Putin is now the US’s Daddy: Putin said in his Op Ed in the New York Times a while ago, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” I agree the American Exceptionalism and the American Dream are both really dangerous (and heave been myths that have hammered the US middle class/working class in the last three decades.) Russia hasn’t needed myths to suppress their middle class/working class what with purges and the Gulag, however. But whose counting? We have vast prison systems; they have vast prison systems. We have the Russian Mafia; They have the Russian Mafia. We are essentially the same place. When I go for a walk on Sunday at the pier, I am surrounded by Russian couples.
I think it is more dangerous that we see ourselves as “The West” and we see Russia and Asia as “The East.”
It is retrograde to use “The East” as something to define ourselves. Edward Said’s book Orientalism is really handy in breaking down the reductive trick of balancing West against East. Not only is East/West really old as a set an artificial world-view dichotomy, it also serves no purpose in Globalism aside from setting up seating charts, resource distribution schedules, and other administrative tasks.
There is no East/West, on a globe. The first picture of the entire earth should have shattered the idea of West/East. We are a blue dot in a vast sea of nothing.
I am reading Wilderness and the American Mind, and how before World War II, the US defined itself in opposition to a concept named wilderness. In the western US we liked to think we live in close proximity to the wilderness. It isn’t an accident or trick of ‘quality of writing’ that Washington State Book Awards tend to go to Pioneering or Homesteading narratives. Conceptually, wilderness was uninhabited, or even uninhabitable, and counter to Civilization. As a concept it has some big problems. For instance, what we termed wilderness was in fact populated with a number of civilizations that we just choose to place into the flora and fauna category.
Perhaps our culture needs a definition of something alien or other? It’s like in order to see ourselves we have to hold up a mirror in which we cannot be reflected.
Wouldn’t it be a lot handier to define The Earth vs Space. for this metaphor? Space is a vast, fruitful metaphor completely devoid of human or even life as we know it on Earth (as far as we know), it has many of the qualities of wilderness, and the more troubling qualities The West assigns to The Orient.
But then maybe we would just be outsourcing our reductive, colonizing tendencies to space? Who knows what we would be unable to see? What alien ecosystems would be destroyed and exploited? At least it wouldn’t be on Earth, I guess.