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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.
Critiquing a Metamodern Critique of the Ukraine War
While I do not claim the perspective I provide here to be "right," it addresses inconvenient truths that the author's metamodern critique chooses to ignore.
Metamodernism has positioned itself in the forefront of integral thought and Hanzi Freinacht is a leading voice in metamodernism. Therefore, his perspective on pressing geopolitical events that are affecting the course of world history matter. What follows is a critique of Hanzi Freinacht's essay, "Ten Key Insights Into Russia-Ukraine," published early in March, 2022, shortly after the war had begun. "Freinacht," which is the pen name of Daniel Görtz and Emil Friis, and metamodernism are hardly synonymous, but it is probably safe to say their understanding of metamodernism is mainstream within that community, as they are major spokesmen of the "Nordic" school of metamodernism. In what follows, I will quote from Görtz and Friis' article and then add my comments.
Görtz and Friis' First Key
Don't mistake the West's sociological failures for geopolitical weakness
The authors begin by referring to "the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine" as if that is a factual or majoritarian perspective on that conflict. In truth it is an Atlanticist, Eurocentric, and Western perspective, but one that imagines it is not only the majoritarian perspective, but the "right" and "better" one. I am going to present some data points that challenge those assumptions.
While the Ukrainian conflict is indeed a war, at the time of "Freinacht's" writing Russia was referring to it as a "Special Military Operation" and not as a war. Also, Russia referred to Article 51 of the UN Charter to justify its action as something lawful and therefore not aggression in a legal sense. In addition, while the West's perspective is that Russia's action was unprovoked, and therefore aggressive, that is not the perspective of Russia or a number of Western authorities, including John Mearsheimer, Jeffery Sachs, Col. Douglas MacGregor, and Scott Ritter. While it is perfectly understandable and even justified to refer to "the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine," it is well to remember that is only one of multiple perspectives, and truth is something that takes at least the major perspectives, including in this case that of the people in Donbass as well as those of Russia, its government, and Putin, into consideration.
NATO and the West has appeared weaker than they really are, geopolitically and economically
Since Görtz and Friis wrote this essay, the war has exposed fundamental and massive geopolitical, military, and economic weaknesses of the West. These include the failure of multiple countries to support UN resolutions and/or sanctions against Russia, the draining of European and US weapon stockpiles, the undermining of the credibility of Western armaments when tested on Ukrainian battlefields, the exposure of the reality that NATO lacks the logistic and industrial infrastructure to wage a land war against Russia, the rising cost of energy and food in the EU as a result of the backfiring of sanctions on Russia, and the refusal of major oil importing countries such as China and India to support the Western cap on Russian oil exports. In a historical recapitulation of "The Emperor Has No Clothes," the war in Ukraine has exposed NATO and the West as weaker than they have assumed themselves to be and appeared to be to the rest of the world.
it is still true that the collective powers of this larger network (the "Global North") are much greater than those of Russia.
If that is true, why has the Russian economy become stronger subsequent to the introduction of some nine tranches of sanctions? While it was predicted by some that Russian GDP would take a 20% hit as a result of the sanctions, the actual rate for 2022 is about 3%. it was predicted that the Ruble would be reduced to "rubble," and valued at 200 or more to the dollar, in fact it has stabilized in the 60/dollar range and is in fact stronger against the dollar than it was before the war began. Militarily, is the Global North more powerful than Russia? Russia not only possesses more nuclear weapons, but its supersonic missiles are unstoppable by any resources the West currently possesses. The West demonstrates no interest or capability in ratcheting up its production of weaponry to a degree that anywhere approximates that of Russia's weapon industry.
