The Great Bear's Sons

6. 6. 2014 / Karel Dolejší

"Myths are things that never happened and yet are."
Sallust

One of the last defenders of ancient paganism, Sallust, quite accurately described the character of myth in the fourth century. Whoever believes that Prince Bajaja bravely fought a dragon does not care when this Bajaja lived and if dragons ever even existed. To them, a mythological story only represents a storage space for a personal experience, or, rather, their own kind of Procrustean bed. Experiential data are only interesting insofar as they allow the self-actualising believer a repeated reliving of the mythical experience. They themselves want to subjectively become Bajaja, a least to some extent. The data not allowing that are chucked away.

The French philosopher Jacques Derrida, cursed by traditionalists, shows in his essay "The White Mythology" how Aristotle, who is regarded as one of the pillars of the Western tradition, constantly transformed the unknown into the known and considered this a sense of cognition. General concepts are certainly myths of the Western rationalist tradition, at least in a Sallustian sense. The Western tradition is also a tradition of mythology, because the worshipped Reason is often manifested in similar general concepts that "never happened" but beneath them new experiential data has always been subsumed.

But does -- or did -- the West also have some definite mythology when the mythological character of its conception of reason, built on the problematic opposition of mythos and logos since ancient times, generally does not confer and, of all forces, denies it? When reason itself has long become quite unattractive? At different times the West has had different mythologies. The last one was liberal and affixed a shield of "democracy and human rights." Whenever it was necessary to politically mobilise, it was done so under the banner of "democracy and human rights." They were largely missing during the air raids on Yugoslavia, the invasion of Iraq and Libya and human rights even adorned an intervention in favour of fanatical Islamists in Syria. In the countries where intervention took place human rights oddly enough didn't begin as a consequence of military force, and if these countries experimented with democracy, the result was clearly anti-Western and anti-liberal.

As a result of the "purely humanitarian bombing" leading to the systematic exploitation of western political mythology as a war hammer's handle it came to a loss of faith in this mythology on a mass scale in late capitalism. The current narrative ceased to be for widely accepted systematic abuse, and many who long feel increasingly marginalised by economic processes do not belong to the supporters of this political religion anymore. But overcoming one religion does not automatically mean overcoming them all; discarding one mythological narrative does not necessarily lead to caution towards all narratives. Quite the contrary, often a horror vacui arises, a compulsive desire to fill this empty space with the first thing of the same kind that comes across.

Russian messianism hostile to the West always stood for the decay of Western mythology. The resentment of the Russian orthodox periphery towards Western Christianity has always claimed that Russia alone has defended the real Western values, that Moscow is the Third Rome and a fourth is not going to exist. Nonetheless, when comparing the unbiased stance of Russian and Western societies at almost any time it is hard to find a moment when the claim to the West's decline would hold out. But exactly that does not matter in mythology. What is essential is that it gives meaningless lives a "higher" meaning in the form of reliving mythological events. In the Ukraine, the "Great Patriotic War" is fought again. That Neo-Nazis often fought "against fascism" and that the celebrated Stalin actually killed more Soviet citizens than Hitler whom he had long had fraternized with also does not matter. Essentially it is a subjective experience. That the experience of a political myth is not related to truth is not something you could explain to a believer. Believers have "their own truth" that suffices for them.

When Putin defined the Eurasian Union against the European Union not as economically integrated but as project of civilization standing in opposition to "proper values" many of those in the West whose calculator brains convert everything into Dollars and Euros did not understand at all and still don't -- while others, long suffering a crisis of faith "seized" it with joy, without bothering to really understand. In Europe, the horror vacui developed in the West by the profane political mythology of "purely humanitarian" airstrikes has been filled with an ultra-conservative, ultra-right ideology resonating in the Muscovite head of this mystical body, just as the mentor of Eduard Limonov's "Lenin's National Bolshevism," Jean-François Thiriart, had once planned. Therefore, it is useless to complain that some completely uncritically accept Russian propaganda instead of Western propaganda; that they see Putin's Russia as salvation and redemption from "decay," which compared to the actual state of Russian society does absolutely not look like decay. Yet, they found their compensatory narrative and do not need anything else. -- All the roles to be filled by Mr Punch are played by those who constantly talk about the need for "systematic alternatives," while refusing to understand that Russian capitalism is absolutely no systematic alternative to Western capitalism. Additionally, the course of ideological mockery confirms what the left-wing avant-garde has known for at least eighty years -- that a substantial part of the left is incredibly conservative culturally and, at least in this respect, takes a rank with the extreme right.

Russia declares authoritarianism, has already invented a "cure for homosexuality" and apparently also has its own recipe for other real or imaginary Western diseases. Many do not ask for anything else from them. Apart from notorious consumers of Russian state television broadcasts among them belong, apart from Russia, also those who harbour deep resentment against the current West (whether related to actual grievances, unfulfilled ambition or a mere inferiority complex) and often even uncontrollably hate it. The substitute narrative is also intended for them. Moreover, the repainting of the Comintern's successors in horrid colours ad usum is to serve the compensatory myth of redemptive Russia saving the world. It fills their profound psychological need. Arguing with faith, however, makes no sense and rational arguments cannot do anything in this field.

(Translated from Czech by Julia Secklehner)

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