On Values, Solidarity, and NATO.

A demonstration against joint military exercise between Sweden and NATO is being organized in Umeå. Two years ago I would have supported that cause, but the world has changed radically since then. Things that used to be improbable are a reality, and what used to be unthinkable has become possible.

I am speaking of Russian aggression. Moscow rulers have started a war in Europe, occupied parts of Ukrainian territory, leaving thousands dead and almost two million people displaced. Kremlin threatens to continue aggression.

Sweden’s tradition of neutrality is a long, but not a proud one. In the Second world war Sweden decided not to take sides, and to see who would win, in the end. In the mean time, Swedish capitalists got rich trading with Germany, selling, among other things, iron ore that was critical for the German war machine

However, neutrality is only worth anything if the country is able to defend itself. Recently a few Russian planes attempted to fly by Swedish airspace, and were repelled by the Swedish fighters. A considerable improvement! Because earlier this year when Russian planes approached Sweden, Swedish pilots were on leave and there was no one to get into the air. If attacked, Sweden should count on the support of NATO countries, but it would be fair if Sweden assume the responsibility

Sweden should learn the lessons from Ukraine. Ukraine was a neutral country too, but that did nothing to stop Russian aggression. Well, there was an expression of deep concern, so that’s that.

The problem with democratic countries is that they do not get to choose when to go to war: Ukraine sure did not want to be attacked. The advantage with democracies is that they share similar values, and stand for each other. Or at least are supposed to. It is a thing called solidarity.

Well, an attack on Sweden seems not very likely, at least at this time. A more probable scenario would be an attack on the Baltic countries: in the mind of Kremlin rulers, destroying the Baltic states might give them a great strategic advantage, and scare the rest of Europe into agreeing with Moscow’s demands, and probably destroy the European Union, which is a long-term goal of the Kremlin.


Here is one possible scenario for new Moscow’s aggression. A swift attack on the Baltic states would force Europe accept the new status quo, and will not leave the NATO time to react. This image from an article written by an analyst for the Kremlin propaganda agency “Russia Today”.

NATO has an obligation to defend the Baltic states, but in Kremlin’s mind a quick attack might leave NATO no time to react. And Sweden, due to her neutrality, does not have an obligation to protect the Baltic states. More than that, many in the Swedish elites prefer Sweden to conserve a neutral stance in the situation of a conflict between the NATO and Moscow, because that would allow them to preserve Swedish investments in Russia and in the Baltics, and trade with Russia, with profit.

The only thing that can deter an aggressor is when he believes that he will be met with resistance. An aggressor needs to see that he would be met with resolve, and be made to pay dearly in case of aggression. Right now, Moscow is laughing at NATO armies, and even more so – of the Swedish army – according to them European armies are run by gays and women, and are worthless.

Yet, showing the resolve to resist an aggressor is the only chance for peace. Anything else is interpreted by the aggressor as a sign of weakness.

It is also very interesting that it is the leftist organizations that are organizing the demonstration of cowardice. It reminds me of the position of the French communists after 1939, who were sabotaging French war efforts, because at that time Stalin was allied with Nazi Germany, and because they wanted the “bourgeois” republic to disappear. They lived to regret this decision when France was quickly defeated by the Germans, and many of them ended up concentration camps. Who knows, maybe if France was able to fight better, the war would have ended sooner, and many millions would have lived?

Right now, Moscow regime is the closest one could get to a classical fascist state. It is a militarized dictatorship, that has adopted nationalist ideology  and conservative values, and is conducting and aggressive war for the purpose of territorial expansion. NATO has the potential to become core of the new anti-aggressor alliance – and that is because most of the countries in it share same values, and have the solidarity to stand together.

Sweden could choose to demonstrate its commitment to democracy and peace by joining the alliance against the aggressor. Still, in the world politics there is no law against cowardice. There is nothing to prohibit Sweden from sticking to its neutrality. In the end, you don’t really need to defend values or have solidarity – many peoples live without them –  especially if it is also profitable.

But there is no honor in it either.


Hate Propaganda in Umeå’s Folkets Hus.

Last Saturday, the Communist party in Umeå organized a lecture about Ukraine. I was expecting that the discussion would be somewhat biased, because the communists are known for their pro-Russian position, but the reality proved to be much more depressing. The lecturer, a hardened communist from Uppsala, and a genocide-denier Mario Sousa filled an hour and a half of his presentation with nothing but lies and propaganda. He managed not to say a single word of truth about Ukraine, which is an achievement in itself. Every fact in his presentation was tendentiously selected and twisted, and whenever facts were not forthcoming, fake photo-shopped pictures were enough.