The NATO populations are larger, richer, better educated, and have better access to useful information (in a more "free information" system) than Russia…
While it is certainly true that the combined NATO populations are larger than those of Russia (144 million to 951+ million) and richer (Putin refers to them as "the golden billion"), it is much more difficult to substantiate the claim that they are better educated. There is no indication that lack of access to information has negatively affected Russia's ability to win its informational, economic, and military wars with the West.
ordinary Russians aren't even told that there's a war going on
Russians conduct a very lively exchange of opinions about the war, and voices in opposition are in abundance on popular TV news shows and on the Russian internet. Russians are quite aware that there is a war being fought not only militarily, but economically and culturally, with multiple attempts to generate hardship among Russians in the hope that will cause them to rebel against the government. They are also quite aware of the West's banning of authors, athletes, and cultural icons. Rather than causing Russians to overthrow their government, polls have shown a massive increase in nationalism and support for the government's military policies.
The perspective of some 12 million people that made up over 30% of the Ukrainian population prior to the US orchestrated coup in 2014, as well as that of some 130 million Russians, is that the war is one of protection and liberation, not of invasion. Who are the victims and who are the aggressors and persecutors is hardly as clear cut as the authors of this piece declare. Viewing Russians as "invaders" does not reflect the experience of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine in Crimea or the Donbass or of Russians who lost 27 million to fascists in the last century. Nor does it reflect the perception of some 1.4 billion citizens of China who clearly remember the "Century of Humiliation" at the hands of Western powers, or of 1.4 billion Indians, who lost at least 165 million under colonial domination, or of Iraqis, Syrians, Afghanistanis, Syrians, Africans, Latin Americans, or Yemenis.
after the Ruble hit the rubble last week, and with the continuation of the economic sanctions, it's likely to be out of the top 20 (world economies) this year.
Görtz and Friis are echoing the predictions of mainstream Western media. The ruble, as we have seen, did not turn into rubble but stabilized and became stronger against the dollar than it had been before the war. Western economic sanctions have made Russia stronger, moving it from dependency on Western agricultural products, technology, and industry to self-sufficiency. Western industries have lost billions by abandoning the Russian market, and without their competition the Russian economy has grown stronger and more self-sufficient. Forces and individuals who support ties with the West have left the country, lessening the ability of the West to influence Russian public opinion and Russian decision-making. Those who have hoped and planned for a color revolution in Moscow are in a far weaker position now than they were in 2021. The sanctions have turned Russia into the strongest autarky on the planet while generating oil and gas profits that are at a higher level than before the war. Russia has redirected its oil and gas sales from Europe to China and the Global South. Far from bankrupting Russia, the actions of the West have made it stronger. Far from bankrupting Russia, the war has generated increasing revenues that are more than enough to cover the cost of the war.
Germany (is) taking a lead with major investments in its military that will give it the third largest military budget in the world, way ahead of Russia.
At the time of this writing, in the closing days of 2022, Germany's promised investments in its military are yet to materialize, and possibly never will, due to the enormous strains inflation in the costs of energy and food are putting on the German state. Germany has almost no military industrial production. On the other hand, Russia has greatly increased its military industrial production of artillery, ammunition, and drones in the past year.
…the military advantage and initiative of an increasingly poorer and more isolated Russia quickly wane.
Görtz and Friis' first key, that the West has gotten stronger while Russia has gotten weaker due to the war in Ukraine, has proven to be factually wrong over the course of some eleven months of fighting. The West has become economically and militarily weaker while Russia has become economically and militarily stronger. Those trends continue to strengthen. Far from becoming isolated, in the past year Russia's relationships with China, India, Iran, and Turkey have become much stronger. Countries like Egypt, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia are lining up to join BRICS. In the realm of commerce, Russia is far from isolated, with trading partners in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. As of this date, more than 138 countries have joined the Belt/Road Initiative.
Görtz and Friis' second key
Russia looked stronger than it truly is.
We have been accustomed to thinking of Russia as the heir to the USSR and leader of the Warsaw Pact…
We have also been accustomed to thinking of Russia as communist and authoritarian, although it has not been communist since 1990, some thirty-two years, and has internationally certified free and open elections, a hallmark of democracies, not of authoritarian states.
This is one side of a warped and exaggerated Western perspective that illustrates profound black and white thinking. On the one hand, Russia is very strong and therefore to be feared, and that argument is used to scare the public, gin up support for unlimited military expenditures, the creation of Western security states that deprive citizens of fundamental freedoms, and funnel obscene sums to the most corrupt government in Europe without accountability. On the other hand, Russia is "a gas station masquerading as a country."
