strategic culture

Goodbye Westification: The World Moves On
Alastair Crooke, Strategic Culture, Sep 19 2022

Photo: Juan Medina/Reuters

We’re living in the fog of a war in Europe. We’re living too, in an economic fog of war, obscuring those who are sound, and in contrast, who it is who can no longer afford themselves, and thus are living on borrowed time. We’re living too under the fog of a World transitioning to a radically changed way of imagining itself, amid the open sluice-gates of psyops. And transitioning the World is. Let’s try to clear the fog a tad. The death of Queen Elizabeth II suddenly brought home, thanks to those replayed early newsreels of a young Queen in India and Britain’s remaining colonies, that it is not only the world that is in change. It comes as a physical shock to recall, embedded in those newsreels of just one woman’s life, just how completely the West itself is changed. Moving up a level, we see from those earliest clips, those secure, striding figures, confidently inhabiting another reality. They breathed out the air of the European Enlightenment and Rationalism. But not for long, for then came the push-back: post-modern scepticism for ideals per se, for big ideas and conceptions and utter disdain of Reason. Individual subjective mental process and consciousness-altering experience was the litmus for life experience (the Woodstock era).

Today, the West has stepped yet further away from what it was. It is now an ideological battlespace, peopled by zealots who will firmly assert that there is no ‘other’ to Ukraine, there is no ‘othering’ to Putin, and I will not ‘other’ the defossilisation of our world. That is, only their opinion is right. It is a battlespace which pointedly cancels rationality and dialectics, and has created a distressed, fractured West, struggling to give meaning to itself. The point here however is about that which has not changed. The earlier West may have become almost unrecognizable to itself today, yet a part of that earliest legacy still hovers in the foreign policy background, almost wholly unaltered. Foreign policy bedrock remains framed around the Enlightenment and Scientific Rationalism ideal. A missionary project, based on the notion that as science was neutral, this inherent quality of neutrality had the power both to free the world from its fetters of religion, cultural norms and superstition, and to serve as the pole around which the West might unite the world. It remains thus today. But one big problem is that Enlightenment Science is far from neutral. It tilts, in a direction that is antithetical to much of the rest of the world.

The western Scientific Revolution took at its core a hypothesis that the cornerstone of the scientific method is the postulate that nature is objective. This postulate was asserted, whilst openly admitting simply that this definition amounted to a systematic denial that true knowledge might be also reached through interpreting the world differently: as possessing latent meaning, direction, and purpose. The world thus was to become mere matter, reduced to inert, meaningless dust, and inevitably, given this definition, Man becoming the sole agent of transformation, and sole giver of meaning to our cosmos. Jacques Monod, a Nobel scientist, noted in his 1971 essay Chance and Necessity that this Enlightenment hypothesis erased the core postulate of the other sensibility that has nurtured all ancient cultures and pre-Enlightenment science: that the blueprint of life (DNA if you prefer) threads through everything. All the great and very rational sciences of the ancient world regarded the world as literally pulsating with life, and far from inert. Paradoxically, Monod acknowledged that the assertion that nature is objective is impossible to demonstrate. But he wrote that anyway:

The postulate of objectivity is consubstantial with science, and has guided the whole of its prodigious development for three centuries. It is impossible to escape it, even provisionally or in a limited area, without departing from the domain of science itself.

TINA: there is no alternative. The western foreign policy zeitgeist, therefore, was by definition secular. And though this construct is metaphysically at odds with most religions, Islam being but one example, it nonetheless brought many young Muslims to a secular version of Islam, exactly as intended, though with unforeseen and explosive consequences. The bigger picture here is that Rationalism, postulating modernity as rigorously secular, has morphed into a coerced one-size-fits-all economic and political system by which all others are judged. A universal rules-based system, in other words. But societies and peoples around the globe who have experienced the very worst rigours that this Enlightenment myth imposed upon them, such as America’s Forever Wars that have killed millions, have collectively now concluded that this western myth which at first had seemed to promise a new world, but so often ended badly, would no longer do.

