A thought experiment
Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Jun 9, 2007 at 19:17
Dear Mariana ,
I am sorry for the delay in my reply but I was busy these days. My house and garden are big and we had a hurricane that uprooted an old pine-tree and damaged the fence.
> Responding to your post is going to have to be done in pieces. It's been so many years since I've attempted anything on this scale, I'm totally flabbergasted! To begin with, I definitely prefer you as Friend to Flatterer; without openness, real exchange of views is compromised [and more resembles "diplomacy" than communication].
Thanks a lot for your kind and matter-of-fact reply , dear Mariana. Please feel free to criticize whatever I say as I do share opinion without restrictions . Without openness and total freedom of speech we don't get anywhere else than to the insipid and false world of diplomacy" - as you define it : an exchange of empty phrases and double-talk . I detest that sort of speech.
> I had no clue you were from Poland [somehow got the idea you were Cypriot],
In a sense your feeling was right. Hellenism is the greatest influence in my education and perhaps life. Around my house I have a collection of Greek statues (cheap replicas of course but still it's something ) . I am fond of Greek mythology , love Homer and Aristophanes .
> and I must ask if you are ethnically descended from or would be considered [by Poles] a "Russian minority."
That would be ridiculous ! Both my father and mother and grandparents were genuine Polish peasants and nothing else. But if you want to construe some ground for my suspicious apporval of things Russian in a country notorious for its Russophobia (and -alas- antisemitism) , then it is because my family came from landless serfs and the Russians both freed them from serfdom (the Polish noblemen would have never done it , of course! ) and gave them land. (You can well imagine our noblemen's feelings in that respect , can't you ? ) . You can dislike someone but if he has obvious virtues , in my opinion you have no right to deny or keep silent on them . Patriotism perhaps forbids to acknowledge an adversary's virtues , but honesty is better than patriotism.
> I ask this only because none of the Poles I've ever known here or in my fairly extensive travels over the years, has had your "take" vis a vis the USSR's relationship with Poland or the other countries they held as satellites behind the [fast re-emerging] Iron Curtain.
Of course , I know they don't . I shared their views early in my life but I noticed soon those who spread them were not very knowledgeable and reliable . I happened to study history and know Russian to a degree which allows me to read Russian literature . It has most helped me to form a critical view on many things , not necessarily pertaining to Polish-Russian relations .
E.g. has any Pole ever told you where the grandest Russian Orthodox cathedral east of Kiev was ? It was the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Warsaw at today's Saxony Square . Best Ural marbles , precious stones and gold were used to build and orante it. After 1918 as Poland regained its freedom , the Poles wantonly destroyed the Alexander Nevski Cathedral . As they could not remove the lower walls of the Cathedral by hand, they used dynamite to crush them. The marble and stones were used for paving streets in Warsaw and for Polish catholic churches . It was long before Stilin used the same methods to level Orthodox churches to the ground . Well, he was evil, we just acted as patriots". These practices were then continued in the Eastern provinces of Poland before the war . Thus a few hundred Russian orthodox churches were destroyed across Poland .
Now at the Saxony Square the Poles keep grand parades on Poland's Independence Day (11.11) where anti-Russian speeches are routinely held and acclaimed.
Polish endemic antisemtism is another chapter that belongs to this catogory as Poles are convinced that Russian communism was actually a Jewish invention imported by Jews to Poland .
> Your highlighting the Nazi past of Lithuania, Latvia, etc. [and most of the OAU, for that matter] is not new to me [tho a good deal of the history you provided is; in truth, sadly, from observing the goings on for the past several years, I'm more than half convinced that, given a choice, most Europeans would be Nazi [so long as the "onerous" aspects affected "others" and not themselves]; and that's exactly the point.
