It is one of the strangest things of our era. Your average Western citizen is enthusiastic about the idea of a globalized world and purports to look at cultural and national differences as little more than relics of a long gone past: these ideas amount to nothing more than prejudices and bigotry and must be eradicated. There is just one humanity and the enlightened and educated Western citizen see himself as a citizen of the world. On the other hand, the same citizen of the world is often deeply persuaded that only the West is the house of liberty and democracy, that is only the West gives its citizens human dignity: only the West has the right to speak of liberty and democracy. Any kind of discourse that seems to only hint at questioning this assumption must be regarded as hostile propaganda that must be dismissed outright. In recent years we have become used to the phrase “sow discord and discredit the West”, a phrase that we have read and heard over and over again, and Russia has generally been accused of this.
One would think that in the aftermath of the Iraq War, a blatant war of aggression started under the pretext of a blatant lie, or of the financial crisis of 2008, that especially in Europe has crippled the economy of many countries and destroyed the possibility of a building a future for a generation of young people, the self-assuredness of the average Western citizen about the infallibility of the Western system would have been at least a bit shaken. But nothing of the sort has happened. Doubt about the firm belief in the righteousness of the West seems to have evaded the consciousness of most people. Even the emergency of populist waves of discontent across many European countries and in the United States, which led to the election of the anti-systemic candidate Donald Trump and Brexit and in which many Western experts wanted to see a resurgence of nefarious nationalism, seems to have passed. The West is self-assured like never before. Where does this self-assuredness come from?
The rivals of the West seem to be less than enviable places. China is after all a communist dictatorship where allegedly freedom simply does not exist. Russia is a place where dissidents are poisoned with deadly chemical weapons and which has been ruled for twenty years by a single man. Could there possibly be any alternative to the West then? Should Western citizens feel happy just for not being like Russia or China?
Russia and China are certainly not utopian republics, but neither China nor Russia, however, wrecked the world in the same way as the West has done over the last thirty years, since the end of the cold war. By now many Western experts are ready to see the Iraq War as a “blunder”: a “blunder” that cost the lives of at least half a million people and led to the destabilization of the entire Middle East for decades. And the Iraq war is just one example of the Western well-intentioned adventures. But there are very few Western experts and officials who would admit that the US led world has systematically inflicted harm and provoked unnecessarily damage to other people. Look at all the attacks Donald Trump received for merely suggesting that NATO was obsolete. Do the people who supported this war and that systematically support Western interventionism, often people that like to pose as the consciousness of a nation, feel the responsibility for the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives? Because they should. The vast majority of Western intellectuals and Western citizens alike even after Vietnam, Iraq and Libya, just to name a few examples, the West is only interested in freedom, democracy and other sacred Western values for the whole of humankind. Undoubtedly there are some people who only exploit these notions, but for every cynical there are millions of people who firmly believe that the West can give its people something that other countries cannot, that is freedom and democracy.
What kind of democracy and freedom did however the West give its citizens over the past thirty years? The United States is stuck in a bipolar system that does not really mean much in terms of policy changes and where there is no place for alternatives or third forces. The emergence of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate and then as president of the United States, a figure that with hindsight appears not to have received the ok by the US establishment, led to a barrage of outrage poured at him by the media every day with impressive regularity until he was eventually voted out of office. His crimes of just questioning uncontrolled immigration and the US inevitable role of global policeman cost him dearly. The US establishment clearly saw in the “We came, he saw, he died” approach to world leadership a preferable alternative to the US taking care of America First.
In many European countries elections have become a rather dull affair which rarely affect policy outcomes. Politicians come and go, but the policies stay the same and are dictated by technocratic necessity rather than the sacred “will of the people”, that should allegedly be the essence and the legitimation of democracy as the system of government superior to all others. Who elected the most powerful woman in Europe, Ursula Von Der Leyen? Who gave her the authority to speak for the whole of the European people, irrespectively of whether they are from Italy or Denmark, Poland or Belgium? Not to mention that the other most powerful woman in Europe, Angela Merkel, has been in power since 2005, only two years less than the “dictators” Erdogan and Putin. If democracy is to be measured only by the number of terms of those in power, after how many years one become a dictator, as opposed to a democratically and legitimately elected leader? It is practically impossible to challenge the institutional consensus of the European Union and NATO without being smeared of being a Russian agent almost at an official level. Does this sound like an example of democracy?
What about freedom instead? Let‘s forget for a while about the state of emergency that came with the coronavirus pandemic. The unforeseen election of Donald Trump and the following accusations of Russian interference in the US election through social media resulted in internet censorship on a massive scale. Through almost daily messaging by the dominant media Western citizens have been programmed to see Russian trolls in every expression of criticism towards Western policies and institutions. This was the result of a clear policy choice and social media moderators have worked directly with Western governments and the European Union since. The Western citizen prides immensely of enjoying freedoms that people in other parts of the world but Western discourse seems to be more and more constrained by the the boundaries of what the political correctness of the day considers acceptable. Try to make use of your freedom of speech saying that biology determines sex. What would have been a legitimate opinion 20 years ago would make one a detestable outcast today, banned from most of the public space. Or look at the Capitol riots: these kind of popular revolts are generally celebrated by the West as some mystical form of popular expression against tyranny when they happen in far away countries. When this happened in the heart of American “democracy”, the protesters were quickly condemned as seditionists and extremists. Now those that took part in the riot have been arrested and are actively been prosecuted. Next time Europeans and Americans feel their heart full with joy at the sight of crowds threatening to bring down a government in places like Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia or Myanmar, they may think twice before throwing his full support behind this new revolution. But this will not happen. The Western citizen, generally stubbornly ignorant of everything that happens outside of the Western world, will continue to consider his world superior to the rest. Just because this is the only world he knows.