The Russian system has a vast intelligence deficiency. Basically, there are poor feedback loops of information, as information flows are curtailed in a KGB style... From what I see, it wouldn't be surprising if the average Westerner watching the news has a better understanding of what's going on than low level officers in the Russian army.
Given that resistance to the war is strong even within Russia, the position of the Russian government is currently not a very strong one and is likely to grow as sanctions take their toll, possibly breaking the country's economy— at least not in the long run.
Is resistance to the war strong within Russia? A December 2022 poll showed that 62 percent of the public agree with Putin's stated policy of reaching a peace agreement with Ukraine. Instead of being in resistance to the war, they agree with a repeatedly stated Russian governmental policy. 27% of the public, or over a quarter of Russians, want Russia to fight on to victory. That does not sound like strong resistance to the war by Russians. As Russians have learned of the torturing of Russian soldiers, including castration, witnessing the terrorist assassination of Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian philosopher, watching the ongoing shelling and murder of civilians in the Donbass and the shelling of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe by Ukraine, support of the war has only grown.
Görtz and Friis' third key
Russia is to blame —but understanding it is crucial
This echoes the Western mantra that Russia's invasion was "unprovoked."
It stands to reason — and viscerally feel — that Russia is an unlawful aggressor in this situation.
Visceral feelings have a way of shaping both reason and reality to fit into the Procrustean bed of our biases, prejudices, assumptions, and worldview. Perhaps "visceral feelings" are more important to metamodernism than is generally recognized or acknowledged. To conclude that Russia's invasion was unprovoked requires ignoring broken promises regarding not moving NATO eastward, the 2014 Ukrainian coup, the betrayal of Minsk II, and an extremely violent and toxic encounter with fascism by Russia in the twentieth century. Nor does a Eurocentric interpretation of the causes of the war reflect the perspective of the Russian speaking minority of Ukraine, which has not only been discriminated against by Ukrainian law but shelled and murdered for over eight years without protests from Westerners, liberals, or progressives, most integralists or metamodernists.
But to seek to understand Russia (and, in the longer run, even to accept and forgive) is not to condone the actions of its government. For citizens around the world, both of these traps must be avoided: A. relativizing and condoning a criminal war of aggression, and B. falling into a clichéd, black-and-white narrative that hinders productive measures and responses because there is no real understanding.
The better analysts, leaders, and the public understand the Russian side of the matter (not, note, its state-sanctioned propaganda, but the dilemmas faced by its people and leadership), the more hope there is for a shorter war and viable future relationship.
This appeal by Görtz and Friis to multi-perspectivalism is not only noble, but in keeping with metamodernism. However, in light of their critique to this point, which has been one-sided and uni-polar, for example calling it "a criminal war of aggression," this call to multi-perspectivalism rings hollow and insincere.
Görtz and Friis' fourth key
Putin is acting more "rationally" than it appears
It is probably better to judge Putin's rationality by his words. Here are some of them:
We are not threatening anyone…We have made it clear that any further NATO movement to the east is unacceptable. There's nothing unclear about this. We aren't deploying our missiles to the border of the United States, but the United States is deploying their missiles to the porch of our house. Are we asking too much? We're just asking that they not deploy their attack-systems to our home…What is so hard to understand about that?
Our mistake was we trusted you too much, and your mistake was you took advantage of that.
Your people do not yet feel an impending sense of danger. That worries me. Can't you see the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? Meanwhile, people pretend that nothing is going on. I don't know how to get through to you anymore.
Imposing sanctions is the logical continuation and the distillation of the irresponsible and short-sighted policy of the U.S. and EU countries' governments and central banks…The global economy and global trade as a whole have suffered a major blow, as did trust in the U.S. dollar as the main reserve currency. The illegitimate freezing of some of the currency reserves of the Bank of Russia marks the end of the reliability of so-called first-class assets…Now everybody knows that financial reserves can simply be stolen.
When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we, of course, will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.
