Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | August 5, 2008

Looks Like George Got it…

George Friedman of Stratfor, “the private CIA” that supplies condensed intelligence to Wall Streeters and others, offers a view of Solzhenitsyn’s impact that exceeds any I’ve seen. Seems to understand or at least be more sympathetic to his spiritual perspective as well as offer a promising outlook for Mother Russia. Here’s an excerpt:

“From Solzhenitsyn’s point of view, Western capitalism and liberalism are in their own way as horrible as Stalinism. Adam Smith saw man as primarily pursuing economic ends. Economic man seeks to maximize his wealth. Solzhenitsyn tried to make the case that this is the most pointless life conceivable. He was not objecting to either property or wealth, but to the idea that the pursuit of wealth is the primary purpose of a human being, and that the purpose of society is to free humans to this end.”

And another:

“He viewed freedom of expression in the same way. For Americans, the right to express oneself transcends the content of the expression. That you speak matters more than what you say. To Solzhenitsyn, the same principle that turned humans into obsessive pursuers of wealth turned them into vapid purveyors of shallow ideas. Materialism led to individualism, and individualism led to a culture devoid of spirit. The freedom of the West, according to Solzhenitsyn, produced a horrifying culture of intellectual self-indulgence, licentiousness and spiritual poverty. In a contemporary context, the hedge fund coupled with The Daily Show constituted the bankruptcy of the West.

To have been present when he once addressed a Harvard commencement! On the one side, Harvard Law and Business School graduates — the embodiment of economic man. On the other side, the School of Arts and Sciences, the embodiment of free expression. Both greeted their heroic resister, only to have him reveal himself to be religious, patriotic and totally contemptuous of the Vatican of self-esteem, Harvard.”

Not bad for a bunch of civilian spooks. Of course, I’d encourage you to read the whole thing… but most are probably far more familiar with his material than I… and don’t need to!

And while there are those who discount Stratfor as offering no particular insight… my son among them… as a long time subscriber, I’d say, “..yeah, but it’s handy, pretty decent, and not too pricey for those of us who don’t always have time to dig.” As to his conclusion, as pie-eyed as it may seem, there are reasons Stratfor continues to make the grade with a tough audience. See what you think.


  1. Thanks for linking this article.

    Andrew Cusack also has an excellent piece, here:

    But I think George Friedman’s is better.

    Thanks again.

  2. Yes, it looks like George did get it right.

    I subscribe to the New Yorker and enjoy the fiction section. I’ll also go online to the Paris Review site from time to time. I found it interesting that as soon as Norman Mailer passed away last fall and, for that matter, the Palestinian poet Darwish just recently both magazines paid tribute. When Solzhenitsyn passed away there was no mention. Wasn’t he a great writer, even if they don’t believe in what he stood for. Didn’t Time magazine call the “Gulag Arch.” the ‘best non-fiction of the 20th century’?

    In an another post of yours someone commented where the Dostoevsky of our time is …. IMHO nobody cares.

  3. Fr.

    You may be right that nobody cares…. though how you mean this is important as well. I believe that there are many things we miss without knowing that we miss them until they are in our presence. I suspect there is a lot of wisdom in understanding how it is that this circumstance came to pass.

    Thank you for your visit and comments.

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