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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Dr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: integraldeeplistening.com and his YouTube channel.
Why are Russia and Putin Winning the Economic and Military Wars?
A multi-perspectival approach to the Ukraine debacle will take into account Western, Ukrainian, Russian, and global south perspectives.
Despite continuous draconian sanctions applied by the US and EU, the Ruble, the currency of Russia, has rebounded to a stronger level than before the Ukrainian invasion. Inflation in Russia is going down while inflation in the US and the EU is climbing. How come? Despite NATO, the EU, and US pumping billions and an enormous variety of weapons into Ukraine, it keeps losing and Russia keeps advancing in the war. How come? Despite portrayals of Putin as a butcher, war criminal, and authoritarian, his public approval rating in Russia is higher than ever. How come? Despite global disparagement and coercion, some two thirds of the population and economy of the world refuses to denounce Russia. How come?
The current state of Western Orwellian groupthink
These infuriating realities are a mystery until and unless we understand how our assumptions about Russia and Putin constitute self-imposed blinders that cause us to badly misjudge both. Future historians will have a field day pontificating on what possessed the entirety of the West to descend into mass groupthink regarding the Ukraine, Putin, and Russia. Future psychologists will write PhD theses on what caused the mass psychosis of fear and hate that consumed every particle of grey matter of normally intelligent and good-hearted Westerners. It's as if Russophobia were covid and it mutated into long covid through the funding and arming neo-Nazis. It is as if it did so in the name of compassion for Ukrainian refugees and out of hatred to Putin and post-Soviet Russia. What makes this self-inflicted “long covid” particularly amazing is that post-1989 Russia and Putin have never threatened or attacked any European country, much less the US until now, in the Ukraine.
In what follows I am going to challenge many common WILP (Western, Integral, Liberal, Progressive) assumptions about Russia and Putin. I do not expect to change minds, but only demonstrate that there indeed exists a healthy and thriving reality outside the suffocating iron maiden of Western groupthink. I also want to offer a cautionary tale: life outside self-validating Western propaganda is winning global hearts and minds economically, militarily, legally, socially, and culturally, regardless of what the self-described “International Community” thinks, feels, or fervently desires.
We all are endlessly told by news, friends, and Google searches that Putin and Russia are bad, evil, fascist, and authoritarian. We are constantly bombarded by these “truths” every day. Orwell's Two Minutes of Hate has turned into 24/7 Minutes of Hate. To mention positive qualities of Russia and Putin is to be attacked. If positive qualities are mentioned, they are typically wrapped in a discounting or disparaging context. Qualifiers of positive qualities are a must, to signal that we “really” know how evil and lacking in compassion Putin and Russia are and how much we really do care about the terrible plight of Ukrainians. If we do not bow before the unspoken dogma of “Russia/Putin BAD,” we know we will most likely be accused of being a Putin concubine, supporting autocracy and lacking compassion for Ukrainian refugees and heroes. The Western worldview has made extraordinary contributions to global society and culture for centuries, even millennia. Sadly it has now largely turned into a caricature of its once greatness, becoming a toxic impediment to global growth into a broader and more healthy framing. WILPs like myself can either expand their worldview or collapse along with it.
Those who expect to find a “balanced” account in what follows, in which every positive statement is accompanied by the obligatory qualification, I can only refer you to your friendly, omnipresent mainstream media, where you will find all the virtue signaling you can stand. Balance can only come from an exposure to and consideration of realities that challenge and contradict our assumptions and worldview. If that is going to upset someone's fragile psyche, now is a good time to go read something else.
Reasons to consider positive characteristics of Putin and Russia
Knowledge of the positive characteristics of Putin and Russia is not only in the interest of integral multi-perspectivalism but necessary if we are to see the limitations of the predominant Western narratives that have led not only to failure in Ukraine but, more profoundly, self-inflicted, ongoing sociocide by the West. Much of the criticism of Putin and Russia, whether taken from quotes from Russian philosophers that validate the writer's opinion, or the general worldview of Westerners, assumes that neither Russia nor Putin reflect “integral” or “progressive” characteristics, but instead demonstrate authoritarianism and even fascism. Any attempt to demonstrate otherwise is typically met not with a normal questioning or dialogue but with denial or ad hominem logical fallacies, that is, that the speaker is a “Putin apologist,” a “Russian bot,” “supporter of fascism and authoritarianism,” or a “traitor.” (Frank Visser is a rare exception to these attempts at repression.) All of these ploys occur when people simply run out of rational rebuttals. They regress to name calling. Why are positive assessments of the actions of Putin and Russia so threatening to WILPs?
What does an integral approach to the conflict in the Ukraine look like?