There is a big difference though , dear Mariana , between sympathising with Germany (actually almost all Eastern Jews during the first world war strongly sympathised with Kaiser Germany) and volunteering to serve and rage in extermination and concentration camps , in punitive units to murder Jews in the streets , denoucing those hiding to the Nazis . E.g. in the worst extermination camp Belzec (just one Jew escaped while c. 500 000 were exterminated ) there were c. 20 Germans only. The rest (100-120) were Ukrainian (Askaris" as the only survivor calls them) . Latvians and Lithuanians served in Treblinka and other notorious places and were well-known for their cruelty.
> I believe the crux of the difference between US and other "democracies" can be found in our Bill of Rights; and being of immigrant stock who considered these documents Sacred and took them more seriously [even] than religion [because without them, we'd be unable to freely practice our particular concept of "religion"]. Any tendencies towards naivete or utopianism adduced from my writings have these individual Human Rights at their base. Further: GWB, like [T. Roosevelt and] others before him, is Evangelical about extending these Rights [believed descended to each individual "by his Creator"] over their own destinies to everyone, everywhere.
I know this is a very essential part of Americanism and I would not like you to think that I question those things. On the contrary , to my mind they form the spiritual foundations upon which America has been built and made great.
> We're simple people who believe that to achieve real "peace" in the world, people need to be free to speak, think, work, trade, travel, worship, believe, and run their lives and governments as they choose [so long as these same rights of others are not infringed]; and that people living in peace increase prosperity and have no need to kill or conquer others.
Again, you are right in believing it , as actually experience has shown that those things work (or worked) the way you decsribe. I have the highest respect for the Founders of the American Republic and the institutions they established .
> Unfortunately [since end WWII], we've not been prepared to follow the example of Julius Caesar in Gaul [in Afghanistan, Iraq; although that might be changing: see recent accommodations in Anbar Prov.]. Please understand that my whining and moaning about our Congress and my government [aimed primarily for domestic consumption], are based in my understanding of these Sacred documents, and my fervent belief that our elected officials are systematically over-riding and disregarding the letter and spirit of Constitutional Law.
Congress was designed to "represent" the electorate; the calculus this current gang have made [despite explicit 70-90+% opposition of their electorate and the national security implications], is that we are amnesiac; will have forgotten their perfidies by election time; and as usual, will re-elect them again as "the lesser of evils." While that worked in 1986 [less successfully in '92], my thesis is that they've run out their string: This time, they've miscalculated seriously, and have gone too far!
I hope your prediction will materialize and the Americans will see that America can't simply forget its roots and values with which it stands and falls. I understand your criticism not as whining and moaning" but as a serious attempt to save America , to remind those in power and those who have power to elect their representatives to what extent the latter have despised and betrayed the principles which constitue the very essense of the American way of life . For those values to be ever restored , your criticism must be indefatigably repeated , must become more vocal and never cease. Believe me , I wouldn't like to see America become a third world impotent and decaying country. It would be the greatest imaginable disaster for the whole world!
">...Now with all respect I have towards the Amercan way of life , I find the right to carry arms quite questionable . If you had our (Middle European or Russian) history , you'd know why..."
> Because our Founders had an overwhelming distrust of "governments," Amendments I - X to the US Constitution known as the "Bill of Rights," were designed explicitly to LIMIT any powers the voluntary "Federation" they were creating [referred to therein as "the United States"] should be permitted to exercise over individuals or the [at that time, independent nation-] states; without them, the Constitution could never have been adopted, because the best among our Founders knew the necessity for explicit limitations.
Were I permitted only five of the ten, I think we might have survived with I, II, IV, IX and X, because without them, the others are all unsustainable. "Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." With this basic [conscious or unconscious] mind-set, average Americans have apparently been unable or unwilling to envision or wrap their minds around the significance of this massive, militant, radical Islamist Terrorist Crusade to revivify the Caliphate on Earth.
Yes , a tacit premise of the American way of life is that all citizens share this Christian and Enlightenment mindset and are interested in preserving this mind frame against any attacks and erosion . Islam and American (or European) way of life are irreconciable , mutually exclusiev notions.
