We didn’t start the fire;
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning:
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it,
But we tried to fight it…
Billy Joel, from “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
Experience. Life-lesson quotes frequently feature it, like the one in the title; experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first, the lesson after. Also in one of my favourites, which I have occasion to use often; experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn at no other. The two are enough alike in meaning that they could be variations of one another. At any rate, the meaning is clear; if opportunity affords, learn from the experience of others – and only fools need to repeat the mistake themselves before they learn anything.
What can be said, then, of those who fail to learn from the experiences of others, repeat their mistakes and still learn nothing?
Humanity is complicated. Over a period of years, prevailing social mores and, more recently, ‘cancel culture’ have made even humour a minefield that you navigate at your peril. To say nothing of hate. Hate is simply an emotion that we must never express. All the precious ones are off-limits, and it is getting so that even tolerance is no longer enough – endorsement is increasingly the standard, and celebration would not be too much to ask. In an ambient state of such frustrated fury, little wonder that many of us are getting like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down”. We need someone to hate, to blame for our troubles and to loathe for the sorrows of others. It has always been a little bit fashionable in the west to dislike Russia, although until 2014 it was mostly limited to sneering at imagined Russian backwardness, based on trace memories of its Soviet past that were themselves more stereotypical than typical; unsmiling people trudging to endless labor in their ill-fitting clothing, through grey streets devoid of cheer or hope.
But the full-on hatred now, fired in the forges of a western media which simply takes dictation from the Ukrainian government and does not bother to fact-check anything, is something to see. Nothing, apparently, is too small-minded or petty to turn into a political statement.
The French, unwilling to just stand by helplessly, have turned their wrath on…Russian cat owners. And Russian cats. The Fédération Internationale Féline issued a chilly directive during the first week of March banning Russian cat breeds from international competition.
“According to a statement released last week by the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), as it’s known in French, all cats bred in Russia, as well as all cats with owners living in Russia, would not be permitted to register for international competitions outside of Russia nor even be added to pedigree books starting this week.”
A concert in Vancouver featuring rising young Russian superstar Alexander Malofeev was postponed, because the director of the Vancouver Recital Society feared that protests by activists and their supporters would spoil the show. This was the third attempt to have the artist perform in Canada; the previous attempts were aborted due to the COVID ‘pandemic’. Canada has the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world, many of them the descendants of west Ukrainians who fled Soviet Ukraine ahead of the Red Army near the close of the Second World War. International soprano Anna Netrebko and Director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra Valery Gergiev were fired because they did not respond to a deadline directive to denounce Vladimir Putin and the war. Gergiev still had 3 years remaining on his contract. Netrebko issued a statement saying “…forcing artists, or any public figure to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right.” Germany didn’t want to hear it. Nothing is outside politics anymore – not art, not sport, not cat shows.
The Cardiff Philharmonic dropped Tchaikovsky from an upcoming performance; Tchaikovsky, for fuck’s sake, who has been dead for nearly 130 years. Why? Because a member of the orchestra, of Ukrainian descent, objected.
“The decision on this concert was very much based on here and now. A member of the orchestra has family directly involved in the Ukraine situation and we are trying to respect that situation during the immediate term. There were also two military themed pieces as part of the programme (Marche Slave and 1812) that we felt were particularly inappropriate at this time. We were also made aware at the time that the title ‘Little Russian’ of Symphony No. 2 was deemed offensive to Ukrainians.”
The examples I used were mostly drawn from the arts, but trust me when I say the outpouring of hatred and resolve was not confined to the arts or to music. It would not be going too far to suggest if you could make a convincing case that paint was a Russian invention, westerners would colour their walls with birdshit, or rub dandelions on them or something, rather than ‘support Russians’.
But the word of the Ukrainians is not questioned. Here’s an example: SKY News’ Stuart Ramsay’s team of journalists was ‘ambushed’ in Kiev, by what they claimed were ‘Russian saboteurs’, although all their directions were furnished by Ukrainians and they had just been told by a police officer that the road they were about to take was safe. They never saw who was shooting at them, but Ukraine told them it was Russians, and that was good enough for them.
