Part 4. Mental escalators of violence in US policy and media makers – Part 4J. US “experts” falsely claim that a “pluralistic Ukraine” is supported by the US and opposed by Putin
False Bias #10. Putin Feels Threatened by a “Pluralistic Ukraine.” Derek Mitchell, president of the National Democratic Institute, one of the four core institutes of the National Endowment for “Democracy,” claimed in The Hill, “There is no greater threat to Putin than a prosperous, pluralistic and democratic Ukraine.”
In previous essays, we addressed Mitchell’s claims against Putin regarding his allegedly feeling threatened by a prosperous and democratic Ukraine, so in this essay we’ll turn our attention to Mitchell’s accusation that a pluralistic Ukraine, a Ukraine appreciative of diversity and of the interests of various types of people, would be a threat to Putin.
Mitchell writes on the NDI website that NDI has worked to help make Ukraine a more inclusive society by working with “women, LGBTQI+ activists and other marginalized communities.” That may be true, but keep in mind, the US government, in supporting Ukraine’s government, is supporting Ukraine’s far-right wing which has members who’ve specifically and deliberately attacked feminists in women’s marches, the Romani, Jews, Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and members of the LGBTQI+ movement.
It is Putin who has expressed distress regarding the neo-Nazi element in Ukraine that has inflicted torture and violence upon these groups. But US “experts,” instead of appreciating Putin’s concerns—concerns that are validated by human rights groups’ reports, all parrot one another in their disdainful attitude towards Putin’s remarks and their refusal to recognize that these verbal and physical attacks have been taking place.
One topic that is either an issue of contention or that is being exaggerated and made into an issue of contention against Russia is the LGBTIQ+ movement. I’m going to refer to the movement more simply as LG+ for the remainder of this essay, but without any intention to disrespect those who are represented by the letters BTIQ.
In an interview with the BBC, Putin points out, “In Russia, being gay is not a crime.” He compares this to some nations which prohibit homosexuality and punish it with the death penalty. “I believe there should not be any criminal prosecution or any prosecution or infringement of people’s rights on the basis of their race, ethnicity, or religion, or sexual orientation.” In Russia, he explains, there is “no career or social discrimination” against people based on their sexual orientation. “For example, Elton John is an extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him regardless of his sexual orientation.”
“The problem of sexual minorities in Russia has been deliberately exaggerated from the outside for political reasons, I believe, without any good basis.” He added, “I believe this is one of the lines of attack against Russia.”
In 2013, Putin signed a law that bans propaganda to minors of nontraditional sexual relations. According to an article on hollywoodreporter.com, “the Russian law effectively forbids any depiction of or reference to homosexuality at all within the community, and it has been used to imprison activists.” The movement to push for LG+ rights within Russia has been perceived as a form of Western imperialism, and the fundraising arms of LG+ movements have been classified as “foreign agents” and thus illegal. According to the International Federation for Human Rights, LG+ persons in Russia have been forced to migrate as they flee from repression.
But are they being repressed just for being LG+? Or are they being repressed for publicly promoting the LG+ issue? The first scenario is clearly a case of unkindness and discrimination. The second scenario, which violates the Russian law regarding not promoting the subject with minors, is not so clearly a case of unkindness or discrimination.
In his interviews, Putin does not find this law to be one that harms anybody. “We should leave kids in peace. We should give them a chance to grow, help them to recognize who they are, and decide for themselves.” This makes sense. Children are very impressionable, their sense of identity is undeveloped, and if the LG+ movement is pushed excessively, it could lead to actual identity confusion amongst youth. After all, isn’t it a little strange that so many American youth now identify as bisexual? You have to wonder, is this real, or is this, like so many other teen things, a fad, a fashion, nothing more than groupthink?
There’s certainly validity to the idea that thought must be given to the positive and negative effects of various measures of the LG+ movement on children. And if the US wants to decide one way on various measures, it doesn’t mean Russia can’t decide another way. There’s no reason for the world to be homogeneous. There’s typically an advantage to variety, not only variety in the diversity of people, but variety in nations’ approaches to that diversity, as long as cruelty and injury are not allowed.
In the Financial Times, Putin explains:
“‘I am not trying to insult anyone. . . we have no problem with LGBT persons. . . . Let them live as they wish,’ he said. ‘but some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles.
