Cats and Theories
a blog by coticheque
a blog by coticheque

Obituary to the best of us

One point I always wanted to make is that there exists a right-wing political opposition in Russia and the government oppresses it just as much as the liberal opposition, if not even more. And it’s been under siege, strangled and almost dead by now.

A paradoxical point about Putin’s Russia is that the regime stands no tolerance to any potential competition, even among those ideologically aligned with it. Last week they assassinated one of the most talented and promising women in the present-day Russian political field. The tragic night, the catastrophic night. A self-explosive devise was installed in the car of Alexander Dugin – meant to be for him, yet detonated when his daughter was driving. For those who don’t know, Dugin is the most prominent and profound of Russian philosophers among the currently living. He influenced my generation quite immensely. Belonging to the ‘post-modernist right’, sometimes mad, sometimes ironic, declaring truth in cold blood, juggling the theories of Heidegger, Schmitt and Evola, the levels of depth he dares to reach are unmatched by anyone. His 29 year-old daughter was equally remarkable: a political analyst, journalist, I could clearly see her being elected as president in a decade or so. Playing dark ambient under the mesmerizing title Dasein May Refuse, recording footage from Azovstal, giving constant political commentary to foreign media, and most importantly continuing the course of thought of her outstanding dad. Who’s not the biggest proponent of Ukraine as a country obviously, but you won’t blame an advocate of the united ‘Eurasian world’ for that (we’ll discuss it later).

I heard the news in Vienna. It was supposed to be the first day of my vacation, yet I’m sitting here shattered. If you know the recent history of Russian politics, the flavor of such news is unmistakable. Plotting shady conspiracies, killing two rabbits with one shot, discovering a fake trace of your opponents, and hurting two enemies at once. These schemes are all too familiar, way too typical not to be recognized as the methods of Putin’s Federal Security Service or FSB. Despite the claims of catching a supposed murderer in only 48 hours, as well as blaming some shady partisan groups linked to a questionable Kremlin politician, it’s clearly just a bluff. Reminds me of yet another FSB bluff, a laughable case from April this year, when the police claimed to have caught a Ukrainian terrorist group planning assassination of a state-affiliated journalist – presenting as evidence a staged photo of the terrorists’ basecamp with a carefully arranged flat-lay of Mein Kampf, t-shirts with swastika, and three ‘Sims 3’ video games (obviously confused with ‘3 SIMs’ – task received as a part of the order).

Let’s start by mapping the territory and sketching out assumptions. As a country, Russia has always had tendencies of behaving like cancerous tumor. The alternating cycles of irredentism and contraction, growth and shrinking. Russia has a will to power. That’s what we cannot deny a cancerous tumor to have. And, to be politically viable, any civilization needs to have it. Not the will to die comfortably in peace, so typical among the modern-day Europeans. Who is the carrier of this manifestation of will and the urge to dominate? Most definitely, the people. Not the pathetic mass striving for comfort above all else, but a few ones burning from inside, willing to die for their ideas. And actually dying for them. Right-wing, left-wing, it doesn’t even matter.

It feels so wrong, so utterly wrong when a regime becomes so dysfunctional that it starts eating away its own most passionate agents. And indeed, it’s tragic to see what’s been happening to right-wing activists in Russian politics in the past several years. We’ve witnessed a wave of the best and least indifferent journalists, activists and thinkers being assassinated, tortured to death in prison, led by delirium and paranoia to taking their own lives. Maxim Martsinkevich in 2020, Egor Prosvirnin in February 2022, and now Daria Dugina – just to name a few. All in their 30s (or even younger). The regime has no remorse for the young and talented. It clearly doesn’t care who’s going to inherit its present power – as the concept of any power transition is too alien to it. And while it may be hard to decide whom to sacrifice on a sinking boat with a limited space: an old man, a baby – who’s life has more worth? But there’s no challenge at all, no doubt whatsoever, that it’s tremendously wrong to lose someone who’s at the peak of their life, in the midst of an active and passionate pursuit of something. Who has a full potential to enter parliament or enter history one day. This is the wrongest thing in the world to lose such people, so outstanding compared to the masses around, content in their middle-class lukewarm passivity.

Putin’s Russia has no morals and ideology. Apart from the ruthless thirst for power. The Reign of Terror. The real politik. That’s how Henry Kissinger called the international politics – after fleeing Nazi Germany in the childhood, he knew all too well what really hides beneath any, even the most carefully devised ideology. ‘The Cat has no plan, no favourites or resentments, no memory, no mind, no rhyme or reason. It kills without purpose, and spares without purpose, too’. Put into the words of Tom Stoppard, the state has no afterthoughts and no judgement. It plays, and you may only pray not to happen to be under its paw. That’s the personification of Russian government. Complete absence of morals and ideology. Otherwise what would be the point of persecuting and assassinating people whose thoughts are in line with political course of the regime? Russian nationalists with extremely sound moral code, unprecedented charisma and a rare capability to be liked by masses. End up killed in prison. Remarkably outspoken and verbose journalists and founders of popular right-wing magazines. Pushed to despair, ending up taking their own life. Ideologists of the Eurasian world, advocates of ethno-pluralism (what a fresh idea in the world of American globalism!), some of the most original political philosophers among the currently living. Set aflame in their own cars.