It is extremely alarming that elements of the U.S. global defense system are being deployed near Russia. The Mk 41 launchers, which are located in Romania and are to be deployed in Poland, are adapted for launching the Tomahawk strike missiles. If this infrastructure continues to move forward, and if U.S. and NATO missile systems are deployed in Ukraine, their flight time to Moscow will be only 7—10 minutes, or even five minutes for hypersonic systems. This is a huge challenge for us, for our security.
The dollar enjoyed great trust around the world. But for some reason it is being used as a political weapon, imposing restrictions…the U.S. Dollar will collapse soon.
No matter how much Western and so-called supranational elites strive to preserve the existing order of things, a new era is coming, a new stage in world history. And only truly sovereign states can ensure high dynamics for growth and become an example for others.
You can't feed anyone with paper—you need food; and you can't heat anyone's home with these inflated capitalizations—you need energy. The United States is practically pushing Europe toward deindustrialization in a bid to get its hands on the entire European market. These European elites understand everything—they do, but they serve the interests of others.
We are actively engaged in reorienting our trade flows and foreign economic contacts towards reliable international partners, primarily the BRICS countries.
During the time of the Soviet Union the role of the state in the economy was made absolute, which eventually led to the total noncompetitiveness of the economy…I am sure no one would want history to repeat itself.
Görtz and Friis' fifth key
Putin is acting more ideologically than we think.
One such source of ideological reasoning is the kinship and shared historical roots of Russia and Ukraine (Russia was in effect founded in Kyiv, and before the Soviet era, Ukrainians were even referred to as "little Russians"). This closeness and sense of shared belonging may cause Putin and many others to feel a sense of betrayal if Ukraine chooses a path that leads away from the Russian Imperium.
Here our authors indulge in a bit of metamodern mind reading and psychoanalysis. While that may be both fun and interesting, why not consult Putin's words themselves? Nowhere has he mentioned such a sense of betrayal. The government of Russia was content for Ukraine to remain an independent state. Attacks on its minority Russian population, combined with a failure to negotiate Minsk II in good faith, as admitted by both Poroshenko and Merkel, led to the invasion, not a sense of betrayal regarding Ukraine remaining a sovereign nation.
Görtz and Friis' sixth key
Putin has difficulties understanding democracy.
While Ukraine is by no means a perfect democracy, it still leans strongly in that direction, and as such, it is quite natural for its people to dislike and distrust its current leader.
Does Ukraine lean strongly in the direction of democracy?
Zelensky unplugged three television networks that included the voices of his political opponents even though they had showed no support for Russia.
He banned and seized the assets of OPPL—the second largest political party in the country and his direct opposition; they were prohibited from "all activity within Ukraine." He also included ten smaller parties in the purge.
Zelensky imprisoned local political opponents and tried to extradite and imprison those abroad despite no evidence they were supporting Russia.
The dismissal of senior officials raised more than a few bushy eyebrows.
Zelensky banned Christianity—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—as of December, 2022 and seized its property.
Ukrainian authorities threatened imprisonment for 18—60-year-olds who used to stay and fight for the homeland. Some are being shot.
Here I find myself agreeing with Görtz and Friis, only they are describing those Ukrainians who have been willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for the democracy and minority rights that it provided, that was overthrown by the US instigated and paid for 2014 coup. These are represented by some 10,000 civilians who have died for democracy in the Donbass and the 41 Ukrainians who were burned to death in Odessa while fighting "to save their current freedoms and democratic rights." Apparently, Russian speaking Ukrainians, as well as Ukrainian speakers, turned out to be willing to sacrifice their lives to save their current freedoms and democratic rights.
Görtz and Friis' seventh key
Ukraine is not Iraq.
Our possibilities of doing good in this situation (the Ukraine war) are considerably larger (than in Iraq and Afghanistan).
…there were no functional systems and countries to "revert to" (in Iran and Afghanistan) once their respective tyrannical leaderships were ousted… there is a real country that can coalesce and thrive.
