The analysis was republished by Deutsche Welle.
I turned on the TV these days. I see – two political scientists. Visible age: about five years younger than my son. “Yeah,” I say, “let’s hear something modern, progressive and European.”
For the first five minutes, I didn’t understand what these people were explaining to me. What does the dear viewer understand, I asked myself, who is not a political scientist? I forced myself to understand the conversation. That is to say: I said “shot” to others, turned up the volume on the TV, stopped the background music (I sacrificed Peter Green – that white British bluesman whom BB King says is the only one he has ever seen as a dangerous competitor in guitar ). I stared at the screen, pricked up my ears. And I heard.
What did I hear? Political science textbooks published in Putin’s Russia in the last ten years (I have almost all of them). Behind the words spoken on the screen flashed those basic notions of power and people that spread Putin’s thinkers. I did not perceive the enlightened and decent thought suffocating for more than a millennium in the valleys and ports of Europe. I heard the chanting and pounding of boots echoing through the endless Eurasian steppe.
In the name of the common good or the personal good?
According to Putin’s political scientists, political science is “the science of seizing, using, preserving, and strengthening power.” Sounds logical? Yes, but only in a concept of the world that is completely different from the one we live in – the European or the “Western”. We Europeans have been following Aristotle’s view for 2,300 years that politics is “serving the common good” and political science is the science that studies how power serves (or does not) serve the common good – the good of all. According to the prevailing views from the swamps of St. Petersburg to the vastness of outer Mongolia, the goal of politics is to seize power, and the goal of political science is how to help you never let go.
There is a difference. This is the difference between two worlds based on completely different conceptions of what a person is. Every person is important to our world, because everyone is equally included in the common good. In the Eurasian world, people in power are important. The rest are impersonal masses (at best) or accompanying victims (at worst).
Only on the basis of the Eurasian understanding of politics and political science can be deduced the opinion I heard from Bulgarian political scientists on television that the task of each parliamentary group is to impose discipline on its members. Here, obviously, we are talking about maintaining and strengthening our own power, and not about working for the common good.
Okay, what do the parties do that you ask? We Europeans are helped in this case not only by Aristotle, but also by Edmund Burke, the founder of both conservatism and the modern conception of parties.
“The party,” Burke wrote in 1770, “is a group of people united in the name of defending the national interest through their united efforts, on a principle on which they have all agreed.” Accordingly, once in parliament, this party continues to do the same: to work for the national interest, based on some clear principle. Neither the party nor its parliamentary group exists solely to impose discipline on its members. Both the party and the parliamentary group exist to achieve the common good of their nation. They do the same even when they manage to form a government.
Is this the natural state?
Have these political scientists of ours read, I wondered, Putin’s textbooks in political science? If so, then why did they believe them? Do they really think that the goal of power is power itself, and not (say) doing useful deeds for citizenship?
The sad answer is that most likely – they haven’t even read it. Like today’s 25-year-old journalists, they can easily write in the footmanly and courtly way they used to write before 1989, without reading the People’s Army, which we read in the barracks to make jokes. They have not read, but they unmistakably reproduce those patterns of servitude to power.
Where does this come from? How do people who do not remember the fall of the Berlin Wall unmistakably reproduce the most disgusting thought and behavioral patterns of “real socialism”? Is this the natural state of every person? Are people by nature lackeys, easily serving the party leader closest to them?
The answer to this question is crucial. Because, if people are by nature vile and lackey, this explains why in all of Eastern Europe (and not only there) we see a revival of the thought patterns and practices of “real socialism.” The effort to keep people in a state of personal dignity and critical thinking has simply been stopped – and people have slipped back into their natural, ie. lackey and unworthy, condition.
“Everyone is a mascara” and others
I do not know how it is in Hungary and in other similar authoritarian countries, but I have a hypothesis for the Bulgarian case. By nature, Bulgarians are suspicious. Thinking only of bad things for others, they end up imagining the human being as bad by nature. Hence typically Bulgarian generalizations, such as:
1. “If it’s not about money – it’s about a lot of money.” That it may be a matter of completely different motivations for behavior, such as love, nobility, self-denial, following a cause or principle (according to Burke) – this does not appear in the picture of the other. It can only be driven by selfish and bad motives. Whatever he tells you – talk like that, because they gave him some money to talk like that.
2. “Everyone pulls the strings.” This generalization, of course, denies the very possibility of humans having free will, ie. to decide for themselves what they think, say or do. Everyone is someone else’s serf, and everything they do is the result of his instructions.
Let’s return to the topic: “The goal of every parliamentary group is to maintain the discipline of its members.” An example was given on the television screen with the introduction of a crappy law. Shoddy, shoddy, but everyone in the group had to support him in order to achieve the highest good – the inner group discipline. In fact, according to us Europeans, it is the job of parliamentary groups to introduce laws that serve the common good (according to Aristotle) and the national interest (according to Burke).
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Taken together, even the above three Bulgarian summaries explain not only why we live in a society like a pigsty, but also why in this society people killed by or because of power do not matter. Everyone is bought. Everyone is a puppet. Everyone obeys some boss. No one has free will, no dignity, no imagination that outlines a better future for all.
The way out of this pigsty? At the end of “real socialism” graffiti appeared in the subways of Sofia, written in the same handwriting: “Read books!”. A bright spirit, desperate for the pigs of the time, was desperately calling out: Read books to stop being who you are! You will get better!
It’s been 30 years. People who were then in the upper group of the kindergarten today offer their analyzes on the television screen. And these analyzes do not differ significantly from the analyzes of television chapters from, say, 1987.
Read books, people! You don’t have to be bad. The worse you are, the worse you will live. After so many years, didn’t that become clear?
The column “Analyzes” presents different points of view, the opinions expressed do not necessarily coincide with the editorial position of “Dnevnik”.
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