Today, we find ourselves at a tragic point in history that divides eras. I am writing this not because I am in Kyiv, where alarms are sounding and explosions are rumbling. Neither because I couldn't even imagine such a thing before. The whole world is at a tragic point in history because it is taking a humanity test for which it has not been prepared.
Western civilization shows its limits in upholding democracy, freedom, and human rights on the planet. These limits are rooted not just in the fear of a nuclear world war, but also in the unwillingness to be deprived of the doses of comfort without which the Western people cannot imagine their lives.
The modern Western world is sick with comfortomania. The religion of comfort has overcome the religion of freedom of the Spirit. This is what prevents people from sacrificing pleasure and enjoyment for the freedom and dignity of people living in authoritarian and neo-totalitarian societies, or in the neighborhood.
Neighboring countries with neo-totalitarian systems, which differ from totalitarian ones in their use of social networks and more elaborated masks of democracy, suffer the most. The Western world offers these countries its values, supports reforms, and when they find themselves invaded by their neo-totalitarian neighbors, expresses concern or delivers weapons that are morally and technologically obsolete. Political leaders demonstrate a combination of feelings: the unwillingness to lose the comfort of voters and their electoral favor as well as the fear of military confrontation, which they are afraid even in their heads.
I am not calling Westerners to completely abandon their way of life, which is the sum total of Western history, neither I ask their leaders to adopt entirely new mobilizing ways of interacting with each other and with the people.
I am calling for a new humanism that is no longer an ideology or a practice of supporting refugees, but is expressed in a flexible, effective, and wise understanding of the Other.
Most importantly, this new humanism must actually prevent and stop crimes against humanity and moreover, the war against humanity that is inevitably unleashed by neo-totalitarianism, a totalitarianism that grows out of authoritarianism in the age of the Internet and social networks.
The war against humanity is a systemic, ideologically and "morally" justified crime against humanity. It is justified in the mass consciousness, not only by radio or television, but by social networks, "popularly," "from below"... These are crimes against humanity elevated to the rank of legitimate and even valiant actions.
By preventing, exposing, and stopping the war against humanity, the new humanism confronts neo-totalitarianism, for which the lives of individuals and even entire peoples are nothing compared to the achievement of geopolitical goals and the affirmation of the "only right" values.
Now it is very important to realize how and why the transition from authoritarianism to neo-totalitarianism occurs in the twenty-first century. Authoritarianism is a mode of government when the leader of a country (community, collective) is engaged in goal-setting himself, offering everyone else the realization of his goals, while his opponents are not destroyed, but simply marginalized. In classical totalitarianism, we have the same situation with the leader, but opponents are deprived of freedom or destroyed.
Neo-totalitarianism, having all the features of totalitarianism, manipulates the mass consciousness in the social networks of the Internet, creating the appearance of active public discussion of significant issues and presenting itself as a hyper-democratic system. It is important to understand that neo-totalitarianism ultimately seeks to create social networks that operate only in its country or group of countries united by a common ideology and propaganda. The detachment from the democratic world is a condition for the existence of neo-totalitarianism. At the same time, a neo-totalitarian system does everything to "infect" the entire world with its ideology and propaganda, moreover, with its way of being.
Classical totalitarianism is virtually nonexistent in the twenty-first century, and modern authoritarianism moves directly to neo-totalitarianism. Such a transition is usually provoked by a complex of internal and external reasons. External reasons can include economic and political pressure (sanctions, embargoes, exclusion from international unions, etc.). This pressure is a recognized leverage of democratic countries and their alliances against authoritarian ones. However, if an authoritarian country is strong enough or unites with similar countries, economic and political pressure may have the opposite effect: the country moves from authoritarianism not to democracy, but to neo-totalitarianism. In today's world, such a transition will eventually destroy it, but it will not happen immediately. A country can exist for several years, repressing its citizens and neighbors, or even starting a war, which inevitably becomes a war against humanity.
It is commonly supposed that Eurasian political systems are authoritarian, while the Euro-Atlantic world is democratic. In fact, the seeds of democracy have been blown around the world by the winds of globalization. The same can be said about authoritarianism, which today can develop anywhere in the world. And it necessarily develops in the mask of democracy. The most alarming thing is that, in a post-civilization world, with its rigid laws and rules, and global geopolitical turbulence, authoritarianism tends to neo-totalitarianism in a number of countries.
The new humanism is the humanism of preventing democratic countries from becoming authoritarian, and of preventing authoritarian countries from becoming neo-totalitarian. That is why it is not only the philosophy of a group of intellectuals, which criticizes and transforms the concepts of political and economic practices, but also these practices as they are.
The war in Ukraine was an accelerant for neo-totalitarianism, but it was also the accelerant for a new humanism, the waves of which are spreading out all over the world, neutralizing neo-totalitarianism.