Some would argue that American or European Enlightenment liberal humanism, with its presumed good intentions, has no connection to Jacobinism or Trotskyite Bolshevism. But in practice both are crucially similar: They are secular versions of the inexorable march towards a utopian redemption of a flawed humanity. Yet most civilisations do not accept history to be at all linear. Nevertheless, towards the end of the Twentieth Century (in some societies, earlier) there occurred, to borrow a phrase from Frank Kermode, “a sense of an ending.” Liberal orthodoxies had fallen into radical self-doubt. And around the world, movements (sometimes covert) were beginning to be arrayed against the political and economic imposition of a diversity of hybrid literal scientific rationalities (e.g. in Russia and Germany). Other societies suddenly just leaped into unknown futures (Iran). All were symptoms suggestive of Fukuyama’s prediction that Homo Economicus’ dawning awareness of his own hollowed-out existence ultimately would take people to revolt.

Western élites both decry and seek to break all signs of populism and illiberalism. Why? Because they scent and fear in them the shades of old pluralist values reasserting themselves that they thought had been suppressed long ago through Enlightenment rationality and secularism. These élites may be correct in their anxiety. Their deliberate dismantling of any external norm beyond civic conformity which might guide the individual in his or her life and actions, and the enforced eviction of the individual from any form of structure (communal, societal, religion, family and gender), has made a turning back to what was always latent, if half-forgotten, almost inevitable. What is occurring represents a global reaching back to old storehouses of values (Orthodoxy, Taoism, Shiism et al) a silent religiosity, a turn back to being again in and of the world. They are storehouses that have persisted, their foundational myths and notion of cosmic order (maat) still swirling in the deeper levels of collective unconscious. These fragments live on, speaking to Truths that lie hidden in the vertices of myth and not in competitive argument. They are not Truths in the western meaning of ‘objective’ truth, yet have represented the very pinnacles of human insight.

This reaching back, at least in a major part, lies at the root of the upcoming global order of sovereign civilisation-states. We see Russians turning to Orthodoxy to provide vitality and directionality to society. We see the same in India, China and in much of the world. The other aspect is when looking to the West, these states see decomposition and degradation. It was in 2012 that the term ‘Civilisational States’ came to be more widely used in terms of an unfolding new global order. It signaled an end to the notion that (western) modernity, in the sense of partaking in the fruits of technological advance, mandated lockstep-Westification. It marked too, the end to the bipolar optic. Recently, when asked whose side they were on in respect to Ukraine, the Indian Foreign Minister simply riposted:

It’s time for Europe to grasp that their problems are not the World’s problems. We are on our own side.

This trend towards a multi-polar world is an anathema to the Washington foreign policy Establishment. A heterodoxy that reappropriates traditional values precisely as the path to the re-sovereigntisation of a particular people mortally threatens the rules-based order. Political philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, in After Virtue (1981), suggests that reappropriation is not just about sovereignty. It is precisely the cultural narrative that provides a better explanation to the unity of a human life. The individual life stories of members of a community become enmeshed and intertwined. And the entanglement of our stories surges out to form the weft and weave of communal life. The latter can never be a single consciousness generated abstractly and imposed from a central command. The point here is that it is cultural tradition alone, and its moral tales, that provide context to terms such as good and justice and telos. MacIntyre wrote:

In the absence of traditions, moral debate is out of joint; and becomes a theatre of illusions in which simple indignation and mere protest occupy centre stage.

Which brings us to those of us living in the West, those who have never felt themselves inwardly to be a part of this contemporary world, but rather, somehow belonging to a different world, one with a very different ontological basis. What we in the West possess today, MacIntyre suggests, is nothing more than mere fragments of an older tradition (a heroic society). But evidently, these fragments simply are too sparse, since our moral discourse which still deploys terms like good and justice and duty, nonetheless has been robbed of the context that would make these terms intelligible. In other words, it places the virtue of the heroic Homeric world beyond the reach of a collective West. Nonetheless, under the palimpsest of diverse European protest camps, we are witnessing inklings of recovery peeping out from behind the ruins: old values, earlier social forms are returning in a new, fecund form. Most of today’s ‘discontented’ will be oblivious to this and may never seriously address the deeper layers to the history of thinking, or to that ‘other’ vision from which they derive. But that is not the point, for even as the leaves of western civilisation fall to the ground, seeds are being set into our collective psyche. A ‘layer’ lives on, deep inside us, and surges up, (particularly at times of crisis), to challenge ‘who it is we think we are,’ and to pose us a ‘life-choice.’ It directs us to the fork in the road. It is, in short, not a matter of ‘returning to the past,’ but of connecting us to almost-lost memories that suddenly catch new flame from greying, dust-covered embers, as fresh air streams across them.

