The reflection I mean to set forth here stems from a casual — you may say funny observation: when I visited Georgia this summer, I realized that many women did not wear a bra. At first, and having recently been in three other European countries where I did not see anything like that, I attributed it to some local more, however unlikely. Being myself clueless about what kind of society Georgia was, I had come mentally prepared for anything; and I must admit that, given the diversified Georgian ethnicities and the varied tourism this country receives, which made quite difficult for me to tell among naturals and foreigners, by the time I left (five weeks later) I had not make much progress on that matter: the assorted origins of Caucasian people mix up, in Tbilisi, with a jumble of Turks, Muslims, Asiatics, Slavs, Jewish and Western European visitors to the point that, were it not for Georgia’s characteristic alphabet on signs, notices and billboards, by only watching some footage of people walking up and down the streets it would be very hard to guess which country it is.
(As a side note, there is however a very particular phenotype about Georgian females, some kin likeness among many of them, something on their countenances–nose, eyes, ears and mouth–that, once identified, turns out an unmistakable sign of their common ancestors. There must have been, at a given moment in Georgia’s history, one very successful womanizer, vigorous stud or implacable raper who seeded his genes in hundreds of wombs.)
Coming back to my point, some days after noticing this braless dressing style (or rather non-dressing) I began wondering whether it was a fashion instead of a habit, albeit fashions are usually exported from the West to everywhere else and, as said, so far I had not seen the like of that in Europe. It could still be a local mode, but — after all, going braless did not sound to me like the kind of use to emerge in a small Orthodox/Muslim society in the heart of the Caucasus. Although, on the other hand, this sort of countries–I thought–are sometimes the first which, in their craving for being accepted as up to date, modern and liberal ones, catch and adopt whatever crazy ideas may come from the top-fashion catwalks in New York, Paris or what have you, even before the very West fully assimilates them. And we all know how crazy are the Georgians for being considered “full Europeans”.
Anyway, let us park here that peculiarity and move on to other two things I observed in the ornamental aspect or outward appearance of people: namely the tattoos/piercings and the labelled garments. As to the former, I noticed them to be extremely common — more so in women than in men and certainly less in elder persons. And they were not some sort of “local”, “ethnic” or just old-school coarse tatoos, but the typical modern, universal, stylish ones you can see on every other passer-by aged between ten and fifty in any collective-West country. Same with the piercings.
And as to the latter — well, this is something that has been catching my attention since I was young: whenever a garment–usually a T-shirt or a cap–has words on it, no matter in which country you live, they are almost always written in English or belong to the Anglo-American world. Although roughly eighty percent of present-day Georgians (or for that matter Moroccans, Hispanics, Thais, Japanese, Polish, Russians, etc.) do not speak or even understand any English, still most of the labelled clothes are branded in this language; which would make no sense whatsoever except for one reason: the message the person who wears such clothing tries to convey (though usually unawares of it) is not “whatever-those-English-words-mean” (pretty often nonsensical, when not plain idiotic), but that he or she is cool, trendy and “international” — as if this was some sort of virtue, when in my opinion only evidences a provincial complex. The same thing, by the way, goes for many shops, cafés, restaurants, businesses and products worldwide which are branded in English; Georgia not being an exception.
Just for fun, go and search “cap” or “labelled t-shirt” and tell me how many results you get in Russian or even in Chinese.
Allow me another short aside about this dominance of English language. When travelling, I often keep a scrap-book, for which I try to buy on the go some ordinary notebook featuring, if possible, a cover belonging to the country I am visiting; or at the very least labelled in its language. Can you believe that sometimes it has proved almost impossible for me to find such a notebook? I remember now for sure at least Poland and Japan, where notebook covers were either featureless or labelled in English (and typically showing motifs from the Anglo-American world), but nothing pertaining to the national language or culture. Interesting fact, isn’t it? Does any American or Brit imagine going for a notebook to the shop around the corner and finding only Chinese-, Russian- or Spanish-covered ones? I leave this question here.
There is one last thing I took note of during my trip to Georgia: the vegetarian religion has rooted there too. There is no shortage of vegan bistros in its cities, and one can bet one’s life on the meat and dairy phobia not being a Georgian invention. Such idea has come from the West.
After Georgia, my next stop was Belarus. You know: that Russian-speaking non-democracy, living back to Europe and ruled for the past thirty years by a presumably narrow-minded anti-West autocrat. And when I set about walking on the streets of Brest, what do I notice? You guessed it: braless women all over the place, too. Which meant I had to ditch the “local more” hypothesis, and conclude it was a global mode. So, I searched online and — bingo!: going braless is this year’s trending fashion. And not just any fashion at that, but a very audacious one, to say it softly; one which, besides, conveys–as I read it–a rather progressive or feministic message, the “let our boobs speak out and shake off the patriarchal oppression” kind of idea.
And alongside with this mode, I also noted in Belarus the same proliferation I have talked about of piercings, stylish tattoos and English-labelled clothings, businesses and products of all kinds, be they imported goods, national or even Russian ones. Likewise, vegetarian eateries have become trendy there too, and are quite popular among enthusiast young acolytes of the Green Church.
Now, Belarus is not Georgia, is it? Quite on the contrary, Belarusian government is not an EU-yearning, OTAN-aspiring entity willing to reject their own culture and replace it with the Anglo-American one; which is why it came more as a surprise to me than in Georgia to find a society noticeably prone to global marketing standards and uninhibited fashions; a society–to go straight to my point–more culturally colonised than expected. And I dare to presume that exactly the same thing happens in Russia, Belarus being kind of an “extension” of its bigger neighbour.
