When we emigrated from Russia, U.S. President Nixon went to Russia to stop the Cold War. Possibly, we were permitted to emigrate as a Soviet present to him. You see? Owing to him, Russia was moving to the freedom of emigration after the decades when the expressed wish to emigrate was a crime.
The American attitude toward Russia (and China) was in disarray, and I was invited by universities (such as Columbia in New York) to give a lecture on the subject to academic “Sovietologists” (at Columbia, for example). Some professors of Sovietology at Columbia were indignant that I, who had never been a professor of Sovietology or of anything else was invited to lecture to them!
True, in Nixon’s life, the only cultural interest was his “interest in music” when he was a child. But when he was the U.S. president, that compensated for the fact that he was not a university professor.
I explained to the professors of Columbia my understanding of the cause of world wars. Americans can settle their quarrels by finding the causes of the quarrels and trying to eliminate them.
In the age of mass communication, it is impossible to conceal from Russians or Chinese that Americans and West Europeans live better than they do. That enhances the possibility of displacement of the present ruler of Russia or China by another imposter, that is, the possibility of the present ruler’s loss of his absolute power, more valuable to him than all treasures in the country.
Indeed, in 1991, that is 20 years after we emigrated, the Soviet dictatorship collapsed, and the Chinese dictatorship nearly collapsed a couple of years earlier. There is no reliable remedy against such a collapse except the dictator’s ownership of the world, though even in this case a smart subordinate of his may usurp his absolute world power.
The words “university” and “professor” originated in Europe in the 14th century. Earlier, there had been sages, individual lovers of wisdom, every one of whom might have had a disciple. But as the Renaissance demanded more temporal sages and creators, there originated institutions authorized to grant temporal degrees of professors on the scale of a big institution called “university.”
Many new sages of Sovietology were outraged by my lecture, and oddly enough, their arguments were “ad hominem,” as in the 16th century in Europe or in Soviet Russia. In Soviet Russia in the 1930s, any argument of any person became wrong if he was (called) a Trotskyite.
As for Trotsky himself, we, children, sat one day at our breakfast in summer camp for children of writers, members of the Union of Writers, when our “leader” (incidentally, a Jew named “Solomon” whom we called “Solya”) rushed into the dining room and yelled, breathless from joy: “Children, Trotsky has been killed!” The applause knew no bounds, though few of us had ever seen anything written by Trotsky or any pictorial image of him.
For Ann Coulter, it is enough to say that her opponent is a “leftist” in order to delete everything her opponent had ever said or ever written.
One incident opened my eyes to the university education perhaps more than any library of books. A group of university students was studying Hegel under the guidance of a professor. He wanted them to write an essay on “Hegel as the promoter of liberty.”
I found that at several universities Hegel (1770-1831) was regarded in this sublime role. However, Hegel’s text indicates that he regarded the ordinary beating of serfs to be inadequate. The beating should be such as to fill the serf’s mind — his entire universe.
Year in and year out, every group of students of Hegel received a similar assignment, and a copy of one of the previous year’s essays that said “what had to be said” about Hegel’s promotion of liberty.
The purpose for the student was to receive a degree and hence a well-paid job. So who cared about Hegel?
Not that individual lovers of wisdom disappeared with the rise of universities. In 1859, John Stuart Mill published (in Britain) his book “On Liberty,” which is published and read in all culturally refined countries.
What is necessary to achieve this except just a pen and paper? Mill devotes to the explanation several pages of his book, but one word (Page 129) may suffice: “genius.”
Today the human intellectual potential is often regarded as clay or wire, fit to be turned by technology and/or bureaucracy into bricks and nails. Now, what is important, according to Mill, is the human mental potential that may be genius — not potential bricks and nails.
Since I would never risk a trip to the “new China,” I collect books on China, available in the English-speaking countries. But these books are but bricks and nails.
The very silence about the development of the military potential of China should cause great consternation in the West. But there is hardly any reaction. China is a ghost, almost invisible, except on maps. What is the purpose of the U.S. presidential election if no presidential candidate deems China a threat, though the book, “The China Threat,” was published in 2000, the year when George W. Bush became the president for his first term. For almost eight years, he said nothing concerning the threat, but fought for five years in Iraq either for oil or for unknown reasons.
The West seems to have been hypnotized into forgetting the very possibility of war launched by a totalitarian military monster of China whose population surpasses that of Germany 16 times.
Nor is it realized in the West that the current year is no longer 1945, when Japan surrendered unconditionally to two U.S. nuclear bombs. This year is 2008 — 63 years later, and the post-1945 is a new era of development of post-nuclear superweapons, which will make nuclear weapons as outdated as nuclear weapons made outdated in 1945 the conventional bombs and shells, developed 63 years earlier.
The military power of destruction grows exponentially, and one day of research in 2008 may be equivalent to “n” days of it in 1945.
There used to be an expression: “to sit on a barrel of gun powder.” Yes, the West sits on a barrel. But the nuclear power of 1945 has been replaced by ever newer explosives.
Which makes us recall John Stuart Mill’s tribute to genius. While developing nuclear weapons, the United States collected the highest concentration of genius in nuclear physics from English-speaking countries as well as from Germany and other countries hit by Nazi anti-Semitism.
Genius is to win the next war even more surely than it won in Japan in 1945. This is why the dictatorship of China is ready to pay to an inventor of genius sums of money that no American or West European inventor ever imagined possible.
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