Knowledge vs. Faith
The situation in Russia and the world at large is becoming increasingly tense. So every thinking person more and more asks himself these questions: "Will a global war break out?" "Will the Russian economy collapse?" and "What is to be done?" Unfortunately, Russia's ruling class is unable to answer these questions, evidently preferring to believe in a miracle and advising everyone else to believe in this abstraction.
Now, the Russian economic development minister recently sought to have people believe that the Russian economic crisis hit rock-bottom in mid-2015. At the time the minister claimed that it has reached a "fragile" bottom.
However, in anticipation of either a major war or an imminent economic collapse, people can seriously believe only in an idea that is comparable in terms of its scale to these challenges, but definitely not in some official's remarks.
In the absence of this kind of idea, people begin to look for ideological foundations on their own, and find them in various phantoms and fantasies.
Privatization vs nationalization
A couple of months ago, Vladimir Sorokin, a well-known Russian (now apparently, Russian-speaking) author, in an interview with the German Tageszeitung (as reported to Russian readers by the Philologist blog), stated that "this country will not have a normal future." "Russia will fall apart," the author is confident.
I believe that Sorokin says this not out of malice nor due to pathological Russophobia. Simply, it's more convenient for him this way. The popular author, who has bought an apartment in Germany (Berlin, Charlottenburg district) and is adapting his life to new European standards and values, is also adjusting his ideas to a new environment.
Without bothering with logical exercises or reliance on historical facts, the author of Day of the Oprichnik, at the launch of this unquestionably outstanding novel in Brussels, explains to the European reader, who is little versed in Russian history, his original theory regarding the origin of Russian power: "The Russian state began with Ivan the Terrible's oprichniks [aggressive military detachments]." (Prior to Ivan the Terrible, the Russian people presumably lived without a state, in caves, as a tribal society.)
I believe that by taking liberties with Russian history, Sorokin not only habitually shocks the publishers and buyers of his books, but also convinces himself that "in Russia, man serves the state, while in Germany, the state serves man."
However, let's leave the successful author to his sacred faith that "in Germany, the state serves man" and try to explain why some, even well-informed Russians come to believe in primitive schemas, such as, "Russia is falling apart," or "Russia is about to defeat all of its enemies," especially considering that our country is clearly falling apart — not on territorial but on ideological grounds — into two super-strata of people whose beliefs are in direct opposition.
The polarization of opinion in Russian society is a result, among other things, of sociological surveys based on having to choose between two terrible options (for example, "Are you in favor of private or public property?"). Following from this, the media have to report that 52 percent of the country's population is in favor of "an economy based on state planning" with all the ensuing "anti-liberal" values such as the growing role of the state and conservative ideology.
This is similar to the way activists who believed in simple slogans used to drive Russians into a corner with the suicidal question: "Are you for the Reds or for the Whites?" even though true knowledge, as is known, is not reduced to red or white and not even to all colors of the rainbow.
Knowledge is an infinite number of shades of all conceivable and inconceivable colors that — in order to provide a coherent answer to the question, "What is to be done?" — need to be seen as part of a cause-and-effect relationship.
The less knowledge, the more faith in primitive schemas
There is a big divide between a person who knows and is perceptive to knowledge, on the one hand, and a person to believes in something (not to be confused with a believer), on the other hand. However, before proceeding to describe this divide, I should point out that a person who knows always believes in something (after all, he knows what can and should be believed in; in the world of science, belief is known as hypothesis), but a person who has blind faith, as a general rule, does not know or prefers not to know the subject on which he passes judgment.
(Why encumber yourself with the knowledge, for example, of Russian history, if it is much easier to believe, say, that this history started under Ivan the Terrible?)
Note that the present article is not about criticizing certain individuals, but about the methodology of distinguishing between the functions of knowledge and faith that prevail in the individual and in mass consciousness.
It is not a foregone conclusion that a society seeking knowledge is more effective than a society built on faith. Modern-day Europe shows that in some respects, the Europeans are behind, say, the Islamic State (ISIL), which offers mass consciousness (including that of the European everyman) far more attractive and therefore more effective constructions than multiculturalism or euro-tolerance.
