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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.
Subjugation or Sovereignty?
That's the Question for Russia
As Frank Visser points out in his essay, “Subjugation or Sovereignty, That's the Question for Ukraine,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were asked to debate Michael McFaul and Radoslaw Sikorsky on the proposition, “Be it resolved, ending the world's worst geopolitical crisis in a generation starts with acknowledging Russia's security interests.” McFaul and Sikorsky won the debate, with 62% of the large audience agreeing with their opposition to the proposition, 15% more than accepted their position before the debate.
In response to Visser's essay, I wrote an earlier version of the following comment:
I watched this debate. It's very telling that McFaul and the Polish minister won the debate. It reflects that most people in the West (this audience did not reflect a proportionate representation of world opinion) don't yet care what Russia's security interests are or, if they do, they discount their importance or relevance. That reflects the authentic worldview of the majority of Westerners. This is exactly why the West is in for a world of pain: they are in denial of the reality or importance of Russian priorities and the legitimacy of its claims to sovereignty.
My intent and investment
At some point, if we do not wish to be the major source of our own demise, we have to broaden our focus from our worldview to include the worldview of outgroups.
Minds are made up on the issue of Ukraine, so why write another essay? I am not writing to convince those who have closed minds and are convinced of their position. I write for those few who may actually retain some ability to be objective about this issue in the hope that reason, mixed with genuine empathy, might triumph over pervasive groupthink that in this case is quickly leading to collective sociocide—the collapse of Western civilization.
I write because I am tired of tacitly giving my consent to war done in my name and with my tax dollars. It's not a good look if I want to believe I am respectful, reciprocate, trustworthy, and empathetic. Others living outside my Western echo chamber will look at the fact that I have benefited and continue to benefit from an outsized proportion of the world's wealth and say, “We're starving. We've been held back, exploited, and our family members killed while you have lived off the fat of the land. Why should we respect you when you don't respect our rights to food, housing, safety, or even our existence? Why should we give you what you want when you refuse to reciprocate, not only by ignoring our needs but by breaking your treaties and international law? Why should we trust you when you repeatedly act in exploitative and untrustworthy ways? Why should we show any empathy toward your feelings or treat you as a victim when you view us instrumentally, as numbers, objects, and a means to your financial ends?”
Why indeed? Why indeed should the Global South, which makes up the majority of the world's population and economy, respect me? In fact, on what grounds should I respect myself? As Desmond Tutu has said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
To understand and respect the need and demand for sovereignty made by Russia and the Russian ethnic minority in Ukraine is not to ignore the suffering, victimization, or abuse of Ukrainians. That is a zero-sum conclusion, imagining that it is somehow impossible to respect and support the interests of both parties. Unless we understand both sides, unless we can empathize with the plight of all concerned, how can we claim to be multi-perspectival? It is also pointless to get into a debate about who has suffered the most, Russians at the hands of extractive Western capitalism (particularly under Boris Yeltsin), the ethnic Russians of the Donbass who have been incessantly shelled and murdered for the last eight years, or the Ukrainians who have died at the hands of Russians since the February 2022 invasion? Can't we care about the lives of all these people?
At some point, if we are going to live with ourselves and the vast mass of humanity, we have to broaden our focus from self-development, spirituality, consciousness, and idealistic intent to include behaviors that support and demand justice. If we don't do that, injustice grows like kudzu as the powerful use their advantages to build their position which, intentionally or not, generally disadvantages the disempowered. At some point, if we do not wish to be the major source of our own demise, we have to broaden our focus from our worldview to include the worldview of outgroups. Those WILPs who ignore or discount the perception of existential threat of subjugation experienced by Russians are failing to do so, and it is a terrible, historic mistake.
The US, NATO, the EU, the Ukrainian oligarchs and ultra-nationalists have all been leveraging the people of Ukraine to view the conflict as a choice between Ukraine's subjugation or sovereignty. But the people of Crimea and the Donbass, saw the issue differently in 2014. Do they subjugate themselves to a non-elected government that passed a law that outlawed their language and that hated their Russian ethnicity, or do they demand sovereignty? What would you do?
The subterfuge of Minsk II negotiations
A common response is to hear, “Putin should have tried diplomacy instead of invading!” Let's take a look at the reality of that situation. Petro Poroshenko, in interviews with Germany's Deutsche Welle television and the Ukrainian branch of the US state-run Radio Free Europe, has admitted that the 2015 ceasefire in Donbass, which he negotiated with Russia, France and Germany as president of Ukraine, was merely a distraction intended to buy time for Kiev to rebuild its military.
