‘Alas, today stupidity has triumphed — stupidity, greed, a kind of vengefulness and even a kind of malice.’
‘In this whole time, nothing has changed. They have not learned. They have not drawn any conclusions from their mistakes.’
‘They are still trying to maintain the illusion that everything is going well.’
‘Those types of things happen there.’
Quotes taken from ‘Putin’s war’, New York Times (16 December 2022).
Something is taking place incomprehensible and impossible in its cruelty, falsehood, and stupidity….
For other people's land, to which the Russians have no right, which has been criminally seized from its legitimate owners, and which, in reality, is not even necessary to the Russians … many millions of money are spent … and scores of thousands of its sons are mercilessly doomed to death; and the destruction of these unfortunate men is already begun. More than this: the war is being managed by those who have hatched it so badly, so negligently, all is so unexpected, so unprepared, that, as one paper admits, Russia's chief chance of success lies in the fact that it possesses inexhaustible human material. It is upon this that those rely who send to death scores of thousands of Russian men!
Leo Tolstoy, Bethink Yourselves (1904).
A fourth possibility is that Russia will become Europe's national ghetto. A Russian society marked by extremes of luxury and poverty, by acts of violent weakness and more "scavenger" than civil features. A Russian elite that combines and confuses criminal, political, and entrepreneurial behaviors, and a regime made up of unstable, unpredictable, persistently feeble authoritarian and democratic contradictions is a dangerous political laboratory…
Ken Jowitt, ‘Undemocratic Past, Unnamed Present, Undecided Future’ (1996).
The Nazi phenomenon suggests that the most powerful Movements of Rage, those that pose the greatest danger to Western civilization, are most likely to occur in marginally Western countries.
If state mercantilism in Russia and China should fail, then the absence of robust democratic movements in each country, the presence of xenophobic elements within society and, undoubtedly, the military would facilitate the emergence of a Movement of Rage and its transformation into a regime of rage.
Ken Jowitt, ‘Setting History's Course’ (2009).
I made it [TraumaZone] because I don’t think we in the West understand what the Russians went through: a cataclysm that tore apart the foundations of society. …
What makes it so extraordinary is that it records the experiences of Russians at every level of society as their world fell apart: from inside the Kremlin to the frozen mining cities of the Arctic circle, from life in the tiny villages of the vast steppes to the strange wars fought in the mountains and forests of the Caucasus.
Adam Curtis in The Guardian on his recent series, Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone (2022).
And why are you so firmly, so triumphantly, convinced that only the normal and the positive--in other words, only what is conducive to welfare--is for the advantage of man? Is not reason in error as regards advantage? Does not man, perhaps, love something besides well-being? Perhaps he is just as fond of suffering? Perhaps suffering is just as great a benefit to him as well-being? Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering, and that is a fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove that; only ask yourself, if you are a man and have lived at all. As far as my personal opinion is concerned, to care only for well-being seems to me positively ill-bred. Whether it's good or bad, it is sometimes very pleasant, too, to smash things. I hold no brief for suffering nor for well-being either. I am standing for my caprice, and for its being guaranteed to me when necessary. Suffering would be out of place in vaudevilles, for instance; I know that. In the "Palace of Crystal" it is unthinkable; suffering means doubt, negation, and what would be the good of a "palace of crystal" if there could be any doubt about it? And yet I think man will never renounce real suffering, that is, destruction and chaos. Why, suffering is the sole origin of consciousness. Though I did lay it down at the beginning that consciousness is the greatest misfortune for man, yet I know man prizes it and would not give it up for any satisfaction. Consciousness, for instance, is infinitely superior to twice two makes four. Once you have mathematical certainty there is nothing left to do or to understand. There will be nothing left but to bottle up your five senses and plunge into contemplation. While if you stick to consciousness, even though the same result is attained, you can at least flog yourself at times, and that will, at any rate, liven you up. Reactionary as it is, corporal punishment is better than nothing.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (1864).