Thursday, 24 November 2022

Why It Makes No Sense For Russia To Agree To A Ceasefire In Ukraine Now

In his article "Ukraine: The Other Side Of The Story", author Paul Heywood-Smith has taken a refreshingly different position on the conflict than the conventional Western one. He has made a genuine attempt to understand the situation from Russia's perspective, and ends the article with a call for a ceasefire.

Russia should cease all current operations to not only bring more territory under its control, but also to weaken the Ukrainian resolve by attacking infrastructure.

Ukraine should cease all military operations to expel Russians from such territory as they are in control of.

And third parties, particularly the US, the UK, European and Nato countries, Canada and Australia, should cease providing weapons and materials which enable the war to continue.

From a humanitarian perspective, I'm all for an immediate ceasefire that will end the killing and destruction at once. In fact, the war should never have been allowed to happen. The US bears primary responsibility for provoking Russia with existential security threats and supporting the extreme persecution of Russians in Eastern Ukraine. (Read this detailed analysis if you don't agree.)

The humanitarian perspective notwithstanding, I don't believe it makes any sense for Russia to agree to a ceasefire at this stage. The following excerpts from my tweets, suitably elaborated, will explain why.

From Russia's perspective, it is poised to inflict such a crushing blow on Ukraine, NATO, Europe and the US that it can demand virtually anything next year.

Ukraine is not just a theatre of military conflict. It will permanently alter global perceptions and hence the world order. This is Russia's chance to show up the US-led West as a loser that no country will side with hereafter. Why stop short of such a victory?

Even today, when it should be clear that Ukraine is on its last legs, Western commentary talks about "Putin's miscalculation", "Russia's futile war", etc. The Western media narrative is deliberately divorced from reality. A ceasefire at this stage will expectedly be spun as a Russian defeat.

Russia needs to pursue the war to the point when reality can no longer be denied, and the West's lies are exposed for what they are. At that point, the West's defeat at the hands of the Russia-China alliance will be complete.

That's why I believe a ceasefire now is not in Russia's interest.

Some may argue that the West, or at least the moderate sections of Western society, need to agree to this change in the world order. There is a further view that these voices are more likely to be influenced by China's peaceful, development-based approach rather than a Russian military victory.

I have two points against this argument.

1. The Russian and Chinese approaches are complementary. Russia is showing up the West's impotence, while China is holding up an alternative model based on development & trade as opposed to conflict. Since it's clear that Russia and China are on the same side, the West doubly loses.

2. This may sound harsh, but it really doesn't matter what any faction in the West thinks, once the world order has been demonstrably changed. The West is simply not as relevant as it likes to believe. Power has been shifting eastwards for years, but perceptions tend to lag reality. It will take a dramatic event such as a comprehensive Western rout in Ukraine to make it obvious to everyone that the world has permanently changed.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

My Letter To PM-Elect Anthony Albanese (May 21, 2022)

I wrote a letter to Anthony Albanese on the eve of his election victory on May 21, 2022.

In it, I outlined my hopes and expectations as an Australian citizen for the path his government would take, in a decisive break from the disastrous direction of his predecessor Scott Morrison.

I'm making this public now because I'm disappointed that Albo seems to have been coopted by unelected powers, just as previous governments have been. This post by Bruce Haigh explains just how bad things have now become.

My letter:

Subject: Congratulations from a first-time Labor voter, and a manifesto challenge for you

Dear Albo,

Congratulations on your landslide victory!

Although I have been a loyal paid-up member of the Australian Democrats for over two decades, I crossed the floor today to vote for you, and I am now taking the liberty of writing to ask you to do certain things.

You have the mandate of the Australian people, Albo, and you can and should grasp the nettle and announce some bold changes in direction early on, while you still have the initiative and the momentum. All opposition will crumble if you display boldness and determination.

1. Reset the relationship with China:

It's high time Australia stopped fighting other countries' wars! We've fought Britain's wars in the last century, and we've since switched loyalties to fight America's wars. We have not covered ourselves in glory by joining the US in Vietnam, or in the invasion of Iraq. Australian foreign policy ought to be made in the interests of the Australian people, not in the interests of foreign governments.