“We had achieved everything we wanted,” he said of the peace deal. “Our goal was to, first, stop the threat, or at least to delay the war—to secure eight years to restore economic growth and create powerful armed forces.”
Those “powerful armed forces” were armed, trained, and salaries paid by the US, the EU, and NATO, for eight years. The goal was to make them interchangeable with other NATO forces and, based on the quality of resistance of Ukrainian troops to Russian attacks, we can conclude that NATO accomplished its mission.
Poroshenko cited Sun Tzu's stratagems as an inspiration for the deception. Winning a war does not necessarily require winning military engagements, Poroshenko said, calling the deal he made a win for Ukraine in that regard. The former president apparently confirmed that Kiev hadn't come to the talks in good faith, but simply wanted a reprieve after suffering a military defeat. Kiev's failure to implement the roadmap and the continued hostilities with rebels were among the primary reasons that Russia cited when it attacked Ukraine in late February.”
What does this account tell us?
Poroshenko's remarks prove that the faux Minsk II negotiations were part of a plot by Ukraine and the West to stall for time while using NATO to arm Ukraine and turn it into a de facto NATO state, with a military up to NATO standards and interchangeable with it. What do you do when someone else will not abide by agreed rules but you cannot escape their demands that you play by their rules? If it not important to you, or if you have a lot to lose, as in an unfair boss or a demanding spouse, you can capitulate. However, if it is a critical issue for you, and you can't escape, you have to accept subjugation or fight. This is not your choice; the other party has deprived you of your agency because they do not respect you. WILPs need to understand that this is the position that the West has taken in regard to Russia. It is perhaps the most important reason why Russia no longer respects or desires to be like the West. The lies and broken promises of the West to Russia have driven it away. But WILPs don't see that reality; if they do, they discount it.
The suppression of ethnic Russian sovereignty
The reality is that the sovereignty of ethnic Russian Ukrainian citizens was suppressed and disallowed by the Ukrainian government, installed as a result of a US funded coup in 2014. On February 23rd, 2014, immediately after the coup and as one of its first acts, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada, its parliament passed a law that repealed the status of Russian as Ukraine's second language. This change, initiated by the ultra-nationalists who had led the coup, made discrimination against the 30-40% Russian minority of Ukraine law. Note that this action was made prior to any act of rebellion by Crimea and a full eight years before the invasion by Russia. This action directly precipitated the secession of Crimea, where over 90% of the citizens were Russian speakers with strong ethnic ties to Russia. Crimeans calling for secession viewed the new coup regime in Kiev as “fascist,” because it advocated for the purging of non-Ukrainian ethnic influences from Ukraine. This repressive, highly discriminatory, and non-democratic legislation also precipitated the rebellion in the prosperous, industrial provinces of Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk, collectively known as the Donbas. However, the discrimination by the ultra-nationalists in the Ukrainian government continued and only got worse.
In April 2019, the Ukrainian parliament voted a new law, “to ensure the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the State language,” was passed. On 16 June 2019, the law entered into force. The law made the use of Ukrainian compulsory (totally or within certain quotas) in the work of some public authorities, in the electoral procedures and political campaigning, in pre-school, school and university education, in scientific, cultural and sporting activities, in book publishing and book distribution, in printed mass media, television and radio broadcasting, in economic and social life (commercial advertising, public events), in hospitals and nursing homes, and in the activities of political parties and other legal entities (e.g. non-governmental organizations) registered in Ukraine.
Since that time, Ukraine has outlawed all “opposition” political parties, which includes those politicians and political groups which desire to represent the interests and rights of the ethnic Russians who are Ukrainian citizens. How Democratic is that action? Who is the oppressor and who is the subjugated? Who is demanding sovereignty and repressing claims to sovereignty made by others?
However, that degree of repression was still not enough. The Ukrainian parliament continued to double down. It voted on Sunday, June 19, 2022, to ban Russian music and the sale of Russian books. “Ukrainian lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak said on social media that the ban on music made by Russian artists would apply in public spaces and media. Books and other publications by Russian and Belarusian authors will be prohibited from import and distribution. Oleksiy Honcharenko, another Ukrainian legislator, said that the new legislation also bans tours of musicians with Russian citizenship, except for those publicly denouncing the Russian special operation in Ukraine. Honcharenko said that the parliament had also voted to tear up an agreement on scientific and technical cooperation with Russia as well as a pact that guaranteed support for small enterprises within the community of ex-Soviet states.”