Are there some fundamental, underlying principles that we can agree on? I can think of a few candidates; I am pretty sure you can add some more. However, let's begin with these:
Our approach will be ethical.
We will ask, “What is respectful?” “What is reciprocal?” “What generates trust?” “What is empathetic?” While we can always be faulted for not being more compassionate and ethical, these are good questions to at least be asking of ourselves, of Russia, the Ukrainian government and military, and of the US, NATO, and the EU. Washington and NATO ignored Russia's red lines. Is that respectful? Is it something Washington and NATO would want Russia to do? Of course not. Therefore, it is not reciprocal. Does ignoring the promise not to expand NATO build or undercut trust? Do the actions of Washington and NATO manifest empathy toward Russia?
Russia has not turned any Ukrainian cities into Falluja or Mosul. It has opened humanitarian corridors for civilians. While there definitely are civilian casualties and abuses by Russian military, they in no way compare to those by the US and NATO, such as those documented by Julian Assange. Of course Russia and Putin can be more ethical. But in comparison to what? Western intentions and expressed values or appalling Western behavior? To a Western-centric worldview or to a global consideration of what is ethical and what is not?
Our approach will be agentic.
If we want to take an Integral perspective we will not give our power away by blaming others. Instead, we will take responsibility by asking, “What is missing from my sense of self and worldview that causes me to create and contribute to this conflict?”
Since I grew up and spent decades accepting and espousing the current US/NATO/EU narrative, I can't claim that perspective is missing from my worldview, nor can anyone else successfully pin that charge on me. However, as a US citizen I bear responsibility for this conflict, and that's one of the reasons why I am speaking out about it now. I have benefitted in numerous ways from growing up in the US and being a recipient of a huge proportion of the world's resources. For its part, Russia bears responsibility for not stating and drawing red lines earlier, which gave the false impression that it would continue to yield to Western pressure. It also bears responsibility for ratcheting up a hot war that had been going on since Ukraine began shelling fellow Ukrainians in the Donbass eight years ago, fully funded and armed by the US and its NATO allies.
Our approach will be communal.
We will consider our personal worldview and identity in the context of the collective worldviews and identities in which we are embedded. If the conclusion is that respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and/or empathy are lacking, then ethics, agency, and consideration of collective welfare requires that we call it out.
What is good for Ukrainian, European, and global collectives is currently subject to hot debate. Certainly the recipients of exploitation, war, terrorism, and sanctions are not going to view the instigators of abuse and aggression, whether they be Western, Russian, or Ukrainian, as behaving with those qualities. That the demographic and economic majorities of nations refused to condemn Russia at the UN for its actions means that the narrative of the West about the war does not reflect the view of the global community, and so is less than communal in a global sense.
Our approach will be phenomenological.
We will park our identity, worldview, assumptions, and beliefs in order to gain information and develop empathy. While most of us are confident we do so, that itself is an assumption to question and set aside. We are all prisoners of our worldview as well as our socio-cultural-economic realities. We can expand on Upton Sinclair's famous quote, above, by noting that it is difficult for any of us to accept something when our identity depends on our not accepting it. Therefore, we can at least recognize that our assumptions blind us, then attempt to surface and table them, and then weigh multiple invested and relevant perspectives. When we pursue this process, our conclusions are more likely to be multi-perspectival and less likely to be emotionally-driven prepersonal beliefs.
Our approach will include rationality in order to transcend it.
We will ask questions rather than pronounce conclusions; we will counter emotionalism with objectivity; we will consider a broad range of data and seek the most parsimonious explanations. Putin excels in rationality, and those who are convinced that Putin is “merely” orange need to ask themselves if they are indeed as intelligent and rational as Putin. I certainly am not. While I see rationality in the actions of the US and NATO, the Ukraine seems mostly motivated by pre-rational reactivity driven by beliefs in nationalism and ethnic purity.
Our approach will include egalitarianism and pluralism.
We need to include these qualities in our behavior and relationships if we want to authentically and credibly transcend them. We will demonstrate as much compassion for out-groups as we do for in-groups. However, it is difficult for the West to point to a history of compassion for out-groups, such as Guatemalans, Chileans, Syrians, Africans, Iraqis, or Yemenis. As a peace corps for neoliberalism, the social support shown by NGOs has often been used to gain internal allies, co-opt populations, and prepare the ground for color revolutions. This is phony, manipulative egalitarianism and pluralism. Post-Soviet Russia does not share the Western history of using late personal “green” values to exploit other countries in the name of exceptionalistic democratic values.
Our approach will be multi-perspectival.
We will take into account a broad range of perspectives, in particular those of “out-groups” that don't agree with out own. An important aspect of being multi-perspectival is that we consider all four quadrants of human holons: “What parts do consciousness, values, behavior, and relationships play in the Ukrainian conflict?”