“We didn’t know it at the time, but we were later told by the Ukrainians that we were being ambushed by a saboteur Russian reconnaissance squad. It was professional, the rounds kept smashing into the car – they didn’t miss.”
I guess if you can hit a car at point-blank range without missing, that is proof that you are both a professional and a Russian saboteur. One who for some unaccountable reason fired two warning shots to tell you to get your stunned journalist pudding heads down before repeatedly raking the car from the windows up with automatic fire, but didn’t kill anyone.
Is there precedent for trying to kill western journalists in order to bolster the case for western help like enforced no-fly zones, endless money and strict sanctions against the country or government that gets the blame? I’m glad you asked. During the war in Syria, Britain’s Channel 4 Chief Correspondent, Alex Thomson, was under no illusions when he said that Syrian ‘rebels’ had deliberately led him and his news team into circumstances where they were likely to be killed, because their deaths would enrage the west and might spur western military intervention to remove Assad and his government.
Despite one ‘lesson’ after another, the west seems incapable of seeing through situations in which someone who lacks the power to realize their objective wants to make a patsy of the west and borrow its military power to fight an enemy who is in the way of its own agenda. Either that, or the stupidity is deliberate, and I would by no means rule that out. Washington has had it in for Russia since forever, because it is a huge country that will not do as Washington directs. For a long time, Washington has sought to motivate its allies and vassals to turn their backs on Russia. It almost worked over the shooting down of MH-17, for which Russia was immediately awarded blame, and the shambolic Dutch courts extensively rewrote their rules for giving evidence in pretzelated attempts to ‘prove’ Russian guilt. But this time has proved to be the charm, as everyone buys into the Plucky Little Ukraine story, and each tries to outdo the others in a dramatic show of contempt and revulsion.
That policy is going to turn out a lot like fine bone china; you can break it – but it’s going to be expensive.
Western businesses proudly announced they were terminating their operations in Russia. Russia responded that it would nationalize the assets in the country of western commercial interests who departed as a means of imposing political pressure. This means that Russia would take over those companies and reallocate their in-country assets to ‘external management’. Perhaps intuiting that this was a likely option, many companies modified their language so that they were only ‘suspending’ their operations, or ‘temporarily postponing’ their work, or ‘deferring’ business for the moment, and that they would continue to pay their staff during the hiatus. That’s a fairly obvious play to reserve their right to come back just as soon as their very public display of pissing on Russia to teach it a lesson has served its purpose, and won them kudos from western governments and media for their show of moral rectitude. And it is not likely to work. Those who make a big show of leaving are probably writing off their investments in what was once a significant growth market for western commerce.
“Announcing the move after a string of global firms said they would suspend operations in Russia this week, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the country’s economic ministry said it could take temporary control of departing businesses where foreign ownership exceeds 25%.
Speaking in a video link with members of his government on Thursday, Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin could find legally viable ways to seize international firms. The government would push to “introduce external management and then transfer these enterprises to those who actually want to work,” Putin said. “There are enough legal and market instruments for this.”
What does ‘temporary’ mean? Well, it apparently means the same thing in Russia as it does in the west – it’s just a word. Might mean for the moment, might mean forever. I suppose McDonalds could cry defiantly, “You’ll never get the ingredients for the Special Sauce from us, Putin!!!” and become corporate heroes in the west, but the company has 850 restaurants in Russia, and they might make a tempting corporate venture for some Greek or Turkish chain that could gain all that real estate for a song. American ‘culture’ has been growing steadily less popular in Russia, and this fit of official pique might very well wipe out the patient work and investment of decades. Similarly, Pepsi and Coca-Cola announced they were ‘temporarily suspending’ their business in Russia. Just so you know, boys, that might not be up to you. Continuing to pay your employees in Russia might seem like a surefire place-holder to you, but like George Gershwin taught us…ain’t necessarily so.