The Morrison government has made an indecorous lurch towards the US by scrapping a deal with France, and signing up to a dangerous policy of nuclear confrontation with China by purchasing nuclear submarines. His government has also plunged us into a trade war with China, our biggest trading partner, in a further bid to please the US. In return for our pains, the US has thrown us under the bus by replacing Australian exports in the Chinese market with their own.

Enough!

I want you to re-establish communications with President Xi Jinping at the earliest and normalise our relations with Asia's most important power. We should be aware that we are just a middle-ranking power, and should therefore be extremely wary of being drawn into a conflict between superpowers that will only damage us. The task before the Australian government in this area is two-fold:

- Keep the country out of any conflict between the United States and China. It's not our war, and it would be highly irresponsible on the part of any Australian government to plunge us into a conflict that will only do us enormous damage. - Re-establish favourable trading relations with China so we can both increase revenue from our exports, and tackle domestic inflation through the import of affordable Chinese goods.

(I'm of Indian origin, not Chinese, so I have no personal bias in saying all of this.)

Oh, and there's this sneaky lobbying outfit for the American arms industry that pretends to be a respectable policy think tank, and which illegitimately influences Australian defence and foreign policy to the detriment of the interests of our own people. Yes, I'm talking about the ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute). Declare this an illegal organisation and shut them down. Expel their foreign employees. Investigate their treasonous activities. They have been doing great damage to Australia's interests by controlling our governments and turning Australia into a US client state for their proxy conflicts.

2. Make a strong and unequivocal commitment to renewable energy:

You need to make an early statement that is symbolically powerful. I suggest you produce a lump of coal in parliament (like Morrison did), but throw it forcefully into a dustbin!

Follow that up with clear and ambitious targets to phase out fossil fuels from every sector of the economy.

Renewables are cost-effective and ready to go. The only thing missing is Federal Government support. It's time for you to change that, and dramatically. The foot-dragging by past governments has been utterly shameful.

3. Tackle housing affordability:

Everybody knows the dirty little secret of why housing affordability isn't being seriously tackled. The flip side of making houses affordable for new buyers is making asset prices stagnate or drop for existing home-owners. In other words, you can't please one set without displeasing the other.

So far, the home-owner crowd has been calling the shots because we're the establishment. But as a home-owner myself, let me tell you that I don't mind a stagnation or drop in asset prices if it will help hundreds of thousands of young individuals and couples buy their first home. It's shameful for a problem of affordability to be dragging on for so long in a supposedly prosperous country, and it's time a government did something about it.

Hint: we all know that tinkering with the demand side like providing first home-owner grants only fuels demand and leads to a further rise in prices. The only thing that will work to reduce prices is an increase in supply. Release more crown land, at a faster rate than before. It will absolutely piss off existing home-owners, but you'll be on the right side of history.

There are lots of other problems you'll have to tackle, of course. The old demons of inflation, unemployment and underinvestment in public services. But those are problems with known solutions, and need little imagination or courage from a leader.

The issues I've outlined require true leadership.

I have placed my trust in you with my vote, Albo. I hope you'll rise to the occasion.

All the best!

Ganesh C Prasad (Federal constituency of Mitchell, NSW)

Sunday, 16 October 2022

Why Marriage Is Hard Work - Two Psychometric Models Provide An Answer

This insight crept up on me rather gradually. There is a fundamental tension that is inherent in the necessary ingredients of a successful marriage, and it takes conscious effort to overcome this tension.

Two psychometric models explain this tension well, and their creators are Donald O. Clifton and William Edward "Ned" Herrmann. I learnt about both of these models as a result of short courses that I had the privilege to be nominated for during my career. I probably wouldn't have come across them otherwise.

1. "Strengths-Based Psychology" by Donald O. Clifton

The testing tool invented by Donald Clifton has been known by several names - The Gallup Test, StrengthsFinder, Gallup Strengths Assessment and Clifton Strengths Test.