“‘Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that,’ he added. ‘But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions, and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.’”
Putin’s words sound fair-minded. What is the experience of members of the LG+ movement within Russia? Do they feel Putin is being genuine with these words, or not? Do they feel accepted into Russian society? Are they put down or mistreated? In what ways do they wish society or government were different?
Some are upset that gay marriages and gay pride parades and rallies aren’t allowed in Russia. Without trivializing the disappointment regarding public parades, I’d point out that it’s not all that certain that public parades and rallies for any group or cause actually have a positive effect in changing people’s opinions to feel more favorably towards those making the public parade or protest. Frankly, parades and protests for a certain cause can sometimes make people in the public feel antagonistic, when they might have previously felt neutral or even accepting, especially if the public event has hostile overtones to it that can really turn off people’s ears to understanding.
I know how the LG+ movement may feel with regard to feeling ignored or not recognized as valuable without the public recognition. After all, the peace movement feels the same way—sometimes, perhaps, even worse. The American calendar is replete with military holidays, local papers crow about the glories of the military, navy and army “career” centers are in the local mall, and recruiters infiltrate schools to dupe unlucky targets. It makes you feel like you’re suffocating when you’re not able to get your own words and values out into the public space but are bombarded with messages on mainstream media and culture with which you don’t agree.
They may have a push for diversity within government to get people of different genders and races represented in high offices, but such diversity can be only skin deep. There’s extremely limited representation of various socioeconomic classes. And the ideology of the peace movement is barely represented if it’s even there at all. So much for pluralism. But note that tons of major worldwide protests didn’t do a thing to stop the US 2003 invasion of Iraq.
It’s also important to realize that Russia’s view towards the public display of any type of sexuality may be much different from your typical American school, at least the ones I went to, where the only rule about it seemed to be that clothes had to stay on and no public messing around, groping, and lustful grips during class, only in between classes. So if the Russian government is trying to protect minors from being steered in a certain direction with regard to homosexuality, it may also be part of a general attitude that sexuality should not be a part of general discussion and should not be on public display and that children actually have a right not to see and hear all that, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual or something else altogether.
Note that the West itself can be two-faced about the topic—more conservative and less open to diversity and various levels of comfort with the body. After all, it was former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who seemed taken aback during a G7 meeting that Putin, while outside in nature on vacation, had photos taken of himself with his shirt off. At any rate, the West simultaneously mocks Putin for taking off his shirt and condemns him for adhering to conservative social values. While Ukrainian President Zelensky’s daily tight-fitting T-shirt is apparently accepted, Putin’s taking his shirt off on vacation is considered too “macho.” As the West knows, the “proper” display of machismo is in the use of drones, missiles, bombs, and machine guns. That’s the real way to show one’s masculinity and physical power.
It’s worth noting that, according to the Human Rights Watch report on Ukraine in 2016, in spite of some progressive government policies, anti-LG+ sentiment in Ukraine remains high both amongst high-level government officials and in the public. That year, for example, about 200 anti-gay far-right supporters attacked an LGBT equality festival. The report observes that the LGBT Pride march took place without violence, unlike previous years. In fact, ultra-right groups had threatened to turn the march into a “bloody mess,” but about 6,000 police officers protected the 1,500 march participants. The Human Rights Watch report on Ukraine for 2021 included civil society groups’ observation that there had been a sharp increase in attacks that year against LGBT, anti-corruption, and women’s rights activists.
Keep in mind, as Derek Mitchell stated, NDI itself has worked in Ukraine with the LG+ movement and with feminists. Yet, just as Western work with women in Afghanistan tainted the idea of women’s rights by adding a foreign imperialist threatening overtone, the very same thing could be occurring with the LG+ movement in Slavic nations. It can be hard enough for a nation to overcome—if it wants to—centuries of a certain value system that perceives certain behaviors as wrong, but to then have certain policies with regard to those behaviors promoted by the US government makes it several times as difficult and threatening.
In her work, Gender and International Aid in Afghanistan, Lina AbiRafeh repeatedly observes that Western involvement with the gender equality movement in Afghanistan was precisely what made the very idea of it much less appealing and even threatening to Afghans, as if the West were using this cultural theme as a way to infiltrate and corrode Afghan society. If Afghan women and men could have worked on the challenge themselves, without foreign involvement at all, they might have had more success. The same holds true for the LG+ movement in Russia. It’s hard to imagine the US accepting any cultural trait that was pushed by an enemy nation, especially one that had just invaded it or that had created an organization like NATO to fight it.