But that’s just the beginning. You might drive an electric car, but I don’t and the great majority of western drivers don’t, and you couldn’t get an electric car for probably about two years now if you wanted one; at least not a Tesla. So you probably noticed that gasoline is well over $2.00 per liter here in Canada, and is busting records everywhere. That’s a nice little instantaneous reward for your misguided patriotism. In Europe, natural-gas prices blew through $3000.00 per 1000 cubic meters, and though prices have settled back down somewhat, the situation remains extremely volatile even though Russia says supply is moving normally and has not threatened to shut off Europe’s gas. EU leaders are seriously rattled; sufficiently so that they are babbling about cutting dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds this year – something that is about as likely to happen as Donald Trump winning the Democratic primary.
“Meanwhile, governments in the EU have been preparing contingency plans in the event natural gas supplies are halted, while the bloc has laid out plans to cut its dependence on Russia by two-thirds this year. The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen added that the EU has enough LNG for the rest of the winter.”
Comforting to know Europe has enough LNG supply to tide it over for the rest of the winter, considering it is mid-March. German bigmouth and Washington pin-up girl Annalena Baerbock went from threatening Russia with the thrashing of its life to talking like she swallowed a chicken foot, stammering and clucking about ‘collateral damage’ as she moved to defending Russian gas, oil and coal imports in a volte-face that likely got her dropped from Greta Thunberg’s Christmas-card list.
“Regarding the Russian attack on Ukraine, Baerbock said: “Anything we could do to stop this madness, we would do it.
But we also have to make sure that we don’t choose instruments that Putin ends up laughing at because they hit us much harder.”
50 percent of the hard coal imports came from Russia, said Baerbock: “If we don’t have this coal, the coal-fired power plants in Germany will not be able to continue.” The government is looking for alternatives under high pressure, but cannot now heal the mistakes of the past.”
The mistakes of the past what? Few days? Ten minutes? It might seem obvious to many, but the thing to do to address the ‘mistakes’ of the past’ is to not continue making ‘mistakes of the present’. But I’m afraid it’s too late to inject reason into the debate.
Zelensky, after sucking like a black hole at being president for more than two years, has finally found his feet, and gratefully stepped into his role as The Churchill Of Our Time – after all, he’s an actor, not a politician. As an actor, he is employed in his comfort zone, haranguing the world to accept Ukraine into the EU, send it weapons to fight off the filthy Moskali, send it money. Appearing ‘in his trademark army-green T-shirt’ which nobody ever saw him wear before last week, Zelensky is everywhere; charming, witty, selling his impoverished and corrupt country as a latter-day Sparta which cannot be allowed to lose because it is the lamp at the edge of darkness. Conveniently, all the damage to the country which has lain unattended since the ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ kicked off under Poroshenko can now be blamed on the Russians and their fixation with blowing stuff up. Did you know the second-most-moral army in the world (after Israel) is siting its artillery and armor in and around residential areas and schools so the Russians dare not shoot at it? Yes, I know – we always hear that; the western media knee-jerk reports it in every military conflict in which the west has taken sides, attributing this cold-bloodedness to the enemy. Well, listen to it from the locals in Kharkov. The propaganda war is going white-hot, as material deemed ‘disinformation’ or ‘inappropriate’ or ‘misleading’ is removed from the internet to free up the usual interests, in their drive to steamroller the general public into something foolish that cannot be taken back. In this immediate instance, it is the light-speed acceptance of Ukraine into the EU. Yesterday, Versailles hosted a meeting of EU leaders on what to do about Ukraine. The Churchill Of Our Time was unhappy with the outcome, to say the least, and had this Churchillian insight:
“We know what was discussed at that meeting, what all the leaders talked about. We know who supported us, who kept silent, and who tried to make the wording insufficient for the Ukraine and for our freedom.”