A basic consideration for multi-perspectivalism is embodied in the questions, “Does my worldview include awareness of and empathy with the perspectives of Russia and Putin?” Does it consider the viewpoint of people in the Donbass? “If I think it does, how do I know?” A multi-perspectival approach to the Ukraine debacle will take into account Western, Ukrainian, Russian, and global south perspectives. In my experience, most supporters of the Western narrative present only a caricature of the Russian perspective; they don't demonstrate an understanding or recognition of its worldview and perspective. If we fail at that, how legitimate is the claim that our take on the situation is multi-perspectival or integral?
What are some of the positive characteristics of Russia and Putin?
Ability to face and overcome adversity
We cannot understand either Putin or the perspective of Russians as a collective unless there is an understanding of how Russians perceive World War II. Putin's father was severely wounded in 1942 fighting against German occupiers. His brother Viktor, born in 1940, died of diphtheria and starvation in 1942 during the Siege of Leningrad. Putin's maternal grandmother was killed by the German occupiers of the Tver region in 1941. His maternal uncles disappeared on the Eastern Front during World War II. Growing up, everyone Putin knew had a relative who had been killed in the war. Russia lost some twenty-seven million citizens, almost five times as many people as died in the Holocaust, and it lost them to fascism. Russians viscerally fear and hate fascists and fascism. Therefore, those who want to paint Putin as a fascist demonstrate a profound lack of empathy with the Russian direct experience with fascism.
Nazis are particular forms of fascists and neo-Nazis are particular forms of Nazis. They are fascists. From a Russian perspective, the Russian government and military are acting in the Ukraine to protect Russia and Russian speakers from fascists, as they did in WW II. That was an existential, life or death struggle, for Russia, and that is how they experience both fascism in the Ukraine and the progressive encroachment of NATO. Russian history of facing and overcoming immense adversity in World War II makes it highly likely that it will persevere in the Ukraine until its goals are met. Russians have fought and overcome much worse than what the West is throwing at them, and WILPs need to deeply ponder what that implies.
Another example of Russian ability to face and overcome adversity was the decade of 1990 to 2000. After 1989, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the government of Boris Yeltsin invited US economic advisors in to remake the Russian economy based on liberal capitalistic principles. Under this tutelage, Russia descended into a depression deeper than that experienced by the US in the 1930's. Thousands of people lost their jobs, committed suicide, or became alcoholics. Oligarchs, using money from Western banks, bought Russian public resources for pennies on the dollar and then exported their gains to foreign banks and offshore tax havens. The economy of Russia was gutted. Beginning in 2000, with the election of Putin, Russia began to recover, with an average increase in GDP of 7% over the next eight years, about twice the rate of the US and most Western economies. Russia's inflation rate was ten times lower in early 2022 than it was in 2002. Although it spiked after the Ukraine invasion due to the impact of Western sanctions, it has steadily declined since then. Between 2000 and 2020, per-capita GDP tripled, meaning that Russians on average make three times what they did twenty year ago. As of 2019, Russian household disposable income was higher than that in the US. As of 2019, Russian employment rate was impressively high, at 87%. Over the past twenty years Russia has developed world-class space, industrial, and space technologies as well as exceptional military capabilities. In response to sanctions following the return of Crimea, Russia developed its agricultural sector to become the number one exporter of wheat. As of this writing, in April, 2022, at 80.52, the Ruble is stronger than it was before the introduction of draconian sanctions by the West after February 27th, 2022.
Today, Russia is the strongest autarky in the world. It is largely self-sufficient and therefore relatively immune to both the sanctions and opinions of WILPs, and it has the means and will to face and overcome adversity in the Ukraine, from NATO, or from sanctions. WILPs do not have to agree or like this characteristic of Russians and Putin, but they would be wise to not underestimate it. It is dangerously delusional to imagine that more sanctions, public blaming, or military escalations will back Russia down. WILPs need to ask, “Is this worth having a nuclear war over?” For Russia, it is, if it is forced to come to that horrific crossroads.
Popular support of citizenry.
Every year Putin holds a call-in public press conference for an amazing four hours, fielding all sorts of questions from citizens across the country, demonstrating his ability to be accountable to the public to a degree that is unmatched by leaders of Western pluralistic democracies. Current polls by independent polling organization Lavada give Putin an amazing 83% approval rating. By comparison, a recent poll put Biden's approval at 38%. What does it indicate that a “butcher” and “war criminal” is over twice as popular among his own citizens as is the leader of world “pluralistic democracies”?