As you could expect, the gist of his presentation was to argue that Ukrainians are basically hitlers. The Ukrainian revolution, where over a hundred people were killed by the police, and which forced a corrupt government to escape to Russia, the country of their puppet-masters, was, to Mario Sousa, a Nazi coup. I wish he would tell the same in person to my friend, Ilya, a jazz musician, who spent entire days on the Kiev main square expecting a new police attack, rather than recording a new album. Or to my other friend, Helen, a PhD student in biology, who, together with her friends organized an outdoor kitchen, and almost every day volunteered to cook soup and tea for the protesters, in the freezing winter 2013-2014 in Kiev, putting aside her studies of Antarctic bacterial life.

To know the truth would be inconvenient for Mario Sousa, because that would ruin his world-picture, which he shared profusely with fellow communists and just curious citizens who found themselves in the lecture hall. Incidentally, there was very little mention of Russia in his presentation, almost none at all. It was not even Russia’s fault that Crimea was invaded and attached to Russia. In his “opinion”, the whole Ukrainian turmoil was a conspiracy of Western security services together with Jewish oligarchs (did I mention that the presentation also contained a pinch of casual anti-Semitism)?

To call Ukrainians Nazis is the keystone of Russian war propaganda, on which it spends more then 1,5 billion dollars a year only abroad. The purpose of this dangerous lie is to de-humanize the Ukrainians. It might be a problem to kill Ukrainians even for Russian nationalists and mercenaries, thousands of which are now fighting against the Ukrainian army in the Russian-occupied Donbas region. It is easy to kill Nazis. It would be natural to support a people who, after they got rid of a bloody dictator, suffered an invasion and war, and are fighting a powerful imperialist country in an unequal battle, but it would be difficult to feel empathy for someone who is called a Nazi. Even if we don’t really trust the source (who would trust the likes of Mario Sousa), we still think that the truth would be somewhere in the middle. Well, it is not. Sometimes the other argument is pure made-up outrageous lie whose purpose is to justify murder. This dangerous lie helps kill the Ukrainians. It is also an insulting to a nation that proportionally lost almost the greatest number of people fighting the German Nazism in the Second World War.

To clarify the matters, yes, as could be expected, there were all sorts of radicals taking part in the Ukrainian revolution; left-wing, right-wing, anarchists, punks and hippies, football fans and veterans of the Soviet Afghan war, who happened to be united by the same cause. However, radicals constituted a minority force in the events in Kiev, and had zero influence on politics after the revolution. Moreover, all political parties that were suspected in embracing nationalism subsequently lost the general elections.

(There were also groups of hired provocateurs, paid by former president and his friends, who tried to provoke clashes with the police, providing a justification of police brutality and posing with Nazi symbols for the cameramen of Russian state TV channels.)

On the 22nd of February Russia used a new weapon in its quest to destroy Ukraine. In addition to an already accomplished aggression in Crimea and an ongoing invasion of Donbas, it is now terrorism. A bomb planted in the snow exploded in the face of a peaceful demonstration. The explosion claimed four victims deaths already and many wounded who are now fighting for life: a university lecturer in physics, and a colonel of police died on the spot, an 18 year old student and a 15 year old kid died later in the hospital. If it was not for a car that passed nearby and shielded the crowd, the number of victims would have been much greater.

Shocking as this terror attack was (Ukraine had never experienced terrorism before), even more depressing were the comments from Russians on the social media. They rejoiced, gloated and congratulated the “partisans” for killing Ukrainian Nazis, deploring that the victims were too few. Assuming that those were real people behind the comments, one has to congratulate the Russian television: its work of dehumanizing the Ukrainians has been thoroughly accomplished. With one unintended consequence: while dehumanizing the others, they have dehumanized themselves.

Update: Eight people arrested in Spain for fighting at Russian side in Ukraine. The were left activists, and they went to fight in the colonialist aggressive war that Russian right-wing dictatorship is conducting in Ukraine. The propaganda works.

Virtual reality and the triumph of the spectacle.

The virtual worlds that are created in video games. Right now they are not perfect yet, they are sleek, and almost alive, but still a tiny bit uncanny. Surfaces are still too smooth, the TV is limited by a rectangle, there are those vaguely annoying repetitive elements, movements are still constricted by the limitations of the few axes, the screen glows, all this creates a barrier, so that it is still a leap (of faith) to accept the video game reality as real.

This will, improve, no question about it. The little valley of the uncanny is almost erased, and the virtual world can already deliver complex and strong emotional engagement. The realism of the virtual worlds, the details, the movements will be pushed forward, beyond the threshold where we could distinguish a generated landscape or a scene from the one that is recorded or lived. This level of realism is already common for advertisement and film industry.

