Sunday, January 26, 2014

Putin vs. decadent West

With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, many eyes are on Russia, specifically President Vladimir Putin. The Olympic venue, famous among athletes for its liberated sexual atmosphere—or raucous sexcapades, depending on your point of view—provides the perfect foil for Putin to take his message of cultural authoritarianism worldwide.

Bill Keller of the New York Times writes:

Putin’s moves [against Ukraine] were not isolated events. They fit into a pattern of behavior over the past couple of years that deliberately distances Russia from the socially and culturally liberal West: laws giving official sanction to the terrorizing of gays and lesbians, the jailing of members of a punk protest group for offenses against the Russian Orthodox Church, the demonizing of Western-backed pro-democracy organizations as “foreign agents,” expansive new laws on treason, limits on foreign adoptions.

What’s going on is more complicated and more dangerous than just Putin flexing his political pecs. He is trying to draw the line against Europe, to deepen division on a continent that has twice in living memory been the birthplace of world wars. It seems clearer than ever that Putin is not just tweaking the West to rouse his base or nipping domestic opposition in the bud. He is also attempting to turn back 25 years of history.

I read that less as post-Cold War healing and more as post-Reagan liberal ascendance. Not to reject every development of the last 25 years, but it helps to render a verdict when a lifelong newspaper man like Keller, who’s lived in a liberal bubble all his life, regards the West’s current cultural miasma as the apotheosis of modern man. All of history until 25 years ago was a blight on history, so it goes.

Since his current presidential term began in 2012, Putin has felt increasingly that his overtures to the West were not met with due respect, that Russia was treated as a defeated nation, not an equal on the world stage. His humiliation and resentment have soured into an ideological antipathy that is not especially Soviet but is deeply Russian. His beef with the West is no longer just about political influence and economic advantage. It is, in his view, profoundly spiritual.

“Putin wants to make Russia into the traditional values capital of the world,” said Masha Gessen, author of a stinging Putin biography, an activist for gay and lesbian rights and a writer for the Latitudes blog on this paper’s website.

Gessen says that like it’s a bad thing.

No faction quite like the reactionary LGBT mafia strains the foundations of liberal society. They convince people of their innate perfection, spreading a gospel of narcissism and self idolatry. Putin’s censorship of gay propaganda illustrates the principle that there is no freedom in sin. It’s a principle echoed by the Founding Fathers: Cattle need a shepherd.

The rich and the materially well-off can afford social liberalism. Their money takes care of them. The weaned masses are not so invulnerable to corruption. They’re the ones who are going to build Russia back up, if it’s still around in 50 years.

A Russian people indifferent to sin isn’t part of that equation. Until they relearn to not give relief to the wages of sin and to not indulge in destructive habits, they will need “benevolent” dictators like Putin to lead them.

I want to make America into the traditional values capital of the world.

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