Interior opposition to Putin has evaporated, largely because many of those who have advocated closer alignment with the West have been personally harmed financially by Western sanctions. Also, wars bring a predictable upsurge in both nationalism and solidarity. Russian citizens in small and large towns spontaneously line the streets to wave on military vehicles leaving to fight in the Ukraine. While WILPs generally view Putin as an autocrat, the Russian population does not. An integral perspective doesn't deny, discount, minimize or rationalize that reality away, but deeply considers its implications.
The Russian government is clever.
Russia is clever in pointing out to all nations, in response to the freezing some 400 billion of Russian assets in Western banks, that the US can and may steal their deposits as well at anytime if it so desires. This move effectively undercut trust in the dollar as the global currency that finances US debt, causing many countries in the world, such as India and Iran, to trade with Russia in Rubles and their own currencies, weakening the ability of the US to finance its empire through deficit spending. Financial regulators of the US, EU, and the UK undermined the status of the dollar, euro, and pound as global reserve currencies by freezing Russian foreign exchange reserves in custody accounts of western central banks. This step sharply accelerated the ongoing dismantling of the dollar-based economic world order.
Instead of imposing massive counter-sanctions on the West, Russia has allowed sanctioners to hang themselves with their own rope. For example, in April 2022 the EU Parliament voted to stop all Russian imports, including gas, oil, metals, and grains, imposing upon itself drastic inflationary conditions. Although the vote was non-binding, it is a vivid example of economic self-injury that is widely taking place in the West, largely as a manifestation of hatred of Putin and all things Russian. Russia was also clever to tie the purchase of gas to both the ruble and gold, supporting the value of the ruble and making commodities, rather than fiat currency - paper and derivatives - the foundation of Eurasian, and potentially global, economics. Russia was clever enough to stop the US, NATO, the Saudis, and Israel from overthrowing the democratically elected government of Assad in Syria. It helped prevent a coup in Turkey, another in Belarus, and yet another in Kazakhstan. It is now in the process of stopping the capture of Ukraine by NATO.
Russia is also clever to pursue an historic alliance with China, which provides it with an endless export market for its goods to replace that of Europe, thereby further insulating its economy from Western sanctions. Russia has thereby used sanctions to generate greater autarky, a very clever response indeed.
Mainstream Western narratives typically either ignore or underestimate how clever Putin and Russia have proven themselves to be. The result has been economic crisis for the West, food and energy inflation not only in the West but in the global south that may once again lead to a massive influx of immigrants into Europe and the US, in turn creating social and political chaos. The global south must wonder if the sanctioning of Russian cats, musicians, literature and even Putin's daughters is appropriate and effective, or whether it is instead a manifestation of irrational hatred and desperation, resulting from the failure of sanctions to bring Russia to its knees.
The current leaders of Russia are smart, rational, and effective.
The Formal Operational Stage is the last of four stages of Piaget's scale of cognitive development, which Wilber's Integral AQAL model endorses. Formal operational thinkers can think of different solutions to solve a problem, including those that are creative and abstract. Individuals in this stage think carefully before they act. Putin is formal, if not post-formal in his cognitive development, in that he exhibits deductive logic, the ability to do abstract thought, problem solving, and hypothetical-deductive reasoning. Putin is logical and rational and bases his arguments on reason and facts. He generally has reasoned and well-researched opinions. Read or watch any of his speeches or his question-and-answer sessions with constituents and you will see that this is true. Putin also appeals to beliefs and emotion, and he does so within the context of rationality. Watch any of his yearly four-hour televised sessions of public questioning and his responses to a wide range of concerns without teleprompters, ear pieces for prompting, or avoidance of the press, practices common among other world leaders.
Putin didn't get to where he is by being a clever fascist, something implied by the common Western referencing of his nine years as a member of his country's secret service. Putin holds a PhD in economics and is fluent in German. His doctoral thesis describes methods needed to effectively turn Russia into a resources-based economic super-power, something which he has arguably succeeded in doing, based on its unmatched weaponry, critical exports, world-class educational system, and widespread public support.
Nor did Putin get to where he is by status or wealth, a reality that stumps many of his detractors, who are sure he must have a fortune stashed away somewhere. He rose through governmental ranks because he was effective, which means that he fulfilled the expectations of the various roles assigned to him throughout his career in an exceptional way. Why is Putin's intelligence, rationality, and effectiveness generally depicted as in the service of personal aggrandizement instead of attributes expressed for the good of the general public? Because many people themselves admire and desire status and power, it is easy to project similar motivations onto Putin. He did indeed rise due to his connections and favorable and respectful impressions of him, first by people in power, and then by the public in general, as displayed by his being elected repeatedly to the office of President. Could it be that Putin might really be intelligent in healthy ways and genuinely effective?
Ability to admit faults and limitations.