After the democratically elected government of Ukraine was overthrown by coup by the US in 2014, there was no functional system or country to revert to, only a failed state, the most corrupt in Europe, and one ruled by ultra-nationalists celebrating the birthday of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera every year. These are some of the reasons why Russia demands the demilitarization, de-Nazification, and neutrality of Ukraine and why it has no desire to incorporate fascists that hate it into the Russian body politic. Russia is instead likely to leave a bankrupt and destroyed western Ukraine to the tender mercies of the US, EU, and especially Poland.
Supporting Ukraine, even militarily (if done prudently) is likely to be a productive and sustainable path for the country and the world around it.
So far, the US has supported Ukraine with over 100 billion dollars in non-accounted for aid, in addition to providing innumerable "advisors," mercenaries, and "sheep dipped" enlisted military personnel. So far, all of the military and financial aid that the US and Europe has given Ukraine has either disappeared into a black hole or into junk metal under the incessant and withering artillery and missile attacks of Russia. Is this productive or sustainable? Is it Russia or the West that is being bled white?
Görtz and Friis' eighth key
The conflict is partly a climate- and water conflict.
This point is perhaps auxiliary, but important nonetheless as it helps to underscore that a world without climate security is more likely to spiral into a world of geopolitical insecurity.
It appears this key is motivated by a desire by Görtz and Friis to draw attention to the world climate crisis, which does indeed deserve much more attention and funding that it has so far received. However, these issues are not significant causes of Russia's war in Ukraine. Climate changes have not stopped Russia from becoming the largest exporter of wheat in the world, and that transformation has occurred since the West began putting sanctions on it post 2014. Similarly, lack of water in Crimea was not a cause of the 2022 war. Crimea was already a part of Russia at that time. Russia did not attack Ukraine due to its shutting off water to Crimea for eight years, but Russia used the war as a way to make sure Ukraine could never again threaten the water supply of Crimea.
Görtz and Friis' ninth key
The war stands between petrostate military-industrial complexes and renewable energy.
This "key" is particularly risable. Germany, run by a coalition with the Green Party, is now attempting to compensate for its self-inflicted energy shortage by burning lignite, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. The largest one source of fossil fuel global warming in the World, besides nation states, is the US military.
If Russia loses some of its initiative on the fossil-fuel market, and other countries become less dependent on its exports, the current centralized power structure (a patrol-state military-industrial complex) would risk falling apart.
The demand for Russia's petrochemicals has never been higher. Europe continues to buy them, whether via transport through the one remaining pipeline, the Sudzha through Ukraine, of all places (yes, Russia continues to pay 2.9 billion to Ukraine in transit fees), or via third parties, like China. Russia has nothing to fear from a diversification of world energy to renewables, at least not for the next hundred years.
Görtz and Friis' tenth key
No Liberal order — no Post-Liberal order, either.
Lastly, let us simply note — all of us who believe in and work for developments of society that go beyond the Modern capitalist-liberal mainstream — that our dreams of an ecological, equitable, and effectively governed future cannot materialize if basic human rights and international law are curtailed. If big countries with big sticks can coerce smaller neighbors, if media is controlled and weaponized, if gangster-like oligarchies threaten security, poison opponents and put dissidents in jail, there will not be possibilities, freedom, and will enough to experiment boldly with what comes next in the evolution of human societies.
While all of the above is certainly true, where is the critique of the US, EU, NATO, and greater West regarding these legal and moral infractions? Regarding human rights, which country, the US or Russia, has killed over 20 million people and overthrown 57 governments since WWII? Which country has over 750 military bases around the world? Which country allegedly has some 336 international, military funded biolabs? Regarding international law, which country, the US or Russia, refuses to recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court over itself? Which country substitutes a "rules-based order" for compliance with international law?
Regarding the controlling and weaponizing of the media, which country, the US or Russia, has infiltrated its major media outlets so that they censor news according to its instructions? Which country persecutes and jails whistle blowers and journalists?
Regarding gangster-like oligarchies, which country has a Department of Defense that has failed audits six times in a row, with billions of dollars unaccounted for, and which faces no consequence?
