Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Mythos and the Logos in Russia and the West

All nations, all groups of people, have their myth, their shared narrative of how they came to be, what they are and why they are. And they have their sacred words - a constitution, the Rule of Law, around which social order is maintained.

Or at least they should do.

Britain - the mythos - a Celtic island nation formed by numerous invasions (Romans, Angles, Saxons and Jutes, Normans); Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, maritime exploration, the Mother of Parliaments, the Empire Upon Which The Sun Never Set, Industry, Britannia Ruling the Waves, the tragedy of the Great War, Standing Alone in 1940,  Royal Family, the Welfare State, a Free Media, Tolerance, Common Sense, Good Manners and Decency. The logos is based on an unwritten constitution; absolute respect for private property, Common Law and precedent; parliamentary procedures, Green Papers, White Papers, Bills and Acts. Separation of the judiciary from the legislature, independent institutions.

America - the mythos - Pilgrim Fathers - civilising the savage wilderness, no taxation without representation - the primacy of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, rugged individualism, right to bear arms, Just Wars to Free the Oppressed, from the Civil War to WWII, the City on the Hill, the refuge for the Huddled Masses, the bringer of innovation to the world. The logos is firmly rooted in the Constitution of 1776 and its amendments, the division of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, Allegiance to the Flag.

Poland - the mythos - the Piast dynasty and the creation of a Polish, Christian nation state; alliance with Lithuania to form Europe's largest land empire, from the Baltic to the Black sea; sold out by self-interested magnates and carved up by Prussia, Russia and Austria, off the face of Europe for 120 years to re-emerge only to be tragically partitioned once again by Hitler and Stalin; occupied by the Nazis for five years and under Soviet domination for the next 45 - free at last and determined to make up lost ground. The logos - the legacy of the Constitution of 1791, the current constitution of 1997, the European Union Treaty, the ongoing nation-building work to improve the legislative process and build strong, independent institutions.

Russia - the mythos - Kievan Rus', Orthodox Christianity, a golden age before the Mongol hordes swept across from the East; 260 years of suffering under oriental despotism, before home-grown autocracy in the form of Ivan the Terrible took hold. And via Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, a Eurasian empire stretching from Central Europe to the Pacific Ocean was formed, on the back of a vast army of serfs. All the while Russia was being invaded by foreigners - Swedes, Poles, Turks. The Romanov dynasty was either a) the Successor of Byzantium or b) the Oppressor of the Masses. So in 1917, it was overthrown either a) by a band of gangsters driven by a misguided ideology or b) the Vanguard of the Proletariat. Then Stalin collectivised the peasantry of the Russian Empire (including Ukrainians, Belarusians, Georgians, Armenians etc), and enforced industrialisation upon a backward nation - doing this well enough to drive out Hitler and his Fascists. But Russia continues to be set upon - by America, NATO, the EU, Fascists, Liberals, Catholics, Muslims... and only one man can keep NATO's missiles away from Russia's frontiers - Russia's Man of the Year for the past 15 years.

The Russian logos? It's whatever Putin says. Close down McDonalds? The sanitary inspectorate will willingly come up with the right papers. Seize the assets of Yevtushenkov's Sistema? Get the procurator to place its owner under house arrest. Invade Crimea? Eastern Ukraine? Not me mister, he bravely lied. Russia so demands a strong man, the logos resides with, and is, the strong man. Unlike the West, the logos belongs to whoever happens to be running Russia. Not a good thing for Russians.

This time last year:
Going mobile - I get a smartofon

This time two years ago:
The end was meant to end today (remember?)

This time three years ago:
First snow - but proper snow?

The time four years ago:
Dense, wet, rush hour snow

This time five years ago:
Evening photography, Powiśle

This time six years ago:
The shortest day of the year

This time seven years ago:
Bye bye borders - Poland joins Schengen

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