This is clearly an issue for cooperative dialogue, not for silencing, not for caving in, yet absolutely not for imposing ideas or deriding others on either side of the argument. Mutual understanding and compassion won’t grow for anyone under the attack of insults and threats! It will grow best in a safe, friendly environment where people can really get to know one another better and see each other as less threatening. Cooperative dialogue would also allow people to be heard who are opposed either to the LG+ movement or to certain unpleasant or harmful direct or indirect consequences of the movement. Moreover, fears that the movement is being used as a cloak for Western domination should also be examined impartially. Above all, any disagreement over this issue is absolutely no justification for wars, weapon shipments, and coups.
With regard to women’s rights and identity, women won the right to vote in the USSR in 1917, three years before they did in the US—not that voting gives women much power when the slate of candidates is forever so weak and limited. And the USSR granted women paid maternity leave for months. I call that respect, respect for women and respect for young human beings. Plus, Russian women, unlike American women, still have abortion rights. The US government, who will easily kill hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East, who will mercilessly and painfully slaughter thinking, feeling cattle and pigs for people who for some reason can’t find anything else to eat, who will destroy innumerable species of plant and animal life to construct yet another batch of buildings and roads, who has no problem with possessing the largest incarceration rate in the world, evidently finds the American human embryo so special, important, and cherished—unlike all the aforementioned victims—that it’s sinful to destroy it. And remember, when the goal is to expand the already massively over-crowded American population in order to grow markets for CEO profits, everyone has to have as many kids as possible. Women’s bodies can produce consumers!
Now domestic violence is another matter and it’s been a terrible problem in many Slavic nations and other nations, as well, such as in Afghanistan, where domestic violence has increased since the US invasion and occupation. A Human Rights Watch article from 2018 describes in terrible detail the types of abuse to which Russian women fall victim. According to a 2011 study, 38 percent of the women surveyed had been subject to psychological violence, and 20 percent had been subjected to the physical violence of a husband or partner.
In Russia, a comprehensive domestic violence law has been stalled in parliament since 2014. Legislation was then passed in 2017 that stipulates that a first offence of domestic violence, as long as it doesn’t result in the need for hospital treatment, such as for broken bones or a concussion, and as long as it doesn’t happen more than once a year, can no longer result in prison time, at most 15 days in jail and a fine or community service. It’s not quite clear how it could happen more than once a year if it’s a first offence, but this is how the law is described on Human Rights Watch.
While the legislation is considered by some to be a serious setback for women’s protection, it’s worth recognizing that prison itself is a terrible institution that should be completely discarded. Prison time could conceivably make people more aggressive and less able to control their emotions. Some sort of monitored positive rehabilitation and also prevention through improvements in genuine social relations and reforms in society’s options and goals for education and employment would be ideal.
If many Slavic males tend to engage in domestic violence, it would be worth examining all aspects of society that affect males, including parenting, parental affection and love towards boys, treatment of boys, dysfunctional stereotypes regarding male identity, the culture towards males, the culture of males, and the effect of family and work upon males. If males are abusing their wives, the wives are certainly suffering, but something must be eating away at the males, too. While the specific act of abuse is bad, the entire problem is not good gender vs. evil gender. Somehow, the male gender has been harmed along the way. A dynamic, uplifting approach towards reforming society would be more helpful than pushing prison and punitive approaches.
In reading about domestic violence in Russia, it seems that a more serious problem than this 2017 law regarding punishment is the police and public’s lack of concern over domestic violence, a certain degree of cultural acceptance of it, the weak system of justice with regard to the issue, and the lack of shelters for those who are threatened with domestic violence. For this reason, I find the title of a Foreign Policy article on the issue highly misleading: “Putin’s War on Women: Why #MeToo Skipped Russia.”
Note that while Putin signed the bill into law, he did so after the lower house of parliament, “the Duma, overwhelmingly approved it by a vote of 380 to 3.” In other words, Putin played one small role in all this, for 380 of the 383 Duma members approved it. The article indicates that both Russian men and women tend to blame the female victim if she’s harassed or abused.
