May 1st 2014

Russia secretly invades: Déja-vu in the Eastern Ukraine

by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is a music critic with particular interest in piano. 

Johnson worked as a reporter and editor in New York, Moscow, Paris and London over his journalism career. He covered European technology for Business Week for five years, and served nine years as chief editor of International Management magazine and was chief editor of the French technology weekly 01 Informatique. He also spent four years as Moscow correspondent of The Associated Press. He is the author of five books.

Michael Johnson is based in Bordeaux. Besides English and French he is also fluent in Russian.

You can order Michael Johnson's most recent book, a bilingual book, French and English, with drawings by Johnson:

“Portraitures and caricatures:  Conductors, Pianist, Composers”

 here.

“Ukraine – his Ukraine – was dead, a corpse. No, it was worse. It was gone. It had disappeared, vanished. It had been extinguished and obliterated by the Russians. Only in his final delirium does he dream of rising to fight again for Ukraine’s liberation.”

The closing scene (above) in Alexander Motyl’s disturbing historical book Sweet Snow, published last year, was eerily prophetic. Now, Ukraine is destined to suffer again at the hands of the Russians as the dismemberment of Crimea heralds a new era of tension or possibly worse.

Motyl’s novel takes us back to 1933 when some four million Ukrainians died of forced starvation – punishment for resisting Stalin’s decree merging individual private farms into a grand agricultural scheme. Grain supplies, including seed grain, were confiscated along with all livestock. As Moscow’s enforcers moved on to the next property, uncooperative farmers and their families were left standing in their doorway with nothing left, doomed to a slow death by starvation. Memories linger, and hatred of the Russians remains among most Ukrainians.

The Soviet Union suppressed any mention of the man-made famine until Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost policies came into force. Until then, it had “never happened.” But with Gorbachev, a native of Ukraine, the cover-up was personal. As a boy, he had heard of the horror that killed so many, including his uncle and two sisters. Scholars have since exposed the famine in all its gruesome detail.

Motyl, a professor at Rutgers University, a political scientist, novelist and painter, is Ukrainian by ethnicity and co-author of the thoroughly documented Holodomor Reader, the primary sourcebook on the famine.

I asked Motyl what he thought about Moscow’s new military action in Crimea. “Russia has betrayed Ukraine once again,” he said. When I asked what might come next, he said he fears escalation. “In case of a Russian military assault,” he added, “it’s quite possible that the U.S. would provide arms to Ukraine… and then who knows?” Another Ukrainian friend, a second-generation British woman, is equally pessimistic. “For my father, the Russian was his eternal enemy, responsible for destroying his family and the Ukraine. He could almost have written this chapter of Ukraine’s history.”

Why all the fuss about a peninsula that most Americans could not identify without the help of Google Maps? (Even the New York Times mistakenly wrote that Russia had annexed the entire Ukraine – and published a shame-faced correction three days later.) The answers are complicated. Russians feel entitled for historical reasons to annex Crimea and want free access to their warm water port on the Black Sea. But the West fears a grander Russian strategy of reclaiming other frontier enclaves. Meanwhile, Ukraine, a sovereign nation, is asserting its own right to protect its territory. This triangular struggle cries out for negotiation rather than force.

Many fear that force on the Russian side is already taking place in disguise. The U.S. military has conducted a careful analysis of events in Crimea and the eastern Ukraine. The evidence is compelling: the masked men occupying government buildings are Russian special forces behaving with the discipline of trained commandos.

As Gen. Philip Breedlove, Supreme  Allied Military Commander Europe, wrote recently in Military Times, the pro-Russian activists ”work together in a way that is consistent with troops who are part of a long-standing unit, not spontaneously stood up from a local militia”.

Proof is in the detail. The weapon-handling discipline and professional behavior of these forces is consistent with a trained military force, Breedlove wrote. Rifle muzzles are pointed down, fingers not on triggers, but rather laid across trigger mechanisms.

“Video of these forces at checkpoints shows they are attentive, on their feet, focused on their security tasks, and under control of an apparent leader. This contrasts with typical militia or mob checkpoints, where it's common to see people sitting, smoking, and so forth.”

Finally, he wrote, the weapons and equipment they carry are primarily Russian army issue.