These were governmental actions of the State of Ukraine that not only are intended to subjugate those of Russian ethnicity within Ukraine, but to punish them with fines or imprisonment for non-compliance. Ukrainian citizens are given a choice, by their own government, to subjugation or to rebel, by demanding that their sovereign rights, rights foundational to the US and the EU and democracies everywhere, be respected. To make that demand, that their sovereign rights be respected, has been intolerable to the ultra-nationalists in the Ukrainian government. They have demanded the subjugation of ethnic Russians to a Ukrainian ethnicity of supposedly Aryan descent and enforced that repression not only with jail terms but execution. Dissent is not allowed. When a peace negotiator appointed by Zelensky, Denis Kireev, a banker, showed some flexibility in negotiating with the Russians he was assassinated by the ultra-nationalists.
The Ukrainian proxy war
While the subjugation of the ethnic Russian minority of Ukraine was underway, a broader process, the arming, training, and paying of salaries of the Ukrainian military for use as a proxy force by the US, NATO, and the EU against Russia, to undermine its sovereignty and subjugate it was also underway. In this effort, the Ukrainians, including the ultra-rightists, many of whom would be sent to their deaths as cannon fodder, were victims of the broader Western plan to subjugate Russia and deprive it of its sovereignty. WILPs were using ultra-nationalism as a tool to deprive Russians of their sovereignty. Elites in Ukraine went along with this manipulation because it supported their desire to “cleanse” Ukraine and they were being financially supported by Washington to do so, because subjugating Russia and Russians served its own ends. In the meantime, Ukrainian oligarchs were stealing the assets and resources of Ukraine and sending the proceeds into offshore accounts, making the Ukraine the second most corrupt country in Europe and one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
One doesn't have to be pro-Russia or pro-Putin to understand this reality. All one has to do is look at the public record. Biden has publicly called for “regime change” in Russia, which means to deny it its sovereignty. By ignoring both promises to Russia and demands made by it that NATO not expand eastward, the West ignored Russian sovereignty. An analogy would be for Russia or China to ignore the Monroe Doctrine and attempt to station troops and weapons in the Western Hemisphere. When this occurred in 1962, in the Cuban missile crisis, the US so experienced this as an existential threat to its sovereignty that it precipitated a nuclear standoff with Russia. Now a similar threat to sovereignty is being experienced by Russia, but WILPs refuse to recognize or acknowledge that reality. They ignore that reality at their own peril. As I have shown, not only is the West losing the military, economic, and informational war, by doubling down in their defiance of Russia's demands that its sovereignty be respected, it is bringing the world closer and closer to a nuclear holocaust.
For those that argue that reaching an agreement with Russia would amount to “appeasement,” one would think that reaching some accommodation with Russia regarding its security interests would be better than engaging in a nuclear war that could kill all humans via a nuclear winter, as well as a great majority of life forms on the planet. Kennedy certainly thought so during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Among the reasons why this rationale is largely dismissed by WILPs is because they don't trust Russia or Putin and they have lived under the nuclear Sword of Damocles for some seventy years now and nothing has happened, so they have become numb to the possibility. It is the boiling frog syndrome, but applied to the existential threat of the survival of humanity. Regarding trusting Russia, one does not have to trust one's opponent to take steps that increase one's own security.
In the debate, McFaul and Sikorsky were impressive in their delivery. They basically validated the world view that the majority of the audience already held. By contrast, the delivery of Mearsheimer and Walt was much more factual and “wooden,” lacking the emotional appeal that most people need to connect and trust others. Watching McFaul and Sikorsky skillfully spin one exaggeration, falsehood, or partial truth after another was very impressive. It reminded me of how difficult it is for anyone to escape from groupthink. We are not only surrounded by an echo chamber designed to manufacture our consent but we are inclined to believe it due to a host of cognitive biases. Unless we recognize and defuse those cognitive biases we will continue to be victimized by them and by those who understand how they work and use them to shape our opinions and beliefs to their interests, overwhelming our reasoning ability and leading to the internalization of falsities, that we then defend as part of our worldview and identity.
Why do intelligent and compassionate WILPs not recognize the sovereignty of Russia and ethnic Russians? How can they square claiming to be advocates of pluralistic democracy or 2nd Tier spiritual integralists when they ignore blatant discrimination against an ethnic minority? How can they claim to represent multi-perspectivalism when they ignore the reality that, for Russians and ethnic Russians that the Ukrainian war is a choice between subjugation and sovereignty?
It's a mystery. Perhaps it's time to ponder Tutu's words while learning something about our cognitive biases. More on that in future essays.