[My apologies to Dmitry Orlov for posting excerpts from behind a paywall. How else to respond?]

This difference [between Soviet and American collapse], I have come to realize, hinges on a civilizational difference between the former USSR and the latter USA. It turns out to be, of all things, about love. What I mean by it is something along the lines of unconditional devotion, compulsion or surrender to a force greater than oneself, and the object of this love is what one treasures as the ultimate value, source of pride and sense of self.

Both Russians and Americans are endowed with such love, but they love different things. Russians love something they call Ródina (always capitalized). Although it can be translated as motherland, fatherland, native land, etc., these are all mistranslations because Russia is too big to be called a land. The Ródina does not belong to anyone; one belongs to it; or, rather, it belongs in one’s heart.

This superethnic entity within its vast geographic domain that is the object of the Russians’ love cannot be analyzed in terms of politics, economics, sociology or religion. It is just as meaningful, or meaningless, to analyze it in terms of footpaths, forests, heads of wheat, ants and moths. Ródina simply is, like the sun and the moon, and one’s love for it cannot be undermined by political upheavals, societal dysfunction, economic collapse or any other calamity. Nor is this love considered optional: inculcating “love of Ródina” is an explicit, stated function of Russian public education.

The Ródina phenomenon explains why after the financial, commercial and political collapse of the USSR Russia was able to arrest and reverse the process at social collapse, never ran much danger of cultural collapse, and has been able to claw everything back and then some. It is because Ródina has nothing whatsoever to do with finance, commerce or politics. Its place is in the heart, and no vicissitudes of fortune can dislodge it.

Here, Dmitry is a bit too pro-Russian in his exposition. Many of those ethnic groups bitterly resisted russification, and the fact that he quotes a poem in a language with only a few hundred speakers left tells a lot. Nevertheless, each country (just like a family) needs to have a unification principle, and the Russian Federation has it. It’s got its unifying language, it’s got its unifying values, it’s got its painful and glorious history finally free from the shackles of censorship, it’s got a sense of commonality, all of us in this together. Rodina serves as key social glue.

Turning now to the United States, what is the quintessential love interest of the American? The US is a nation of immigrants (a cliché, that, but true) who didn’t come there to form a harmonious superethnos with Native Americans and join them in their love of their native land. Most people came in hopes of claiming a piece of that land and striking it rich, or at least of having a chance to do their own thing. They came to colonize, to exploit and to profit. In America, possession and ownership are everything. An American’s first and last love is… money.

I think one need not be an American to see how grossly unfair and inaccurate this is. People came here originally to be free from gross oppression, from serfdom, from religious persecution, and later from communist dictatorships. Many fled utter destitution, as in the Irish famine, but not with the view of striking it rich. Coming as indentured servant was not a ticket to “making it.” Leaving one’s kith and kin network far behind is not exactly the recipe for a good life. But America gave them hope for bread, for children surviving and perhaps thriving, and for living in a political system less heartless and more “of and for the people” than the brutal systems they were leaving.

American culture and society are nice-to-haves and have largely fallen by the wayside. Culture has mostly been replaced by various commercial offerings while history—though very short and often shameful, still a vital component of culture—is being actively erased by toppling public statues. American society is so internally conflicted that people insist on being armed to the teeth and are notorious for shooting each other at the slightest provocation. Politics it is a toxic stew of mutual recriminations across a partisan divide so vast that it often looks like a low-intensity civil war. Commerce has been relegated to multinational corporations that have no specific interest in the US except as a source of consumers and of free money, and it is currently cratering, with consumer demand plummeting and retail chains collapsing. Once there are no more profits to be made, the multinationals will simply leave.

American history is indeed short, but no more shameful than Russian history. While here the colonists, later Americans, wiped out several million natives, bought extra territory from France and Russia, and stole a piece of Mexico, Russia killed over hundred million in various gulags under the czars and then the communists, as well as unknown numbers of Siberian natives, and stole a chunk of Poland, Finland, and Czechoslovakia. America had slavery, Russia had brutal serfdom. What’s the point of historical shaming? Nobody’s deep history is angelic.

But then there is a magic realm where everything is magically fine: finance. In spite of everything else being in dire straits, the stock market is doing well and banks remain solvent thanks to the Federal Reserve’s miraculous printing press. An ever-greater portion of the economy is being engulfed by an already bloated financial realm which specializes in generating, then hiding, bad debt. A large proportion of corporations are zombies addicted to free money with which to prop up their share prices by buying back shares. Meanwhile, a large proportion of the population is facing destitution.

True enough. I traveled recently across much of the country when moving, and what I saw in “small town America” was shocking. I have done this trip a number of times over the years, therefore I could compare. Americans are suffering, and their overuse of opioids should surprise no one. Opioids make suffering bearable. Until the government cracks down and you have to buy them on the street.

Love of money above all else neatly explains why the US is collapsing in the opposite of the canonical order, with finance—which should be the first pillar to collapse—perversely the only one to remain intact (for now).

I don’t personally know anyone whose love of money is their key value. Sure enough, many people immigrated here over the years to “strike it rich” as Dmitry says, but isn’t that true of Russia in its expansion period? The Russians went out to plunder the hinterlands. And now many former Russians are migrating back because Putin is giving away land, and they hope to do better there than elsewhere. (That free land was formerly inhabited.)

When I came here, I saw a country held together by common language, by pride in its history of victoriously shedding the shackles of colonial exploitation by the British monarchy, and a love for the pioneering political system the Founders put together, hoping, of course, that it would be improved over the years and provided the tools. Perhaps it was also the former ability of immigrants to form ethnic enclaves, and so to feel at home in the New World. There were the Chinatowns, and Slovenian or Italian towns, an Irish later Jewish Brooklyn, and Czech Chicago. And Black Detroit or Harlem. That gave America at least a flavor of the superethnicity that Dmitry speaks of. And small town America provided the agricultural backbone.

But that began to unravel from the mid-60s on. The Cubans fleeing to Florida refused to learn English and were given citizenship anyway. I had to prove my command of English in the citizenship proceedings, but they did not. And “English only” began to be attacked politically by people who either did not understand social glues or were in the business of destroying them. Equality before the law suffered even as important racial issues were finally being addressed. Affirmative Action defied the principle, but people shrugged it off. Now we have gotten to a place in some cities where the homeless and the insane are given special rights to behavior that would land me or you in jail, pronto. Corporate shuffling broke up communities. And small towns and small farmers began to be destroyed by targeted campaigns that go on to this day.

America’s first love has never been money, though doing better than one’s parents was a source of optimism. America’s love and pride has been its political system, the first in the world that built into its Constitution free speech, freedom of belief, equality before the law and equality of opportunity, rule of law, peaceful succession of power, and balance of powers as ideals to strive for. That is why the Independence Day is America’s most important holiday. Rightly so. Perhaps we should all celebrate it by reading once again that amazing and brilliant document, the Declaration of Independence.

The Founders toyed with ideas to build in economic democracy but lost their gumption. The first Pennsylvania constitution tried to blaze that trail. Later, Andrew Jackson fought the banksters and won. But they crept in by the back doors. That issue festers like an open wound, and transnational corporate takeover has made it all worse. This is not only America’s problem. Capitalism works better than socialism in providing needed goods, but it has a fatal flaw: it depends on overproduction and a world without limits.

Orlov is right – in the model followed here in the U.S., collapse is engineered by those who want to destroy the culture and morale first. Perhaps they are testing this particular approach on us, before they get to work on Russia. And most of the elites (those who love money and power best of all and don’t give a damn about America or the people on Main Street) are supporting the destroyers.

Rodina, 1967