Summarizing their essay, Görtz and Friis write,
If we cannot sustain the liberal world order, we should not expect to be able to create new, post-liberal (post-capitalist, protopian, metamodern) world orders either.
An excellent observation. If one of the hallmarks of the liberal world order is rule by law, it is safe to conclude that we have yet to attain a liberal world order, much less a post-liberal or metamodern one.
The current attack on freedom is decidedly non-liberal, but it has nothing to do with post-liberal potentials of desirable future societies.
Hence, even for die-hard critics of the Western mainstream and its institutions, it makes sense to stand with Ukraine, with the suffering of its people, and against unlawful state aggression.
The problem with this argument, aside from overlooking the many and ongoing wars of choice by the US and EU, is that it conflates support for liberalism and democracy with supporting a neo-Nazi controlled state and military. The Ukrainian people deserve all the support we can give them, and the best way to do so is to rid Ukraine of Western funded, trained, and armed terrorists and Ukraine's venerable tradition of corrupt oligarchs. No country in the entire world is helping Ukrainians to accomplish these noble and liberal ends except Russia.
If people want to stand with Ukraine, rather than supporting corrupt neo-Nazi fascist terrorists, rather than supporting a proxy war against Russia waged by the West that only serves to kill two generations of Ukrainians, they will support the de-Nazification of Ukraine and its eventual neutral status. There is nothing that is liberal, progressive, integral, or metamodern about supporting neo-Nazism and fascism, which is what supporting the Ukrainian state, as differentiated from supporting Ukrainians, does. To pretend that supporting Ukraine in this war is not to endorse fascism in Ukraine only destroys the credibility of metamodernism and metamodernists.
Anyone can critique, but that is after all a problem-focused orientation, something which is necessary, since before one can fix a problem there must first be not only some awareness that there is a problem but some diagnosis of why that problem exists. A problem-focus, however, is never enough. It is beholden upon those who wish to critique or criticize to take the responsibility of providing a solution-focus, which itself is subject to critique and challenge. And so it is to a solution-focus that I now wish to turn. Here are three proposals pointing toward solutions: education, ethical balance, and intervention.
It is hopefully clear by now that there is a great deal of important and relevant data that is not considered in Görtz and Friis' metamodern presentation on the Russian-Ukraine conflict. There can be several reasons for this. Westerners are submerged in an ocean of groupthink in which built-in cognitive biases, like confirmation bias, predispose us to believing common scripted narratives that comprise the zeitgeist of our era and culture. Our underlying assumptions are often not recognized or questioned, leaving us in a condition of defense of positions that can not only be wrong in their partiality but personally and collectively destructive. That is clearly a huge part of the explanation for how so many intelligent and compassionate people can get such momentous and historical events, like the Russian-Ukrainian war, so wrong.
Overcoming groupthink is mostly a matter of learning to question our assumptions and then seeking out information that both supports and refutes them. Then we have to sort through that information and decide where the balance of truth lies. This is not easy, and people with integrity can come down with very different answers. However, those perspectival conflicts, like with the Blind Men and the Elephant, indicate the partiality of truth and the need to dig deeper, to find a larger, broader perspective that generates a higher order synthesis.
Regarding education, Westerners need to do a much better job of venturing beyond the secure fenced pasture of groupthink to explore the dangerous woods, if they desire to escape the friendly support of their shepherds who intend to turn them into mutton. To this end, I recommend consulting the sources I mentioned above: John Mearsheimer, Jeffery Sachs, Col. Douglas MacGregor, and Scott Ritter. To those I would add Alexander Mercouris. However, the most important recommendation would be to start reading and watching Putin's speeches so that you can evaluate his perspective in context and form your own opinion of who he is and what he stands for, independent of Western groupthink. This is because familiarity with oppositional positions is our best defense against them, and those who do not do so lose their ability to credibly critique them.
