March 30, 2022

"Good Vibes" by Sharky Bae Jepsen and Owl Avi (tribute to streamer culture)

As it's fully dawned on me that the virtual has replaced IRL as people's primary existence, especially for Millennials and Zoomers, I've come to appreciate the role that streamers play in the online ecosystem.

Everyone refuses to leave the home, but everyone still feels the social need to hang out somewhere with someone. That's what the streamers offer -- they serve as hosts of a great big virtual party, or online chill-out session, where the viewers and chatters get the simulation of not being totally alienated.

I don't say that pejoratively: we live in a disintegrating society, and on top of that, the Millennials and Zoomers were raised by helicopter parents, in social isolation and sensory deprivation. They are coping as best as they can under the circumstances, with the actual resources that are actually available to them -- like those baby monkeys from the Harry Harlow experiments, clinging to a soft fuzzy mommy-monkey doll rather than the cold hard metal dispenser of food and material sustenance, after being deprived of their real mother or any other living companion.

The viewers are not looking for a simulated mommy (well, in most cases), but rather simulated friends. Still, the point remains: they feel stronger pangs of social-emotional hunger than material or physiological hunger. That's also why streamers are way more popular, and relied upon, than other simulations like porn -- that only satisfies a base physiological need, not the social-emotional needs.

The reason that the joke falls flat, about "she's not gonna fuck you bro", is that those guys aren't looking for a simulated fuck buddy. There's no truth there to sting the intended butt of the joke. That joke would only land if they were talking about a viewer of porn, but I'm pretty sure those viewers already know the pornstar isn't going to actually fuck them. Only the pathetic minority who do look to normie online content to satisfy their sexual urges make this joke, pure projection.

The real joke would be, "she's never gonna follow you back bro" or "she's only faving your post cuz you gifted her 100 subs". The gist of "she's not really your friend" stings a lot more because that's what the guy was truly seeking by engaging with her content.

In any case, having explained what today's streamer culture is really about, I thought I'd offer a tribute to it through song parody. I only check in on a handful of streamers (Pokimane, Wolfabelle, and most regularly Gura). But I think I've got a good enough idea to evoke the general tone of the phenomenon.

I'm imagining this being sung by the idol herself, Gawr Gura, but it could be her singing about herself, about some other streamer, dueting with one of her Hololive gen-mates, etc. It's not a super-specific song about her particular sub-culture and fandom.

It's set to the tune of "Good Time" by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen (original lyrics here). I know she can carry this tune because she's already sung it on a karaoke stream before (here).

So infectiously bouncy, so irresistibly upbeat, epitomizing the zeitgeist of the most recent manic phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, namely 2010-'14. She really loves that period, imprinting on it during her second birth at age 15, and afterward carrying a sense of resilience and happy-go-lucky-ness throughout her life. Ditto for most of the other streamers, who were born between 1995-'99 and whose formative 15 year-old second birth was shaped by the 2010-'14 manic phase.

Quite a different mood than the sad girl types who were born after them, from 2000-'04, who imprinted during their second birth on the moody, touch-me-not, vulnerable phase of 2015-'19.

My mini-generation imprinted on the previous manic phase, namely 1995-'99, being born between 1980-'84. So "hanging out" with these streamers does feel like reconnecting with old schoolmates, in a way that I don't feel when engaging with content from the sad boys and sad girls of the 1985-'89 cohort, or the born to be provocative / wild-child cohort of 1990-'94. I can still be (virtual) friends with them, it just doesn't feel like we were classmates in a previous life.

Anyway... I'm really stuck on the shark-girl for inspiration, so expect a lot more of these -- without the longwinded preamble next time, hehe. Again I think they'd work for any streamer, but since I watch hers the most regularly, and she's sung so many pop standards to choose the tune from, it'll be more tilted in her direction.

This first installment is about capturing the party vibe that the viewers feel about the streaming experience. It's not simply mindless passive entertainment, it's more like going out to a concert with others, delighting in the anticipation, hyping each other up in the lead-up to the main event, and feeling carefree and walking on air until well afterward -- ready to do it all over again the next day, in as much of a party-hardy way as you can manage in the virtual realm.

* * *

Let's go-oh-oh
Here there's only good vibes
Let's go-oh-oh
Here there's only good vibes

Start off with a tease for the stream ahead
Write off all the noobs shitting up my thread
Sound off if you're on to log on tonight
Here there's only good vibes

Plugged in, sharing memes in my underwear
Sucked in through the screen, no longer self-aware
Join in if you're on to log on tonight
Here there's only good vibes

Good taste of the good life
We'll light up the timeline
Both chads and reply guys
We don't need no other site
Here there's only good vibes

Let's go-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
Let's go-oh-oh
Here there's only good vibes
Let's go-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
We don't need no other site
Here there's only good vibes

Camped out in the chat with the pregame friends
Jam out with our queen till the bitter end
Tits out if you're on to log on tonight
Here there's only good vibes

Good taste of the good life
We'll light up the timeline
Both chads and reply guys
We don't need no other site
Here there's only good vibes

Let's go-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
Let's go-oh-oh
Here there's only good vibes
Let's go-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
We don't need no other site
Here there's only good vibes

No matter what you spend
There's always a good-vibe trend

No matter what we share
There's always some good-vibe fare

No matter what you spend
There's always a good-vibe trend

Here there's only good vibes

Let's go-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
Let's go-oh-oh
Here there's only good vibes
Let's go-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
We don't need no other site
Here there's only good vibes

March 28, 2022

WASP cultural imperialism over Mediterranean / Catholic sphere, in wake of WWII / NATO

Aimee Terese: please tell these WASP Twitter "Catholics" that they should de-convert if they can't handle Mediterranean norms of male-female relations. