Orlov is one of our favorite essayists on Russia and all sorts of other things. He moved to the US as a child, and lives in the Boston area.
He is one of the better-known thinkers The New Yorker has dubbed ‘The Dystopians’ in an excellent 2009 profile, along with James Howard Kunstler, another regular contributor to RI (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is headed for a jarring and painful crack-up.
He is best known for his 2011 book comparing Soviet and American collapse (he thinks America’s will be worse). He is a prolific author on a wide array of subjects, and you can see his work by searching him on Amazon.
He has a large following on the web, and on Patreon, and we urge you to support him there, as Russia Insider does.
His current project is organizing the production of affordable house boats for living on. He lives on a boat himself.
If you haven’t discovered his work yet, please take a look at his archive of articles on RI. They are a real treasure, full of invaluable insight into both the US and Russia and how they are related.
Around the world, very few people are capable of wrapping their heads around the European reaction to the migrant crisis. On the side of the migrants, we have avid displays of barbarism, fanaticism and aggression; on the side of the Europeans, we have abject fear of appearing… intolerant.
In an out-of-control situation where we would expect people to organize, protest, put up road blocks and vote en masse for nationalist parties, we are instead subjected to the ridiculous spectacle of meek, effeminate Europeans dressed up in unisex outfits chalking “No to terrorism!” on sidewalks.
Most people around the world see in this an orchidaceous display of anthropological nullity. “Is Europe dead?” they wonder aloud.
Lest you think that this impression is politically incorrect or undiplomatic or somehow marginal rather than mainstream, Russia’s FM Sergei Lavrov, a senior Russian statesman and a diplomat’s diplomat, is on the record saying that the European Union is “committing suicide” by letting in the invading hordes from the Middle East and North Africa.
Here we have a flood of people coming in, the majority of them young adult males shirking military service back home, and relatively few of them are qualified to seek asylum. Most of them are unqualified to do any sort of work within the EU due to lack of literacy, education or work ethic. Many of them would not be trainable in any case, coming as they are from populations bred for physical stamina and disease tolerance rather than intelligence.
Quite a few are Islamic radicals who see themselves as actual colonizers; many more have no qualms about robbing Europeans and raping European women. A few thousand are actual terrorists being sent in to await orders. For most of them, crashing into the EU and freeloading there is part of an excellent adventure—far more exciting than herding cattle or growing millet in their native villages.
European NGOs equip them with inflatable lifeboats and life vests and set them adrift off the coast of Libya or in the Adriatic. European NGO ships then scoop them up and deliver them to ports in Italy, Greece or Spain. And then they get to freeload, for months on end, while more NGO types help them with the paperwork and clog up the courts with lawsuits they file on on their behalf.
I am sure that some Europeans might think me unkind for presenting such an unflattering summary of the situation. But there is a much higher standard by which to measure it than mere kindness: is it truthful? Truth is often cruel and painful, and yet without truth—with which to understand the true consequences of our actions—we are all but lambs to the slaughter.
Refusal to face the truth by hiding behind a hypocritical, threadbare veil of “kindness” is mere cowardice. Indeed, cowardice is often on display in Europe, hiding behind another threadbare veil—of “security.” When ISIS bombed the airport in Brussels, the Belgian king Philippe and his royal spouse were swiftly evacuated. During medieval times such cowardly behavior would have cost the monarch his crown, possibly along with his head. But now it is fine for a cowardly nation to have a cowardly king.
It is quite difficult to understand the rationale behind such enforced cowardice. Why are the European elites so insistent on ramming “tolerance” down the throats of their citizens and replacing them with imported barbarians? What happened to the spirit of bloodthirsty empires that had bled the entire planet dry for centuries, accumulating countless treasure?
What I believe happened is that the Europeans became too comfortable. Yes, they did experience some hardship during the two world wars, but it was nothing compared to what many other nations went through, Russia and China especially. When life is a struggle, experience is vivid, simple joys are profoundly felt, intelligent choices are critical to survival and acts of heroism are both necessary and valued.
When life is comfortable, people become satiated and hard to satisfy, tastes become decadent and effete, questions of safety are pushed off on specialists and spontaneous acts individual heroism and bravery come to be treated as symptoms of social maladaptation.
Given enough safety and comfort, they become ends in themselves and the standards by which all things are measured. Those less safe and less comfortable are perceived as less successful and fashionable, and become less popular, in a game of endless oneupmanship. In turn, those yet to be seduced by safety and comfort, and willing to battle for principles higher than mere tolerance and kindness, become incomprehensible; after all, what else is there but safety and comfort? But this is only a setup for the next leg down, because safety and comfort cannot function as absolutes.
Safety cannot be guaranteed in all places and at all times: accidents do happen. You might get punched in the face by a belligerent drunk, get molested by a horny migrant, die in a terrorist attack because Allahu akbar or, more likely, break your neck by falling off your bicycle. Since you are no longer responsible for providing for your own safety—it is now the work of paid professionals—you can’t blame yourself. You can, of course, blame the paid professionals, but they are, you know, doing their best… Your only choice is to claim that you are a victim.