In the West, admitting weaknesses and mistakes is generally seen as a sign of a weak leader, of someone out of control, lacking confidence, or who does not inspire respect. While Russians on average and Russia as a nation are neither more nor less able to admit faults and limitations than people in most other countries, Putin himself calls on and defers to experts on issues and concerns about which he lacks specific knowledge; he doesn't assume that he knows it all or that he is always correct. Authoritarians typically do not admit their faults and limitations, and those who want to hang this epithet around Putin's neck need to explain his willingness to consult with others and admit his faults and limitations. For example, Putin admitted mistakes in his Chechnya policy. Putin has stated that his government bears some responsibility for the economic crisis of 2014. Russia acquiesced repeatedly to “salami slicing,” the incremental reduction of Russia's power through the advance of NATO eastward, non-reciprocated sanctions, successful color revolutions, the allowance of non-fulfillment of Minsk II by the Ukraine, of seven years of shelling by Ukraine of its own citizens in the Donbass, and the arming, and training of neo-Nazis in the Ukraine. He has said that his biggest mistake was trusting the West.
That should be an object lesson for all of us. Because we don't know what the Russian government knows and because we misread Putin, the Ukraine has now lost not only Crimea and the Donbass, but may lose its statehood as well.
Recognizing Putin's ability to admit and accept weakness and failure challenges the narrative that he is grandiose, narcissistically confident, and an authoritarian. The truth is that Putin often does know more than his interlocutors and he is often correct, yet, at the same time, he is smart enough to know he doesn't know everything, needs the input of others, and also humble enough to be able to admit when he is wrong or has made a mistake. I suspect this is at least partially due to years learning and practicing the worldview of Judo.
Because we don't know what the Russian government knows and because we misread Putin, the Ukraine has now lost not only Crimea and the Donbass, but may lose its statehood as well.
Collective, consultative decision-making.
Putin's policies have very strong support from both the Russian Parliament and Military, probably because Putin constantly consults with the Parliament, ministers, state governors, and his military. For example, Putin did not and indeed could not authorize the action in the Ukraine until the Russian Parliament voted its consent. Putin has surrounded himself with smart and capable individuals, including the economist Sergei Glaziev and Sergi Shoigu, the head of the Russian armed forces, who is responsible for the planning and execution of the invasion of Ukraine. Putin is known for his broad, wide-ranging consultations with experts in various fields and in seeking out those who are of different opinions and who know things that he does not, or at a degree of specificity that he lacks. For example, Putin did not authorize the Ukrainian invasion until he had received full authorization by both his government and support from his military. That is not what authoritarians do. Authoritarians and dictators make autonomous, autocratic decisions. Authoritarians wage war based on executive actions without consulting Congress first. Every US President since Truman, with the possible exception of Carter, has waged war without the permission of Congress. The collective, consultative decision-making aspect of Putin's character is generally not mentioned in the West because the thought that Putin is a collective, consultative decision-maker clashes with groupthink that says Putin is an autocrat, fascist, or totalitarian.
A strong sense of justice.
It is one thing to appeal to the law; it is another to abide by it and insist that one's colleagues do as well. The concept of justice boils down to reciprocity and a sense of fair play. I submit to the same rules I demand you follow. This is probably most clearly seen in Putin's submission to the rules of sport, notably judo and ice hockey, but it appears to me that his appeals to international law and the equality of individuals and nations under it are sincere.
Putin and the Russian government believe all nations need to follow internationally agreed treaties and UN conventions. It justifies its invasion of the Ukraine by appealing to Article 51 of the UN Charter. It states:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Unlike the US, Russia does not appeal to a “rules-based order” beyond or outside of international law. Nor does it appropriate the national finances of other nations.
For Putin and Russia, just like for the US, strategic interests finally take precedence over values, such as democracy, freedom, and human rights. While all of us want and need to be idealists, idealism can be and often is used to rationalize the exercise of raw power. Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, and Palestine are all examples of aggression and the violation of international law wrapped in idealistic rationalizations.
Those who cite Russia's invasion of the Ukraine as proof that Biden is correct and that Putin is a criminal ignore two important data points. The first is the dangerous reality that violence in the face of pervasive injustice is not only sometimes justified but necessary. Otherwise, there wouldn't be police, national guard, or national militaries. These institutions are societal acknowledgements of that reality. UN Article 51 also officially recognizes this reality. The second is the obvious hypocrisy of decrying violence as aggression by those who display a pattern of global aggression, colonization, exploitation, and international injustice over some five centuries, something Russia and Putin cannot begin to match. Pluralistic democracies can no longer point to clean, safe streets, an absence of homelessness, a lack of censorship, non-corrupt leadership, or a thriving middle class as evidence of their virtue. In addition to expensive and unreliable munitions and the gutting of economies through the highly conditioned loans of the World Bank and IMF, the West provides endless moral judgements stemming from a constantly shifting ethical framework based on two principles: exceptionalism and blaming the villain de jour. Sadly, weapons, propaganda, and extractive loans appear to be the three main exports of the self-professed “International Community,” which in reality excludes about two-thirds of the world's population and economies. Contemplation of the possibility that justice might be important for Russia and Putin and actually respected by them undermines and threatens Western idealism, exceptionalism and decades of carefully cultivated groupthink.