Now the new humanism has gone out to meet neo-totalitarianism, like David to Goliath. It has in its hands the sling that throws the kernels of freedom, that can shatter the monstrous power of neo-totalitarianism, whose tendencies are sprouting up all over the world. It is freedom, not prosperity, that is the underlying attraction for those people of neo-totalitarian regimes who are willing to challenge them.
And countries that claim to accept freedom as a supreme value must prove capable of understanding and actually supporting these people. For humanity, which is impossible without freedom, also requires consolidation.
The reality after February 24, 2022, is that the Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian worlds are increasingly opposed to each other. The intensification of this confrontation is the inevitable evolution of a "hybrid world order" in which humanity is becoming an increasingly abstract concept and the word "humanism" in relation to one's opponent can evoke sarcasm and irritation rather than irony.
The Eurо-Asian world has been wounded by old grievances. This applies first and foremost to Russia in its relation to the Anglo-Saxon part of Euro-Atlantic world, which the Kremlin sees as the root cause of its geopolitical and even existential problems. Interestingly, if only a year ago Eurasia was associated with Russia (Moscow-Orthodox civilization), now this concept includes at least Russia with its "junior partners" and China, which are increasingly integrated economically and politically, one might say, growing into each other. China, like Russia, is deeply resentful of the Anglo-Saxons, seeing in their solidarity policy to protect democracy and human rights a threat to its civilizational foundations. I can assume that in the future Russia will seek to integrate with India, which carries its own grievances against the Anglo-Saxons deep in its collective unconscious (and is not inclined to engage in explicit political confrontation and to seek retribution). Considering India's millennial civilizational roots, this integration could be useful for Russia mentally, instilling the kind of humanism, tolerance or at least contemplation that is so organic to Hindus when meeting other peoples.
A commonality of grievances may be perceived as a commonality of destiny, and even as a commonality of values. But sometimes a commonality of grievances becomes a commonality of destiny and values.
Between the Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian worlds there is Ukraine, which chose the vector to the first of them in the 21st century. Russia is doing everything to bring back the sphere of its influence, using informational, diplomatic, economic and, finally, openly military means. As history shows, this sooner or later leads to the limit, beyond which the mutation of humanity and then crimes against humanity begin...
What is the essential difference between the eras, which are separated by February 24, 2022? We can look for many criteria - economical, political, military... In my opinion, the main criterion is the moral one. It lies in the substitution of joy for schadenfreude.
Schadenfreude is a sado-masochistic deformation of joy, in which we take pleasure in the problems, failures, and losses of the Other, unconsciously turning a blind eye to our own problems, failures, and losses. We might say that schadenfreude is an oncology of joy.
If joy is a state of elation over the real fortunes of ourselves and the Other, as well as over our possibilities that can be awakened by the will, then schadenfreude is a humiliating excitement at the humiliation or suppression of the Other. So schadenfreude is forgetting the Self with a capital letter, and thus losing both authenticity and adequacy in the ultimate trials.
Most dangerous is schadenfreude, which neo-totalitarian propaganda puts on a mask of righteous anger. Especially if it occurs not on posters but on social media. Righteous anger is necessary when we stand up for our lives, our freedom, our dignity, our values. But deep in the heart of the angerer must be an equally righteous joy of life, liberty, dignity, and values, not schadenfreude. This prevents the angered from losing his reason and committing outrage.
The new humanism is the humanism of overcoming the epidemic of schadenfreude that pervades the collective unconscious of entire peoples. Such an epidemic destroys the capacity for empathy and understanding of the Other, which is the basis of humanity. Most importantly: the epidemic of schadenfreude leads to the inevitability of systemic crimes against humanity.
Crimes against humanity... This phrase means the most terrible and darkest crimes - against morality and the very lives of people and nations. It would seem that this is the final limit of crimes. But it is not. As we have seen above, crimes against humanity can be woven into an unnatural integrity - a war against humanity.
The war against humanity has deep roots. At different stages of history, it has acquired new faces and masks. In the twenty-first century, in addition to the physical war with missiles, planes, tanks, sabotage groups and economic sanctions, it is also an information and attitudinal war, which involves many people around the world, sitting in social networks and gloatingly kicking not only their opponents, but also themselves in their potential soul depths and spiritual heights. There have been such people before, but now they are empowered not only to act by order, but also to affect others of their own will.
But in most cases it only appears to them to be their own will. They are governed by the will of a multitude of moderators who direct the "free" discussions, executing the will of overt and covert political leaders. In fact, the revolt of the masses turns out to be an uprising of political psychologists, propagandists, and political technologists, or rather, their cynical and "professional" work.
The information war against humanity covers all spheres. First of all, the sphere of politics.
