Resurrecting a 20th century empire in full-view of the entire world takes a bold and undaunted leader. Their character has to be a composite of dictator, autocrat, and military strategist, and psychologist, fervent nationalist and unapologetic egoist. The Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who is in possession of all of these attributes, is such a leader and is now reconstructing just such a defunct former empire; and is doing so with the Stalinist-like confidence of a man who sees such a mission as his ultimate destiny as a contemporary Russian leader. Putin seems to have detected something in the disposition of western political leaders that signals a reluctance to resist Soviet expansionism. It’s as if Putin and the Russians have gained the confidence to go on the offensive in their region of the world because sense encouraging signs of western impotence, moral deterioration, social chaos and the military disinclination to confront Soviet aggression. Russia seems invigorated by the tantalizing prospect of western indecisiveness and weakness. So they feint martial movements toward neighboring Ukraine, demanding referenda or annexation. They occupy the Crimea sending tremors through the remaining Baltic States containing large ethnic Russian minorities. Their strategy is beautifully simplistic: intimidate attack quickly and aggressively, all the while ignoring; 1) calls for restraint, 2) threats of sanctions and 3) observance of international protocol. For the Russians, the allure of the opportunity to return to the status of an empire is much too powerful to resist. And the face of this relentless Soviet expansionist pressure on the West is the cool, unflappable Mr. Putin who epitomizes Russian
Masculinity, strength and determination. Russia seems prepared to invest in aggression toward its smaller, weaker neighbors until they accomplish their intended objective…the subjugation of Eastern Europe.
In higher education it’s not unusual for discussions with students to veer towards geo-political issues; Russia, Iran, China, etc. Recently, political discussions have focused on the Crimean/Russian affair and the swift and decisive subjugation of the area by Vladimir Putin. In the Western nations, responses to the brash military invasion have been tepid and impotent. An assortment of reasons has been attributed to the non-responsiveness of the West to Russia’s annexation of part of the Ukraine. Out of the media’s coverage of this Crimea affair has come an original analysis of the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. Astudious young man has proposed a theory of cyclical national prominence which involves gender, power and the rise and fall of sovereign states. Skepticism was my initial response to this student’s line of reasoning…but as he elaborated on his argument it began to come together in a way that was primal but subtle, yet at the same time relatively persuasive. Having spent a career in higher education, it is clear that college students who are fully engaged in their collegiate educational experience tend to ask complex questions about issues of interest as well as pose complex solutions for the same. Here’s what transpired between me and this student in an unexpected, but refreshing encounter.
I was in my office at my computer typing, engrossed in preparing a document that requires concentration and a kind of simultaneous create/edit technique. I looked up and saw a student that I mentor standing silently in my office doorway with a somewhat smug grin on his face. I stopped what I was doing and asked him if he needed to come in and talk to me. He said “yes,” and I offered him a seat. I leaned forward in my chair to let him know that he had my undivided attention. As soon as he was seated, he launched into his version of what he thought was really happening in the Ukraine. Earlier in the week we had discussed the possibility that Putin was brazenly reassembling the USSSR. Other students involved in the informal chat concluded that the Russians simply needed a warm-water port with access to the Adriatic Sea. I mentioned to them that a bloody Crimean War (1853-1856) involving Russia, led by Czar Nicholas I, against an alliance of France, England, the Ottoman Empire, Sardinia and possibly Austria, had already been fought and had cost the lives of 600,000 men. I explained that it had all started with religious overtones but soon got down to Russia’s need for a warm- water port for access to the Black Sea, the Bosporus, the Mediterranean and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. The same seemed true today, though nuclear submarines have lessened the strategic naval urgency for a Crimean port to project Russian influence in the West. The 5-6 students in the original discussion understood all of this and agreed to do further independent research on the matter.
