Nations, Like Individuals or Animals, Can Also Go Mad

Now it's Russia’s time. Again.

Image by Dioscorides Pedanius, of Anazarbos, CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The mechanism of madness is simple if we are not talking about severe head trauma or some terrible ordeal.

A person (or society) creates a picture of the world around in which he/she sees thyself as very special, starts to believe that it is truthful and tries to convince others of that. If a person succeeds, he/she becomes a great writer, singer, athlete, designer, scientist, businessman.... If not, then the picture does not correspond to reality and a person lives in "another world”. Seeing what is not there (as well as not seeing what is there) is what people call "madness”. It's all about the point of view - such a person sees things differently than others do.

Madness often begins with a small but pleasant lie to thyself (e.g., that you are better, smarter, stronger, richer, etc. than others) and to others. Then that lie grows and after confronting reality either crumbles to dust (often) or the others begin to see as you do (rarely). Then that vision was correct.

Many people (and communities) tend to embellish their strengths and diminish their weaknesses. Many of them see themselves much better than they really are. I, for example, consider myself a "unique" philosopher and writer, but, nevertheless, life has not yet confirmed that since nobody buys my "genius" books. The good thing is I am not very much upset about this, as I write mostly for myself.

It becomes much worse if a person has a lot of money and opportunities to support his point of view. Then he/she begins to forcefully impose this vision on others.

And it is the worst if this person is the leader of a country and has nuclear weapons, like Putin, for example. He has already imposed his worldview on Russian people, and now he is trying to do the same with Ukrainians and the whole world. The war in Ukraine will show whether Mr. Putin's point of view is right or wrong. If he wins the war, then his vision of himself, Russia, Ukraine and the world as a whole is correct. If he loses, his point of view is wrong and he lives in "another world”, so he will have to run away and hide before he will be killed by his own people. The bad thing here is that many Ukrainians (and Russians) will die in any case.

Unfortunately, life gives clear answers to global questions after many years. German nation has been going mad in a similar way guided by the will of Adolf Hitler since 1932 when the Nazi Party held the most seats in German Reichstag. Hitler has started World War II in 1939. Hitlerites and Nazism were convicted in Nuremberg in 1945, so I don't think there will be a clear and quick end to Putin's war against Ukraine.

The circus is created not only by the performers, but also by the audience. By those who sit in the grandstands.

“Bread and circuses” were craved by the spectators of gladiatorial fights in ancient Rome, and their rulers gave them both. The rulers saw the opportunity to channel the energy of the crowds into what they wanted. And what do all rulers always want, both in ancient Rome and now? More territory (hence people-workers, money and power). Human’s aspirations have not changed since then. The rulers started wars out of mercantile interest or a self-affirmation, then they went down in history with monuments built for them and their profiles coined on money. The history of mankind is the history of wars and the personalities of conquerors. Once somebody could win a series of wars and then his empire grew. Then empire’s physical size exceeded the ability of the metropolis to effectively govern the invaded countries, and discords broke out between heirs to the throne, viceroys of overseas territories, and warlords, causing the empire to fall apart. For example, the highly successful in 1century AD Roman Empire was first divided into a Western and Eastern Empire in the beginning of the 5th century, and then the Western Empire fell under the blows of the barbarians.

Wars are always started by rulers and paid for by people’s money and lives. Sometimes a war leads to the seizure of new territories and rejoicing over it, and sometimes it is the loss of one’s own territories and collapse of the state of aggressor.

Putin figured out a long time ago how to treat his people correctly. At the beginning of his reign he gave the people some "bread” - he was able to deliver some prosperity to Russians because of his good will and high (and rising) price of oil.
Then he gave his people a lot of "circuses" - military intervention in Georgia in 2008, in Syria in 2015, annexation of Crimea in 2014, Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 and Football World Cup in 2018... . And it turned out that Russia always had beaten everyone both in sports and wars. Well, in sports, though, it happened with the help of doping, but Russian people were sure that this had been also the machinations of the insidious West.