It describes 34 themes that make up a person's personality.

  1. Achiever - a constant need for achievement
  2. Activator - impatience for action
  3. Adaptability- ability to respond to the demands of the moment
  4. Analytical - objective and data-driven
  5. Arranger - ability to manage all the variables in a complex situation to produce the most productive configuration
  6. Belief - possessing enduring core values
  7. Command - ability to take charge
  8. Communication - ability to make people listen to you
  9. Competition - the desire to win
  10. Connectedness - awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings, and the resulting sense of responsibility
  11. Consistency - preference for balance, fairness, predictability
  12. Context - orientedness due to an ability to join the dots
  13. Deliberative - risk-aware and careful
  14. Developer - ability to see potential in everyone
  15. Discipline - dealing with an unpredictable world through structure that you impose
  16. Empathy - seeing the world through the eyes of others
  17. Focus - having a clear destination
  18. Futuristic - inspiration from what can be
  19. Harmony - ability to find common ground and reduce conflict
  20. Ideation - the ability to find new perspectives to explain phenomena and address challenges
  21. Includer - accepting of all, non-judgemental
  22. Individualisation - ability to draw out the best in each person
  23. Input - tendency to collect facts and objects in the hope that they will one day prove useful
  24. Intellection - introspective, fond of thinking
  25. Learner - excited by new knowledge
  26. Maximiser - in constant quest of excellence
  27. Positivity - contagious enthusiasm
  28. Relator - trusting, sharing, risk-taking in vulnerability
  29. Responsibility - taking ownership of tasks
  30. Restorative - energized by challenge, finds solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems
  31. Self-Assurance - confidence not only in one's abilities but also in one's judgement, natural acceptance of accountability
  32. Significance - need to stand out, to be recognised, a striving to be exceptional
  33. Strategic - ability to see patterns where others see complexity, to see around the next corner, to make selections that work
  34. WOO - Winning Others Over, can break the ice, strike up conversations with strangers and making connections

I learnt about the Strengths-based model in the context of organisational team-building. I learnt to accept that people weren't all the same, that they had different strengths, and that rather than try to fix weaknesses in their people, the aim of a manager should be to put together teams of people with complementary strengths, so that the team as a whole could deliver effectively on all its tasks.

This was a rather refreshing approach to management. I had heard of the approach of "playing to one's strengths" in the context of individual self-development, but I was hearing it for the first time in the context of team-building. Organisations need not worry too much about deficiencies in their people. They just have to make sure that their teams as a whole are able to make up for the deficiencies of the individuals they're comprised of.

For example, I worked in the IT Architecture division of several companies, and our job was to "guide investment and design decisions around technology". Not everyone in our team had identical strengths. For example, some were deep thinkers who could come up with innovative models, but who lacked the ability to communicate these ideas effectively and convince other people. There were other people in the team, though, who may not have had the same ability to create models, but who could create effective visualisations of these models such that they were instantly understandable to decision-makers. Together, these two groups of very different people were effective in creating and communicating innovative solutions to the rest of the organisation. That was a practical example to me of complementary skills being effective in an organisational context.

2. The "Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument" by William Herrmann

To my mind, the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is a far more insightful and useful model than the two other models commonly used by organisations - Myers-Briggs Personality Types and the DISC Profile. Unfortunately, this excellent test is not available free of charge, and it is usually only administered through organisational sponsorship.

HBDI identifies four unique thinking styles that people tend to use in various combinations. Some people have a single, dominant thinking style. Others have a combination of two, three or all four, with each style having a certain "weight" relative to the other three.

Each thinking style is given a colour code.

  • Blue - Logical, Analytical, Fact-based, Quantitative
  • Yellow - Holistic, Intuitive, Integrating, Synthesising
  • Red - Interpersonal, Feeling-based, Kinesthetic, Emotional
  • Green - Organised, Sequential, Detailed, Risk-aware

These thinking styles are then mapped to the four quadrants of a circle, with blue on the top left, yellow on the top right, red on the bottom right, and green on the bottom left.

