Mar 4, 2022Liked by David Fuller, Alexander Beiner

Thanks David. Very helpful, as always.

There are two aspects I'm most drawn to in my sense-making (apart from praying for a quick end of the war, which unfortunately seems unlikely):

1. The larger story, particuarly the China/Russia dynamic. I found two documents very helpful: an article on Wang Huning, apparently China's leading ideological theorist, and the Russia-China Joint Declaration of February 4, 2022 (links below). My take after reading this is that Ukraine is the "test case" for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan (Joint Statement: "The Russian side reaffirms its support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan."). Overall, it is clearly about a long-term plan (China's supremacy by 2049) and new alliances and initiatives to watch very closely (e.g., Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Belt and Road etc.) - a real fight over systems in the making with enormous geopolitical consequences, and one side having given this a lot of thought in recent decades while the west indulged in what Sir John Glubb described as the decadence phase (http://people.uncw.edu/kozloffm/glubb.pdf). Still, Putin may have underestimated how much China benefits from a weak Russia and is therefore in no hurry to substantially support Russia or help with peace talks (as requested by Ukraine). How long will China be able to sit on the fence?

2. In this context, what role does the west want to and can play? What lessons about ourselves do we better learn quickly, particularly how we got here and where to go from here in the mid- and long-term? Although, of course, I agree that "Democracy is flawed, imperfect, disappointing, often corrupt, and fragile. - But dictatorship is far worse.“ - we can't leave it at that and hope it will carry us through.

The Wang Huning article contains some important observations about the west - they are not new, but viewing them through a Chinese lens was helpful (at least to me): "The "unstoppable undercurrent of crisis" that he (Huning) has identified in America seems to have successfully spilled over to the Pacific. - For all Wang and Xi's success in draconian suppression of political liberalism, many of the problems Wang observed in America have emerged in China over the past decade as the country gradually adopted a neoliberal, capitalist economic model." (E.g., „..."socialism with Chinese characteristics" has rapidly transformed China into one of the most economically unequal societies in the world. Its Gini coefficient is now officially 0.47, worse than that of the United States (0.41). ") — As a result, China has moved quickly to end the era of tolerance in recent months.

But what is the response of the west to these very same problems? We need one. We need a better vision and story for ourselves and how we want to contribute beyond being united in trying to stop the war in Ukraine. We need an actionable plan that also addresses the ecological disasters that will increasingly hit us all (China and Russia included). Simply relying on the "old story" and working from outdated scripts, including a new arms race (btw without effective gun control laws) and what seems for now like a rather superficial revival of our democratic values will definitely not do. We need to reimagine a very different future and not take an extra loop in a fight over systems.

How to get there seems to be the most important discussion to have. After all, in case of an exponential escalation of the climate crisis, as opposed to acts of war, we don't even have the hope of a diplomatic solution at the negotiating table. For there is no counterpart! We need a larger umbrella that fits all these topics. It’s a gigantic, maybe impossible task. We let it pile up for years, and here it is. But I’m convinced that all that’s needed to prevent doom already exists. It has to be translated into action and brought to life. Maybe, among many other things that need to happen, a Rebel Wisdom crowdstorm could help give this path some more shape and direction?



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Thanks David. It's very useful to have that digest leading on the spiritual side. I thought Giles Fraser's piece at Unherd was illuminating too.

The invasion, and being moved by Ukrainians' response, makes me think about freedom again, and in particular how we can have a poor sense of it in the West, partly I suppose because it's taken for granted.

The old distinction between freedom from (say, hindrance) and freedom for (say, choice) is valuable, though adding freedom to feels necessary when people are facing possible death.

They are exemplifying the freedom to align with what's good, beautiful and true and it's so powerful to witness because it's the type that can't be taken from you. Seeing how those prepared to die exemplify that deepest type of freedom, most honoured in wisdom and spiritual traditions too, is part of the significance of now - for all that the grim horrors will dominate.

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What presents itself here as an immense effort to find a place of moral clarity amidst all the complexity, really sounds more, if you listen closely, like a simple desire to plant a flag and say, here, sure there's deep history and ambiguity, but we know enough to say broadly that we're on the right side. I think it's fair to ask why it's necessary to plant that flag at all right now, at this moment, in the heat of the propaganda battle. What's a more valuable stance here, one that continues to question our motivations and strategies, alongside Russia's, or one where we get to enjoy the posture of shouting righteously from the rooftops? Is there really a greater danger that the small voice of an openly skeptical community will alter the policies that the Western foreign policy elites have already forged for us, completely without any public input by the way? Or rather is it important that we all throw our weight behind the escalating bloodlust that is always just inches away? I know which posture I suspect is both the harder, more courageous one to maintain, and the one more valuable amidst the horrible distortions of war.

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Mar 1, 2022·edited Mar 1, 2022

I found it interesting in the campfire David, how you seemed reluctant to express your ‘conventional’ view - and to an audience that is friendly, in the sense that it will listen and argue if it disagrees in a constructive way. I’m struck by how many views, lenses, perspectives and distances Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can be viewed through/with . And how little we seem to be allowed or allow ourselves to hold many of these at the same time. How many truths can be so at the same time and be held at the time . .that is allowed!