And during all this time Mr. Putin has been lying a lot, apparently sincerely believing he was telling the truth. His propagandists have persuaded Russian people that they were "great”, the ones who were “chosen by God”, and “rising from their knees”.

It's always nice to hear that you happen to be so remarkable. The Russian people have always suspected that they are outstanding ones (see historian Zubov's article on this below). Here they finally believed Putin and "went mad", too. For example, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov recently sincerely stated that Russia did not attack Ukraine and almost no one objected - only a few thousand people from a 144-million country kept bravely coming out to rallies against the war. The rest of the Russians "don't see" it. They call it “a special military operation”, and those who dare to say "war" and "invasion" can get up to 15 years in a jail.

Putin is deliberately manipulating the consciousness of the Russian people by substituting concepts in politics, economics and history. He successfully embeds in the population’s consciousness a sense of false patriotism and false pride of doubtful achievements in the past and present. People believe Mr. Putin's words and absorb all that with a pleasure.
Every nation deserves its rulers. Actually, they are mirrors.

Thus, Mr. Putin with his money and opportunities shapes the vision (that means the thoughts, speech, and actions) of entire Russian nation. Therefore, all 144 million of Russians and Mr. Putin as the first (and apparently, the best) of them should be responsible for the war in Ukraine.

Back in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told then-US President Obama by telephone that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality. “In another world,” she described her communication.

On February 24, 2022 Putin staked his all (I’m sure he didn’t know that then) trying to "demilitarize" and "denazify" Ukraine, and thus putting himself and his empire in a "make or break" situation. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are now successfully bringing Putin and all Russians back into reality from “another world”. This is hard to do, but if Ukraine keeps on holding out and the West (especially Germany) stops "looking into Putin’s eyes" and maintains tough sanctions on Russian economy and finances, we will see the second (and I hope the last) collapse of the “USSR” and the breakup of Russia into 10-15 different states.
However, the collective West may be not interested in that.

I have almost finished this article while came across a similar article written by Russian historian Andrey Zubov with more examples of how different nations, including Russia, "went mad". I fully share the author's point of view and decided to place the translation here.


Andrey Zubov

Grandstands of the Circus

March 28, 2022

The original

More and more often I encounter the incredible exasperation of “Z” supporters. It is useless to talk to them. They curse every argument, even the restrained and peaceful ones. The opponents of “Z” are no more tolerant either. The logomachy is getting more and more close to a real war, except that no one is killed there, but there is already some hand-to-hand fighting. Yesterday's closest friends become enemies in one evening, spouses become strangers to each other and move away, if there is a place to move, children stop communicating with their old parents.

Many observers attribute that to the sophistication of official Russian propaganda, but official propaganda in Russia is not so good. It is like everything else - technology, the military, paper and machine tool production, nature and cultural monuments protection. Everything, at most, is very average, and so the propaganda is. It is nauseating in its crude obtrusiveness and outright lies. It is a message to those who want to be misled, who are disgusted by the truth. Propaganda does not reformat brains, it gives them a convenient opportunity and excuse to be what they are - evil, aggressive, blind to the truth, hating the whole world, "which is against us”.

Could this be a consequence of the Soviet past, a manifestation of the eternally sick Russian soul? Also, no. Many nations went mad, starting aggressive wars, and fell into a mass lunacy of insane fanaticism. The Englishmen welcomed the war with the Boers and wonderful Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a disgusting pamphlet justifying that war. The French idolized Napoleon and marveled at his victories, which costed much to the French nation itself and many lives all over Europe from Spain to Russia. The madness of the Germans during the Nazi era was visible to many outer observers. My father recounted with horror that when he was at negotiations in Berlin in 1939-40 for German armament supplies to the USSR, he saw young women holding out their infants to Hitler at his public address while he was calling for giving their sons to the Millennium Reich. And they were educated, usually calm and reserved Prussian women.