Human Rights Watch also quotes Senator Yelena Mizulina who tried to stop passage of some amendments in 2016 that made it a crime to inflict violence on a relative. According to Mizulina, such legislation is wrong because women “‘don’t take offense when they see a man beat his wife.’” She also believes that parents should be allowed to hit their children and that legislation forbidding such violence wrongly takes away the authority of parental power.
Note that this belief upholds what George Lakoff described as the Strict Father Model of human relations, where relations revolve around power, authority, and obedience. This contrasts with what Lakoff calls the Nurturant Mother Model. These Strict and Nurturant Models were described in the previous essay, Part 4B.
And Mizulina’s not alone. In Russia, those who commit domestic violence are rarely considered guilty. The police routinely treat victims of domestic violence with “open hostility” and, considering the problem a “family matter,” refuse to investigate their complaints of domestic violence. The Russian Orthodox Church also appears to be a force against government interference in the family.
While the general idea that the family should not be stepped upon by government is admirable, the issue of deliberate physical injury taking place within a family should not be simply ignored either. Again, just as the acceptance of war in the world is an indicator of serious mental and spiritual illness and cognitive dysfunction, why there is such tension that people are hitting or kicking one another within families—no doubt in many cultures—is a serious question of mental and spiritual health that should be addressed dynamically and compassionately.
In fact, as I discuss more thoroughly in my unpublished volumes, the list of reasons of “why men batter” provided by the National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence has strong parallels to the list of reasons why nations go to war with one another. In both cases, the violence should not be accepted, we all must aim much higher to our full potential as human beings to create peaceful and loving homes and international relations, but rather than punish the violence with hostile actions that make an individual or nation even less able to love and behave peacefully, it must be unraveled, with the reasons for the violence understood and addressed with caring and the means to use violence taken away, if need be.
Unless there’s additional information of which I’m unaware, calling Russia’s new law about domestic violence “Putin’s War Against Women” seems to be an attempt to dishonestly place an inaccurate image in American minds that Putin is a misogynist waging war against women. In fact, in one youtube video from 2016, Putin responds to Alina, a first-grader, who questions the possibility of a female being capable of leading Russia as president, for her father says that only a man like Putin can handle America. Putin responds by first pointing out that the president need not be concerned about handling America but rather about handling the problems within Russia. He then assures Alina that a woman could most likely handle the job of president best of all. Is this attitude genuine and typical? Do Russian women find that Putin is supportive of their gender?
In Ukraine, domestic violence has also been horrendous. A report from 2020 by the Wilson Center stated that 150,000 Ukrainian women suffer from domestic violence annually, and nearly 600 are murdered annually at the hands of a “‘loving beater.’” In 2017, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women found that since 2014, Ukraine had experienced “‘an increase in the level of violence against women’” and a “‘reinforcement of traditional and patriarchal attitudes that limit women’s and girl’s enjoyment of their rights.’” A 2019 study by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Ukraine found that two-thirds, that’s 66 percent, of women surveyed reported that they had “‘experienced psychological, physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner or non-partner since the age of 15.’”
With regard to legislation, in 2017, Ukraine adopted domestic violence legislation that criminalized “‘systematic’” acts of domestic violence only. In 2011, Ukraine signed the Istanbul Convention, which aims to protect women, men, and children from domestic violence, but it didn’t ratify the treaty, which puts it into force, until June 2022. Hypocritically, the ratification was felt to be especially timely for women in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, as if Ukrainian women have nothing to worry about from Ukrainian men, as if the 600 murdered annually were murdered by infiltrating Russians. Of interest, the parliament kept rejecting the ratification because the very term “gender” was suspected of being an attempt to infiltrate non-traditional ideas about gender identity into Ukraine. Russia has neither signed nor ratified the treaty. It seems that the US hasn’t either, but it’s not quite clear from what I’ve read online whether the treaty potentially involves all nations or not.
In short, with regard to women, many of the same problems exist in both Russia and Ukraine, and once again, I see no need to criticize one nation more than another over this issue and certainly no need to put the blame on Putin. It’s certainly not worth waging a war over the subject. As explained earlier, war only reinforces for a nation and the individual members of its population a justification for international and domestic violence: the reasons nations allow themselves to wage war parallel many of the same reasons why men allow themselves to batter. And war, with its machismo, brutal use of force, where might makes right, is the greatest crime of all one could inflict upon women, for it directly harms women, it devastates their beloved families and homes, and it harms the very values traditionally associated with women.