Russian government plays by different rules than those common to Europeans. The regime has no tolerance for any slightest showcase of diversity and plurality of the background, discourse or thought. It’s based on an all-encompassing loyalty. The close-tied circle of those believed not to betray. Cousins, classmates, ex-colleagues, childhood friends turn out to be seen as more reliable than the most politically aligned strangers. The close-knit circle of people with hands covered in blood. That’s the process of initiation. Mutual cover-up, a distributed responsibility. Which will ensure there’s always something to blackmail one another with. That’s why the core of Russian government comes straight from KGB.

I’m in Nice now. It smells like sunscreen. It feels wrong to be here. When people are set ablaze in their own cars, on their way home. Next day I’ll wake up 100 meters away from the sea. But someone else will not wake up at all. Perhaps someone much more deserving to be alive than me. Than 90% of people on this tram. With this character’s death, the storyline is cut short. Press F to restore the previous copy – or be condemned to remain living in this cursed, doomed world that you yourself have created.

The trolley problem has always seemed straightforward to me. It’s not about assumption of equality and then a gradual quantification of well-being and suffering. People are not equal. Some of them have more dignity, more talents, and therefore more rights than others. So I would never pull the lever and divert the trolley to sacrifice a writer, a philosopher, or a scientist – even at expense of 10 common people on the parallel track. My empathy is selective.

You may call Dugin evil by supporting the war. His daughter evil by recording footage from Azovstal – only weeks since it was destroyed after months of glorious defense by the Ukrainian army. And I would totally understand. But I also agree with Aristotle that intellectual virtue stands above the moral virtues. Philosophers are excluded from judgement be means of conventional morals. It’s better to be smart and evil rather than kind and stupid. And I don’t even believe you can exercise any genuine sort of kindness without being able to examine your true motives, which is impossible without a certain degree of intellectual virtue. And it’s obvious to everyone that Dugin is the most intellectual and profound Russian philosopher among the currently living.

The pursuit of intellectual distinguishes outstanding and virtuous human beings from the non-enlightened mass. They bring light into this dismal barbarian darkness. Nietzsche wrote that the mass of men is essentially animals without any unique dignity, and ‘the goal of development cannot therefore lie in the mass of specimens or in their well-being’ but only in single great human beings. The highest specimen are only scattered and accidental. Over continents and centuries. The nature is not efficient in producing them. And yet they’re the only ones who justify existence of this dismal world.

The most dangerous. The unspeakable. When these are the epithets used to characterize your philosophy it might indicate that one day the danger may spill – from the realm of theoretical into the real. That’s a reminder of what’s really at stake in the seemingly theoretical debates. Philosophy is not bounded to university classrooms. It can set you ablaze until there’s nothing remaining but ashes. The purely abstract theories entering the real world, with all its essential parts: suffering, misery, physical and psychological traumas. It’s empowering in a twisted sense. When Vita contemplativa turns itself into Vita activa. You have to be prepared. And that’s a dangerous trap for any thinker to be mindful of: when one’s theories become too radical, grandiose on the verge of being inhumane, there’s a dangerous point of distancing and dissociating yourself from reality, assuming a cartographic bird-view of the world. But you ought to remember the essence of ideas you’re propagating. Because one day they will escape the theoretical realm and manifest themselves in the bomb installed under the trunk of your car.

We don’t have a choice to be indifferent. Authentic Dasein requires Sorge, the urge to care. Not to turn away and ‘seek security in the crowd’. The world leaves no choice. The ruthless dismal pathetic world, leaves no room for passivity. As long as we still have a few decades or at least a few years left, there’s no moral justification to be indifferent. Losing time is a crime. But time is also punishment in a sense. What’s the destiny of the best of us? Just the damp soil and a closed coffin. The crushed skull and a mash of broken bones. A piece of new meat in the clean room. That’s the ultimate reward for talent and passion and care. And those remaining alive are praying they were dead.

Before my eyes are the Mediterranean and Europeans enjoying their August of unbotheredness, a month of nonchalance. I’m at Côte d’Azur and this is the harshest summer of a decade. Floating on the surface of water, and all I have in mind is one haunting picture. In the middle of night, the asphalt road full of metal debris, a man screaming at the sight of a burning car. Excruciated by knowledge that it was him who was supposed to be inside.

I write about cats and theories. About the blog »