Another fundamental reason why essential data is ignored or discounted involves our natural desire and need to defend our identity, our sense of who we are. The Russian-Ukrainian war threatens that identity in significant ways. If the Russian narrative is correct, then we are not only supporting helpless Ukrainians but fascist neo-Nazis and criminal oligarchs. If that is true, what does that say about us? If the Russian narrative is correct, we have been turning a blind eye to chronic, Western support of terrorism by a state on its own population for eight years. Through our inaction and votes for politicians that enable this terrorism, we are complicit. If that is true, what does that say about who we are? If the Russian narrative is correct, and this is in fact a Western war to surround, overthrow, and dismantle Russia and its government, then what does that say about our claims that we represent basic human and national rights, including sovereignty? On a yet broader scale, if Western and NATO-aligned countries have been mere vassal states, like remora, attached to and dependent upon the US as the top-line predator for their livelihood and identity, just how much freedom and autonomy do we actually possess, apart from how much we imagine exists? And if the US is in fact the host for those remora, what does that say about the fundamental ethical nature of US citizens, quite apart from their intent and self-image?
Such questions are threatening because we all want to think about ourselves as good, noble, and representing both justice and justifiable behavior. But little to no correlation between self-image and intent, on the one hand, and ethical behavior on the other, has ever been demonstrated. Until that basic reality is recognized and addressed there can be no moral tetra-mesh and no personal or civilizational advance level to level. Instead, this or that line will race ahead, generating fundamental structural imbalances that lead to collapse.
The solution then, is to focus on how our behavior is experienced by out-groups that are impacted by our personal and collective decisions. Do those who are not members of our ingroups benefit or suffer due to our personal and collective behaviors? If "suffering" is the majority feedback, then it is foolish to dismiss that as coming from "amber," "red," "blue," or "mean green" perspectives that simply have not evolved enough to see how compassionate, spiritual, broad and inclusive both our worldview and our intentions are. And yet that is exactly what we humans commonly do, and that is a defense against cognitive dissonance, against the fear that we may not have it all figured out, that we may not be "right," and that beyond that, we may actually be complicit in behaviors that destroy lives.
Interventions that matter and do not waste our precious time or energy involve striving for objectivity by questioning our assumptions and taking seriously the critiques of outgroups.
If we ever evolve to the point that we educate ourselves and recognize our ethical imbalances, there are several things we tend to do that don't work, are dead ends, and need to be eliminated. One is to blame others and ourselves. Another is to feel guilt. Another is to lose ourselves in self-centered wallowing in an existential crisis. Another is to pick up pitchforks and go on a witch hunt for the "good shepherds" who have been turning us into mutton. Interventions that matter and do not waste our precious time or energy involve striving for objectivity by questioning our assumptions and taking seriously the critiques of outgroups. We can confidently put our perspectives out for public critique, as Wilber and "Freinacht" have done, and then adjust them accordingly, based largely on the input of a wide variety of outgroup feedback. We can give outgroups the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't mean that they are right or "better," but only that they tap into perspectives that we only think we understand and take into account when, in fact, we commonly discount those perspectives in order to protect our own. People highly developed in lines of cognition, spiritual intelligence, and even the self-system line, are as vulnerable to these "diseases of intellectual and ethical complacency" as are people and societies deemed "amber" or "red."
Görtz and Friis largely echo the perspective of Western mainstream media and the governments of the US, the EU, NATO, and Ukraine.
Görtz and Friis largely echo the perspective of Western mainstream media and the governments of the US, the EU, NATO, and Ukraine, yet they claim to present a metamodern perspective on Russia-Ukraine. Does that mean that the predominant Western perspective regarding Russia-Ukraine is metamodern? If the views of these authors expressed here do not, on the other hand, represent the metamodern perspective, yet they endorse the mainstream Western perspective in their essay, what does that say about metamodernism?