Thus, blue and red are in opposing quadrants, just as yellow and green are in opposing quadrants. These pairs of thinking styles are completely "opposite" to one another.

More interesting are the adjacent thinking styles. They have certain common traits. The reason is that the four directions of the circle represent certain modes of thinking.

  • Left - The "left brain", realistic and commonsensical
  • Right - The "right brain", idealistic and intuitive
  • Top - the "cerebral" brain, cognitive and pragmatic
  • Bottom - the "limbic" brain, visceral and instinctual

Adjacent colours therefore have a certain affinity.

  • Blue and Yellow are both cerebral rather than limbic. They think cognitively about things rather than react viscerally.
  • Yellow and Red are both right-brained. They rely on feeling and intuition rather than pure logic.
  • Red and Green are both limbic rather than cerebral. They have instinctive reactions to situations.
  • Green and Blue are both left-brained. They are grounded and realistic.

One of the core themes in a course on HBDI (after all participants have been tested and assessed as to which quadrant(s) they belong to) is the challenge of communication. In an organisation, people need to communicate with others, explain their perspectives on situations, negotiate for resources, convince decision-makers in favour of one or another option, etc. When people have very different thinking styles, they can often talk past one another instead of connecting. This is because people are used to expressing ideas from their own perspective, and this perspective may make little sense to a person with a very different thinking style, who is used to seeing things in a very different way.

Effective communication requires a knowledge of the other person's thinking style, and a formulation of one's argument in terms the other person can naturally understand.

Communication between people with thinking styles in adjacent quadrants is relatively easier than communication between people in opposite quadrants. They can rely on certain common thinking modes to find common ground. It is a far more difficult task for people in opposite quadrants to be able to communicate meaningfully.

It is common for people in the Blue quadrant to believe that they are "superior" thinkers, but the HBDI consultants take great pains to emphasise that this is not so. None of these four thinking styles is "superior" to any other. Each has its own strengths. It is necessary for people to treat their colleagues with respect, regardless of what their predominant thinking style is, and to make honest efforts to communicate with them in a way the other person can understand.

Marriage and the Confluence of the two Models

It struck me somewhere along the journey of my own marriage that the notions of complementary strengths and thinking styles were both hugely relevant to the way my wife and I interpreted life events and responded to them. We have had arguments and conflicts, and we have also had successes and triumphs. This is the distillation of my thoughts.

Marriage is fundamentally teamwork. Two individuals embark on a lifelong project together, and they deal with a multitude of challenges as they go along, with specific tasks and deliverables expected at various life stages. Building meaningful careers, balancing life and work, raising children, buying a home, investing for retirement, dealing with the pressures of extended family, dealing with unexpected events like illnesses, job stress, financial hardship, etc., are part of the never-ending sequence of life events that a couple must confront and overcome together.

It is unrealistic to expect that each of the individuals in a marriage is a perfectly balanced individual with all the strengths required to deal with life's vicissitudes. The most pragmatic solution is therefore for the couple to have complementary strengths, so that between the two of them, they have the ability to deal with a greater proportion of challenges than either of them could alone.

However, complementary strengths come with their own inherent problem, and this is the tension I referred to earlier. Strengths are related to thinking styles, and complementary strengths are likely to be related to thinking styles in opposite quadrants. As we know, communication is difficult between people with different thinking styles, because they see situations very differently, and find it hard to understand or convince the other of their respective points of view.

It may seem ideal for a couple to have identical thinking styles. They can then understand each other most naturally, and the possibility of conflict between them may seem low. But two people who think alike are likely to share the same blind spots. Over the long haul, as they face a multitude of different life challenges, it is possible that they may make some costly mistakes because in their case, two heads are no better than one. Mistakes and failures can then introduce a different set of stresses into the marriage.

It may seem depressing to conclude that there is no ideal marriage, after all. A couple needs to have complementary strengths to be able to negotiate life's challenges successfully over the long haul, yet complementary strengths imply different thinking styles, which make communication a challenge.

