17 October 2013

Their problem, never ours

Don’t be suckered by Greenpeace’s ‘Arctic 30’ campaign. It isn’t about pollution.

The Saker calls it a ‘political judo move’, which is precisely what it is. The reasons why outlets like the Guardian are busily drumming up the usual Russophobia and negative spin from all the usual corners (the French calling Russia ‘implacable’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘repressive’, charging their own government with supposed weakness on challenging Russia’s human rights record; the British with the typical slurs of a ‘nationalist strongman’ who is ‘crude, combative’ and ‘no gentleman’ while making the usual snide predictions about Russia’s inscrutable brutality and immanent decline; the Germans as always trying to make themselves out as the voice of reason and moderation without challenging at all the official line; the Poles displaying their perennial paranoias and Pharisaical attitude on economics; the Italian contributor seems the only one taking a realistic and rational line), is simply to cover their arses from criticism over this. The charitable view is that Greenpeace has been played like a violin by the UK and US petrol industries, who are motivated only by getting their piece of the Arctic action. At the very least, the environmental movement’s loudly-stated concerns over the environmental impact of Russia, in this case as in all too many others, seems far too selective to be fully sincere.

Oh, and the police in that most enlightened and tolerant of nations, the Netherlands, seem to have matters well in hand, breaking and entering the apartment of a Russian diplomat without a warrant, beating him up, detaining him and so forth. What, as Lord Peter Wimsey might put it, an awful, bitter, bloody farce.

It strikes me that the gentle reminder of Our Lord to pick the beam out of our own eye before reaching for the mote in our brother’s is a bit of advice most of us in the Anglo-American West (and aligned countries) could take more carefully to heart. Heaping odium upon a nation which is struggling and muddling forward with as much grace as it can from its traumatic communist past and equally-traumatic post-communist transition is both unfair and unkind. If the problems we see in the world are always the fault of ‘those people over there’, and never our own, that is a hint that, both as a society and as individuals, we need to take a long, hard and careful look at our own priorities and perspectives.


  1. Russophobia may be one of the last great “respectable prejudices” left in the modern Western world. It may also be one of the oldest. As I always like to say, I bet you could trace many of the negative stereotypes about Russia and the Russians to negative Western views of the Byzantine Empire and the Byzantines. Charges of autocracy and ostentatious brutality, for example, often sound similar to what some “Franks” wrote about the “Greeks” back in the Middle Ages.

  2. Hi John!

    It's still the Franks, really. Meaning the French, of course. And also the Netherlands (with the exception of the far northeast) and Germany still speak Germanic tongues sharing close kinship with Frankish.

    I think you're right, of course, but there's an extra dimension to Russophobia than just the anti-Byzantine legacy of Western thought. At the very least Western Whiggish historians would grudgingly make the concession that the Holy City of S. Constantine Isapostolos was 'civilised', in however condescendingly-orientalist a sense. But the whole notion that Russia is 'barbaric' (an idea called out for its speciousness by no less than GK Chesterton in the New York Times back during WWI) seems to stem in part from their Varangian legacy also.