The US waged war against Afghanistan supposedly in part to “save” the women there from discrimination and poor treatment. But notice, the US government never asked Afghan women’s permission to invade and drop bombs and then occupy their nation for 20 years. No permission was asked whatsoever. What kind of respect is that? US policymakers didn’t really care what Afghan women thought. Similarly, if Biden truly wanted to respect women, he would ask Ukrainian women if they preferred weapon shipments or help with non-violent conflict resolution. He’d also ask American women if they wanted their taxes to fund a proxy war against Russia, or non-violent conflict resolution efforts, or something else entirely. NATO would do the same. None of them really care what we think, or what the men think either, unless they’re considered highly important and powerful men.
Animals are another group whose treatment is far from acceptable worldwide, whether these are pets, wild animals, farm animals, or animals trapped in laboratories. According to the Animal Protection Index, which ranks nations from a high of A to a low of G, both Russia and the US currently receive a D. Ukraine receives an even lower grade of an E. The grades are further broken down by category, which shows that both Ukraine and the US receive only an F with regard to companion animals, while Russia receives a C. Russia’s grade is brought down by its lack of protection for laboratory animals, which gets an F, and farm animals, which gets a G. With regard to wild animals, the US receives an E and Ukraine an F. Russia, where Putin has a personal interest in wild animal protection, receives a much higher score of C.
The treatment of animals is an important issue all by itself, yet, as the Humane Society observes, it also relates to the topic of domestic violence because animals are frequently targeted for abuse by the same people who abuse their spouses and children. On a wider scale, treatment of animals must also include respect and commitment to preservation of and restoration of enormously abundant areas of habitat, including the cleanliness of its air, water, and land. The recent news that the Democratic Republic of Congo is going to auction off land—including National Forest Land—to fossil fuel companies is not only a severe threat to climate change that affects the entire planet, but it’s a smack in the face to innumerable species of life that live in the DRC, including the bonobo, the closest relative to the human being, but one which is much more loving and peaceful. Any real recognition of pluralism has got to recognize the rights to life, safety, health, freedom, respect, love, play, and peace of those who are not human.
With regard to Putin’s attitudes towards ethnic groups within Russia, we’ll look more specifically at the topic of support for ethnic languages in a later essay. In brief, according to Russia Today, Putin stated in 2021, “‘Caveman nationalism, with the slogan “Russia is for Russians,” only harms Russians, only harms Russia,’ he said. ‘We shouldn’t allow this to happen. Of course, we must make sure that the culture of every nation, its history, and the roots of every nation is respected and honored in our country.’”
At the same time, some groups within Russia have complained that non-Russian language and ethnic groups are not being adequately supported by the Russian government. Some claim that Putin is imposing policies of cultural homogenization. In a later essay we’ll look at this claim as well as counterclaims regarding the repression of the Russian language and culture within Ukraine.
Another sub-group that is treated poorly in Russia and in many other nations as well, are those in prison. Here, we’ll specifically talk about those who use drugs. Drug users are treated in many nations around the world as if they’re lacking in moral strength and are criminal and depraved—even though many take drugs medicinally since the pharmaceutical world is lacking and the social world is provoking.
The US government takes a lead in this viewpoint. President Reagan considered the fight against drugs, like the fight against Communism, to be a war against evil. President Bush Jr. militarized the hunt for drug offenders. The US also leads the world with its high incarceration rate, an issue of extreme concern with regard to human rights. Rather than reforming culture to prevent problems and better meet the needs of various personality types, the US likes to respond with punishment.
Today 450,000 Americans—20 percent of all prisoners—are now incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes. It’s especially tragic considering the fact that it’s possible that many drug users may often be more sensitive types of individuals who are more harmed, depressed, and stressed by alienation, trauma, conformity, and other negative features of society than others. As a result of this or as a separate condition, they may also tend to be certain biological types with low levels of dopamine, serotonin, natural opioids, natural cannabinoids, and other chemicals that promote peace-of-mind. These individuals likely have much to contribute to culture in ways that others can’t, but they’re not adequately supported and appreciated by our culture, by its habits of human relations, by the pharmaceutical industry, and by our society’s lack of tradition and knowledge of native healing plants.
