Censorship as Defense Against Soft Power Aggression

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April 19, 2016

New Politics

Translated by Kristina Kharlova

Sergey Chernyakhovsky: “Culture as a system of restrictions”

Chernyakhovsky, Sergei Feliksovich, doctor of political science, professor, acting member of the Russian Academy of political science.

Culture is not a field of exquisite pleasures. Culture is a system of restrictions. A civilized man differs from a savage not by detachment from life and immersion in the world of aesthetic pleasure – but knowing the difference between right and wrong, ownership and mastery of “taboo system”. It would seem that the presence of “taboo” is an element of the world of primitive civilizations. This is partly true in the sense that civilization begins with the awareness of existence of restrictions.

That is a civilized and cultured man is not a man who claims the right to live without rules, but a man who knows that there are things that are not permissible: that is, allows the power of restrictions to take hold over him.

Hence, cultural policy, especially state cultural policy is not a sphere of servicing those who claim to be the creators of art. Although support of those who really create culture and art is a natural task of a state. In fact, it is the promotion of culture – education, striving for universal access to the world of culture; and immersion, that is – knowledge and immersion in a system of restrictions.

From the perspective of systematic political theory, culture is not facilitation of “leisure and entertainment”, culture is the production of what is called “latent models”, that is -preservation and affirmation of the norms and customs of your country, along with learning about the norms and customs of other countries. And public policy in this area is facilitation of such production. Not facilitation in terms of management, but in the sense of encouraging the production of those models of behavior and value norms that meet the challenges facing the state, strengthen the state and reproduce its values and identity.

This does not mean that the state only safeguards the customs, otherwise the promoted culture may not be able to sustain the values competition with other foreign cultures, will be unable to ensure adaptation in a changing world.

But the problem is that it must provide this adaptation in pursuit of goals of its growth, preserving its significance, heritage and identity.

In this respect the task of the state policy in the field of culture is education, acquainting “the masses” with global cultural achievements, but first of all, recognizing the importance of the native culture. Global culture must be seen from the perspective of achievements of domestic culture, adopting new models which help grow and strengthen it. The view that the task of state policy is not to interfere and not to disturb what arises by itself is wrong simply because nothing occurs and grows ‘by itself’. Everything occurs under the influence of other models.

And these models may on one hand reflect certain practice of “ease of restrictions” to which there is always a certain gravitation – simply because the path of least resistance is always easier.

But the spread of such practice of ‘softenting’, the expansion of the ‘permitted zone’  just destroys what still has worth and power in the accumulated national culture.

Not washing hands before meals is always easier than to wash them. Not brushing your teeth is easier than brushing. To throw a tantrum is easier than to control yourself. And to splash paint on canvas, inviting the audience to enjoy the patterns is much easier than to study classical painting.

On the other hand, if we look at art and culture from the point of view of delivered pleasure some things are easier and appeal to a more ‘primitive level’.

Striptease is easier to comprehend than classical ballet, street novel is easier than one by Balzac or Dostoyevsky. Pelevin is easier to comprehend than “Onegin”.

And the third aspect in terms of what is called “Open society” and freedom of information: other entities and other states may promote the distribution in your country of “latent models” that are favorable to them, to instill in your country their own system of values, or to weaken the system of your motivations, your readiness to defend your country and value your culture.

That is – the field of culture of a state is not a field of entertainment and increasing comfort. And a ministry of culture of any country, especially under the current circumstances – Russia, is the Agency of Defense of the spiritual and intellectual national sovereignty.

That is – a political agency. The agency – which is fighting for the country and its sovereignty, possibly in the most difficult section.

And at the same time – a production agency. Because ensuring the production of latent models of behavior and life, it produces and reproduces the state. And its task is not “not to interfere with the artists”. Its task is to promote the production and adoption of those models and those restrictions in the area of intellectual life, which strengthen the country and its citizens, and to prevent creation of those that may weaken it.

That is, in the end, the Ministry of Culture of any country is in even greater degree a “Ministry of Security” than the FSB.

In Russia, life values and cultural foundations of which underwent a brutal aggression at the end of the 1980’s, it is the Ministry of Reconstruction and Preservation of memory and its historical identity.

Only its work conditions are harder than the KGB or the FSB. Because those who destroy the country in the sphere of values, plan and carry out intellectual and conceptual aggression against it, in most cases are not violating anything technically and legally. And formally, from a legal point of view – are immune.

Although it’s worth it to ponder whether this state of affairs is right.

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