7 Comments

  1. VALDOSTA
    Posted September 20, 2022 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Remarkably stupid article by Crooke. He writes about the Group in Support of the UN Charter in old-time Orientalist terms, as a reversion to cultural essentials he claims to find in religious traditions (Taoism?! that never made it out of the fringe.) The cultural rights the Group invokes derive directly from the UN Charter.

    With equal obtuseness he traces Western-bloc criminality to the Enlightenment. He blames it for absolutism. He seems unaware that UDHR authors from Confucian, Mideast, European, and North American cultural traditions accepted the categorical imperative as their rationale (strictly speaking, the Canuck was a US puppet but even he had to go along.) It’s not rationalism that makes the Western bloc criminal, it’s institutional impunity.

    This fixation on cultural essentialism is pure CIA brainwashing. It shows what a helpless satellite the MI6 regime in Britain is.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted September 20, 2022 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Could you point me at someone or something that expresses your positive views?

  3. Val Dosta
    Posted September 21, 2022 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Fair enough, here’s the “traditionalists” sounding more legalist than anything else.

    https://media.un.org/en/asset/k1w/k1w1qatav5

    As for his diagnosis of the West, where to begin? The West’s problem is rationalism? We should be so lucky. The Western bloc’s problem is this,

    https://archive.org/stream/DouglasValentineTheCIAAsOrganizedCrime2016/Douglas%20Valentine%20-%20The%20CIA%20as%20Organized%20Crime%20-%202016_djvu.txt

    arbitrary conduct institutionalized, the exact antinomy of legalism.

    Old CIA henchmen like Crooke naturally want to make this straightforward conflict all high-flown and epistemological and metaphysical. Actually, though, it’s the hue and cry of the public at large fed up with crime.

    His heart’s in the right place re Palestine, so I don’t think it’s disingenuous. He’s just struggling out of immersive indoctrination, like everybody else.

  4. Rich
    Posted September 21, 2022 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    If I understand it correctly, the CIAs attempts to fixate us on “cultural essentialisms” is a distraction from where the power lies, “institutional impunity”. And I would add individual indemnification as in the ongoing working example of CIAs indemnification of Mitchell/Jessen & Associates. Those Torture Aficionados were swiftly afforded impunity by CIA/US Gov’t. Almost on cue, DoD Health Affairs chimed in their approval as if to show all doctors are down with torture too, notwithstanding the helpfulness of $81 million 2x paid to the psychologists exemplars.

    In application the result is the morally assertive individual, (desires enforcement of laws criminalising torture/battery) receives punishment while impunity/indemnification accords the perpetrators with riches, status and an anxiety-free life.

    Crooke seems to be channeling Saul’s “”Voltaire’s Bastards”.

    I think the broader point as well as my specific example should not be put away too quickly because the CIAs intent is transparent, at least to the trained mind. The CIAs method here is to present an industrialized, society-wide scale application of the Double Bind. Bateson in his Theory of Psychosis proposed the Double Bind as the precipitatant of detachment from reality. Indemnity and impunity remove the double Bind as there is only reward for Mitchell/Jessen/Torturer/Collaborator.
    And so today, we have Shared psychosis, mass formation psychosis, brainwashing, gaslighting, crazy-making and sorts of terms to describe how the CIA drives society mad.

  5. niqnaq
    Posted September 21, 2022 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I see what you mean. Cultural reaction (which even Dugin champions) is just another blind?

  6. Rich
    Posted September 22, 2022 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    I’m saying imagine an institution or force capable of concentrating the personality types (U.S. always has mass personality testing across Gov’t institutions) where Dugin’s or anyone else’s political philosophy becomes just a measuring stick for categorizing an individual’s behavior. Where the outcome is more vicious than the zero sum game in which at least the loser holds the genuine hope of winning it all too. Even the Machiavellian acknowledges a possible affirmative outcome for their opponent.
    The Double Bind removes any such niceties. The intent is submission to control or what follows are psychological decomposition and physiological deterioration of the person, population or state. Where it has been shown by innoculating as little as 5% of the group with these “masters” achieves control of the population.
    And if mimicking adherence to a political or religious philosophy seems useful, then you can bet they’re prepared to put on a good show as enlightening and informative as the superficial bunting at a parade.
    Remarkably intellectuals are often the most susceptible to these forces as I imagine they all have some version of the Monte Carlo Method running in their heads. Why bother with an statistical calculations when the masters are flipping a coin on your behalf and the outcome is always either heads the masters win or tales you lose.

  7. niqnaq
    Posted September 22, 2022 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    I hear that

    🙂

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