In the US, drug offenders deteriorate in the repressive, intimidating atmosphere of prison that exacerbates their emotional suffering, without the drugs many require for mental health, such as anxiety and depression, and without their families, friends, pets, fresh air, nature, hobbies, work, and freedom. Society is encouraged to shun those who use drugs, even though it may be the lack of friends and the exclusive, cold attitudes of peers that oftentimes are the very reasons a person resorts to drugs in the first place. Meanwhile, US war criminals in our highest offices responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and for torture abroad are treated with reverence, promotions, and adulating interviews.
While there is certainly recognition within the US that those who use drugs may be in need of mental health treatment, there’s little recognition that the current mental health system, advertised as the answer, is severely inadequate, underfunded, ineffective, and even harmful. There’s no recognition that prescriptions are inadequate and research is underfunded while the US military and war machine receives three-quarters of a trillion dollars in one year alone. And there’s absolutely no recognition that sometimes, perhaps even typically, the problem isn’t the individual but the mismatch between certain types of human beings and the culture in which they find themselves forced to live. When one-quarter of the US population suffers from poor mental health, it’s past time to redesign culture, our institutions, priorities, and habits of human relations.
While the US approach to those who use drugs is entirely inadequate, Russia’s approach is far worse. In his excellent article on the Brookings Institution website, Mark Galeotti explains that about 70 percent of the inmates in Russian prisons are drug users. Russia, however, looks at drug use and addiction as “a moral deficiency rather than a medical issue, which reinforces the Russian government’s predilection for a punitive approach.”
Adding to this punitive attitude is the Russian government’s view of drug use as an issue of national security and nationalism. The heavy inflow of heroin from Afghanistan is extremely problematic to Russia and is leading to potentially dangerous problems of major organized crime networks. Moreover, US policymakers had a primary role in causing this problem, because the US military toppled the Taliban, which had kept heroin production to a minimum, and the US installed a government and reigned over an occupation of Afghanistan in which corruption and heroin production blossomed. Russia considers the influx of heroin at best to be a result of Western failures of culture and foreign policy and at worst to be a deliberate US attempt to destroy Russian society. After all, since the US invasion of Afghanistan, more than one-half million Russians have died from heroin use.
Blaming the West, most likely the US in particular, for the drug problem is also understandable given the fact that it became a huge problem in the wake of the USSR’s collapse in 1991—a collapse perceived by the West as a victory for itself and for freedom and democracy. “The intertwined economic, political, and social crises of Russia’s ‘wild ‘90s’—after the collapse of the USSR . . . combined with the new freedoms of cross-border trade and travel led to an explosion in drug use and trafficking. There was a more than ninefold increase in the number of addicts in the first 18 years of post-Soviet Russia.” A 2001 UNICEF report found that one-third of Russians fell into poverty at this time.
With the understandable perception that the drug problem was the result of the adoption of the economically and morally impoverishing systems and ways of Western life as well as a result of the US invasion of Afghanistan, you can imagine how the Russian government might feel especially threatened by the drug problem as a form of Western poisoning and moral corruption—thus increasing the likelihood that Russia’s government will lash back, not with understanding and caring for drug addicts, but with hatred and punishment. For a nation that’s reeling from the effects of Western culture, adopting somewhat more soft-hearted Western ways of drug rehabilitation would seem to be an immoral step in the wrong direction of moral laxity towards perceived foreign vice, especially if compassion and caring are confused for a lack of standards. No wonder that suboxone and methadone therapy—by far the most successful and humane methods of opioid rehabilitation—are tragically banned in Russia.
Ideally, Russia could arrive at the decision to take pride in its unique approach and outdo the West in its response to drug addiction—not by being more punitive than ever, but by going beyond what the West does in terms of rehabilitation, increasing social understanding for the social, economic, and mental health issues driving drug use, improving legal pharmaceutical options for mental health, prescribing suboxone for treatment-resistant depression in order to prevent drug use, and reforming social institutions and habits that lead to the despair, anxiety, fear, and alienation that can drive drug use. There is enormous room for improvement in the US approach to drug use, and if Russia could lead the way, perhaps it could be motivated to respond with compassion and intelligence to the drug problem.
