Reaction: Putin prepares Russia for ‘forever war’ with west as Ukraine invasion stalls

Reading the Guardian’s article “Putin prepares Russia for ‘forever war’ with west as Ukraine invasion stalls about Putin’s future plans of ongoing war, insecurity and conflict reminds me of all the hundreds of wonderful Russian students that I taught English to in England over the years. Many of those students were delighted to have been given the opportunity to study English in a native-English speaking country. Like all students that experience a foreign culture whilst immuring themselves in local culture, they were often captivated, delighted and challenged by our local English ways. But now somehow a swift and ridged division has been wedged between us with Putin’s global politics. No longer are we students and teachers or cultural explorers, but Easterners and Westerners; sworn enemies by nobody’s choice other than Putin and his inner-circle.

I look back to those days and wonder if those students were hiding something from us English teachers? Perhaps they had a plan that was much more immediate that they were letting onto? That kind of Cold War paranoia is the kind of thinking that Putin wants us to begin thinking with. He wants us to re-evaluate the recent past and treat one another not as civilians of the world but as potential spies, enemy forces and familiar comrades. Putin want Russians to become xenophobic and paranoid about the West. He wants us to feel anxious and fearful of one another. Through his lenses, I could once again meet any one of those hundreds of students that I have taught English to and rather than saying: “Hey, Mr Addicott, I remember studying English with you…”, that student might press a button or pull a trigger to destroy me, and unimaginably the same vice versa.

What stands between us common people are the outlooks, thoughts and philosophies of leaders – the ruling class. Our lives are determined by their decisions and minds changed by their propaganda. People sometimes criticise grand-theorists as “they-sayers” – broad thinkers who always pin the blame of a small, faceless circle of elites who hold almost deterministic powers over the decision-making abilities and free will of each individual. We can now begin to talk about the power elite because more clearly than now these people have faces and voices. We can see the corrupt leaders, the crooked politicians, the greedy oligarchs and get to understand their relationships with other leaders, state systems and private firms.

We can also realise that the East vs West division that they deploy to hold us in opposition to one another is not the division that they always adhere to. Their only opposing is oppositional leaders and then themselves set well apart from those who are ruled.  Economic slaves, managerial puppets and cannon fodder are our uniting characteristics in their eyes. To conclude that “we shouldn’t buy into their lies” or “open your eyes” underestimates the sheer strength of their power in determining our livers and our livelihoods. We are little more than pawns in their game and the best we can do is to try to get along with the people we all encounter in our everyday lives.

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