These two recent experiences have inspired in me the reflection I am about to expound, which is the following: Russia and allies may win the war fought against NATO on Donbass soil; Vladimir Putin may talk all he wants about religion or traditional values and promote all the laws he fancies to preserve Russian cultural patrimony, protect the church, the family and children, keep the transgender mob on a tight leash, prevent indiscriminate immigration and fence Moscow politics off the Green new deal lobby; Lukashenko may rule his country with an iron fist; the BRICS may manage to create a new world power pole, take the petrodollar down and end off the US dominance — but the cultural colonization of the world by the West is a reality, maybe an irreversible one; a struggle the American marketing and media industries undertook long ago and has been uncontested for around a century. Simply, there has not since been any plausible competition. And this is perhaps–much more than the military or economical–the main threat to all those noble goals Putin claims he aims for, because alongside the cultural colonization there may eventually come the final victory of globalism, despite all alleged efforts by a given society to keep it away.
I think it cannot be denied that fashion is a very important ingredient of culture, which in turn is one and the same thing with traditions. History provides us with many instances of societies that begin accepting and assmilating the trojan horses of eating or dressing habits, make-ups and other manifestations of a dominant alien culture and end up “buying” into the whole set of the foreign perspectives and priorities.
By the beginning of 19th century, Spanish society was a very traditional one. Despite the Napoleonic invasions, once the intruders were defeated and kicked out people began to take on French modes, and increasingly so as the years went on. Europeans were, you see, so mentally superior. Two or three decades later the spaniards had bought the whole pack of French values, which in turn made Spanish politics change drastically. And even only three decades ago, who would have thought that we were going to come up widely celebrating Halloween, an event so absolutely foreign to our Catholic cradle, our own floklore and inheritance?
This is not to say that there is anything intrinsically bad about fashions, eating trends or foreign TV productions, nor that societies should isolate themselves from the rest of the world and reject any foreign cultural influence. I simply state the fact that all these influences have a strong impact on domestic values and views; the more so when (as is the case with mainstream media, social networks, cinema, veganism or braless-ism) they are designed for the purpose of spreading given messagees and certain beliefs on how life should be lived. And this, ultimately, can’t but end up in changing the target society; or in other words: in yet more cultural colonization.
And in the present world, the barriers of communication and transport having been tore down, it is easier than ever for this phenomena to take place. Besides, we must notice that the flow of fashions has been unidirectional for the past eight decades: almost always from the West (mostly USA) to anywhere else; almost never the other way around. This is why, worldwide, you do not see virtually any Russian-labelled T-shirts, nor Japanese franchises in every corner, Argentinian films in every cinema’s hoarding or Spanish national drink on every supermarket. The cultural interchange is not multidirectional, but one-sided. West-promoted beliefs, attitudes, ideas, ways of thinking, etc. are ubiquitous: in every single commercial, spot, magazine, film, documentary, series, food product, cover, wrapper, cap, sweatshirt… (not to talk about social media!) there is a message, open or subliminal, the whole world can and does see, perceive and ultimately absorb, however subconsciously. Behind them, there is a professional, very specialized and effective machinery, heavily funded and with decades of experience.
Allow me yet another story. In one of my travels, by sheer luck I ended up spending one week among the folks and in the land of the native Cree nation of Chisasibi, on the shore of James Bay, Quebec province, Canada. I had the chance of sleeping in the improvised teepee of a family (they were doing some celebration at that time), and I had a few talks with the organizer. Here is more or less what he, quite sorrowfully, told me:
Our nation receives a lot of money from the government, as a ‘compensation’ for the past land plunder and ethnic cleansing. Besides, we are encouraged to lead our traditional way of life, for which there are important economic incentives, like free housing, snowmobiles, cars, fuel, electricity, etc., on condition that whomever wants them must stay here and continue our traditions, do some symbolic hunting or fishing, rear some reindeer -or pretend to- and keep pitching teepees every now and then. Basically a free life in both senses of the word. But our children reject this. They want to do what they watch on TV: study in Montreal or Quebec, get a job and live there, in the south. Some of our young ones are even ashamed of looking like natives: they want to BE white, look like white, dress and make-up after the metropolis, ditch our language, speak only French… Despite all the money and many advantages of living here, youth keep emigrating, our population is decreasing, and eventually the community will disappear.
This was one of the most revealing experiences in my life, and a clear example of what cultural colonization does.
Therefore, and coming back to Russia, I am afraid that in order to effectively preserve their values and traditions much more is needed than winning the war in Ukraine or building up a second power pole around the BRICS. The existential threat to Russia Putin often talks about does not come so much from a hypothetical military agression, but from a factual cultural colonization. It is on this field where the war should be fought, rather than on the battleground.
Needless to say I do not know what, if anything, can be done — supposing, that is, there is any will to do something. I reckon some sort of full-scale “cultural counter-offensive” would be necessary. I do not mean banning the BBC, forbidding vegan bistros, shutting down KFCs or blocking Facebook and Instagram, but rather undertaking a serious and long-term effort to promote and reinforce what is Russian, come up with plausible and attractive alternatives, go back to quality film production other than a Hollywood replica, counter or deride the Neflix and Disney woke bullshit, bolster up national pride, teach people how essential it is to eat meat, educate the citizenry to value what belongs to them and help overcome the nefarious inferiority complex most non-Western nations have nourished over the past decades. And so should other countries, too. Otherwise, in the end the seeds of globalism, faithless individualism and moral relativism will keep spreading and growing to the ultimate de-humanizing of humankind, thus rendering fruitless, for the alleged purpose of protecting values, any economic or military victory.