I mistakenly thought that the young man now in my office and who had participated in the earlier conversation had returned with additional historical detail on 19th century European warfare and political intrigue. Nope…that was not to be the case. Instead, he launched into a dynamic theory that he was developing to explain the reason for the rise and the fall of sovereign nations; this being his theory for Russia’s aggressive stance in the Crimea and its ripple effect in the entire region. Through direct conquest or focused hegemony this student suggested that in every instance of Soviet territorial encroachment, the pretext would be to liberate an oppressed minority of Russian nationals being persecuted by a non-Russian majority. The truth or invalidity of allegations of persecuted Russians did not matter since it was to be used merely as a pretext for an invasion. He completely disagreed with this “rescue us from maltreatment” theory as the source of Russia’s expansionistic behavior. This student’s hypothesis was that “when nations are in their ascendant stage (rising) they exhibit masculine behaviors; as they begin to decline (fall), they display recognizable feminine traits…” He waited silently for my response. I thought about his idea for an obligatorily professorial amount of time, and told him…”yes, that it could be possible.” The young man quietly left my office and headed out across campus. He seemed self-assured enough to sense that he had added something valuable to the mundane discourse on causation of Soviet aggression. He never revealed how he had arrived at his hypothesis, but it was a novel approach and it just might manage to penetrate the strange aura surrounding the American response to Putin’s military hostility on the Crimean peninsula.
His idea was of course, an intriguing over-simplification; that nations are masculine or feminine…but it brought to mind a vision of the life-cycle of the world’s great empires; of mighty nations of antiquity being overwhelmed by stronger nations; of the ebb and flow of national power, strength and wealth; of the birth and demise of great nations; of the rotation of national preeminence and the apparent inevitability of decay. All things considered though, his idea was not nonsensical, just strikingly unusual. I went straight to the most current psychological literature on masculine and feminine behavioral traits to see if my preliminary agreement with this student’s idea was technically valid.
What follows is a brief summary of what I found. There are lots of complicated, clinical classifications for the behaviors of men and women. The terms used to label these traits are almost as complex as the descriptions of the traits themselves. Consequently, explaining these traits for the purpose of this article is of necessity, abbreviated and simplistic. In general though, masculine and feminine traits are polar opposites with the former being active and the latter being passive. Selection of a representative study of what makes men “men” and women “women” was difficult. Extrapolating these differences to nation-states strains legitimacy a bit, but is not wholly unimaginable. Ultimately the work of the expert most often quoted in the research of other writers on the topic of gender differences was chosen. The selected author’s research is by no means “the” definitive study on the differences between men and women’s behavior, but it is a highly respected representative sampling of what is available. The selected work is also very easily understood by non-technical readers and laymen. Without elaborate nomenclature and hyper- complex psychological definitions, here is what the differences seem to be. The following chart is is excerpted from the chosen author’s work and is designed to be self-explanatory:
Hofstede’s Traits of Masculinity and Femininity
Money and things are important
Live in order to work
Politics and economics:
Economic growth a high priority
Conflict solved through force
Most important in life
Only men can be priests
Large gender wage gap
Fewer women in management
Preference for higher pay
Family and school:
Traditional family structure
Girls cry, boys don’t; Boys fight, girls don’t Failing is a disaster
Quality of life and people are important
Work in order to live
Politics and economics:
Environment protection high priority
Conflict solved through negotiation
Less important in life
Both men and women as priests
Smaller gender wage gap More women in management Preference for fewer working hours
Family and school:
Flexible family structure Both boys and girls cry; Neither fight
Failing a minor accident
In Hofstede’s measure of the masculinity of 66 nations, the US ranked 16th, Japan ranked at the top of the scale and Sweden ranked dead last as #66. This study was done in collaboration with IBM and appears to be part of an international marketing analysis project. Notice however, that feminine social norms are aligned exactly with the “new normal” leftist social agenda.
