Something occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed. Let me explain it in a roundabout way, my preferred method of explanation: You see, I have been following the buildup to World War III for about a year now, and before the US was making overtures toward attacking Syria in an attempt to goad Iran into conflict, it was stroking itself to the idea of attacking Iran directly.
While that more direct route was being considered, Russia and China had already made statements to the effect of, “We will fight you if you attack Iran,” “You fuck with Iran and you fuck with us.” These sentiments from the once and current Communist blocs have not really changed too much even though the US is considering a more meandering route to Iran. Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very vocal about condemning Obama, and, in light of these criticisms of American war-mongering and his harbouring of Edward Snowden, he has gotten a weird sort of good guy image makeover in the view of the West.
(To be clear, I made this image to illustrate my point)
This heel/face turn has been helped along by the letter (incorrectly attributed to Putin) “From Russia With Love,” which was written in the Russian President’s voice and has been making the viral rounds.
So yeah, it seems like Vladimir Putin is a pretty cool guy.
But if that’s the case, then why do I not feel right about singing his praises and vaunting him as the last bastion against American imperial expansion?
Well for starters lets rhyme off the superficial reasons for mistrusting Putin:
1) He’s former KGB
2) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with feminist activists, Pussy Riot.
3) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with gay rights activists.
4) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with Chechens.
Hmmm, all these factors combined certainly make me reconsider my earlier statement that Putin is a pretty cool guy, but they don’t really account for my incredulity with regard to his good guy image. I think my mistrust has more to do with IMPOSED DUALITIES.
Do you ever notice that most of the choices you are presented with come down to two main options? And while often these choices are only distinguished from each other by the most superficial of differences, people will still make great judgments about you and your character based on which of the two you choose.
Let’s review some of these dualities:
Evil vs. Good
Dark vs. Light
It’s no accident that both sides of any of these choices are broadly similar and superficial differences are emphasized to create the illusion of diversity. A good example would be how many video game retailers will have retailer exclusive DLC for games pre-ordered from them. In the game Batman: Arkham City for example, you could get various costumes for Batman depending on where you pre-ordered your game. Voila; diversity of choice!
This is what freedom of choice looks like.
I have a hunch that its also no coincidence that red and blue are used extensively for the purposes of distinguishing broadly similar factions/parties from one another. I am no colour psychologist though, so I’m not exactly sure what this denotes.
However, I want to draw attention to the last red vs. blue duality I included:
Most people probably recognized this as denoting the rivalry between the American Republican and Democratic parties, respectively. These two parties have often been accused of being broadly similar in recent years,
yet they manage to keep the veneer of differentiation though head-butting on issues like women’s rights, gay rights, fighting insurgency, etc. However, since they are both essentially fed by the same hands,
there are necessarily proverbial hands that both parties won’t bite. This is not to say its a grand conspiracy where the wealthy elite control the puppets.
On the contrary, its a rather common and disingenuous conspiracy where parties and politicians recognize where their self-interest lies and make the appropriate choices to maintain their positions of power vis-a-vis campaign funding, airtime and favourable press.
Furthermore, do you notice how any up-and-coming candidate for the presidency (and by association, senate and congress seats) always pledges to undo the wrongs of his predecessor should he be elected? This angle resonates with those disaffected most with the existing administration while polarizing the incumbent’s base, a base who, though they might not be 100% satisfied with their candidate’s performance when held up to his campaign promises, still prefers to stay the current course rather than make a departure
So how does this relate to Putin?
Well, someone’s gotta be the bad guy and someone’s gotta be the good. That is, someone’s gotta be red and someone’s gotta be blue.
If you think about it, in spite of his newfound popularity, Putin is not so different from Obama: He criticizes Obama for his handling of the Snowden affair while openly admitting that he would have prosecuted a similar Russian whistle-blower for treason. You might recognize this position as the broad similarity I mentioned earlier when talking about imposed dualities and intra-national politics. It seems that broadly similar imposed dualities exist at the international/global level of politics as well.
“It’s not about the one I like more, its about picking the one I hate least.” (Paraphrase)
Putin vs. Obama is the latesst permutation of Obama vs. Bush*, and in each case the appeal of the former is a direct function of how dissimilar they appear to be to the latter and how much the latter is hated.
Soooooo, why waste time waving the flag for either? Good question!
I quoted Miyamoto Musashi in my last post, “When Truisms Lie,” and I will quote him again here:
“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”
I think if we apply this view of imposed dualities at all levels of politics (global, national, provincial, regional, state, municipal, INTERGALACTIC!!!) we will see it represented faithfully, which to me is a testament to its truth. And it follows that if we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke and mirrors at one level (say, national politics), then we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke & mirrors at all other levels as well. In all cases we must look past the obvious conflict which is being presented to us and see who is benefiting no matter which side wins.
*I realize Obama never ran against Bush but he was touted as being the remedy to two Bush terms and two un-winnable wars.