Responding to the internationally recognised intellectual idol, Canadian clinical psychologist, YouTube personality, author, and professor Jordan Peterson’s video in which he commits a misnomer by calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “a civil war in Europe”, Polish YouTuber Szymon Pękala has pointed out a range of incongruencies in the luminary’s line of thought.
“I want to say at the outset that I think what Putin has done is unconscionable,” Professor Jordan Peterson said at the beginning of his address.
The intellectual went on to highlight that the western perspective of Russian leader Putin as “entirely interested in self-aggrandisement and capitalising on Russian patriotism and an associated populus appeal to fortify his pretensions to empire and desire of unlimited extension of personal power” had its “very real justifications” presenting itself as “a united response to the enemy.”
Professor Peterson argues, however, that this puts the Western population in the throes of a binary system, which necessitates clear identification as supporters of one of the sides of warring parties. “If we believe that… we will enter the fray demoralised and compromise our chances of victory.”
He went on to stress that “we”, likely referring to the collective West, “have little to gain in this situation and certainly much we could lose.”
The pundit stressed that Ukraine was of crucial importance to Russia owing to the gas infrastructure present on its territory as well as other geopolitical reasons.
Referring to Fyodor Dostoyevski, a nineteenth-century Russian novelist, and his reflection that the West had been suffering from a crisis of meaning and that Russian would have to play a central role in that revival, Professor Peterson claimed that, in an astounding manner, today, “there is every sign of revival of Christianity in Russia.”
Polish YouTuber points out Prof Peterson’s imprecision
Szymon Pękala, founder and host of the “Szymon Mówi” (Simon Says) and “Wojna Idei” (War of Ideas) YouTube channels and a recognisable internet personality in Poland, said in his video commentary that “Dr Peterson is just wrong on some important things” in calling the Russian invasion of Ukraine “a civil war in the West”. “I am talking about the main points on which his speech seems to be based, which are not correct.”
‘Russia is not part of the Western civilisation’
“Firstly, the war in Ukraine is not a civil war in the West… because Russia is not part of the Western civilisation in any political sense or by any standards of social organisation,” Mr Pękala stressed. “Russian culture is deeply collectivistic, especially regarding people’s relation to the state. It’s no coincidence that every political turmoil pushes them back to authoritarian rule.”
“For centuries, in the Russian mindset, there was and still is a vision of a holy monarch contrasted with evil aristocrats. Even the Gulag Archipelago depicts a lot of instances when tortured prisoners were for example convinced that they were victims of evil [Russian secret police] NKVD but Stalin surely doesn’t know about any of this and he will set everything right” once the news reaches him. “An authoritarian rule is a natural part of the Russian tradition and it is what the Russian mindset expects… Russians do not have any democratic or liberal traditions. Putin himself has stated this in an interview for the Financial Times.”
‘Russians are not reviving Christian values’
“Secondly, Russians are not reviving Christian values and it is not why they are appalled by the ‘demoralised West’,” the Polish YouTuber pointed out.
Mr Pękala went on to stress that Jordan Peterson seemed to “have a western concept of the Church as some separate construct, in which its leaders can decide to collude with the government or not to but in the Russian tradition there is no concept of division between the Church and state. The Russian Orthodox Church… is functioning as a political instrument to influence the masses and legitimise authoritarian rule.”
The YouTuber recalled that the “percentage of Russians who declare themselves as orthodox Christians has doubled since the fall of the Soviet Union but they are not practising this religion nor its values.” Mr Pękala went on to cite a study by the Levada-Centre, an independent analysis think-tank-, which showed that only up to six percent of Russians attended religious practices once a week.
Mr Pękala continued by pointing out that Russia had “the highest rate of abortions in the world,” as shown by the UN.
“According to World Population Review studies, Russia has the highest divorce rates in Europe,” he noted, adding that “Russia also has the highest rates of HIV infections in Europe and the second-highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in the world.”
“Measuring by the standards of the ‘Christian values’, Russia is more demoralised than the ‘decadent West’,” he concluded.
Russia’s national interest is to be feared
“Thirdly, the West is threatening the Russian national interest in the Ukraine but not in the way that was presented by Dr Peterson,” he argued.
Mr Pękala stressed that finding the EU and NATO guilty of threatening Russia’s interest was “technically true.”
“But it is very important to understand what their [Russinas’] national interest actually is. One might think that the national interest of Russia is to be prosperous, safe and independent. But no. For most of its history, Russia has been an empire and Russians believe that their country has to be an empire in order to survive,” he said.
The YouTuber went on to recall Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s words that run: “Russia’s historical mission is to be one of the main actors in global politics.”
“In 2014, when Barack Obama called Russia ‘a regional power’, it was taken as an insult,” Mr Pękala recalls, adding that “since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russians feel that they were unjustly pushed away from their righteous position as the rulers of the nearby states. They do not want to be rich, they do not want to be safe. They want to be respected and feared.”
Having stressed how Stalin continues to be worshipped by Russians despite the fact that he has murdered hundreds of thousands of their own people, Mr Pękala went on to point out that “it is important to understand that on a basic level, the thing that is conflicting with Russia’s national interests is not that the Ukraine has chosen to align with the West but the mere fact that Ukraine is free and able to choose their side.”
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