Staunton, May 5 – Providing security for one’s own population has not only displaced other values such as democracy as the overriding value in many countries but also has become the justification for pre-emptive aggression and war so as to eliminate not just immediate threats but potential ones, according to St. Petersburg historian Daniil Kotsyubinsky.
In a new book, The New Totalitarianism of the 21st Century (in Russian; St. Petersburg: Strata, 20220, he argues that this has become a veritable “religion” whose tenets cannot be questioned and which elites are using to justify far more aggressive action than they could when other values had more support (rosbalt.ru/piter/2022/05/05/1956419.html).
Kotsyubinsky argues that both Russia and the West are infected by this religion and that as a result, the world has become a more dangerous place. The pursuit of absolute security against future threats is thus leading to actions that make even current security for both sides more unsustainable.
These trends have been developing and intensifying over the last two decades, the historian argues, not so much because of the actions of individual leaders as because of the impact of the Internet, a medium that has simultaneously brought people together and brought them into conflict by creating new us-them divisions.
What is especially concerning, Kotsyubinsky says, is that as a result of the impact of the world wide web, society has been “radically de-humanized and ‘de-liberalized;’” and it has “deprived the intellectual class of the chance to propose to society a way out of the crisis situation which has arisen.”
“Instead of great new dreams,” the historian continues, “the Internet has given rise to a heap of dangers directly arising from the key value for the West - freedom of speech. And these threats have called forth reactions that are infantile-hysterical and aggressive neo-totalitarian in their nature.”
As a result, the West’s civilizational “authority” as the bearer of democratic values has been compromised both within the West and elsewhere. In its place, both sides are pursuing security both immediate and long term with little thought to what that means for the other values they proclaim, Kotsyubinsky says.
An example of this is the West’s use of sanctions. They aren’t really being used to influence Russian actions. Few believe that is possible. Instead, they reflect an effort to define the world in the us and them dichotomy that the Internet promotes. Only if the role of the Internet is limited can the world hope to escape from the cult of security and its consequences.