Yes, that’s right – a just Europe would gather the latest ‘fledgling democracy’ to its breast and comfort it…but keep one hand on its sword as it was immediately plunged into war with a major nuclear power. I know Macron often comes off as if he had just been struck by a loose truck tire rolling downhill, but he really is not quite that stupid. Remember, European leaders are very likely considering how they could re-source their energy needs for their own country in the event of the interruption of energy supplies from Russia. I feel very confident in suggesting to you that nobody is thinking yet how the dependency of their EU partners is going to be met so that the Union can endure.
Inflation in the US economy ‘took a turn for the worse in February’; yes, I guess you could say that – it took the biggest 12-month bounce in 40 years.
“Inflation took a turn for the worse in February as U.S. consumer price growth rose by 7.9%, representing the largest 12-month increase since January 1982. Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy – and is the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation – even advanced 6.4% Y/Y, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. All the numbers were gathered before the supercharged commodity rally driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, suggesting the red-hot inflation figures are nowhere close to peaking. As inflation surges, Adobe says online prices rise at record rates.”
Remember the lunatic behavior around the time mask mandates were imposed in the coronavirus hysteria? The panic-buying of toilet paper, shoppers with wall eyes and twitching fingers pushing groaning shopping carts in checkout lines that stretched all the way back to the rear of rapidly-emptying shelves? Get ready to see that again. Only this time, think flour. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are all major global producers of grain. Oh, and vegetables: the countries we are currently ‘canceling’ to the furthest extent of our imaginations are major producers of potash and ammonia, the latter very natural-gas intensive and critical to the production of nitrogen-based fertilizers which are absolutely necessary for the world to produce enough agricultural output to feed itself. You know what? Let’s just say everything that is transported using fuel, because that has gone through the roof, too.
But at least we showed those Russians they can’t push Ukraine around.
The pivotal battle now is the one for Mariupol, and Ukraine is trumpeting atrocities to anyone who will listen, with pregnant actors doing double duty to showcase Armageddon. Mariupol is home base for the Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, a designated terrorist organization in the west which relies significantly on recruiting white-supremacist and nationalist mercenaries from other countries. One of Russia’s stated objectives in the conflict is ‘de-Nazification’ of Ukraine, which it tried to achieve through the UN and was rebuffed by Canada, Ukraine, Palau and the United States, in a proud moment for free speech for Nazis. Because, you know, if the United States had let it pass, it would have been another victory for Russian disinformation.
“Today, however, the United States must express opposition to this resolution, a document most notable for its thinly veiled attempts to legitimize longstanding Russian disinformation narratives denigrating neighboring nations under the cynical guise of halting Nazi glorification. The United States Supreme Court has consistently affirmed the constitutional right to freedom of speech and the rights of peaceful assembly and association, including by avowed Nazis, whose hatred and xenophobia are widely scorned by the American people. At the same time, we steadfastly defend the constitutional rights of those who exercise their rights to combat intolerance and express strong opposition to the odious Nazi creed and others espousing similar hatreds.”
The Russians are just pretending to hate the Nazis because they want to use them as an excuse to attack Ukraine, see. Pay no mind to the Soviet Union having lost upward of 20 million of its citizens and soldiers in the Second World War, in which the primary opponent was the Nazis. The guys who really widely scorn the Nazis are the Americans, which is why we vote to let them say whatever they like. Because we can tolerate free speech. Except when we are downranking and eliminating internet discourse that is disinformation. What you don’t know won’t hurt you.
Be that as it may, people who live in Mariupol – how many knew it has a large Greek population? – claim that the primary impediment to the locals fleeing via humanitarian safety corridors is…Azov Battalion. And that stands to reason. Because without the townspeople to use as hostages, the combined forces of Chechen regiments of the Russian Federation and local militia forces of Lugansk and Donetsk will advance into a surrounded Mariupol…and the Nazis will be eliminated. I do not expect they will be allowed to surrender. And it seems they do not expect that, either.
Take us out, will you, George? I’m feeling a little cynical.
“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”
George Orwell, from “Homage to Catalonia”.