With regard to social reforms, many institutions, goals, and habits of society, particularly school, may be entirely unsuitable for many human beings and fail to meet their needs for physical movement, adventure, emotional security, friendships, acceptance, mental stimulation, freedom, playtime, solitude, and rest. It’s not likely that most primates would do well in such a setting, but those who don’t fit into this academic world are somehow considered to be failing, to be misfits, even morally weak, as if development of the narrow academic slice of the brain in that particular way in that particular setting should be the goal of every good girl and boy.
This unwillingness to consider the serious mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and physical effects of school on children, including those who succeed at school and those who don’t, is not even recognized as an issue of human rights or of diversity. Instead, the right to go to school is considered the human right, the limited ability to select courses is considered diversity, and the right to go to public or private school is considered freedom. It’s always the same structure, the same forced learning, the same lack of priority on creating friendships and positive human relations, the same unfriendly bus ride, the same lack of sleep from homework, the same lack of time to follow one’s passions.
With regard to Ukraine, Russia, and former parts of Ukraine, the only fuss about schools appears to be whether children are taught in Russian or Ukrainian or some other language. Is this the type of freedom that matters most to these children, or is this the adults talking? Perhaps the children would rather talk about how many hours of each day they’re required to be in school, or how much sleep they can get with all their homework, or whether they can learn at home instead. Or perhaps school in Russia and Ukraine is not so life-and-soul-consuming as it is in the US.
Which nation will take the lead in developing a culture more suitable to developing the variety of human beings, a culture that brings out the various strengths we all have, a culture that helps people feel caring and cared for, joyful, friendly, and peaceful?
I apologize for not taking the time and space to discuss all aspects of pluralism and all groups that might feel marginalized and ignored, but I hope this essay at least gives you a sense of where Russia, Ukraine, and the US are on some issues.
In summary, it’s not at all a convincing case that Putin is opposed to pluralism or feels threatened by pluralism or that the Ukrainian government supports pluralism to a greater degree than Putin. It’s also not clear that a pluralistic Ukraine is any more threatening to Putin than it is to Ukrainians themselves. It also seems that the US itself has a long way to go towards truly being pluralistic.
As described in the earlier essay Part 2B, the Ukrainian government is closely connected with violently prejudiced right-wing ultranationalists who’ve physically and verbally attacked Romani, women marching for feminism, homosexuals at a gay rights rally, Jews, and Russian-Ukrainians. Ukraine’s government has also banned certain pieces of Russian and Western literature from Ukraine’s school curriculum, including Tolstoy’s War and Peace. How can any of this possibly be called pluralism?
In the process of developing an appreciation for pluralism and diversity, we shouldn’t forget that accepting diversity is not simply learning to feel comfortable with differences, not simply learning to see the immorality of hatred, ignorance, and misunderstanding, but it’s about removing the often underlying drive to feel membership within an exclusive in-group that rejects an out-group often to fulfill the desire to feel superior as a false method of trying to prove one’s own value. And drives to feel patriotic, to hate a foreign enemy, and to send weapons to kill the other side are all aspects of this hateful dynamic.
Mitchell is on shaky ground when he implies that the US-supported post-coup government in Ukraine is actually bringing Ukrainians prosperity, pluralism, and democracy, and that Putin is opposed to prosperity, pluralism, and democracy. Unless he’s got much more evidence than I’ve seen, it seems as though Mitchell has preconceived ideas about Putin and preconceived ideas about US-supported leaders, and then writes about these ideas as if they were the truth.
Yet Mitchell is considered a leader of democracy, a form of government grounded in the need for access to truth to make wise decisions. While he very likely may not be deliberately lying, black-and-white thinking, an unconscious tendency to view the world as good vs. evil, can cause a person to see only the good in one side and only the bad in another. Whatever the cause, the lack of truth is a Mental Escalator of Violence that pushes us away from achieving understanding and peace with the people that our government wants us to call enemy.
Kristin Christman has been independently researching US foreign policy and peace since 9/11. Her channel focuses on US-Russian relations at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuNEw9-10lk-CwU-5vAElcg. Kristin graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College with a BA in Russian, and she holds Master’s degrees in Slavic languages from Brown University and public administration from SUNY Albany. She has been a guest with former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter and UNAC coordinator Joe Lombardo on Cynthia Pooler’s program, Issues that Matter, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDlaLNJih7U. Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice recently published her article on suicide, culture, and peace in their special edition on suicide, Vol. 33 No. 4. [email protected]
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