Springtime for Putin
Spengler predicted that the next energetic culture would be Russia. For Spengler, there is a divide between a culture and a civilisation: the culture stage is virile youth for a social superorganism—a springtime when men are unselfconscious in their confidence, their religion, and their desire for action. Later, a culture matures into an autumnal civilisation: the civilisation is self-aware, ironic, and philosophical—eventually only the material husk remains, the spirit leaves the superorganism; no innovation occurs now, only the daily grind.
China has faded away beyond late civilisation; although people still “do things” in China her vital youth is gone—she can copy and build, but she cannot generate her own poetry or science. She carries on as a fellaheen society, only concerned—as with those old Egyptian fellahs, the peasants—with material life, with bread in the mouth. As for the West, we are on the cusp: we are an old civilisation, we live in the age of blood and money—the age of the caesars.
Spengler said the culture-civilisation-fellaheen process started in the West in about 1000 AD; and the cycle lasts 1,000 years—we are at the end. Spengler’s West is the West of cathedrals and the Renaissance, Rome and Greece were separate from us—not least because they used mathematics in a different way, mathematics determines the superorganism’s form. Now it is Russia’s turn to be a vital culture, time for her to throw off Western tutelage—as imposed from Peter the Great onwards—and thrust outwards with her own destiny.
If the West were still a culture, our response to Putin’s incursion into the Ukraine would be simple: this is war—our honour depends on the aid we provide to our ally. A culture has no time to chatter or discuss, it takes decisive action: a culture is a Roman centurion who slaps down a jittery senator and marches onward. “Men, advance! If we die we die, and we die for our ancestors. The bards will sing of you.”
About the last men to think this way in the West were American soldiers like Patton and LeMay—men from the youngest branch of the Western superorganism. Imagine Patton on the Ukraine: “Dogg-gornit, give me three divisions, just three, and I’ll drive the Russian back beyond the Urals. Mr. President, we have the men—and an ugly lot they are; may their mothers love ‘em, no one else will—and we have the eeeequipment. We must maintain the initiative.” Maintain the initiative: this is how the culture thinks, it thrusts forwards—fortune favours the bold, casualties are acceptable. “Nukes? Now, lookey here that thar Mr. Pootin might be a Rooossian but he’s canny, Mr. President. Canny like a Khan. Canny like a Jewish tinker—no disrespect, Mr. Kissinger (Kissinger, sotto voce, <<mazel toff>>). The brain trust tells me we can take 3M dead in Eooorope—and we can smoke the Roosians out with our missiles. Then Mr. Pootin will come to terms. I know them Roosians and I know war, Dogg-gornit.”
The culture accepts casualties with ease. It is the young man’s attitude, still steeped in simple but vital religious instincts. The civilisation, for its part, grows careful and philosophical. In late Rome, Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic emperor, was criticised by residual vital men because he was “a philosophical old woman”; and the last decade saw a craze for Aurelian Stoicism in the West. The young man does not put up with anything, the old man comforts himself with woolly philosophical notions that substitute for a long-discredited religion. The old emperor, President Biden with his snow white hair, totters around his palace; he listens to various advisers, makes desultory decisions, and tries to nap—he finds solace in atheistic-yet-homely philosophies, he listens to the Neil deGrasse Tyson podcast; it helps relax his prostate.
Fight Russia in the Ukraine? That would be impetuous and rash, send them NLAWs and Stingers instead. The way we supply the Ukraine with missiles and aid replicates the way the Romans came to rely on mercenaries in their decadent stage. Missiles are our mercenaries: we do not want to risk actual men. A centurion’s ghost says: “Zelensky is a useless wretch, but we have led him on. Now we must fight, not provide ‘support’ like passive-aggressive women; not hit the Russians and pretend we don’t hit them. Where is your honour?” We have none.
Whether Russia wins this particular war matters not a bit. The Spenglerian analysis is about the general thrust in a superorganism: the general Russian thrust is youthful and optimistic. “Wouldn’t it be more prudent, from an economic perspective, not to invade?” says the sceptical old man. “What’s the use of all this irredentism? The rational altruists say we are all the same…” Rational altruism, Stoicism—the false comfort of decadent cosmopolitanism.
Russia’s cosmological Orthodox faith gels with the predominant technological movement towards cybernetics and space travel: the Russian sensibility is the “modern” sensibility to come, the cosmos as a church-like onion dome that lives and speaks to us. It is our “mir”, our peaceful community: in Spenglerian terms, the Russians had the first large-scale space station because it accords with their relation to spatial orientation; the culture demanded a “mir”, a typical Russian settlement, in space. It was Russians like Tsiolkovsky who planned rockets and pioneered space travel as a religious experience. The Faustian West entered space, per von Braun, but the Russian is at home in space as a culture; he even has “Cosmism”—a religion of space travel. In men like Dugin, though he is not a sophisticated thinker, we see a chthonic Russian thought style—not Tolstoy or Lenin imitating the West, but for the first time a distinctly Russian approach to reality that intrigues the world. As Russia matures, solidifies her Eurasian geopolitical position through cooperation with old China, men like Dugin but more sophisticated will arise to push forward the young Russian culture in her properly religious and, eventually, philosophical form.