Friday, January 11, 2008


(Each "Featured Question," an idea which I gleaned from A Republic If You Can Keep It, will remain toward the top of the blog until the next question appears. The previous QUESTIONS are HERE. Please scroll down for recent postings)

Many Americans, among them President Bush, believe that all human beings yearn for freedom and the right to self-government, particularly in the tradition of America and much of the West. On its face, that concept seems logical, particularly to Americans, even though we often take our own freedoms for granted. Nevertheless, in his book Culturism: A Word, A Value, Our Future, author John Kenneth Press makes the point that some cultures do not value or define freedoms in the same way as does the West. You can learn more about Mr. Press's views by listening to THIS; his web site is HERE.
A recent article in Time Magazine, the edition which named Putin as Time's Person of the Year, states the following under a long article's subtitle of "Who Needs Freedom?":
...Russians are turning inward at the very moment that the Kremlin is mounting a brazen power grab. Governors are no longer elected, just appointed by the President. Opposition leaders are harassed with new antiterrorism laws. Putin's United Russia Party won a grossly uncompetitive election on Dec. 2. By and large, the Russian people offer little protest.

This raises an old question: Do Russians really want to be free? Russians are, after all, the people who actually begged Ivan the Terrible to return to rule them after he threatened to abdicate. As Radischev put it, Russians "come to love their bonds."

These bonds — and their modern equivalent, Putin's paper-thin democracy — are increasingly seen as not only tolerable but also intrinsically, uniquely, gloriously Russian. The Kremlin and its backers use new catchphrases like sovereign democracy to intone that they have their unique form of freedom. The West just wouldn't understand. Russian exceptionalism is an old argument, with an equally long history of detractors. As the philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev lamented during the bloody Bolshevik Revolution, "Russia has its own mission, [but] we have mistaken our backwardness for a point of excellence, as a sign of our high calling and our greatness."

Russians are still looking for greatness, on their terms....

FEATURED QUESTION (in two parts, but answering both parts is optional):
(1) Do all people yearn to be free? (2) How does the concept of freedom differ from culture to culture?

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posted by Always On Watch @ 1/11/2008 11:50:00 PM