Herd mentality

I believe, it won’t be unusual to start with a disclaimer : I am no historian or a political scientist. I am just a lazy fellow who spends time watching You Tube videos and reading news websites. Whatever I am going to write here is purely based on my reading & viewing. I have my own biases and prejudices. So, take it with pinch or a large bucket of salt. As Periyar, social reformer from Tamil Nadu, said, “Don’t believe anything, which is not accepted by your intelligence/rationality”. If you don’t have intelligence or rational thinking, then nature help you.

We all have been witnesses to the happenings in Euroasian region for last week or so. People have taken stands based on their beliefs. It took me a week to understand what’s happening and why it’s happening. To be clear, any invasion of any kind is to be condemned unequivocally. And to threaten with consequences of unprecedented nature, it is reprehensible. It’s the common people who suffer due to some large, mostly male, egos of leaders. When I say common people, I include soldiers too. They fight for abstract concept (Nation), just because they chose this profession.

Let’s start with few things. In this video from 2018, Vladimir Pozner explains how United States created Putin. Pozner is a French Russian Journalist from cold war era. He points out the below in his talk :

  1. When Soviet Union collapsed the West, in particular US, in dealing with Russia could have taken an approach similar to the one it took post WWII in allied countries (France, Germany) i.e. to help democracy flourish and ensure no threats to it , or punish Russia for having had a cold war with US/West for 40 years after WW2. He implies that US chose the latter and was determined to punish Russia.
  2. Similarly, the expansion of NATO a problem cited by Putin as a reason for his belligerence is real. This is in direct contravention to the promise that was made to Soviet Union at the time of German reunification – that NATO won’t be expanded beyond Germany.
  3. US denied Putin’s request of being part of NATO or some sort of agreement with EU.
  4. Since collapse of Soviet Union until early 2000s there was not a single indication of Russian aggression against West.
  5. All the above lead to Putin’s distrust of West.

Note 1: If not the entire video, see the first 30 minutes of his speech. Q&A session is also worth watching. See the video at 1:25:00 mark, where a map is displayed and the speaker explains how NATO is encircling Russia.

In this second video from 2015, Prof John Mearsheimer explains why Ukraine problem is West’s fault. I am not going to point out key points, but I am going to give the time stamps, where the speaker makes some key observations. This speaker, who is supposed to be a Right of center person, iterates the same point – The conflict is not simplistic (i.e Russia evil vs Ukraine good), but there are other factors leading to the conflict.

  1. US key interest Pre 2000 Link
  2. US key interests Post 2000 Link
  3. Cause of Ukraine-Russia conflict Link
  4. NATO Expansion Link
  5. Key events leading to 2014 coup in Ukraine Link
  6. Conventional wisdom (Mainstream wisdom) Link
  7. What should be done? Link

Here is my favorite intellect reiterating the same point : Prof Noam Chomsky

Peter Hitchens Video explaining how West uses “Ukraine as a battering ram against Russia”

If you’re interested in Tamil explanation, see this : Journalist Mani

Our collective hypocrisy is highlighted by this newsclickin video. This video also highlights the racist takes on this conflict

I am not going to give my opinion on any of these, as I am in no position to do it. But I do wish to point out my observations of the Social Media (Mainly Linkedin). It is possible I didn’t see all my feed, the content of which is highly personalized by black-box algorithms. So, if there are some news/videos which highlight what I mention as missing, then I stand corrected.

  1. People predominantly cheering for one side, which is not so innocent
  2. People cheering arming of innocent civilians (imagine the reaction, if a Middle eastern country did it)
  3. Racist takes when explaining the plight of “Europeans” as opposed to the “Middle Easterners” goes unnoticed by the cheerleaders
  4. Arming of Neo-Nazis group by Ukraine government & no condemnation from the same cheerleaders
  5. Social Media allowing the praise of this group, which at one point stated “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans]”
  6. Not so visible sign of Anti-War movements (which would condemn actions from both sides) but predominant propagation of Anti-Russian views. See this Ukrainian pacifist interview, which makes more sense than any main stream media narrative
  7. One sided narrative being propagated by most of the Main stream media, without having a nuanced take (see this Russell Brand Video, which clearly states this). (side note: A wonderful quote by Albert Maysles that Brand quotes “Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance”)
  8. Not so much insistence on resolving the conflict diplomatically, with no consideration to lives of millions of people on both sides.
  9. Russian individuals/teams are made scapegoats by various organizations (IOC, FIFA, Philharmonic orchestra) and even there are some voices that suggest to deport ordinary Russians from UK
  10. Unverified news or outright fake news spread as real facts that glorify Ukraine

I could go on & on, but it would test your patience. Again to reiterate no one is condoning the action of Putin and his military’s actions against Ukraine. As Brand says, “Explaining something is not condoning”. Issuing Nuclear threats can in no way be overlooked. Still, we need to have a balanced look at the things and not follow the herd (finally able to plug the title :P) in cheering for one side.

Knowingly/unknowingly,by doing so, we are becoming war mongers ourselves. Let’s all come together and make a world where this mindless invasions don’t happen anymore. May be we should end with Bertrand Russell’s quote “War does not determine who is right — only who is left.

Note 2 : Those who are interested in reading nuanced takes, Glen Greenwald has a piece in his substack , where he paints a broad picture of how similar propaganda was carried out post 9/11 & In these times article & the Guardian article that Russell Brand cites in his video

Update 03/03 : This video Former Ambassador to USSR explains the historical events leading to the current crisis.

Addendum : This article tries to provide merely a historical context to the current conflict. May be this historical context has nothing to with the action of the aggressor. But it is good for us to understand the nuances. This explanation in no way approves the invasion of the aggressor. I had to reiterate it because, I hear/read some narration in social media which is vociferous in support of this aggression. If I had to make a guess, it could be because of their own expansionist wishes for their own nations. This article in no way endorses this take.

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