Russian people have lost their heads both in 1805, when Alexander declared war on Napoleon and joined the 3rd coalition, and in 1853, when Nikolai Pavlovich declared war on the Ottoman Empire because of a dispute over the keys of the Temple of Bethlehem. In 1876-1877 the Russian people got mad with a desire to help "brothers", literally forced Alexander II to declare war against Turkey, although Russia at that time was carrying out Great Reforms and did not need the war at all. But Alexander Nikolayevich wanted to be the people's king and started an extremely difficult war, the fruits of which, in addition, the European countries did not allow Russia to take advantage of, and the tsar knew perfectly well they wouldn’t while starting the war.

And there was mad enthusiasm and facile optimism in January-March 1905 about the war with the Japanese, who had been called and drawn after the tsar in cartoons as "macaques". And there was an enthusiasm in August 1914, when the people knelt down in front of the Winter Palace while Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra Fiodorovna appeared at the balcony…

This dementing of the people by war is well known to specialists in mass psychology. Raptures immediately disappear at real warfare, the harsh routine of blood, death, mud, and fear destroys them overnight. Fighting becomes a disgusting and dangerous routine for soldiers at war. Survivors do not like to talk about everyday life during a war or they briefly tell their curious grandchildren that war is a big nasty thing.

But at home front euphoria and psychosis continue before the terrible hand of war has touched it with carpet bombing, hunger, and sieges. Those who are not directly involved in the war, but are worried about their relatives are similar in their psychological reaction to spectators of gladiatorial fights, pornographic movies or soccer fans - they become fanatical and go mad about the things that others are doing. It is a special form of collective involvement, when there is no labor, no sweat, no blood, not even sexual satisfaction, but only tension and adrenaline, driving the one crazy, but not being burnt out in real action.

Politicians are experts of those wartime mass psychoses. They cleverly use them to consolidate the people around the leader. When the real death of many people is not their fate, but show, it does not frighten, but only excites the nerves and the brain. It was like that without television and before radio.
This is the case with wars almost always. History knows wars that are unpopular with the people, but they are rare. There was, let’s say, the Russo-Swedish War of 1808-09 of such kind, but nobody remembers it, although its prize for Russia was Finland.

So, dear friends, watch yourselves, don't turn into spectators in the grandstands of the Colosseum. Especially because this is not a performance, but a real tragedy of war. And treat those who have gone mad fanatically with understanding, knowing that the inflammation of the collective unconscious will come to naught little by little, either because of the hardships of war or the shame of defeat.

By the way, wars which started with such mass psychosis and then ended in military defeat, as a rule caused the hysteria syndrome of total disappointment with the government and anger that it did not meet expectations. Because of this total disappointment with government, the great empires collapsed in 1917-18, such as Russian, Austrian, German, and Ottoman empires. In 1905, the defeat of Russia from the Japanese turned into a revolution in Russia. "They said they were macaques, but we turned out to be something like that, and our tsar is a fool," said Russian people, reading reports from the fields of Manchuria and from the forts of Port Arthur. And the more frenzy of enthusiasm is in the beginning - the greater the hatred for the government at the end of the lost war. The people do not forgive their idols that they were seduced by them.

Defeats can give rise to anger and a desire for revenge in a nation that has recently gone mad from military marches (this was the case for Germany in 1920s and for Russia during the 2000s), or sometimes a deep remorse for the madness the nation has committed. But for this, each nation needs its own Jaspers who will explain to the defeated the parable of "national guilt”. And the mind of the people must be so stunned by the failure that it will be open to the words of the thinker.

Everything is just beginning in Russia. The soldiers are fighting as best as they can, and the people are going mad and putting "Z" on their dress. There are great temptations of revenge and healing remorse ahead, revolutions and long years of poverty and humiliation. The collective unconscious, which Christians call in a different way, has broken free and was crushing the society.

All this can still be stopped now, like the adults, having noticed their children were watching some disgusting thing on the computer, can turn it off. And children, even with tears, calm down and the blush of false passion comes off their cheeks. But soon, very soon, no one will be able to stop the psychosis. And then it will pass through all its stages and will end the way it has already ended hundreds of times. Here Russia has a lot of experience.


P.S. Dear Reader! I am very much interested in your opinion on the subject of this article. Please, write a comment or ask a question if you want to clarify something.
Igor Chykalov
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