Among the reasons for war, ideological ones are most commonplace. The war in Ukraine, for instance, has a shade of imperial Russia’s territorial voracity and Ukraine’s instinctive reaction to defend the motherland, but in reality, this is a war between two diverging concepts of world order and two contradictory perceptions of how to build human society. The clash is taking place between two strongly differing desires of Man to live in either a closed society or an open one, but in both cases, one which is sustainable, prosperous and free enough to allow people happiness. Our civilization has turned this contradiction into the subject of serious controversy. If a society wants to qualify as good, there must be a certain amount of openness in it, but most scholars argue that no society can be completely and unreasonably open, for the simple reason of keeping itself from anarchic complications. Even if a society is perfectly open, free, progressive and democratic, the fundamental interests conducive to making it safe would ask for the acceptance of laws and regulations which restrict people in their actions and behavior. So, whether closed or open, there are some fundamental rules that apply to both.
And still, the fight between them is fiercely on, and here is the freshest example of this: Russia tends to stick to what we call the closed type of society, giving fewer chances to individuals than to the state. Ukraine has opted to do the opposite, giving preference to free speech, individualism and human rights. As such, Russia and Ukraine were unable to avoid the conflict, having embarked on the solving of their differences via fire and death. Our Georgia is at the crossroads between both societal options right now – gingerly deliberating its future moves.
This way or that, both Russia and Ukraine are now in a situation where no intellectual way out will be effective. The solution can no longer be found in love and mutual understanding, only in using the tongue of stubborn violence. Now, all depends on the availability of modern technology and fire potential, in which case the importance of said ideological differences becomes irrelevant, especially when on the raging military frontline. Here, human ideals, lofty values and reminiscing about “the good old days” have no power, no matter what kind of societies the parties want to build. In a word, the concept of societal closeness or openness is retreating, giving way to modern weaponry, including nuke capability, so far only theoretical, but still considered as a potential to overpower the other.
Ironically, after the war, both nations might find themselves standing on land where building any kind of society, be it closed or open, is impossible. Frightening and frustrating equalization might then reign between the two ways of life, seeing nothing making sense. Would it be a relief to any of the parties if they found some theoretical justification for their social and political ideals? Probably not. The only thing that might matter could be their regret that they gave external influence of any sort a chance to destroy their mutual love and understanding, built over the duration of centuries. But they missed that regret, focusing instead on their newly-born ideological differences, which have already taken hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.
Social changes have the potential to bring in instabilities, and instability has a proclivity to chip away at national freedom and prosperity. In the historically tolerant relations that Russia and Ukraine long enjoyed, neither the advantage of individualism nor the disadvantage of zero cultural pluralism meant much. The only difference-maker would have been recognition of the new geopolitical exigencies brought around by the astonishingly altered times. The two sister nations have all of a sudden created a clearly insurmountable chasm between them, but not without the help of those who think that for human happiness one should necessarily recognize the difference between two types of societies, closed and open. These are the two images of our reality, and who knows which is better: Giving nations a chance to make their own choices, or imposing one of these models on unsuspecting peoples? Let’s not exclude that the goal of both models should be to let people live well. And the solution might very well be found in a third way, especially in our world of crazy technological progress and consequential changes.
Op-Ed by Nugzar B. Ruhadze