So, it started with this video.
I’d never heard of Ivan Ilyin, so the entirety of my knowledge derives from whatever Tim Snyder conveys in this clip. The risk is that he may misrepresent Ilyin’s message, much like Stephen Hicks misrepresents Postmodernism in his work. So, if you’ve got a deeper understanding of Ilyin, apologies in advance, but I am only reacting to this clip without much intention of reading his published work not performing additional second-hand research. Sue me.
Snyder raises three ‘important ideas’ from Ilyin:
/1/ Social advancement is impossible
Each person is like a cell in a body, each having it’s defined function or purpose. So, freedom means knowing one’s place, which function to perform.
/2/ Democracy is a ritual
People vote, but they only vote to affirm their collective support for a leader. The leader is not legitimated or chosen by votes. Voting is just a ritual by which people people endorse a leader every few years.
/3/ The factual world doesn’t count
The manifest world is not real. It’s a mishmash of facts, which have no intrinsic value, but these facts cannot be unified into some larger whole.
Nothing is real, or what is real isn’t important. The only things that really matter are preferences and biases.
Through this, Ilyin surmises that the only true thing is Russian Nationalism and its role as saviour to bring order back to the world.
Of course, this conclusion is precisely the one to which the US arrived except that its American Nationalism is the correct version.
. . .
As to points 1 and 2, I can’t disagree with the base statements. Social advancement is impossible because we’ve got nothing to measure it against. As I’ve said before, we move recognise change and a sense of movement, but movement is not progress.
As I’ve already admitted, I don’t enough about Ilyid, so I am taking Snyder’s statement at face-value, but it does not follow that because social advancement is impossible, we need to adopt some deontological position that freedom means knowing one’s place. It’s a bit of a forced non sequitur.
Democracy is a ritual. It’s a failed experiment, and the only thing that remains is the shell of an empty promise. I do think that the voting serves to legitimise the representative figurehead. There are persons who debate the legitimacy of, say, Bush-43 or Trump-45—or perhaps just their competencies—but this is a twenty-first century phenomenon, as US politics have become more and more divisive.
That the factual world doesn’t count is difficult for me to buy into. In many ways, it is easy enough to manipulate people with non-facts masquerading as facts, but I am not convinced that this contingent is large enough to gain critical mass in the long run. I understand history well enough that these anti-fact forces have run roughshod over entire civilisations, whether the Inquisitions or witch-burning or current religious organisations and other snake oil hawkers.
Like the characters in Orwell’s 1984 or Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, there is still resistance. I’m not even trying to make the claim that my vision of a world absent of superstition is the true world or the right vision. I am only claiming that my vision of a world without it is more pleasant to me.
But, then again, that just confirm’s Ilyid’s point that the only thing that matters is preference, and there is no separating bias from preference.