Multi-perspectivalism and objectivity dictate that relevant and important perspectives, particularly those that are under-represented, need to be surfaced and given a hearing. While this or that fact can be wrong or a misrepresentation, a group of data forms patterns and enhances predictability. The reason I have provided so much data here is to present the reader with such a pattern rather than with an ideology or an apology for Russia or for its part in the Ukrainian war. Providing a mountain of facts that rebut Western mainstream narratives regarding Russia and the Ukrainian war does not make one an apologist for Putin or Russia. To ignore or dismiss such a pile of factual information can be done, but to what purpose? The Global South, representing the majority of both the population and GDP of the world, is paying attention to this data, even if most Westerners discount or ignore it. When these countries watch the West freeze over 3 billion in Russian assets in Western banks they conclude that their money, if held in Western banks in dollars or Euros, may be stolen at any time. What effect does that have on trust in Western institutions, including Western media and Western ideologies, including metamodernism?
I find it humorous that I am expected to virtue signal by pointing out that Putin and Russia are not perfect. They absolutely are not, and if you want to know why, consult Görtz and Friis, Robb Smith, Edgar Morin, or Tim Snyder, all people who I have challenged regarding their take on the Ukraine war. Read the mainstream media. I am quite aware of the limitations of both Russia and Putin. To mollify those who might otherwise dismiss me as a Russian bot, here are some:
Russia has a real problem with governmental corruption. It doesn't approach that of the US, but it is bad.
Putin has sacrificed the welfare of Russians in order to get along with the West. For example, he basically ignored the constant shelling and killing of ethnic Russians for eight years.
By withdrawing from previously captured Ukrainian territory populated by Russian speakers, the Russian military left them to the mercy of Ukrainian death squads, seeking revenge.
Putin and Russia have put up with nonsense from Turkey, Israel, the EU, and US in Syria for ten years now. By taking minimal steps Putin has only postponed the inevitable return of sovereignty to Syria.
Well over a hundred thousand people have already died in a war that may yet become a direct military conflict between the US and Russia, threatening a nuclear exchange that in large probability would kill billions of people. The consequences of getting the Russia-Ukraine war wrong are not theoretical or trivial; they are concrete and moral, in that wrong conclusions aid and abet the killing of innocent civilians as well as snuffing out the lives of thousands of patriotic soldiers.
Over the course of 2022, events have proven that the position outlined by Görtz and Friis in March has made Russia stronger, not weaker. Western policies and narratives continue to make the collective West not stronger, but weaker, with each passing month.
Those identifying as metamodernists can have very sound and worthy reasons for doing so. However, it would be wise for them to very carefully think through whether they want to swallow the take on the Ukrainian war that these authors present. If they do, they are committing themselves to what appears to be a Eurocentric definition of metamodernism, at least where Russia-Ukraine are concerned. To the extent that the defense of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia laid out by their essay is representative of metamodernism, it is not a good look for either metamodernism or metamodernists. In fact, the embrace of that general, Eurocentric narrative on Russia-Ukraine represents a huge, catastrophic, and potentially fatal mistake, not simply for metamodernism, but for integral, progressivism, liberalism, and current Western government, society, and culture. Beyond that, it is a tragedy for the entire Western socio-cultural project of the last five hundred years.
I want to assist in the reformation of the West, the land of my birth and my social and cultural home, from which I have benefitted greatly. I watch its progressive deconstruction with both sadness and anger. I watch those far more intelligent and capable than myself contributing to the coming disaster rather than combatting it. Is it moralizing to point out that we have blood on our hands? It is both a trivialization and an avoidance tactic to accuse those on either side of this argument as moralizing. When people ignore or discount patterns of data that point to explanations that are threatening or inconvenient it is not unrealistic to suspect an attempt to avoid reality by changing the subject. Or perhaps there is an attack not on the facts, but on the communicator of those facts. In the realm of logic, that's called ad hominem.
If metamodernism supports the mainstream western narrative on Russia-Ukraine, and that narrative is either considered irrelevant for the vast majority of the world's population or is seen as unhelpful and counterproductive, what are the implications for metamodernism in the Global South? When the most beautiful and refined theoretical systems are found to be lacking in a grounding of justice and morality, they are commonly dismissed. Future generations will marvel at the delusional groupthink of both highly intelligent and extremely good-hearted people. But the truth is that those yet unborn will be susceptible as well, unaware of their own delusions except in retrospect, looking back after years of experience, to recognize how blind and foolish they too were.