An average person, even someone who has not been conditioned by conventions of video gaming, will soon not be able to distinguish between the experience that is immediately lived (immédiatement vécu), and experience that is fictional . This approachment and substitution of the real by the virtual will also become easier as fiction will learn to imitate the conventions of reality (such as in documentary movies or news reports, where we are conditioned to accept the genuinity of the image, or such as in real life, where the situations are awkward and we are shy and insecure).

Lets speculate on the effect of unstoppable realism of virtual fiction. The effects on society at large are quite trivial. As false reality will become more realist, it will be absorbed less critically. The virtual fiction will offer experiences that are more attractive than the real ones (especially for those parts of the world – the vastest majority, in fact – who live in misery and whose life is not aesthetically or ethically comfortable). Virtual worlds will claim a big share of human population. That will limit the creative capacity of our species, but on the other hand, it will greatly reduce human pressure on the resources of the planet. To be happy, a person would only need an electric and a network connection, plus a supply of soylent green calories. Humans, on the whole, will become much more sustainable.


Living in virtual reality requires very little maintenance.

More interesting and less obvious are the effects of the virtual fiction on real life aesthetics. The virtual worlds are much more attractive, pretty, enticing, than real pictures. It is like sweet sugary food, that we, as a species, cannot resist, which makes us addicted. The images of the virtual worlds are like the photoshopped images of sunsets – eye candies, realistic, but ever so slightly enhanced, with deeper contrasts, richer colours, so that the real sight would look pale – literally, as well as figuratively – in comparison.

Here is how one turns a boring sunset into a pretty one:

The enhanced image has never existed. (Strictly speaking, neither image has existed, but the enhanced one is even more fake).

The real sunset (which we can imagine) is boring compared to the virtual sunset. And it has nothing to do with the technical limitations of the camera: for as long as the real sunset looked better than its photo, especially an amateur photo, we would have preferred the real sunset. But confronted to the beautiful sunset from the enhanced virtual reality, the real sunset would leave us unsatisfied.

This is the kind of disappointment that one feels at a beach vacation: the picture in the travel agency catalogue is gorgeous, but reality sucks.


Confronted the the aesthetically superior virtual world, our real landscapes would appear inadequate. Whenever we can affect the reality, the landscapes, we would feel a pressure, an urge to reform them, to make them more attractive compared to the virtual fiction.

Here is an example

I was once in an old French castle in the Vosges mountains. It was a really good mediaeval defensive construction, a mighty donjon with fine arc-boutants, towers, a drawbridge, the fortress stood imposing, reigning over great swathes of land from the top of a rock, well-preserved and well kept, where you could readily see all the defensive features, and observe how the structure expanded through time – a first rate castle, all in all. But the retarded mind of the museum keeper, softened by the marketing propaganda, had excreted an idiotic idea that the castle could be improved – and we are talking here about a real masterpiece of mediaeval and renaissance defensive engineering – with fake wax statues of witches in the cellars, a cauldron and a LED glowing fire, a torture chamber with plastic paraphernalia  and even worse, an interactive system of screams, bangs and rattles, that would not fail to impress anyone under the age of four.

Now, the poor children, who were supposed to be attracted by this horror, were made a real disservice. Instead of imagining all the possible stories, which the castle could be the setting, they were lead towards one single narrative in what was now a cheap imitation of Disneyland.

Facing the inadequacy of the reality when compared to the virtual spectacle, we would try to do the same as the docent of the castle museum did. We’ll try to “improve”, to “decorate”, to make landscapes more colorful, more appealing, less real, to make them fit some preselected narrative.


The grass will be painted green and the roses red (The image is from here, and thank you C. for this analogy)

Landscapes, cities, rather than being living organisms, places of conflict where space is constantly negotiated, will become decorations to one story, at the expense of all other potential stories that could still happen. In a way, this is already happening. New Zealand, for instance, is becoming the Shire.

The Cyprus complaint.

The key word to understand post-soviet “business” is “лох”, pronounced like the Scottish [loch|. It literally means “sucker”. The essence of Russian business is to find such sucker and dupe him of his money.

If you are lucky, you collect a nice pile of money, which you bring to Cyprus. It is warm there, and the sky is blue, the houses are white, much nicer than cold Russia, where the houses are grey and the sky is grey too.

“Life is good, Vladimir” – practice to say it with a Russian accent.

Feels bad to be a sucker now.

I have a friend. Many years ago she made a run from Ukraine to a big Western country, lived there illegally, working twenty jobs at a time, to get money for a decent life. One day, she comes home to a break-in, and all her money, that she worked her ass off to earn, is stolen.

She said it was a very powerful lesson to her. She understood how money is not the most important thing. She started to appreciate things money cannot buy. She became much happier after that, she said.

Russian “businessmen” have now an opportunity to use a great karma lesson.


Welcome to Cyprus! – this random photogenic girl from the google image search seems to be saying.