Christopher Owens 🔖 has been reading a just published work seeking to explain Russia's war on Ukraine. 



Historians are powerful. They interpret important human event and make them part of our consciousness. Their explanation of what motivates people to bring about, or resist, change is critical to our understanding of what it means to be human…if we have no knowledge of the big things…then we can have no proper understanding of people, ourselves included.

This quote (from 2008’s Propaganda as Anti-History: Peter Hart's 'The IRA and Its Enemies' Examined) is a succinct defence of the importance of history. It also, inadvertently, serves as the backbone argument to Frank Furedi’s recently published The Road to Ukraine: How the West Lost its Way.

A founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which went through many a shift in ideology before metamorphosising into Spiked (cue the hysterical shrieking from some quarters), Furedi is also a prolific author, writing about the legacy of the First World War, the Jimmy Savile scandal, borders, the culture wars, therapy and parenting. All of which are undergirded with a mistrust of aloof elites with no sense of how the average person lives.

The press release for this intriguing book states that the:

…failure of the West to take its past seriously has left it confused and unprepared to deal with the current crisis. Unexpectedly fashionable claims about the irrelevance of borders and of nation states have been exposed as shallow myths…the West’s self-inflicted condition of historical amnesia has encouraged it to disregard the salience of geo-political realities. Suddenly the once fashionable claims that made up the virtues of globalisation appear threadbare. This problem, which was already evident during the global Covid pandemic has reached a crisis point in the battlefield of Ukraine. History has had its revenge on a culture that believes that what happened in the past no longer matters.

Quite a powerful argument and, for some, would seem to validate the notion that culture wars lead to an external threat (in this case, Putin) taking advantage of such disarray. Don’t believe me? Look at this translated speech from September where he, rhetorically, asks whether the Russian people “…want to replace mum and dad with parent 1 and 2…” and directly accuses the West of having “…abandoned religion and embraced Satanism...”

So, how well does Furedi present his case?

Beginning by discussing how the notion of war in Europe (as opposed to the Middle East and Africa) had been predicted, by many, to become an obsolete concept due to global economic integration, Furedi lays out how policy makers (such as the former US Secretary of State (John Kerry) world refer to Russia’s 2014 invasion as 19th century behaviour which not only displays a staggering naivety on the part of such people in positions of power, but also seemingly confirms just how the notion of national sovereignty is an alien concept to some in power (witness how the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, urged Zelensky to accept Russia’s demands prior to the invasion).

An intriguing line of thought, and one that certainly seems to ring true to me. It certainly seems that, post September 11th, the inability of America to understand geopolitics has led to disaster after disaster (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan) and the rise of China as a global power. Combine that with the claim from Russia that 12 more countries want to join BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa: five states that are members of the G20 with a combined nominal GDP of US$26.6 trillion) and it’s clear why Putin thought he could steamroller Ukraine with no trouble from the West.

Delving into the history of Ukraine post WWI, how the European Union inadvertently solidified historical amnesia into its rhetoric by having 1946 as year zero and the Cold War, Furedi demonstrates how these strands would eventually lead us to the invasion: Ukrainian understanding of their history due to their occupation by the USSR, the ability to render “the past” as bad and the current model as the only way to preserve peace an unarguable notion as well as how the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that the West no longer had a clearly defined “other” to unite around. The end result of this, according to Furedi, was a kind of moral disarmament where the West bought into the concept of post-history and globalisation, and generations grew up with little concept of borders, nationality and history. Hence, when someone like Putin comes along, the West don’t know how to respond.

Once again, food for thought. The concept of moral disarmament via globalisation and post-history is a fascinating one. It brings to mind Mark Lilla’s writings about how the imagery of affluent suburbia post-war meant that we had:

…two idealised images of that world ... favoured by the right, good paying jobs and modern technology gave Americans unprecedented prosperity and well-being ... The other image, favoured by the left, is that of an air conditioned nightmare in which men commuted to work (and drank too much), women puttered around the house (and popped pills) ... children in cowboy hats pretended to murder one another (transferring their hatred of their parents onto their playmates).

I draw this connection because, not only are they both cases of how one can pull a string until there’s nothing left, but also because there’s an interesting role reversal going on: the left dominating the cultural landscape and the right voicing concerns.

Running to 114 pages, this is an intriguing and thought provoking read that demonstrates just how those who do not understand history will unwittingly repeat it, while those who do sit and sigh in exasperation. A later segment about how people are adopting the Ukrainian struggle for their own ends (i.e., to demonstrate that they are Good People) is not only infuriating because of the narcissism depicted, but also offers up hope that people will slowly come to recognise the importance of history.

Knowledge is power.

Frank Furedi, 2022, The Road to Ukraine: How the West Lost its Way, De Gruyter, ISBN-13: 978- 3110996944

🕮 Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

The Road To Ukraine

Christopher Owens 🔖 has been reading a just published work seeking to explain Russia's war on Ukraine. 



