Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Pandemic has Shown People They are Not in Charge and that They Need to Think about What That Means, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 20 – The coronavirus pandemic has undermined the idea increasingly dominant since the Renaissance that human beings are “’masters of nature,’” Vladimir Pastukhov says. “And suddenly has appeared something which shows that you are not the master.” Something neither you nor the state controls.

            This is leading to “serious changes both in stereotypes of behavior and in the economy,” the London-based Russian scholar says (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalnovash/2607414-echo/ as excerpted at newizv.ru/article/general/20-03-2020/vladimir-pastuhov-to-s-chem-my-stolknulis-eto-dazhe-ne-voyna).

            Humanity faces a prolonged period of the spread of the virus and an even more prolonged period of economic recession; and even after these ease, there will need to emerge a different attitude toward medical preparations for disaster and toward the functioning of the economy, Pastukhov says.

            In addition, there will be a reevaluation of relations among countries and a revision of how people in various countries view other countries individually and collectively. That will not be easy but rather add to the sense of not being in control. But even these challenges are not the most serious development in prospect.

            That likely is the clash between young people who are unlikely to die from the virus and older people who are more likely to and the moral challenges that pattern entails, the Russian scholar continues. Some older people will make excessive demands, and some younger ones will be against meeting them.

            But there is also the fact that a large number of people may die as a result of the economic recession, perhaps approaching the number who will die from the virus.  This means that governments must fight both the pandemic and the economic consequences of the spread of the virus, including unemployment in particular.

            According to Pastukhov, “people now are at the very beginning stag and still do not recognize what in fact has occurred. Consequently, they are conducting themselves quite traditionally and cursing the government, while governments in their turn are trying to deal with the situation with commonplaces and calls for all to distance themselves socially.”

            This situation will not last all that long for either individuals or the government, he says; but it will leave a deep imprint on both.

            As far as Russia is concerned, Russia does not appear to be in a much worse position than the Western countries.  But while this is the case, Moscow is fighting the coronavirus at the same time that it is rewriting its constitution.  And the pandemic is having an impact on that process far more profound than many yet recognize.

            “The powers that be think that we await difficult times and that in them, power must be concentrated in one person’s hands, completely, without appeal, and without qualification.” And no one should be under any illusion that they are about to yield on this point any time soon. Russia thus will continue to face a time of reaction.

            In such times, it is important to think deeply, not at the level of Facebook but rather at the deepest possible.  “We must revise out thinking about many things,” including undoubtedly some that we aren’t even thinking about at all yet.”

            Many Russian intellectuals instead simply dislike Putin and blame him. But that won’t work. The problem “is hardly in the ruler but in a definite ideology which appeared against after a 25 -year gap which is “throwing us back to the ideas of empire, a special path, the opposition of Russia with the rest of humanity, religious and ethnic superiority, archaism, monopolism, and the philosophy of a corporate state.”

            All this needs to be examined and discussed, but at present in Russia, “there is neither deep thought, nor deep discussion, nor a desire to a desire to launch one.”

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