“Any one of the points above taken alone would not be enough to come to a conclusion on this issue, but taken in the aggregate, the story is clear.”

But beyond the military action and the geopolitics considerations, Crimea matters because it is one of the most appealing zones in all of Eastern Europe. I spent a few days in Yalta while a correspondent based in Moscow. I warmly recall the palm trees of a southern clime, and the bulky Russian women, pale from a lifetime of poor food and northern exposure, spilling out of their bikinis as they cavorted on the rocky beaches. Before the Soviets turned it into a workers’ paradise, Crimea attracted the great poets and writers of Russia’s intellectual golden age. Anton Chekhov’s classic Lady with Lapdog is set in Yalta; Mandelstam, Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva were frequent visitors who captured the exotic ambiance in their poetry.

For perspective on this unlikely crisis, it is instructive to contrast Crimea with the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Soviet troops were jeered and insulted as their tanks rolled into Prague. The Russian boys in uniform looked down bewildered at the hostile population. In the present case, the hundreds of thousands of Russians living in Ukraine have embraced the return of Russian influence.

Why? History left ethnic Russians ready to accept the fiction that the Ukrainian marchers in central Kiev were against them. The Kiev demonstrators who deposed President Viktor Yanukovich were characterized as fascists, Nazis, Jews, Muslims and rampant homosexuals. While all those elements participated, it is a cynical caricature to ascribe the values of the movement to them.

To be sure, not everyone in Russia agrees with Putin’s initiative, and thousands have marched in Moscow to protest it. Yet today, a certain level of opposition is acceptable to a super-confident Vladimir Putin. This is new. The Soviet gulag would have long since overflowed with the demonstrators.

British journalist Marc Bennetts provides insight into the modest wave of non-conformity. For his new book Kicking the Kremlin: Russia’s new dissidents and the battle to topple Putin, he spent some time with Alexei Navalny, the lawyer and de facto leader of the opposition. One of Navalny’s incitements to protest rapidly went viral across the internet. It was couched in ringing tones: To fight for your rights is easy and pleasant. There is nothing to be afraid of. Every one of us has the most powerful and only weapon we need – a sense of our own worthiness.

In fact Putin last year picked his moment and stomped on the movement, allowing only medium-sized public protests as a safety valve for the disaffected. Even so, one of the leaders of the 1970s dissident movement, Pavel Litvinov, must look longingly at the changes. He was given seven years internal exile for his tiny protest against the Czechoslovak invasion.

Reading Bennetts’ book would make any journalist from past eras envious. Russia has changed in some important ways. The Internet is 98% free and opposition publications such as New Times circulate unmolested. Putin, for the most part, is “disarmingly honest,” says Bennetts, in such fora as his televised conversations with the nation. True, journalists who probe too deeply into areas that are too sensitive are reprimanded, sometimes arrested, and some have been mysteriously assassinated. But the Moscow press corps of newspaper and broadcast correspondents of the 1960s and 1970s would not recognize the more prosperous Moscow of 2014. In earlier times, we needed a lifeline to the West for food and necessities. Shipments came through Soviet Customs, which questioned or taxed everything. My mother-in-law once mailed a box of artichokes to us. They were confiscated as some kind of potentially dangerous growth. Another officer grabbed a bag of marshmallows and shook it. “What’s this? Oh, maybe it’s for madame’s time of the month?” I said yes, just to save time.

Journalists were hobbled by such tight information restrictions that, to do our job, we were obliged to pool our resources. Good reporters hate doing this. To maintain a spirit of competition, the press corps split itself along two camps: those who relied upon The Associated Press and Reuters, and those who sided with UPI and the French equivalent, Agence France Presse. We all strived to be first with whatever news we could dig up. Bennetts, an experienced reporter, has free access to anyone he wishes to speak with, at least those who want to speak. In our time, however, interviews with officials were out of the question.

We quoted official publications and wove in a balancing historical nugget or two, perhaps dressed up in a quote from a “diplomatic source,” often one’s colleague, wife or self. We were dependent on official reports from TASS and the Soviet press, all of which were openly aimed at furthering the aims of the Soviet state. If we did have a first-hand news source, he or she was likely to have something other than the truth in mind. Inevitably, mistrust of all sources – including dissident sources — became our attitude. There was no contact whatever with the dozen or so men who ruled the country.

