My generation once believed in a peaceful and tolerant future. Russia’s assault on Ukraine has killed that illusion once and for all.
We're trained by our religious heritage to believe that the world can be totally, magically transformed. Your generation fell for it, just as the generation before you fell for the belief in an Age of Aquarius. Real world progress doesn't work like that: it's messy, imperfect, and comes with times of backlash and often new (hopefully smaller) problems.
One of the reasons the boomers have been so demonized is that what they changed fell so short of what they thought they would. Yet looking back, is it possible to deny that they created an America that's *much* less racist sexist homophobic etc. than the one they were born into? Yet for some reason we can't take a win, and both left and right want to tear it all down because they can't see what has improved.
What the end of the Cold War improved was a lot less than what we once thought. The future of liberal democracy may depend on not falling for the counter-delusion that it was nothing.
What a poignant and informative piece. Thanks, Yascha.
Can someone define “Nationalism”?
Is it the love of country? Is it the desire to take one’s values and plant them all around the world so that everyone can enjoy them? Does that desire also include forcible regime change if they don’t want your values or appear to be going in a direction you don’t like?
Let’s be honest, all this concern over the evils of “nationalism” stems from the view that Hitler was a “nationalist”. He was, in fact, a globalist who believed his purified race should and would run the world. He was a Darwinist believing in survival of the fittest, which was his purified race. He despised religion as it interfered with the perceived power of the State.
So when we complain about “nationalism” what exactly are we complaining about?
It seems to me that what is being ascribed to “Nationalism” isn’t nationalism - it’s an aggressive form of globalism wherein if the world only did what WE said, life would be wonderful.
Loving your country and worrying first about the welfare of your own people does not translate into wanting to forcible involve yourself in the affairs of others….
Who could fault a generation reared on the progressive and puerile faith that that arch of history bends towards perfection and morality (Obama, 2014) and reinforced by such ideological sneers as that of John Kerry that Putin invasion of SE Ukraine in 2014 "is so 19th century". These views afflict the 80's (90's and 2000's generations), but also the 60's Aquarius generation.
But has no one understood Machiavelli's teaching that one needs to confront the world as it is rather than the world as one wants it to be? That he said this in 1512 suggests that this theological outlook of perfectibility predates the present and may, in fact, be baked into human nature.
The only question now for the present young is whether they will quickly come to appreciate the value of western civilization and be willing to fight to retain it.
Forgive me for having a 71 year old's perspective. If you thought yourself wise, why would you ever have thought that a country that barely knew democracy at all, led by a corrupt chekist, was anything other than a menace in the heart of Europe? When Vladimir Putin stated Russia's right to have dominion over "the near abroad," what did you, and the ostrich-like Europeans, who were so busy reaping the post Cold War peace dividend, think was slowly fermenting in the Kremlin?
Since the fall if the Berlin Wall, the planners in the Department of Defense have suggested that peace forever in our time might not have broken out, but they they have been accused of just wanting to feather their nests. The truth is, history moves first at a snail's pace, then more quickly than we can imagine. And so it has this week.
But I believe your very magazine has covered the border in Georgia that seems to keep moving, month by month since THAT war ended. Nothing is a warning to the West until it is. Then suddenly everything looks like Munich. Meanwhile, most European countries have disarmed, turning their militaries into jobs programs, and turning the US into their military insurance program. As an example, what's left of the German military has been saddled with such poor equipment that it had to borrow US gear to fight in Afghanistan.
There is a little hope (but not much). Most of those 190,000 Russian troops aren't fighting. Putin doesn't have that many good ones. He's after a few cities, and Zelensky, in the typical Russian way, with massive artillery. But he'll win in the end. All Ukraine wanted to do was live in peace, not be an armed camp. Putin wants the industrial heart, to produce the things Russian is incapable of producing.
The thing is that as long as there is nationalism, regardless of prefix and type, there will be problems and conflicts. Simply because nationalism divides humans and does not create universal solidarity, empathy and trust. And when it comes to Ukraine, one of the problems is that is Russia there was do dealing with the past process after the fall of the Soviet Union. Many who support Putin do that because of Soviet nostalgia and legacy.
Some time ago I wrote “China is now very good at building dams. The US is now very good at enforcing PC. What country/system will dominate the 21st century?”
A very sobering thought, Yascha. I fervently hope this turns out better than it looks, but there still will be a lot a needless suffering no matter what.
Well said, Yascha. Perhaps you can help rally your former countrymen, the Germans, to abandon their foolish energy policies and stop enabling Putin. For example, they're still planning to close their three remaining nuclear plants this year.