Deontological Rivalry Pits East Against West

What is in progress is a clash between people and nations who support normal human values and the part of the Western elite which preaches post-human values

Russian historian and distinguished public intellectual Dr. Natalia Narochnitskaya was spot on in her Christmas homily delivered to cultural notables in Kaliningrad a few months ago when she said that “The world needs Russia precisely for being Russia, and therefore Russia must remain true to herself!”

“In our time,” she pointed out, “when beauty and adherence to norm are denounced as something vulgar and annoying, while sin and perversion are touted as symbols of sophistication, when all spiritual and historical sanctities of our people are being trampled underfoot, it is more vital than ever to avoid falling into perfidiously set traps. A huge role in this belongs to the Orthodox Church – the pillar and foundation of the Truth, but as well to all who are engaged in the fields of education and enlightenment.”

“Our mission,” Dr. Narochnitskaya continued, “is to pass our historical heritage on to future generations. Contemporary Russia, which is in the process of re-establishing its national and religious substance, is slated to become the world’s major powerhouse on the spiritual stage.”

These solemn thoughts call for serious reflection in the West, on the part of those at least who are still capable of it. Dr Narochnitskaya is, of course, just a prominent private citizen, but her views nevertheless reflect the thinking and the temperament of Russia’s establishment and, more importantly, the ordinary people. The contrast between the vision for her country that she espouses and the nihilistic meanderings of the paladins of what remains of Western culture and spirit is stupendous.

Most strikingly, she does not project Russia’s “superpower” role on a geopolitically reconfigured planet in terms of military and physical dominance, but primarily as a free spiritual gift to a wounded world. To anomic Western ears her discourse necessarily sounds archaic, putting in the centre of her conceptual framework long forgotten and by now nearly incomprehensible notions such as sin, beauty, truth (and with upper-case T, no less), norm, and perversion. And, most shocking of all, she upholds what in the contemporary West is the laughable concept of nurturing and passing on to coming generations a common core of spiritual values rooted in their country’s cultural and historical experience.

Several decades ago, James Burnham wrote his famous treatise “Suicide of the West.” While blaming liberalism for the West’s decadence, Burnham argued that it was what in 1964 he saw as an American retreat from empire and the role of global policeman that signified the weakness and decline of the Occident. He was partially correct in his analysis, insofar as he foresaw the corrosive impact that the encroachment of what he termed “liberalism” would have on the West’s vitality and will to survive. Hence the “suicide” diagnosis featured in the title. But with all his acuity, Burnham was still unable to step out of the brute power matrix typical of Western reasoning ever since the Schism. Never mind all the “shining city on the hill” sanctimonious cant, for noble Burnham also the ultimate and fundamental test of a civilization’s viability was its ability to physically dominate and crush others.

We can only speculate how Burnham would react, if he were alive today, to political correctness, cancel culture and other proliferations of the liberal scourge he so feared and warned against in his day. How would he comment on a Canadian father being jailed for refusing to use a male pronoun in addressing his “trans-gender” daughter, or on the introduction in the California ethnic studies school curriculum of mandatory obeisance to an Aztec human sacrifice divinity as a counterweight to alleged white racism, or the initiative in Oregon to do away with “correct answers” in mathematics classes because they promote “white supremacy”? Or the production of limited edition (only 666 pairs) Air max 97 Nike sneakers dedicated to the Evil One, complete with a pentagram and a drop of human blood in each shoe? How is that for the resounding triumph of “liberalism”?

Foreign Minister Lavrov had a point in a recent interview when he said that within an amazingly short period of time the East and the West seem to have simply switched places.

In this confrontation that is deontological, or in the realm of values, rather than about who has the better hypersonic missiles or can win an arms race, Dr. Narochnitskaya has made it very clear what spiritual legacy she expects to be bequeathed to Russia’s future generations. What will be the inheritance of their misgendered Western counterparts? Satanic sneakers?

The dead-end reached by the West in the deontological competition was keenly noted by Russian political scientist Sergei Karaganov in a recent Serbian “Sputnik” interview. “What is in progress is a clash between people and nations who support normal human values and the part of the Western elite which preaches post-human values.” Speaking for his country Karaganov pointedly stressed that “we stand for human values and that is potentially a far sharper disagreement than what used to exist between communism and capitalism.”

Has Russia any sympathizers in the West?

“Yes, of course she does,” Karaganov was quick to respond. “Not just in the West but throughout the world, ninety percent of which consists of normal people who share belief in normal values, who wish to live and bear their children in peace, for elders to be respected, and that people should be free to devote themselves to what they most highly cherish – family and fatherland.”

Such unapologetically bold and refreshing talk has not been heard in the West in a very long time.