An interesting sidelight to Putin’s recent actions is how he and his communications people have justified strong-arm tactics by the use of scare language. One cannot avoid thinking of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, in which he imagined the deformation of language as a political tool. Orwell would have noticed that such terms as “fascist” and “Nazi” have a special resonance in that part of the world, particularly among the middle-aged and elderly.

Pro-Russian campaigners in the breakaway referendum in March went so far as to use the swastika on their billboards as the banner of the looming menace from Kiev. There is no better way to unite the Russian people against a foe – even a fictitious one. Viewed purely as an exercise in linguistics, the snatching of Crimea was brilliantly carried off. Language employed by the Russian occupiers has been so cool, bland and innocent that the takeover was made to seem perfectly normal.

In one formulation that turned truth on its head, Putin graciously “accepted” Crimea’s request to break away for join the Russian Federation. Putin’s predecessors, the Soviets, were past masters at language perversion and drilled their vocabulary into the population for 70 years. Clearly, we now live with their descendants.

Putin himself has now demonstrated his ability to play with words. As he freely acknowledges, “I was a pure and utterly successful product of Soviet patriotic education.” In his post-annexation speech before the Duma he finally made it clear Russia will now be going its own way. I found it striking how his anti-American argument neatly reflected what he had just done in Crimea:“Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right.”

He said he had heard Crimeans say that back in 1991, during the breakup of the Soviet Union, they were “handed over like a sack of potatoes.” He called it “an outrageous historical injustice.”

Putin’s view of the world has evolved considerably since he achieved national prominence in 1999 as president of Russia. Originally courting Western approval, today he marches across front pages worldwide for different reasons. The Sochi Winter Olympics raised his profile, then immediately he did his quixotic about-face and annexed Crimea.

He has become the unlikely darling of his people. Polls at home showed a 72 percent approval rating after the annexation. Fans still buy and read his book of conversations, First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait of Russia’s President, published in 2000. It is neither astonishing nor frank, but it is a fascinating PR gambit. The tactic may be borrowed from Western politicians but it’s entirely new in Russia.

Russia has always been caught between the cultures of east and west, sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, but Putin seemed to know where he wanted to go. One key question posed to him in his book was whether he intended to “search for Russia’s special path.” “We are part of Western European culture,” he said. “No matter where our people live in the Far East or in the South, we are Europeans.” Asked which political leader he considered most interesting, he joked, “Napoleon Bonaparte.” And he has shown no overt interest in trying to rebuild the old Soviet Union. He has said in public, “Whoever misses the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants to see it return has no brain.”

Yet the tables have now turned decisively. He is now intent on building a Eurasian economic union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, and possibly the eastern Ukraine if he makes further acquisitive moves. This would become, as Yale professor Timothy Snyder wrote in the New York Review of Books, “the dictators’ club.” The decadent West is now mocked in the Pro-Putin press as a place with two preoccupations: money and same-sex marriage.

In Orwell’s language of future dictatorships, Newspeak, nuance was stripped out and human thought was hemmed in. The word ”free” could be used only in the concrete sense, as in “This dog is free of fleas.” In his appendix to 1984, Orwell captured the spirit of language distortion. Vocabulary, he wrote, “consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.”

For me, memories of Orwell and Brezhnev surged frequently during this crisis. From my old Moscow office, I watched and wrote about the last Russian military adventure in Europe, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and witnessed the blitz in all its Red Army glory. I translated the three-page spread in Pravda explaining why it was all so sadly necessary. Pravda told us that members of Parliament had begged Russia to intervene to put down the counter-revolution and save socialism. (Terms such as “counter-revolution” and “saving socialism” needed no explanation.) Next thing we knew, the Prague Spring had regressed into a Prague Winter that lasted more than 20 years, and liberal reforms were snuffed out.

A sense of deja-vu permeates Putin’s speech. “The residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives …” he said. “Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.”

And so the new Russian approach achieved the same result by being more sophisticated. Throughout, Russia maintained that it had taken no military action in Crimea. In fact, it was very 1984 — not an invasion at all, just a few thousand masked troops in unmarked uniforms protecting ethnic Russians. A Ukrainian woman amid the tense buildup asked on U.S. television, “What are they protecting us from?”