> The forced conversion to Islam [from day one], prior Crusades and the Inquisition, are really so "beyond the pale" for most Americans that, unfortunately [encouraged by the active "denial" by the cynical Left and the majority media they control], they're been convinced that these worldwide activities are separate, unconnected phenomena; and that the "War on [Islamo-Fascist] Terrorism" is a fiction, fabricated by GWB for political gain. As a result of #I and IV, I am comfortably able to openly publish all of the things I've been writing with no fear of a "knock on my door."
I got your point and find it quite convincing.
> Notice, please, that the Second Amendment is the right to bear arms. I believe utterly, that the Founders listed these in descending order of importance, using IX and X as "mop-up" or "cover-all" limitations, to avoid deliberate usurpations or inadvertent "misunderstandings." "Amendment II A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." "Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
> Our Founders understood that an unarmed populous would be helpless with no viable recourse against a Republic-turned-Tyranny; they'd all read the Classics and History [most knew Latin and Greek], and observed that all prior governments [like fat cells] were in the business of growing bigger and accruing powers to themselves geometrically.
Well , they were right as people they had around them were literate , pious Christians and could be relied on. They bore arms and used them only as prescribed by the Founders and not as illiterate unreliable Eastern Europeans did to commit crimes .
> Also, were you to google the crime stats of states with "concealed-carry" laws, you'd see that crime rates have been demonstrably lowered since these laws were adopted [see: "More Guns Less Crime," John R. Lott]. "Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." "Amendment X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
> For me, these five have always been the most critical, because without them, the other five, delineating "technicalities" concerning speedy and public trials, contracts, jury of peers, representation and evidence, property rights, forcible billeting of military in private homes, etc., could not be sustained. Dimitri K. Simes, Pres of the Nixon Center, this morning on c-span, purported that an overwhelming majority of Russians support Putin and his policies. Neither Gorbachov nor Putin intended more than One [Communist] Party Rule.
Well, Russia is not America. But actually wasn't it Gorbachov who initiated a process to end the monoploy of the CPSS ? Brezhniev would not have done anything like Gorbachov.
> While Yeltzin may have been a corrupt drunkard, I believe he at least, gave the Russian people the courage and opportunity for self-governing; you appear to be inferring that they're incapable or uninterested in securing Liberty and "democracy" to themselves.
From 1991 to 1997 the consumption of milk in Russia declined by 41 % , of meat by 55% , of eggs by 31% , of fish 220% . People in their poverty were forced to eat more potatoes and bread . Consequences for children's and adults' health were catastrophic . Deseases which seemed to belong to the past like tuberculosis recurred under Yeltsin with new vehemence.
Once upon a time we had the slogan Cannons instead of butter! ". Under Yeltsin this slogan was changed into Democracy instead of butter! ". If you want to convince me that any of these deeply nihilistic and inhumane slogans can work anywhere on this planet , then I might suggest that this clever slogan should be once forced upon the Americans.
> Since I believe that it is impossible to have Liberty of any meaningful sort under one-party-rule without explicit freedom of speech ["absolute power corrupts, absolutely"], this holds out very little hope to me for any possibility of true peace or accommodation between US and USSR, Putin to Kennebunkport notwithstanding.
Let me make a little thought experiment. Imagine we arrange an exchange of populations between the US and the former USSR . And you , dear Mariana , become the president of the US but get all the inhabitants of the ex-USSR and have to rule them while Putin gets the Americans instead . Now I'd like to see how you implement the principles you talked about earlier.
As to Putin I suppose he'd change dramatically if he had to rule Americans and would be perhaps a better politician than G. Bush.
>Enough for today. I've woefully neglected for days, all of the necessaries required to maintain my life, and the time has come to "Pay the Piper." mariana
As a Latin phrase has it : Philosophari non necesse est , vivere necesse est " – freely We can do without philosophy , but not without life".
Take care ,
Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".
Reader comments (265) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes