increasingly rejected religion in favor of atheism. We don’t believe in a Creator who produced reality as we know it. We believe that we can create our own realities: either by interpreting things differently or by believing that we are one thing or another.
America has embraced pharmacology as the cure to everything that ails it. Licit and illicit drugs are becoming increasing available. We’re becoming a stoner nation.
We have become mindlessly hypersensitive to the possibility of giving offense and we insist that people use language differently, lest they give offense. It’s bad enough when colleges ban The Vagina Monologues because it might offend women without vaginas, but when JP Morgan Chase bank tells its employees to avoid words like “wife” because someone might take offense, you know that the cultural decline is accelerating.
Of course, these values are now being enshrined by the courts in the name of equal rights and non-discrimination. It’s as though people have come to believe that because people have equal rights they are equal in all other things.
Some believe that this cultural revolution has brought us closer to the truth. Others have suggested that it’s a grand cultural experiment that may work but that may not. Time will tell.
Dare we point out that the playing field is not the Supreme Court. The playing field is international economic, political and military competition. If America becomes too slothful to compete effectively, the future will look less bright. When Camille Paglia sounded an alarm about America’s new decadence and when she said that the minds of American college students were like jello, this is what she was talking about.
Of course, some countries are following America’s lead. Others are not. They do not accept the new cultural values and are leading a counterrevolution.
Ironically, to say the least, the leading counterrevolutionary force today is Vladimir Putin’s Russia. So says Roger Cohen. One might add Xi Jinping’s China to the list, but more on that later.
Putin has very bad press in the West. He is often portrayed as a new type of autocrat… not without justification. Putin’s actions in the Ukraine have provoked economic sanctions. He has ignored them.
It’s not just that he does not care. Why should he when his approval rating in Russia is around 89%.
Roger Cohen raises the issue in his column today:
The escalating conflict between the West and Moscow has been portrayed as political, military and economic. It is in fact deeper than that. It is cultural. President Vladimir Putin has set himself up as the guardian of an absolutist culture against what Russia sees as the predatory and relativist culture of the West.
To listen to pro-Putin Russian intellectuals these days is to be subjected to a litany of complaints about the “revolutionary” West, with its irreligious embrace of same-sex marriage, radical feminism, euthanasia, homosexuality and other manifestations of “decadence.” It is to be told that the West loses no opportunity to globalize these “subversive” values, often under cover of democracy promotion and human rights.
The Cold War against godless Communism was well worth fighting. Now the tables seem to have turned. It’s Vladimir Putin, in an increasingly close alliance with China and even Turkey who is fighting culture war against the godless West:
Beyond Putin’s annexation of Crimea and stirring-up of a small war in eastern Ukraine (although large enough to leave more than 6,000 dead), it is this decision to adopt cultural defiance of the West that suggests the confrontation with Russia will last decades. Communism was a global ideology; Putinism is less than that. But a war of ideas has begun in which counterrevolution against the godless and insinuating West is a cornerstone of Russian ideology. To some degree, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey shares Putin’s view of the West. China, meanwhile, finds uses in it.
Of course, Putin has suffered economic sanctions. But, he does not very much care about having been expelled from the G-8. (As a sidelight, famed investor Jim Rogers thinks that Russia is a great investment.)
Putin does not care about the West because he is pivoting toward Asia, and in particular toward China:
This Russian decision has strategic implications the West is only beginning to digest. It involves an eastward pivot more substantial than President Obama’s to Asia. Putin is now more interested in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, whose core is China and Russia, than he is in cooperation with the G-8 (from which Russia has been suspended) or the European Union.
China reciprocates this interest to some degree because a Moscow hostile to the West is useful for the defense of its own authoritarian political model and because it sees economic opportunity in Russia and former Soviet Central Asian countries. But China’s fierce modernizing drive cannot be accomplished through backward-looking Russia. There are clear limits to the current Chinese-Russian rapprochement.
What we all want to know is: who will win. Cohen believes that the West should cling to its values and that Russia will ultimately fail.
As a senior European official attending a conference organized by Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs put it, Russia’s is a “loser’s challenge” to the West, because it has given up on modernization and globalization, whereas China’s is potentially a “winner’s challenge,” because it is betting everything on a high-tech, modern economy.
Cohen believes that Russia has given up on economic modernization and globalization. Time will tell whether this is true or false. Given Putin’s popularity in Russia, he has clearly grasped something essential about what is going on in the world.
One does not know how the rapprochement between Russia and China will affect both nations. Perhaps Russia will adopt a more Chinese free enterprise-driven model of economic growth?
To offer some needed historical perspective, Russia under Gorbachev and Yeltsin tried to modernize according to the Western democratic model. People all over the West cheered.
At the same time Deng Xiaoping led China to modernize by using an authoritarian capitalist model.
By most objective standards, the Chinese model prevailed. Russia has a higher per-capita GDP, but much of it is due to commodities. Today, the commodities market--let by oil--is declining. With it, Russia economic growth is falling. China has been growing far more rapidly and seems capable of continuing to do so. So, Putin is not merely rejecting the decadence of the West but he is trying to reverse course after the Russian democratic experiment.
But, Cohen retorts that refugees the world over are flocking to Western Europe and America. Surely they are seeking freedom and opportunity and human rights. Or, are they seeking refuge from the culture wars in the Middle East and Africa. Then again, they might want welfare and generous entitlements?
Whichever is true, these people also know that Russia would never allow masses of undocumented aliens to invade its territory. The same applies to China.