With blinding speed, a referendum at gunpoint was organized and Russian legalisms were employed to justify the annexation.

Many see the Czechoslovak adventure as the beginning of the end of the Soviet regime. One popular Soviet novelist, Anatoly Kuznetsov, made up his mind on the day of the Czechoslovak invasion that he would find a way to get out, so disgusted was he with the Soviet Army’s repression in Prague. He wangled a trip to London shortly thereafter and managed to defect to British intelligence. Once safely in London in the hands of MI6, he revealed that he was carrying a novel on dozens of strips of 35-millimeter film stitched inside his coat. He went on to publish it in English — Babi Yar, an uncensored account of the Soviet struggle against the Germans in the Ukraine during World War II. He defected, he later wrote, because the invasion proved a turning point in his faith in the socialist dream:“The invasion of Czechoslovakia was very important for us. It was our coming of age. But there was nothing we could do about it. We were completely impotent; we had no stake in the country or in the culture; we had nothing. After that came the long loss of the seventies. It was a time of total cynicism — and of alcohol.”

No such reaction is evident from the annexation of Crimea. Fireworks, parades and rallies celebrated the act.

Kuznetsov’s Babi Yar had previously been published in Moscow but only after heavy censorship. The text now in English has special interest for the students of repression. The censored passages are restored and highlighted in bold, leaving a clear record of Soviet censors’ criteria and methods. Kuznetsov writes, for example, of how Soviet flags had to be removed from homes as the Germans swept across the border in 1941, a man eagerly tears the red flag off its pole, and says to his wife. “Martha, stuff it in the fire right away. But the pole’s all right. It’ll do for a broom-handle.” The censor cut out the reference to pole and broom handle, concerned that it showed disrespect for the symbol of the Soviet Union – precisely Kuznetsov’s point.

Bennetts laughed when I told him my only contact with the Kremlin leadership in four years was long in coming but worth waiting for. In Stockholm in 1968, I attended the press conference staged by the grim and gloomy Alexei Kosygin, premier of the Soviet government. I stood up and asked Kosygin for assurances that there would be no invasion of Czechoslovakia. He replied with boilerplate about fraternal countries loving each other, but each time he intended to say “Sweden” he accidentally said “Czechoslovakia.” “I’m very happy to be here in Czechoslovakia,” said at one point. He apparently was so preoccupied didn’t know where he was. This was proof, of sorts, that the Soviet leadership was focused on one thing: the events in Prague. We all jumped on the story with both feet.

Early in the morning of August 21, we learned of the armed invasion. All communication with the outside world had been cut off. No international telephone calls, no AP wire, no Telex. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that the invasion was under way, the first military action in Europe since the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. When I got home at the end of an exhausting day, my wife Jacqueline told me our Russian maid Nina had been in tears — not because of the invasion but because Moscow Radio had used its special chimes to alert the public of an important announcement. These chimes brought back memories of World War II and bulletins from the front. The maid was choked up and started talking about how much she missed Stalin.

Comparing today’s Russia with the past reveals dramatic differences but also some basic similarities. Both sides suffer from historical mental blocks that make a fruitful relationship unlikely in the foreseeable future. Russia shows every sign of remaining suspicious of the West and resentful at the West’s Russophobia, hardly an atmosphere of promise.


Another version of this article appeared in Open Letters Monthly and is reprinted with kind permission.




3
Vladimir Putin as seen by the author, Michael Johnson.


Related articles by Michael Johnson, please click the title to proceed:


A new Russia roadmap - The near impossible battle to topple Putin


Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters


Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn


The famine of 1933 that “never happened”