It needn't be depressing at all, though! The flip side of the coin is that a couple who put in the effort to understand each other's thinking styles, and who consciously learn to communicate in a way that the other can understand, can get the best of both worlds. They can function effectively as a team, and kick goal after goal.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Movie Review - Three Thousand Years Of Longing

[No spoilers, don't worry.]

I saw this movie earlier this evening at the cinemas, and thought it was interesting enough to write about.

This won't be my usual style of review. That's because I see this movie as being composed of two layers - an original plot premise, and a certain style of execution.

I'll first extract that plot premise as I understand it, and lay it out for you in distilled form.

Then I'll try to tease out the various core themes and lines of tension that the plot presents, which may then suggest various creative means to resolve them.

Finally, I'll evaluate how well the movie actually delivered on this plot premise, both in terms of storytelling and in terms of cinematography.

Plot premise

The protagonist is a modern-day single woman, a middle-aged professional who has seen a few ups and downs in her life and reached a stage of philosophical equanimity. The story begins when she comes across an interesting-looking bottle in a Middle Eastern bazaar during one of her travels, and buys it. Back in her hotel room, she opens the bottle and out comes a genie who grants her three wishes.

The interesting twist here is that the woman is genuinely contented and does not wish for anything, which surprises the genie.

Besides, she has heard too many stories (and jokes) about this wish-granting business ending badly, to risk falling into the same trap.

The genie needs her to make three wishes, otherwise he will never be free. He understands that the stories she has heard have made her suspicious of genies as tricksters. He then tells her his own life story, about the three times he ended up being imprisoned in the bottle.

The woman then does something.

That's the plot premise. The job of the storywriter is to flesh this out into a captivating story.

Core themes and lines of tension

1. The inner tension between contentment and making a wish - what happens? Does one triumph over the other, or is there another creative way to resolve this conflict?

2. The suspicion that genies are tricky characters not to be trusted - is this suspicion justified? The story could take either tack and run with it.

3. What stories would the genie tell the woman? Ostensibly, they are just a narrative of whatever happened to him, but their ulterior purpose is to overcome her reluctance to make three wishes. So what would the stories be? Would they be true stories, lies, or half-truths? Put together, what course of action would they compel her to take?

4. How would the movie's finale resolve all of these tensions satisfactorily? The genie's selfish motives, the unresolved question of the genie's own trustworthiness, the woman's suspicion of making wishes, her genuine contentment and absence of desire, and the suggested cumulative moral of the genie's three stories - how would they all play out?

Execution

To put it bluntly, the movie disappointed me, because I have grown to expect far more intelligent and creative storytelling approaches in modern films. Any number of talented storywriters could have picked up this plot premise and run with it in different brilliant directions.

First, the genie's own stories, while mildly interesting, did not seem to provide any significant lessons. Neither did they provide plot elements that played out in the present day with the protagonist.

Second, the events in the present day, while touching upon elements of modernity, science and technology, did not leverage them in any meaningful way. An early scene shows a speaker on a stage talking about storytelling and narrative, and suggests that advances in modern science and our understanding of the world have dispelled many of the mysteries that in earlier days were attributed to metaphysical phenomena. This is an extremely intriguing idea that makes us wonder how the genie phenomenon would be explained in scientific terms in today's world, but this is dealt with in a very superficial and unconvincing way. Hand-waving about electromagnetism and organic matter isn't enough for an audience used to sophisticated science-fiction.

Third, the protagonist's core character was not leveraged effectively enough. There should have been a dramatic development that both resolved a moral dilemma and heightened the audience's appreciation of her character. If there was one, it was rather weak.

Fourth, there was no satisfying denouement that closed the narrative loop, no "Chekhov's gun" earlier in the plot, for example, that popped up again at the climax to play a pivotal role.

In short, the storytelling was disappointing.

The cinematography was vivid and colourful, providing a swift panorama of Middle Eastern "history" over three thousand years to the present day. This part was well done. (If I had to make a wish, it would be never to be born into a palace. The stress induced by all the intrigues would get to me long before any assassins could.)

