Vladimir Putin Is Right Out Of A Russian Novel : The Protojournalist : NPR

Some Russian friends and acquaintances have tried earlier to explain the strength of certain Russian “ideas” that trump reality and rational thinking..

This piece expands on this concept and gives great food for thought on what might influence the thinking of President Putin..

It’s no excuse.. but it might be helpful to understand this in order to manage the relations best possible and avoid playing into the enemy role constructed in parts of Russian literature and culture..

http://www.npr.org/blogs/theprotojournalist/2014/03/29/294807461/vladimir-putin-is-right-out-of-a-russian-novel

Russia is a hypothetical culture. Ruled by despots for most of our history, we are used to living in fiction rather than reality,” writes Nina L. Khrushcheva, who teaches international affairs at The New School. She is also the great granddaughter of the late communist leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev.

(..) The political — and very real and serious — drama unfolding in Ukraine right now “isn’t merely geopolitical,” says Andrew D. Kaufman. “It’s a deep-seated drama of the Russian soul that’s been around for centuries. And Russian literature is the place we see it in full flower.” Andy is a Russian literature at the and author of the upcoming Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times.

The question Putin is grappling with, Andy says, “is one that recurs throughout the nineteenth-century Russian classics: What is the source of our national greatness?”

Nineteenth-century writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, for instance, believed that Russia’s mission was to establish a widespread Christian empire — with Russia at its epicenter, Andy says, pointing to The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov as exemplary novels. Dostoevsky’s contemporary, Leo Tolstoy, on the other hand, believed that every nation is unique and worthwhile — none better or worse than others.

(..) In certain works by Dostoevsky, says Laura Goering, professor of Russian at , “the West is depicted as something seductive, yet soulless, a temptation to be resisted at all costs.”

Jared Diamond on Romney’s Cultural Theories.

One of our favorite books of all time is “Guns, Germs and Steel” by scientist Jared Diamond.

The Big Picture.

Last week the author commented on Romney’s views on Middle East societies, and his analysis about their main driving factors for economic development.

From Diamond:

MITT ROMNEY’S latest controversial remark, about the role of culture in explaining why some countries are rich and powerful while others are poor and weak, has attracted much comment. I was especially interested in his remark because he misrepresented my views and, in contrasting them with another scholar’s arguments, oversimplified the issue.

It is not true that my book “Guns, Germs and Steel,” as Mr. Romney described it in a speech in Jerusalem, “basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth.”

That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it.

He makes a long and good argument (often with the backdrop of 13.000 years of human history) – but also makes it more applicable towards the end, providing a cautionary note:

Conversely, geographic advantages don’t guarantee permanent success, as the growing difficulties in Europe and America show. We Americans fail to provide superior education and economic incentives to much of our population. India, China and other countries that have not been world leaders are investing heavily in education, technology and infrastructure. They’re offering economic opportunities to more and more of their citizens. That’s part of the reason jobs are moving overseas. Our geography won’t keep us rich and powerful if we can’t get a good education, can’t afford health care and can’t count on our hard work’s being rewarded by good jobs and rising incomes.

And the last part goes straight into the problems with narrow business mindsets applied to running societies:

Mitt Romney may become our next president. Will he continue to espouse one-factor explanations for multicausal problems, and fail to understand history and the modern world? If so, he will preside over a declining nation squandering its advantages of location and history.

Read the full column here.

Sunday Post: The Sources of Happiness.

bhutankingdom.jpg

Sometimes it’s good with a small reminder – that life and society should be guided by a mix of different things, and value things like people and happiness, along with income and growth.

Bhutankingdom

A buddhist society - with a plurality of goals for a happy life.

Dr. Sachs has great food for thought – reporting from the Mountain Kingdom of Bhutan.

We live in a time of high anxiety. Despite the world’s unprecedented total wealth, there is vast insecurity, unrest, and dissatisfaction. In the United States, a large majority of Americans believe that the country is “on the wrong track”. Pessimism has soared. The same is true in many other places.

Against this backdrop, the time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in our economic life. The relentless pursuit of higher income is leading to unprecedented inequality and anxiety, rather than to greater happiness and life satisfaction. Economic progress is important and can greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is pursued in line with other goals.

In this respect, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has been leading the way. Forty years ago, Bhutan’s fourth king, young and newly installed, made a remarkable choice: Bhutan should pursue “gross national happiness” (GNH) rather than gross national product. Since then, the country has been experimenting with an alternative, holistic approach to development that emphasises not only economic growth, but also culture, mental health, compassion, and community.

[..] The mad pursuit of corporate profits is threatening us all. To be sure, we should support economic growth and development, but only in a broader context: one that promotes environmental sustainability and the values of compassion and honesty that are required for social trust. The search for happiness should not be confined to the beautiful mountain kingdom of Bhutan.

Full story.