 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Nov 19th 2021
EXTRACTS: "At a time when the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy is so intense, if not fateful for the future of democracies, NATO and the EU must warn these countries [Editor's note: Poland and Hungary, EU and NATO, Turkey NATO] that they are on the precipice of being kicked out if they do not change their governing practice. They must be required to restore the principles of democracy by upholding universal human rights and abiding the rule of law, or else they will forfeit their membership and suffer from the consequences of their crimes." ------ "A narcissistic leader, such as Trump, whose hunger for power seems to know no limit, has happily sacrificed the good of the country on the altar of his twisted ego. America’s democracy cannot be repaired unless he and those who helped him are held accountable and face the weight of the law."
Nov 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "Many people who go through intense trauma, for example, become deeper and stronger than they were before. They may even undergo a sudden and radical transformation that makes life more meaningful and fulfilling. Indeed, research shows that between half and one-third of all people experience significant personal development after traumatic events, such as bereavement, serious illness, accidents or divorce. Over time, they may feel a new sense of inner strength and confidence and gratitude for life and other people. They may develop more intimate and authentic relationships and have a wider perspective, with a clear sense of what is important in life and what isn’t. In psychology, this is referred to as “post-traumatic growth”. "
Nov 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Notably, Murdoch thinks that really knowing or understanding another person is a difficult task: “It is a task to come to see the world as it is”. According to the Freudian psychology Murdoch subscribes to in The Sovereignty of Good, humans are prone to “fantasy” – refusing to face the truth because it can damage our fragile egos."
Nov 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "People do not believe false information because they are ignorant. There are many factors at work, but most researchers would agree that the belief in misinformation has little to do with the amount of knowledge a person possesses. Misinformation is a prime example of motivated reasoning. People tend to arrive at the conclusions they want to reach as long as they can construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these outcomes."
Oct 28th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Brood with me on the latest delay of the full release of the records pertaining to the murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. That was 58 years ago." -----"Mark my words: ...... No one who remembers 1963 will live to see the US government admit the full truth about Kennedy’s murder. And the American people’s faith in democracy will continue to fade. There is only one way to prevent this, and that is to release every record, withholding nothing – and to do it now."
Oct 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "..... we may defy the warnings of modern medicine, convinced of our own superiority. Researchers at the University of Chicago Divinity School reported half of their participants, all of whom indicated some religious affiliation, agreed with the statement “God will protect me from being infected”. To cope with our dread of death, we delude ourselves into thinking we are invincible: death might happen to other people, but not to me."
Oct 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Wes Anderson’s new film The French Dispatch is about the final issue of a magazine that specialises in long-form articles about the goings-on in the fictional town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. The film is an anthology of shorts representing three of the articles. A piece by the magazine’s art critic (Tilda Swinton) explores the life and late success of the abstract artist Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro). Talented from a young age, Rosenthaler pursued art with a dogged determination that drove him to slowly lose his mind." ---- "Like everything else, mental illness is understood within the context of its time. In their study of melancholy and genius Born Under Saturn, the art historians Margot and Rudolf Wittkower show how Renaissance artists embraced mental alienation. This was shown by a withdrawn, slothful gloom. Such heavy sadness was considered both the symptom and the price of divine inspiration." ---- "Today, the association of creativity and mental illness often implies regression from an adult and orderly state of mind to one that is primal, impulsive, or infantile. The artist in Anderson’s film is such an example: he is noisy, impetuous, and extravagantly mad. And it is while he is at his “maddest” that he paints his best work." ---- "Here I explore the work of four painters whose work has been shaped by various mental illnesses, highlighting how the idea of the “mad artist” need not be tied up with a loss of control but rather a bid to gain it."
Oct 21st 2021
EXTRACT: "So much of Succession holds a mirror to real life, and the way that Logan Roy’s hand-picked board members allowed these abuses to continue by turning a blind eye to them is a good example. We have just published research that shows that public companies whose directors are chosen by their CEOs are statistically more likely to be involved in corporate misconduct, along with various other shortcomings. So why does this happen, and what should be done about it? "
Oct 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "Born in Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah came to Britain in the 1960s as a refugee. Being of Arab origin, he was forced to flee his birthplace during the revolution of 1964 and only returned in 1984 in time to visit his dying father. Until his retirement, he was a full-time professor of English and postcolonial literatures at the University of Kent in Canterbury."