Final score: 3 stars out of 5. That's for the original plot premise and the cinematography. Better creativity in fleshing out the plot would have earned it a 4 or a 4.5.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Professor Joseph Stiglitz's Talk At UTS

I got an email announcing that the Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz was in Australia, and that he would be addressing a crowd at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) on Thursday the 7th of July. So I registered for this free event and turned up for it. It was a strictly one-hour affair, which drastically reduced the time allowed for audience questions.

Prof. Stiglitz made the following points, and I took quick notes. (He said he was going to make 5 points, but then he made 6.)

1. Human progress was static for centuries, then standards of living and life expectancy started to increase rapidly after the 18th century. The reason is science and technology, and societies have learnt to organise themselves to harness science and technology. An important mindset that we gained from the Enlightenment was that progress is possible. Enlightenment values include democracy and tolerance for other viewpoints. In the US, these enlightenment values are being challenged today. What is at stake is every aspect of our progress including democracy. We need to re-learn the values of the Enlightenment.

2. Innovation cannot be taken for granted. It is endogenous. We can hasten or undermine it through our conscious choices.

3. Since Adam Smith, many economists have believed that markets would lead to progress in society. In the 1950s, the economist Gerard Debreu (later a Nobel laureate himself) studied under what conditions this would occur. He realised that information wasn't perfect, and markets weren't perfect. Along with Bruce Greenwald, Stiglitz himself argued that markets weren't always good for society. Innovation isn't automatic. Joseph Schumpeter argued that competition spurred innovation. He was wrong (in more than one way, actually), because it didn't always spur the right kind of innovation. For example, reducing labour isn't as important as reducing carbon emissions, but because markets reward labour-reducing innovations, those tend to occur more. Social returns are not the same as private returns. Curing malaria is more important than stopping hair loss, because millions of people die of malaria every year. But these deaths occur in poor countries, and the people there don't have the money to pay for a cure. But rich and insecure men have plenty of money to spend on hair loss prevention techniques, hence the latter area sees more market funding for innovation. There are also "me-too" innovations that are intended just to sidestep patents. They don't add any additional value socially. Markets also stay away from risky investments. Hence some of the most important innovations come from the public sector, because governments aren't that risk-averse. Knowledge is a public good. It shouldn't be hoarded, but private enterprises tend to keep knowledge to themselves, which isn't good for society. Thomas Jefferson said a candle doesn't diminish if it lights another. Government needs to get larger as we become a science-based society.

4. Research is an enquiry into the unknown. There will be failures. If a process doesn't see enough failure, it's not exploring boldly enough. The US government gave Tesla a lot of money, and that's why Tesla became successful. In Stiglitz's opinion, the government should have bought shares in Tesla instead of just giving the company money, so that the public would have got a return on its investment. Incidentally, government tends to get a higher return on its investments compared to the private sector. Although people say government should get out of the business of doing business, this is not justified based on results.

5. Government should not only support basic research, but should also steer the private sector. However, industrial policy is controversial. People say, "Governments shouldn't pick winners." But this happens anyway. Governments' decisions are always steering the economy. When people aren't paying attention, special interests end up steering the economy. Like derivatives which exploded. Derivatives got first preference when companies went bankrupt. This was a law passed through Congress because of lobbying by financial firms. So if governments are going to have an impact anyway, it's better that it make conscious steering decisions, such as adopting an education policy, a tax policy, etc., which would result in societal benefits. Current tax policy steers the economy towards saving labour, which creates more unemployment at a time when people are suffering economic hardship. Saving on labour does not result in societal well-being.

6. Government is beginning to talk about "well-being budgeting". Markets may be maximising profits and GDP, but not societal well-being. Technology policy is an important part of public policy.

After his talk, there was a brief discussion with a panel member, who asked a couple of questions, and Prof. Stiglitz answered.

There was time for just one audience question. I had a question, but didn't get a chance to ask it.

For what it's worth, this would have been my question.