Is there corruption in Russia? Absolutely. Are there corrupt oligarchs in Russian business and government? Absolutely. Are they as corrupt as Donald Trump or Joe and Hunter Biden? How many white collar criminals have been prosecuted in the US in the aftermath of the economic collapse of 2008? While charges that Putin is personally corrupt are common in the West, where is the evidence? Do allegations by “government sources” or hearsay from this or that Russian constitute evidence?
Putin has urged Russian governors to read Solovyov's definitive work of ethics, The Justification of the Good, the magnum opus of the Russian philosopher Solovyov. It contains an absolute condemnation of national exceptionalism:
It must be one or the other. Either we must renounce Christianity and monotheism in general, according to which 'there is none good but one, that is, God,' and recognize our nation as such to be the highest good that is, put it in the place of God—or we must admit that a people becomes good not in virtue of the simple fact of its particular nationality, but only in so far as it conforms to and participates in the absolute good.
This is significant because WILPs often claim that somehow Putin's nationalism, unlike US nationalism, is a bad thing. The problem is not nationalism itself, but an exceptionalistic, exclusivist nationalism that denies rights and justice to minorities or other nationalities. France, the UK, and the US have a far more intensive and pervasive record of same than does Putin and post 2000 Russia.
Advantage through yielding.
The West has long possessed a win-lose, zero sum approach to advantage based on the Graco-Roman Olympic celebration of competition. While it presents itself as heroic and virtuous, the Graco-Roman approach to competition is inherently amoral, in that it is focused on winning and the status and power thereby gained, not on mutual benefit. The Graco-Roman approach to competition uses whatever techniques to win that are permitted by the rules of a particular endeavor. It views yielding as weakness, a sign to double down in one's attack. The Graco-Roman approach to competition constantly tests the rules to see if they hold or not. Ideally, followers of the Graco-Roman approach to competition are able to make their own rules, thereby not only giving them the advantage, but assuring that they cannot be defeated. This is enshrined in the formula that money is to be made in the grey area between legality and illegality. Wall St, economics, and finances are, in this worldview, sports, a form of high-stakes gambling, the object of which is to “win” by becoming wealthy, powerful, and influential. Others in competition are called “opponents;” they are adversaries.
Putin and Russia are no strangers to the Graco-Roman competition-based worldview. However, Putin's world view not only contains that default Western approach to competition but then transcends it by contextualizing it within a deep study of Eastern martial arts. Putin began studying and practicing Judo, a form of martial arts based on the Chinese philosophy of wu-wei, or “effortless action,” at the age of twelve. Putin considered his Judo coach, Anatoly Rakhlin, who trained him for fifteen years, his “mentor” and “second father”. Putin won gold in championship Judo matches in St. Petersburg. In 2012, he was awarded the rank of 9th dan in Judo, a very rare and difficult degree of Black Belt that takes years of consistent training. To this day, there are very few people who have ever achieved such a rank.
We can therefore assume that Putin has an unusually strong foundation in the worldview of wu-wei, martial arts, and Judo, a foundation and perspective that is largely lacking not only in the West, but in Russia as well. In this regard, Putin has developed aspects of his worldview that include yet transcend both Western enlightenment values and Russian nationalism. His worldview includes Western enlightenment values because Putin inherited a cultural outlook that considered itself European, part of the Western enlightenment tradition, since Peter the Great, but transcends it because Putin's worldview includes both an Asiatic identity that the West lacks and a specific understanding and application of Eastern philosophy that the West lacks.
The name “Judo” means “gentle way,” to not resist, to give way, to be compliant. At its foundation, Judo assumes a perspective that is typically dismissed by the Graco-Roman approach as a form of weakness. The irony is that wu-wei is weak like water, since you can't grab it, or in the sense that a willow is weak in relationship to an oak, since you can't build a sturdy house out of willow. However, when a hurricane comes along, if you are an oak, you may soon become matchsticks, while the willow survives and endures. Water, which flows around obstacles and yields, can, as a tsunami, crush anything in its path. The point is that the rigidity of strength leads to its own destruction while the pliant, giving nature of weakness allows it to survive, adapt, and overcome.
