Alt Left: Russian Thinking on Black-White Versus Grey Areas

Commenter Siberiancat, who is a Russian, left this comment a while back:

Russians are pretty good with gray areas.

An illustration:

A Russian emigrant mathematician and psychologist Vladimir Lefevre was an adviser to Reagan on how to conduct negotiations with Gorbachev. He had a theory that Western and Eastern European (in this case, Soviet) ethics were completely different.

In Western thinking, there is a clear difference between Good and Evil. One should confront evil, yet compromise with an enemy is a good thing

In the Eastern approach, there is no Good and Evil. Everything is gray. The ends justify the means, and one should not compromise with an enemy.

The advice was to conduct negotiations in such a way that the Soviets would not look like compromising to the domestic constituency. Make negotiations mostly informal. Avoid formal deals that might be seen as defeats by the ordinary Russians.

I would not say that Russians are Easterners, having nothing in common with the Chinese or Indians, yet the ethical systems between them and the West are obviously different.

Oh, and Lefevre was the guy who coined the term Evil Empire.

I find it interesting that he ties Eastern European (as in Slavic?) thinking with Russian thinking. What about in the Baltic states? They’re so Westernized. And the Czechs are so Western they are barely even Slavs. And what do we do with the Romanians? The culture and religion of the East, yet the language of the West? I suspect they are more Eastern than we think. The Balkans, Greece, …Hell, even Bulgaria, are more Southern European or better yet, Southeastern European.

I know everyone over there hates the Turks and I don’t blame them, but I’m afraid that they’re more Turkified than they think, especially the Greeks. Or perhaps the entire region is Southeast Europanified, Southeast European being different from both Eastern and Southern Europe. The Turks like to delude themselves that they are part of general Southeastern Europe, but that is just more Muslim arrogance. They’re so much closer to the Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and Kurds that they hate so much than they will ever admit. Religion isn’t as big a part of human culture as everyone thinks. In a lot of areas, it’s almost a cultural “add-on.”

I do like this part though:

In the Eastern approach, there is no Good and Evil. Everything is gray.

Reminds me of the great line from Rumi:

Over there
In that field
Beyond good and evil
I will meet you there

– Rumi

That is just so perfect, I am sorry. And it’s so…Eastern…Hell, it’s almost downright Chinese for Chrissake. Rumi was an Iranian Shia Sufi poet. I wonder to what extent Iranian thinking is “Eastern?” I hate to say like Chinese, but I sense a deep vibe of Chinese philosophy in that bit of terse poetry.

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