by Quantum Bird* for the Saker Blog
After addressing a number of challenging and current issues, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladmir Putin, in his extensive and detailed speech at the XVIII Valdai Discussion Club Meeting in Sochi, explained that:
“I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we will be guided by a healthy conservatism. That was a few years ago, when passions on the international arena were not yet running as high as they are now, although, of course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed – precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us.
This conservative approach is not about an ignorant traditionalism, a fear of change or a restraining game, much less about withdrawing into our own shell. It is primarily about reliance on a time-tested tradition, the preservation and growth of the population, a realistic assessment of oneself and others, a precise alignment of priorities, a correlation of necessity and possibility, a prudent formulation of goals, and a fundamental rejection of extremism as a method.”
Putin’s speech, which deserved close scrutiny across the global geopolitical spectrum, was relatively ignored by Brazilian alternative and corporate media outlets – which is rather worrying, given the pertinence of the president’s remarks for the Brazilian political conjuncture. Still, the contents of some discussions in popular Telegram groups, on the left or on the right of the ideological spectrum, suggests that the statement may have been widely misunderstood.
For those interested, Pepe Escobar and Andrei Raevsky have written excellent analyses of the entire speech, from geopolitical and domestic perspectives, respectively. This text exclusively examines the excerpt quoted above, from a perspective closer to the Brazilian public.
The impact of postmodernism on the Western cultural and philosophical landscape is no secret. Much less discussed, however, is the relationship between politics, values and the methodology of postmodernist thought, which notoriously privileges discourse and subjectivism, often radically detached from objective reality.
Therefore, it is in this relationship that are the crucial elements to understand Putin’s speech and its relation to the current Brazilian political and cultural situation. In recent years, cognitive relativism — another notorious postmodernist ingredient — has given rise to supposedly liberal political doctrines, which reform from the notion of the state to parameters of individual identity. As Putin explained very well, once consensual characteristics such as biological genders, cultural identities, idiomatic expressions, the importance of family and natality have been reformulated.
This changing landscape is far from static. It’s not even partially static, with changes followed by periods of stability. Indeed, it is the fluidity with which values and definitions change that is its most striking feature. The recurrence of changes is another factor. Together, these aspects have produced a mass of individuals confused about the most varied aspects of their existence: their gender, racial identities, ideological profile, etc. Not surprisingly, once subjected to this whirlwind of change, the individual loses his references. The result is, on the one hand, a diffuse anomie, and on the other, an amorphous social unrest. Both favor the proliferation of extremisms that foster fragmentation and political instability.
In the Brazil of 2021, for example, the political spectrum is polarized between an extremist pseudo-national-conservatism, represented by the current president and supported by military sectors and Pentecostal churches of dubious reputation, and a predominantly liberal left, mainly interested in identity politics and the local replication of North American’s woke agenda. In political institutions, morality, privileges for minorities, (non) vaccination against COVID-19 are warmly discussed, while the country’s assets are being liquidated, amidst the most complete corruption, without any popular mobilization or minimal public debate about it. It is worth remembering that not so long ago, the political agenda was dominated by left and right punitivism.
Needless to say, a country with an alienated population, without clear references and a precise civilizing paradigm, becomes fertile ground for intervention by foreign actors, via hybrid and cognitive wars, color revolutions and other efforts that always result in social chaos, economic devastation and regime change. The healthy conservatism, to which Putin referred, would do very well to Brazil at this time, as it would deny, at a structural level, the opportunities for developments that have severely degraded life in the country, without suppressing, or undermining, the efforts to consolidate a safe and prosperous nation for its people.
*Quantum Bird is a computer scientist and experimental particle physicist, working a CERN and other major scientific collaborations.
1) The article in Portuguese is available at:
2) Translation to English by Quantum Bird and Lady Bharani.