The fundamental principles of Judo specifically, and Eastern martial arts in general, translate into an advocacy to live a gentle life, in a very efficient manner, with thought and consideration for all. The value of this approach is in its simplicity. This “gentle way” of not resisting and being compliant, relates to conditions where someone imposes their will upon you. The Judo response is to give way, to not meet force head-on, for the purpose of defensively beating the oppressor. The maxims of Dr. Kano, the originator of modern Judo in Japan, were “maximum efficiency” and “mutual benefit.” If only maximum efficiency (seiryoku zenyo) is applied, efficiency is cold and calculating. The result of your efficiency can appear to others to be selfish. Therefore the philosophy of maximum efficiency, while highly productive, is by nature self-serving and has to be complemented by mutual benefit (jita kyoei), which requires that we act not just in our own interest, but rather with consideration for fellow humans. This is a fundamental ethical principle at the foundation of Putin's years of practice as a student of Judo. Westerners tend to focus on and disparage Putin's “maximum efficiency” (if they recognize it at all) while ignoring the coexisting “mutual benefit” component of his character and actions.
When one becomes a student of Judo, the first thing that they learn is how to fall without getting hurt. They are thrown and fall in every conceivable way, over time learning how to fall and not get hurt. They throw each other again and again and again, without taking this as personal triumph or defeat. While the Graco-Roman approach to relationship as competitive glories in victory, Judo teaches those who lose matches how they were beaten so they can learn and do better next time. Therefore, opponents are fellow students, and students both learn from and teach each other.
The larger picture here is the acceptance of falling, of failure, with the real judo being the art of turning failure into strength. Consider just how fundamentally and radically different this mind-set is from that of the Western tradition of competition. Judoists submit to more provocation and indignity than the average person who feels the need to save face and prove himself. What sort of a person does that training create? Think about the fact that Putin has fallen and been thrown thousands of times and thinks nothing of it. This translates as self-assurance which frees the Judoist from peer pressure and encourages true self-expression. Judoists do not triumph over opponents as Western victors do. Compare that to Western sports where falling and being thrown is a sign of weakness and defeat. What sort of a person are these very different approaches training likely to create? How is that difference likely to show up in the realms of business, political, and military leadership?
Putin deliberates; he is a deliberate person.
A basic concept of Judo that Putin internalized is the avoidance of reactivity: “To become excited is a benefit to no one, but rather harmful to one's self and others.” This concept emphasizes the difference between reactivity and responsiveness, between information going straight from the limbic, emotional brain to words or action, on the one hand, and information going from the limbic to the frontal lobes for reason, consideration, and calculation, before words or action, on the other. This directly relates to Putin's deliberativeness, which is often misconstrued by those raised in a culture steeped in the Graco-Roman worldview, as hesitancy, lack of confidence, and weakness. For example, Paul Craig Roberts, Undersecretary of the Treasury under Reagan, consistently portrays Putin's deliberativeness as a weakness and believes that Western powers share that assessment. He thinks Putin is signaling to the West hesitancy, that he can be pushed further into backing off, backing down, or making concessions.
Judo does not reject strength as long as it is efficiently applied in a highly controlled manner. The application of strength as used in Judo is multiplied in effectiveness to the point where a weaker exponent of Judo can best a larger and stronger opponent. The true Judoist needs prove nothing and pride themselves on the minimum response when forced to defensive actions
We see Putin's deliberativeness in his consistent minimal under-reaction to Western sanctions. Putin rarely retaliates with reciprocal responses. This may be reflected in the failure of Putin and Russia to destroy Ukrainian cities like the US and its allies did Falluja, Mosul, and long before that, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Tokyo, Hamburg, and Dresden. A confidence in the effectiveness of minimal responses makes belligerence less likely while increasing tolerance.
Immersion in the Graco-Roman worldview has led the US, NATO, and the EU to misunderstand and misinterpret Putin's and Russia's intentions, with the result being that, like in Judo, their own energy has been used to neutralize them. Ignoring the multiple strengths of Russia and Putin has caused the West to chronically misread and misjudge Putin's character and Russian intent and actions. The result is that Putin and Russia have “thrown” the West, like an opponent in Judo, again and again and again. Russia will continue to do so as long as the West insists on holding to caricatures of Russia and Putin instead of recognizing who and what they actually are. For example, we have seen how Western sanctions are harming Westerners far more than they are harming Putin, the Russian government, or Russia as a whole. In fact, they are strengthening them.