Historians are powerful. They interpret important human event and make them part of our consciousness. Their explanation of what motivates people to bring about, or resist, change is critical to our understanding of what it means to be human…if we have no knowledge of the big things…then we can have no proper understanding of people, ourselves included.

This quote (from 2008’s Propaganda as Anti-History: Peter Hart's 'The IRA and Its Enemies' Examined) is a succinct defence of the importance of history. It also, inadvertently, serves as the backbone argument to Frank Furedi’s recently published The Road to Ukraine: How the West Lost its Way.

A founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which went through many a shift in ideology before metamorphosising into Spiked (cue the hysterical shrieking from some quarters), Furedi is also a prolific author, writing about the legacy of the First World War, the Jimmy Savile scandal, borders, the culture wars, therapy and parenting. All of which are undergirded with a mistrust of aloof elites with no sense of how the average person lives.

The press release for this intriguing book states that the:

…failure of the West to take its past seriously has left it confused and unprepared to deal with the current crisis. Unexpectedly fashionable claims about the irrelevance of borders and of nation states have been exposed as shallow myths…the West’s self-inflicted condition of historical amnesia has encouraged it to disregard the salience of geo-political realities. Suddenly the once fashionable claims that made up the virtues of globalisation appear threadbare. This problem, which was already evident during the global Covid pandemic has reached a crisis point in the battlefield of Ukraine. History has had its revenge on a culture that believes that what happened in the past no longer matters.

Quite a powerful argument and, for some, would seem to validate the notion that culture wars lead to an external threat (in this case, Putin) taking advantage of such disarray. Don’t believe me? Look at this translated speech from September where he, rhetorically, asks whether the Russian people “…want to replace mum and dad with parent 1 and 2…” and directly accuses the West of having “…abandoned religion and embraced Satanism...”

So, how well does Furedi present his case?

Beginning by discussing how the notion of war in Europe (as opposed to the Middle East and Africa) had been predicted, by many, to become an obsolete concept due to global economic integration, Furedi lays out how policy makers (such as the former US Secretary of State (John Kerry) world refer to Russia’s 2014 invasion as 19th century behaviour which not only displays a staggering naivety on the part of such people in positions of power, but also seemingly confirms just how the notion of national sovereignty is an alien concept to some in power (witness how the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, urged Zelensky to accept Russia’s demands prior to the invasion).

An intriguing line of thought, and one that certainly seems to ring true to me. It certainly seems that, post September 11th, the inability of America to understand geopolitics has led to disaster after disaster (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan) and the rise of China as a global power. Combine that with the claim from Russia that 12 more countries want to join BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa: five states that are members of the G20 with a combined nominal GDP of US$26.6 trillion) and it’s clear why Putin thought he could steamroller Ukraine with no trouble from the West.

Delving into the history of Ukraine post WWI, how the European Union inadvertently solidified historical amnesia into its rhetoric by having 1946 as year zero and the Cold War, Furedi demonstrates how these strands would eventually lead us to the invasion: Ukrainian understanding of their history due to their occupation by the USSR, the ability to render “the past” as bad and the current model as the only way to preserve peace an unarguable notion as well as how the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that the West no longer had a clearly defined “other” to unite around. The end result of this, according to Furedi, was a kind of moral disarmament where the West bought into the concept of post-history and globalisation, and generations grew up with little concept of borders, nationality and history. Hence, when someone like Putin comes along, the West don’t know how to respond.

Once again, food for thought. The concept of moral disarmament via globalisation and post-history is a fascinating one. It brings to mind Mark Lilla’s writings about how the imagery of affluent suburbia post-war meant that we had:

…two idealised images of that world ... favoured by the right, good paying jobs and modern technology gave Americans unprecedented prosperity and well-being ... The other image, favoured by the left, is that of an air conditioned nightmare in which men commuted to work (and drank too much), women puttered around the house (and popped pills) ... children in cowboy hats pretended to murder one another (transferring their hatred of their parents onto their playmates).

I draw this connection because, not only are they both cases of how one can pull a string until there’s nothing left, but also because there’s an interesting role reversal going on: the left dominating the cultural landscape and the right voicing concerns.

Running to 114 pages, this is an intriguing and thought provoking read that demonstrates just how those who do not understand history will unwittingly repeat it, while those who do sit and sigh in exasperation. A later segment about how people are adopting the Ukrainian struggle for their own ends (i.e., to demonstrate that they are Good People) is not only infuriating because of the narcissism depicted, but also offers up hope that people will slowly come to recognise the importance of history.

Knowledge is power.

Frank Furedi, 2022, The Road to Ukraine: How the West Lost its Way, De Gruyter, ISBN-13: 978- 3110996944

🕮 Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

No comments