What Putin is doing right now in Ukraine is appalling. US, UK and Western European governments are guilty of many corruptions, invasions and terrible interventions. Peoples outrage at what is happening is fed by a system that doesn’t care so much about Russia’s role in Syria etc, but this doesn’t make our outrage wrong. One could look at the foreign policy of the US since WW2 and call it a terrorist state . .etc, etc, etc . .and all these things are true at the same time - all these things interplay with each other . Western governments are complicit in allowing Putin to interfere with a US election, the Brexit vote and didn’t hold him accountable - so many lenses, so many perspectives, so many facts . .all true at the same time - and, for me, also that invading a sovereign country and killing civilians (as many invasions before, by different countries) is appalling and wrong.

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David Fuller says Martyr Made's tweet is categorically wrong for saying outrage at Russia is made for us, but Fuller is categorically wrong (at least for using the word categorically). Why so little outrage against Saudi in Yemen? NATO needs an enemy, Russia and US have 5000 nukes each, China only 350. Clinton turned down Putin's request to join NATO. Russell Brand's relativism is consistent as he applies it to Democrats and Republicans as well as NATO and Russia.

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so rare to find such a fantastic overview. It will be worth updating in a week or so. I've just added it to a post I did earlier today around Anthony Barnett's piece which ended with a few useful commentaries https://nomadron.blogspot.com/2022/03/the-ukraine-war.html

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I like Peter Zeihan's geopolitical perspective. It argues that Russia attacking Ukraine is a geopolitical imperative, otherwise Russia would certainly fall as a country.


This was written in December 2021., and there are more recent analyses of his on his website.

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There is one thing that you only mention indirectly, David, and that is the fate of the people of Donbas. I was as surprised as everybody, when Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine, I certainly didn't see that coming, but my first thought was: "Okay, maybe this is a good thing, maybe the people of Donbas will be saved from bombing in the future".

Now, six days in, I see all the bleeding hearts demanding death and despair to all Russians, and I cannot refrain from being quite a bit annoyed with the hypocrisy of it all. Where were you all, when my heart was bleeding for the 15.000 dead in Donbas, why didn't you cry bloody murder then?

One of the writers that you recommend in your essay - or is it you yourself? - argues against moral relativism, and rightly so, but isn't the posture of taking a clear stand for Ukraine and against Russia just another facet of that certain kind of absolutistic moralism, which is at the heart of all what is wrong with both the old conservative tribalism and the new woke and righteous individualism? Taking a firm stand against Russia, isn't this the same as to disregard the 15.000 dead in Donbas?

As you say, this is a complex event, bordering on chaos. One of the ingredients in this whole conflict, the one I myself have used to keep myself grounded throughout these eight years and throughout all my thinking on the subject of the war in Donbas, has been the steady flow of reports about civilian casualties. My heart has been bleeding for the people of Donbas for eight years now, and nobody but me seemed to care. Now suddenly everybody cares for the Ukrainians - but still noone cares for the people of Donbas, it is like they never existed. The pain and grief of the people of Ukraine is real, but so is the pain and grief of the people of Donbass.

Relativism is a bitsch, bur so is absolutism. To make sense of it all we need to acknowledge all the pain and the grief, including the pain and grief of those who we didn't care about or didn't know about as late as yesterday.

If you get my meaning - just a facet of the complex reality, that you missed in your otherwise great essay. Greetings from Denmark!

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If there is something we have all noticed in the last decade, and especially the last couple of years, it is the binary, oversimplified and too often naive view of the world around us.

On most issues such as the environment, education, Covid or geopolitics at large, public discourse seems to have spiraled down to an abysmal level of intellectual complexity.

Something I have briefly explored myself in my latest piece while I was revisiting an old book I read back in college from Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death). It's a short read if anyone is interested (see link below).


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David Fuller says Martyr Made's tweet is categorically wrong but Fuller is categorically wrong about that and doesn't even mention Yemen in his retort. Not saying outrage against Russia is entirely media-led but it does contrast with insignificant outrage against Saudi. NATO needs an enemy and Russia is the only option, given US and Russia have 5000 nukes each, China only 350. Clinton ignored Putin's request to join NATO. Russell Brand's relativism is consistent, as he applies it to Democrat and Republican parties as well as NATO and Russia.

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Thanks for this David. I’m looking forward to following the links and reading in more depth. It is definitely complex!!!

I found this Ezra Klein episode really useful in understanding the implications and changing picture of the economic sanctions……


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Thanks for this David. I just forwarded to a frenemy saying the following: "There is quite a bit in this newsletter on Ukraine, a survey of the many opinions and views regarding its cause and what to do - something for everyone including you and me. I just read it through, and have not yet clicked through to the many links and videos. Worth a read through to help you/me/us think through our own positions and thoughts on this, what it means, and what we should do."

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How quickly people and commenters forget the annexation (occupation) of Crimea! No one raised a finger...US and Europe....to stop it or even, early on, to do anything but wring hands over the occupation. This was Putin's foot in the water; it was just the right temperature so he got the green light to move ahead in Ukraine. Ukraine's main hope is that someone, maybe an impoverished oligarch facing bankruptcy, will assassinate Putin. His successor won't be

great either but it would likely be someone with more sense pulling out of Ukraine. If Putin persists and "wins", he is not likely to have a placid cooperative citizenry by a long shot. There will be rebellions, conflicts, acts of violence and retribution, and of course assassinations of lesser bureaucrats. I wouldnt want to be an employee of Russia's in charge of a town or

city in Ukraine! Very risky, to say the least.

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