The opposite of deliberativeness is emotional reactivity, which represents a loss of self-control, a melt-down to pre-rationality, to a state that is easily controlled and manipulated by others. In contrast, to Putin, Western leadership tends to be emotionally reactive and not deliberative, as when Biden calls Putin a “killer,” with a large contingent of US voters even associating emotional reactivity (like that of Donald Trump) with decisive leadership. The thinking in Washington, London, and NATO appears to go something like this: “Because we have destroyed governments like that of Mosaddeq in Iran, Hussein in Iraq, and Gaddafi in Libya, we will be able to overthrow Assad in Syria without a problem with Russia. Because we moved NATO into Poland, the Baltics and the Balkans, we can move NATO into Georgia and the Ukraine. Because we have regime changed so many national leaders we can regime change Putin too.” Because of Putin's deliberativeness, which it misperceives as weakness, the West is caught off guard and outraged when Putin is decisive and blocks it, as he did in Syria, Kazakhstan, and now, in the Ukraine.
Both individuals and nations adapt and change in order to survive, but the Western narrative ignores or dismisses this reality regarding Russia and Putin. It is impossible to arrive at a clear and objective understanding of Russia or Putin as long as the West assumes both are the same as pre-2000 Russia. Russia and Putin have had to radically adapt to the collapse of the social, cultural, and ideological roots of Czarist Russia, the Soviet Union, and Atlanticism. Most Western narratives ignore that reality but instead insist on viewing Russia and Putin as rigid, non-adaptive, and mired in long gone historical events and behaviors.
The West wants and needs Putin and Russia as a whole to be emotionally reactive so that it can understand and control both. To this end, a common strategy is to pretend that the Russian government since 2000 is the same as that under the Czars or during the Soviet Union and by appealing to some mythological underlying Russian “character” that is incapable of learning and adaptation. This underlying character is often framed as rabid nationalism and a regressive concept of the sacred, as if there is something inherently pathological about Russian Orthodox Christian beliefs.
The West demands that Russia and Putin conform to the Graco-Roman and Western idealistic worldview instead of recognizing that these worldviews do not include Eastern wu-wei based philosophy. Subsequently, the mainstream Western narrative neither includes nor transcends Putin's approach or behavior, meaning that it is not integral at all, in that application of the term. The inverse is not the case: The long experience of Russia as a European power and Putin's Atlanticist background means that both understand and respect both the strengths and weaknesses of the West much better than the West understands and respects both the strengths and weaknesses of Putin and Russia. Russia is a culture that has identified with the West since at least Peter the Great in the 1700's, yet it has proven able and willing to embrace Chinese culture and values, something the West has not done at any depth. That is true as well for Wilber's Integral AQAL and WILPs in general. Wilber's father was US Air Force. Wilber played football in high school. He has defended the Graco-Roman worldview by wrapping it in Hindu justifications from the Baghavad Gita. His writings include little insight into Confucism and Chinese humanism. Russia's adaptability is another area where the West has fundamentally miscalculated, unaware of its own blind spots, assuming that Russia needs the West far more than the West needs Russia. We are now experiencing a reality behind our vast heritage of intellectual posturing.
Integral, and idealisms in general, tend to make justice the ugly stepsister to consciousness, enlightenment, liberation, freedom, and spirituality.
The assumption that Putin and Russia represent lower levels of development than the “pluralistic democratic” West is a fundamental error common not only among Integralists, but inherent in Western elitism and exceptionalism wherever it is found. In this regard, Integralists are mainstream idealistic Westerners, no different from Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Tories, or Laborites.
Integralists have a blind spot in not recognizing or understanding the influence of Chinese thought and secular humanism on Putin's character, instead viewing him largely through the mindset of Western idealism and the tradition of Graco-Roman competition. This is a fundamental error that causes WILPs to be repeatedly “thrown” by Putin.
Westerners ignore, discount, or ridicule Putin's emphasis on the necessity to adhere to international law, and instead undermine justice by dictating their own circumstantial rules of play as their “rules-based order.” Yes, Putin's invasion of the Ukraine is definitely a violation of international law, and it may be important to reflect on how history may well judge it: as a necessary exception that proves the rule. It is the West that is supporting and nurturing the virulent plague of Nazism and fascism in the Ukraine, not Russia.
Integral, and idealisms in general, tend to make justice the ugly stepsister to consciousness, enlightenment, liberation, freedom, and spirituality. This is a fundamental and serious flaw in Integral that undermines its credibility in the eyes of the world, which focuses on decency in common, everyday human relationships. This is defined by the questions, “Am I respected?” “Is there reciprocity?” “Is there trustworthiness in ways that matter to me?” “Are they empathetic?” The substitution of ethical intent and values for ethical behavior and relationships not only destroy the credibility of WILPs in the world but cause the West to chronically misjudge Putin and Russia, leading the West into this historic cul-de-sac and its own ongoing collapse. That should be enough reason to justify serious re-evaluation by WILPs of their worldview.