Politics is increasingly becoming a politics of post-truth. Post-truth is not just a lie; it is truth presented emotionally and existentially in such a way that the facts are presented in the right way for the bearer of the post-truth.
Post-truth is a system of seeing truth through the "right" worldview lens. We always pass truth through our worldview, and politics always reflects this. But there is a fatal line beyond which totalitarianism and neo-totalitarianism begin, using post-truth as a weapon. This line is the denial of the Other's right to his worldview optics and the desire to manipulate him, using any method of transforming beliefs up to the most brutal - mental and physical violence.
In the twenty-first century, the politics of post-truth extends beyond the offices and halls of politicians into the space of social networks.
Mass bearers of this policy, enraged by moderators, engage in informational battles without rules, fencing their versions of post-truth and moving rather quickly from trying to convince the opponent to trying to humiliate him. The scathing word "fake", which has already become international, replaces the highbrow "post-truth”. Opponents are branded as spreaders of fakes, moreover, incapable of thinking.
The fundamental task of the new humanism is to humanize the opponent...
Post-truth politics breeds post-truth diplomacy. But when such diplomacy encounters its own, it drops its mask and becomes a covert or overt diplomacy of insults. Insult diplomacy is the inevitable consequence of post-truth politics and diplomacy.
But the diplomacy of insult is an insult to diplomacy. It is the humiliation and destruction of diplomacy as a thousand-year-old way of resolving conflict issues without resorting to war. As nuclear-armed states have unholstered their lethal devices, the diplomacy of insult can become the diplomacy of the destruction of the Homo sapiens ...
The new humanism – is a humanism that tries to stop the war against humanity in a monstrous fusion of physical warfare with meta-physical warfare that means information and ideological warfare. It is the opposition to hybrid warfare, which has entered its aggressive phase.
Information component of hybrid war in its latent state is an exchange of fake and counter-fake messages about the economy and politics, an exchange with varying degrees of fakeliness. In other words, it is an exchange of post-truths.
In the aggressive phase, the information component of hybrid war becomes an exchange of ideological fakes, which are aimed at devaluing and then destroying the mental roots of the enemy, his principles and values.
If this kind of information and ideological war drags on, there are no winners...
Considering that the information and ideological war is being waged in the virtual world of mass media and social networks, we have a special role for intellectuals, who can and should actualize critical and humanistic thinking.
The mission of true intellectuals today is to contribute to the resolution of worldview and existential conflicts between countries and their political leaders in the space of professional and popular diplomacy. At the level of latent hybrid warfare, which in a number of countries today we can bitterly call "peace," this means countering the escalation of such conflicts into antagonisms - contradictions in which one side seeks to suppress the other, claiming not only its existential inferiority but also its danger to all humanity.
Certainly, the mission of intellectuals in the aggressive phase of the hybrid war unleashed against their country is to contribute to the defense of their people and to the victory. In the days of tragic trials, intellectuals must help their people in every way possible. In doing so, intellectuals have another, universal moral duty: wherever possible, to transform the antagonisms of war into constructive contradictions that are resolved through compromise or, even better, consensus. This applies both to the intellectuals of the defending country and to the truly decent intellectuals of the aggressor country, as well as to decent intellectuals throughout the world. Such an attitude, transformed into a humanistic social practice, will save many lives and lead to a sustainable peace.
If intellectuals reinforce antagonisms between peoples (rather than between individual political leaders and their surrounding groups, which is relatively permissible under certain circumstances), they lose the title of intellectual in its moral dimensions and become morally destructive. They lose touch with spirituality and soulfulness, and thus with humanity.
The globalized world is now being tested to see who today will be called intellectuals, who today will be applauded. Ironically, in the age of social networks, the future of the world depends on this applause (likes, followers).
In the space-time of the hybrid war - in both its latent and aggressive phases - we are observing the development of a strange phenomenon, which can be described by the metaphor of the "selfie-intellectual". As a rule, this is a glamorous blogger, "expert" or simply a "celebrity" who often broadcasts on the backdrop of tragic events.
The tragic events don't usually take place in real space and time, but on the screen. And they often have a scandalous flavor, even in war...
Selfie-intellectual sometimes offers us his crisis analytics, more often it is simply his one and only correct and condemning opinion or set of appeals to all dissenters. But analytics, opinions, and appeals are all just a mask. In reality, the selfie-intellectual is trying his best to PR his concerned (sympathetic, gloating) face, proving to himself and others that he exists not only glamorously, but also heroically, moreover, heroically-successfully... This often happens unconsciously, but the essence of the phenomenon does not change from this.
And here it is very easy to cross the line beyond which ambitiousness becomes a new inhumanity - that selective humanity in the frame of gloating and scandal that selfie-intellectuals sell to their audience, monetizing irony, sarcasm, and pathos...