With respect to the rise and fall of nations and the underlying causes, the benchmark for such research is the definitive 6 volume work by Edward Gibbons, “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” It’s clear to the well-read person that Rome began its rise to power as a “high masculine” nation. What is also clear is that as the empire careened toward total collapse it had shifted toward Hofstede’s female classification of behaviors. Now, as the West uniformly claims that its origins are of Greco-Roman extraction, the lessons of Rome’s fall should be a cautionary tale for any nation that claims such roots. Gibbon’s exhaustive study generated 8 major reasons for the demise of Rome and its loss of dominance in the West: 1) Decline in morals and values, 2) Deteriorating public health, 3) Political corruption, 4) Unemployment, 5) Inflation, 6) Urban decay, 7) Inferior technology and 8) Military spending. The once invincible Roman Empire seems to have imploded under the weight of its own national miscalculations. Most of the causes of Rome’s demise have a startling resemblance to the problems plaguing the USA of today. At least 6 of the 8 weaknesses are virtually identical to the persistent socio- economic troubles of 21st century America. Even a cursory comparison of the predicament in which a failing Rome found itself, to the present conditions in contemporary America, should alert rational political leaders that certain trends absolutely must be reversed.
What’s for sure is that the US does not appear to be on the ascendance…and in organizational theory that means the nation is tilting toward decline (negative entropy). According to Hofstede’s trait criteria, America is transitioning from a male oriented nation (pro-active) to a feministic (reactive) country. Is this a natural cyclical phenomenon inherent within powerful sovereignties or is it possible that America is just bumbling toward self- induced mediocrity? Reasonable people would assume that with access to signs of past historical collapses of empires, determining whether or not America is positioning itself for a similar fate should be a matter of simple comparison. Obviously America is not Rome; nonetheless there are ominous similarities in place between these two nations that deserve serious consideration by high powered U.S. “think tanks” and members of the U.S. intelligentsia elite.
Remember that the fall of major nations is not typically a sudden event; it occurs over long periods of time and involves recurring degradations of culture, military preparedness, religiosity and economics. In the case of Rome, the nation capitulated to extravagance and self-indulgence on a grand scale. Gibbons summed up the situation with Rome as it descended into social and political chaos with astounding clarity. His conclusion is paraphrased here but the meaning should remain as unassailable now as the day it was written; “Luxury,” he proposes, inherently bears a corruptive influence in the DNA of a sovereign state! The single-minded pursuit of material things, the maintenance of an “elite mutual admiration society” (Hollywood) and the illusion of well-being and comfort while the masses are suffering, undermines the vitality of a robust nation.
America, as was Rome, is poised to discard the greater portion of its traditional past…all of the things that led to its preeminence in the world, for a value system characterized by a destabilizing foray into social engineering, the flaunting of the will of the American public on selected laws and the suppression of internal dissent with political correctness. Even more disconcerting is the possibility that America is being deliberately feminized. This is the gender-neutral fantasy world that the far- Left has chosen to attempt to create. Reality demands otherwise. Tinkerin with America’sprovenapproach to acquiring strength and national longevity is tantamount to self-inflicted injury. Add to that the fact that American’s are admittedly going soft and that decadence is slowly being forced into national acceptance and it’s a mess…a mess that is being actively encouraged at the highest levels. The present America leadership seems to be opting for self-indulgence, frivolity and all variations on extremism over political maturity, self-generated domestic integrity and the maintenance of international respect. The result is inevitable…a national malaise.
So now…, Gibbons and the student that I mentor share a POV and they may be absolutely legitimate. Nations grow strong with virile men of honor and sink into oblivion when wimps inveigle their way to power. Now ask yourself…which way is the needle on America’s growth/strength/character meter pointing– up or down? By the way…seen any pure-blooded Romans lately? Probably not…they unfortunately became pre-occupied with sensual pleasure, entertainment and all kinds of degenerate excesses in the extreme. Their way of life lead to their complete obliteration over time by relentless hoards of marauding barbarians who sensing Imperial Rome’s vulnerability violated that nation’s borders with impunity. Toward the end, the most frequent barbarian invaders decided to occupy Rome, make one of their own the new Emperor and thereby save themselves the trouble of having to pack up all the loot they had taken and haul it back to their homeland after each attack. The demise of Rome ushered in Europe’s “Dark Age.” And in that manner, one of the greatest nations of antiquity was subdued. Could the United States, by succumbing to the forces constitutional anarchy, be positioning itself for a similar fate?