"Prof. Stiglitz, you spoke about societal well-being, and you also touched upon democracy. One of the intriguing phenomena in today's world is -- China. China is not a democracy in the way we understand democracy, but after the death of Mao Zedong, all subsequent Chinese governments seem to have been very focused on improving the quality of life of the Chinese people. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in a single generation. The government executes a series of Five Year Plans, all of which are focused on investing in sectors that require the most attention. For example, China lays thousands of kilometres of high-speed rail every year. This is particularly relevant to us in Sydney because we have seen our government take years and spend billions of dollars just to build a few hundred kilometres of metro rail. China seems to get more bang for the buck. We pride ourselves on our democracy, and we believe that democracy is about responsive government that delivers good governance, but it seems to me that a non-democratic government like China is showing up democratic ones in terms of the societal well-being that it has been able to deliver to its people in just a few decades.

What are your thoughts on this?"

Saturday, 16 April 2022

A Logo Suggestion For Fibonacci Coffee

There is a brand of coffee in Australia called Fibonacci Coffee. The logo has a nice spiral, indicating that the owners are well aware of the Fibonacci series and its mathematical characteristics.

It struck me that the logo and brand name could do with a subtle tweak that further reinforced its mathematical pedigree.

I believe I suggested this to them a while ago on some forum but didn't hear back from them.

Oh, well.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

The Wrath Of Revenge That Russia's Rulers Rue (How A Wronged Brother, Father And Grandfather Came Back To Haunt A Country)

A videoclip I recently saw provided some fascinating insights into the possible motivations of Victoria Nuland, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Biden government, who was formerly Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs when Obama was in power. It's almost two hours long, but worth listening to.

Victoria Nuland, of course, is known for her role in the 2014 coup in Ukraine, and was recently in the news for her embarrassing gaffe over American-funded bioresearch labs in Ukraine.

The video by Gonzalo Lira was revealing, because I didn't realise that Victoria Nuland has ethnic Russian origins. Why would she be working so hard against her native country then? Put simply, it's revenge, and I'll elaborate on this further on. But importantly, the video got me thinking about three different people from three consecutive generations of Russians who were motivated by revenge against the government or even the common people of Russia, because of what had been done to their families at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Lenin, or Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov

It's well-known to all who have read Lenin's biography that his older brother Alexander, whom he adored, was executed by the government of Romanov Tsar Nicholas II for his role in a royal assassination plot.

Vladimir Ulyanov was already into the revolutionary movement in 1887 when his brother was executed, and that event is said to have greatly increased his fervour and determination to see the Tsar overthrown. Thirty years later in 1917, he finally succeeded. A few months after Lenin's Bolsheviks won power, the entire Romanov family was assassinated in the basement of the house where they were being held.

Ayn Rand, or Alisa Rosenbaum

Ayn Rand, the high priestess of Capitalism, was born in 1905 to a Russian Jewish family in St Petersburg. Her father was a pharmacist with his own shop. In 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power, they confiscated his business. She stayed on in the Soviet Union until she completed university in 1924, then shortly left on a visit visa to the United States, never to return.

We know how her early experiences with Communism shaped her attitudes towards the ideology.

Victoria Nuland

Victoria Nuland is the daughter of Sherwin Nuland, who was born Shepsel Ber Nudelman. Sherwin's father was Meyer Nudelman, who lived in Moldova, part of the Russian Empire. In 1907, the infamous anti-Semitic Kishinev Pogrom occurred, in which several Jewish people were killed. After that, Meyer Nudelman fled to the United States. His son Sherwin and granddaughter Victoria were born in the US.

As Gonzalo Lira's video explains, Meyer Nudelman appears to have had a major influence on both his son and his granddaughter. Victoria Nuland tellingly studied Russian Literature, Political Science and History for her BA degree from Brown University.

In time, she joined the US Diplomatic Service, and her actions in recent years have all been aimed at hurting Russia.

Revenge and Russia

Three tales of revenge, one from each generation, show us that Russia continues to reap the fruits of what it sowed in the early twentieth century.

It appears that revenge is a dish that can be served hot, lukewarm or cold.