The new humanism of the twenty-first century is a response to the new paganism that was seeded in the nineteenth century by Feuerbach, Nietzsche and Marx, and in the twentieth century it rose with the vigorous sprouts of fascism and communism. This new paganism was weeded out twice in 1945 and in 1991. For a while it seemed to us that it would not come up. But it has risen in the twenty-first century – an ideology of xenophobia toward the Other who has chosen other values, multiplied by the technical possibilities of Internet civilization.
As an opposition to this new paganism, the new humanism is a Christian humanism. But it is a Christian humanism that must rise above confessions and open itself to other religions and philosophical worldviews.
An important difference between the new humanism and the old humanism that has developed in Western culture since the Renaissance is not only empathy, but also understanding. We show sympathy for the defeated opponent (the enemy) or we ask (explicitly or implicitly) for such sympathy when we ourselves are defeated. The defeated feels humiliated in one way or another. Understanding the new humanism means avoiding humiliation and gloating over humiliation. We enter into a dialogue with the Other that leads to victory without humiliation. For a victory imbued with the humiliation of the defeated leads to new aggression, even if this humiliation is tempered with sympathy.
So the new humanism is a humanism of understanding and worldview dialogue. At a minimum, it implies listening to the opponent's speech to the end, focusing on common interests, principles and values; at a maximum, it implies a dialogue with the opponent with an openness to his interests, principles and values that are not common and that can be, if not accepted, at least recognized as cultural facts. Provided, of course, that the opponent's interests, principles and values do not set him up to destroy our interests, principles and values. But in confronting such an opponent, who transforms himself from an Other into an Alien, and then into an Enemy, understanding is also necessary...
The ideal in interacting with an opponent is the transformation of dialogue-understanding into dialogue-creativity, which transforms the Other into a Friend...
The new humanism is a struggle against inhumanity both in the space of war and in peace.
For the inhumanity of war is generated by the inhumanity of the preceding world. War is a fiery wind, which tears the smiling masks from their grinning faces.
One would like to believe that smiles will one day return to those faces that might be quite different from the ones on the masks.
And the era of joy will replace the era of gloating...
At the epicenter of the birth of a new humanism, beginning February 24, 2022, is Ukraine. The whole world is watching it with sympathy, anxiety, and wonder.
Ukraine today clearly resembles David fighting Goliath, and this Goliath is neo-totalitarianism. It is more than a battle with Russia, it is a battle with neo-totalitarianism in Russia. Moreover, this is a battle with the sprouts of neo-totalitarianism around the world and even in itself. It is not only a military battle, but also an existential battle for a free and human world. That is why the world is on the side of Ukraine.
Everything authentic in Ukraine today is the expression of a new humanism. It is humanism that "should be with fists" - missiles, drones, planes, tanks... But the new humanism with fists under no circumstances should not let the aggression and hate of neo-totalitarianism in. It must not mirror neo-totalitarianism in its desire to control and suppress the individual in the name of the "great" goal. It may contain anger, but not hatred. Its strength lies in preserving and enhancing the freedom of its bearers. At the end of the tunnel of modernity, the bearers of the new humanism must see the steady light of joy, not the ominous outbursts of gloating. That’s when they will be warriors of light and not warriors who, by destroying dragons, are unwittingly reborn into them...
Ukraine's new humanism means that it is not just fighting against something or someone, it is fighting for. This "for" means its civilizational subjectivity, strong and human, where a free man, his/her rights and dignified self-realization are the fundamental values and the condition of the country's freedom. This understanding provides a vision of the meaning of the Victory and not a tactical, but a strategic support for the democratic world for years to come.
Because Ukraine is fighting for a new page of humanity, that once again has a place for bright heroism, dignity, honor and faith...
In the space of the new humanism, which returns to democracy its true purpose, freedom and love are the main values, while security and power are merely the means to achieve them. On the contrary, authoritarian and neo-totalitarian regimes regard power and security as their primary values, while they throw freedom and love together with the individual into the mud under the feet and caterpillars of the columns on the march... And when these regimes put on masks of democracy they inevitably give themselves away by painfully hypertrophying the values of power and security...
The deep problem of the current world is that the manifestations of neo-totalitarianism are not localized in one or a few countries. It is a global trend. It has been partly prepared by the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed democracy to mutate into authoritarianism, and after into neo-totalitarianism. The sad thing is that authoritarian and neo-totalitarian regimes do not formally renounce democracy, they renounce it substantively and essentially - they use it as a means of achieving their goals.
The problem is very complicated, but I believe that a new humanism will stop the pandemic of neo-totalitarianism.
For David sooner or later defeats Goliath.
© Nazip Khamitov, https://www.facebook.com/nez.swetly
Kiev, February-March 2022