Victimhood becomes a prized commodity and a badge of honor. Extreme attention and care lavished on all varieties of victims, who are encouraged to organize and to bargain collectively, helps assure the rest that their total security is very important. You can be a victim, but you can’t be a victim of your own stupidity.
Speaking of stupidity, the realization that you are stupid is not comfortable, yet everyone—even the stupid—must remain comfortable at all times. Given that exactly half the people are of below-average intelligence, this is rather tricky to arrange. Claiming that half the population are victims of stupidity doesn’t exactly solve the problem: such an overabundance of victims hollows out the promise of universal comfort. Nor is the problem addressed by imposing a system of universal meritocracy based on individual rights: the intelligent will do better than the unintelligent, causing the latter considerable discomfort.
The solution is to step back from the principle of meritocracy. Instead of guaranteeing individual equal rights and opportunities based on ability and performance we strive for equality of outcome: everybody gets a participation prize and a bit of money just by being obedient and polite, with the size of the prize and the sum of money carefully calibrated based on one’s level of victimhood.
This is now sometimes referred to by the strangely repurposed word “equity.” Since it is hard to organize the distribution of “equity” on an individual level, people are formed into a myriad of groups and each group gets weighted against the rest. If you are a disabled black lesbian, you get to check off three victimhood boxes at once and be handed the same prize as an able-bodied white heterosexual male. This is now strangely referred to as “social” justice—as if there were ever any other kind.
This new type of person, which arose first in Europe and then spread all over the West and beyond, does seem like a degenerate form of humanity: bereft of great passion and lofty goals, lacking any clear ethnic or social allegiance or preference, fixated on comfort and safety and deficient in both masculinity and femininity: a sort of civilizational eunuch imprisoned in a four-star LGBTQ concentration camp.
These may seem like major negatives, but on the plus side this type of person is mostly harmless. Half a billion people now inhabit, without posing much of a danger to each other, a smallish peninsula jutting out of Western Eurasia that until recently has been the scene of endless armed conflict. They do not destroy material or cultural artifacts but seek to accumulate them, investing in comforts and in consumption. That, most people will agree, is progress.
The last major challenge to this way of being was presented by the integration of Eastern Europe, where national passions still run high. But that problem was easily solved by finding a scapegoat—Serbia—which was cursed for its lack of multiculturalism and tolerance and bombed into submission. This scared everyone else in Eastern Europe into inaction, for the time being. But now mass migration has presented a problem on an entirely different scale, causing Poland, Hungary and now even Italy to rise up in rebellion against the alien onslaught.
The newcomers predominantly come from cultures that are the opposite of tolerant and kind. They are mainly characterized by cruelty, passion, clannishness and religious and political fanaticism. They want to live right here and right now, take pleasure in the beastlier side of human nature, and they see Europe as a treasure chest to be looted. Their cultures hearken back to an earlier era of European history, when huge crowds gathered in city squares to watch people being drawn and quartered or burned alive.
The Europeans conquered their own medieval nature, but then reimported it. The new, emasculated Western European Man is unable to push back against it; nor can their governments, whose leaders are forced to abide by the same cultural codes of tolerance, political correctness and compulsory kindness. But the Eastern European Man, only temporarily frightened into acting tolerant and emasculated, will not stand for any of this for much longer. His medieval nature is still quite close to the surface, while their Western neighbors have placed theirs in museums and various other tourist traps. This is already apparent: there was a recent EU summit on immigration; the East Europeans didn’t even bother showing up.
Looking at the situation from even farther east, from European Russia and the rest of the Eurasian landmass, there is a distinct sense of sadness in watching Europe die. A large chunk of human history is about to get trampled and despoiled. Having spent the last several decades resurrecting Eastern Christendom after the damage caused to it by the Bolshevik barbarians, they watch with dismay as the relics and ruins of Western Christendom are becoming submerged by a new barbarian wave. Western Europe’s inhabitants may no longer amount to much, but they are still valuable as museum attendants and tour guides.
That Europe is turning itself into a museum was apparent to Dostoevsky 150 years ago, when he wrote this (speaking through the character of Versilov):
“To a Russian Europe is just as precious as Russia; every stone in it is charming and dear. Europe is as much our Fatherland as Russia…
Oh, how precious are to us Russians these old foreign stones, these miracles of an old, godly world, these shards of holy miracles; they are more precious to us than to the Europeans themselves!”
And then again, this time speaking as Ivan Karamazov, with even greater passion:
“…I want to travel to Europe, and so I will. Of course, I know that I will just be visiting to a cemetery. But so what?
The corpses that lay in them are precious; every headstone tells the story of a great life, of passionate belief in heroism, in one’s own truth, one’s own struggle.
I know already that I will fall to the ground and kiss these stones, and cry over them—even though convinced with all my heart that all of this has turned into a cemetery long ago, and is nothing more.”
[Inspired by E. Kholmogorov]