Oct 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "As the 25th James Bond film No Time to Die hits the cinemas, we are once again reminded of the way that disability is depicted negatively in Hollywood films. The new James Bond film features three villains, all of who have facial disfigurements (Blofeld, Safin and Primo). If you take a closer look at James Bond villains throughout history, the majority have facial disfigurements or physical impairments. This is in sharp contrast to the other characters, including James Bond, who are able-bodied and presented with no physical bodily differences. Indeed, many films still rely on outdated disability tropes, including Star Wars and various Disney classics. Rather than simply being part of a character’s identity, the physical difference is exploited and exaggerated to become a plot point and visual metaphor for villains" ----- "The British Film Institute (BFI) was the first organisation to sign up and has committed to stop funding films that feature negative representations depicted through scars or facial differences – a step in the right direction."
Oct 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "The trillions of microbes inside of our gut play many very important roles in our body. Not only does this “microbiome” regulate our metabolism and help us absorb nutrients from food into the body, it can also influence whether we are lean or obese."
Sep 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurised chamber. In the chamber, the air pressure is increased two to three times higher than normal air pressure. It is commonly used to treat decompression sickness (a condition scuba divers can suffer from), carbon monoxide poisoning,......" ---- "Blood flow to the brain is reduced in people with Alzheimer’s. This study showed increased blood flow to the brain in the mice receiving oxygen therapy, which helps with the clearance of plaques from the brain, and reduces inflammation – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s." ----- "The researchers then used these findings to assess the effectiveness of oxygen therapy in six people over the age of 65 with cognitive decline. They found that 60 sessions of oxygen therapy, over 90 days, increased blood flow in certain areas of the brain and significantly improved the patients’ cognitive abilities – improved memory, attention and information processing speed."
Sep 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "Hollywood for years called on Charles Boyer to typify one French look –  bedroom eyes, sly maneuverings, the dismissive look. A face of another type, the massive mug and narrow eyes of Charles de Gaulle, provides the same disdain of the foreigner but also a superiority based on his belief in his own destiny."
Sep 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "The burden of loneliness for older people is intimately connected to what they are alone with. As we reach the end of our lives, we frequently carry heavy burdens that have accumulated along the way, such as feelings of regret, betrayal and rejection. And the wounds from past relationships can haunt people all their lives."
Sep 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Gardens help restore the ability to concentrate on demanding tasks, providing the perfect space for a break when working from home in a pandemic. Natural things – such as trees, plants and water – are particularly easy on the eye and demand little mental effort to look at. Simply sitting in a garden is therefore relaxing and beneficial to mental wellbeing."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "Whether or not a person achieves remission, reducing blood sugar levels is important in managing the negative effects of type 2 diabetes and reducing risk of complications. But when it comes to choosing a diet, the most important thing is to pick one that suits you – one that you’re likely to stick to long term."
Aug 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "In our latest study, we show that by taking the microbiome from young mice and transplanting them into old mice, many of the effects of ageing on learning and memory and immune impairments can be reversed. Using a maze, we showed that this faecal microbiota transplant from young to old mice led to the old mice finding a hidden platform faster."
Aug 3rd 2021
EXTRACT: "Fukuyama argued that political struggle causes history. This struggle tries to solve the problem of thymos – an ancient Greek term referring to our desire to have our worth recognised. This desire can involve wanting to be recognised as equal to others. But it can also involve wanting to be recognised as superior to others. A stable political system needs to accommodate both desires." .... "Counter-dominant spite can weaken liberal democracies. During the 2016 Brexit referendum, some people in the UK voted Leave to spite elites, knowing this could damage the country’s economy. Similarly, during the 2016 US presidential election some voters supported Donald Trump to spite Hillary Clinton, knowing his election could harm the US. "
Jul 31st 2021
EXTRACT: "If we want to live in a world that is good for pollinators, as well as the rest of us, big changes are needed in our environment, and our food system. This is why many beekeepers change their diet and their shopping, eating more locally grown vegetables that aren’t treated with pesticides. ...... Being willing to buy fruit and vegetables that may have the occasional insect living in it is better for us and for nature. To live more harmoniously with the natural world, we need to relax about larvae in the lettuce and slugs in the spinach."
Jul 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "You’d think our brush with mortality through the pandemic would have brought some of this home to us. You’d think it would give us pause for thought about what really matters to us: the kind of world we want for our children; the kind of society we want to live in. And for many people it has. In a survey carried out during lockdown in the UK, 85% of respondents found something in their changed conditions they felt worth keeping and fewer than 10% wanted a complete return to normal."