In this regard, Russia would definitely have defeated all of its foes long ago if the majority of Russian people sincerely believed in their country and the faultlessness of the decisions made by the Russian ruling authorities. However, there is no such faith. At the same time, an average official surely believes that the ruling establishment's low credibility in Russia is the result of ineffective propaganda and a lack of indoctrination among young people. (This position, by the way, is also a result of faith based on the presumption of the virtue of state institutions.) In reality, a situation has evolved in Russia today where both knowledge and faith are equally degrading. Needless to say, in this context, propaganda is in around 10th place.
Many people do not believe in Russia, in its future (see above), just because they do not know what is in store for it. At the same time, more people are rejecting knowledge as too much nuisance, what with the constant need to read, analyze, compare and think. They don't have time for this in a situation where it is necessary to make a living or just to survive.
Meanwhile, in the absence of knowledge about what is going on, a person tends to believe in just anything: if not in God, then in godlessness.
As a result, a kind of faith in faithlessness, a sort of post-atheism, is growing in Russia, as well as in the Christian world in general. It is based not simply on the denial of divine truths, but on pointed (and apparently justified, from the positions of "healthy pragmatism") disrespect for everything that is worthy of respect, including knowledge, the trustworthiness of information, the absolute value of traditions, etc. Faith in the expediency of faithlessness is more convenient. Cynicism (faithlessness) is more beneficial than romanticism (faith in goodness) or even realism (knowledge), when it is measured in concrete monetary terms.
In the case of the aforementioned author, for example, the lack of faith in Russia's great future is not simply a matter of expediency, but, in my opinion, a necessity realized with a calculator in a publisher's hand. First, there is no need to encumber yourself with a profound knowledge of Russian history; second, this way it is easier to adapt to your new motherland; and third, this way it is more convenient to part with your historical motherland.
Action plan for those who stay put
The technology of the lack of faith in Russia's future, based on the failure or the reluctance to understand how the present situation in the country and in the world can be changed, multiplied by banal resentment (they did not recognize my talents), is as old as the world. Russia encountered the "Russia will fall apart" kind of opus at the beginning of the past century. True, if at that time, individuals who believed in the Red idea banished those who believed in something else out of Russia, today, characters who are overwhelmed by pessimism regarding the future of the great Russian power are running from the sinking ship on their own.
Question: What is to be done by those who prefer to stay put?
In his time, by returning to his sinking Motherland, the well-known Soviet and Russian philosopher Alexander Zinoviev showed what a Russian (and especially a Russian author) can and should do at a critical time for his country. The position that is not only the most decent but also the most beneficial is to do his utmost to ensure that Russia has a decent future.
The present needs to be changed: not by going to the extremes of primitive schemas, but based on the knowledge of what needs to be done here and now: how Russia is to extricate itself from the traps of liberal ideas and privatization and the labyrinths of the conservative alternative and all kinds of nationalization.
Zinoviev sought to bring ideology closer to science, anticipating the onset of obscurantism in Russia. And it seems that this time has come, as certain Russian authors have become involved in spreading the dark, transitory and evil. The root cause of this obscurantism is not the oprichnina policy [of mass reprisals, public executions and the confiscation of land], not the Tatar-Mongol yoke nor Soviet totalitarianism. Its root cause is the infantilism of know-it-alls, who are in fact know-nothings, but are not even aware of this.
As is known, national ideology is not born within the ruling establishment. It is always born in society, among those seeking to establish the truth, not swim with the tide, posing as a rower, let alone the captain.
As is known, in its movement towards a bright future, the West relies not so much on the idea of social progress as on free market laws. Modern-day Russia, being in the economic periphery of the free-market West, still has a choice. Either it will remain the periphery of the Western world or it will try to become an independent global actor in its own right. If it chooses the latter (and this choice seemed to be confirmed today), it will need to rely, first, on its own, domestic market, and second, on an ideology growing not out of faith that Russia can have its own development path, but out of the knowledge of how to achieve this.
Any options without objective knowledge, or respect for this knowledge, based on faith in the triumph of reason and good, are part of the eternal movement from state violence to public mutiny and back.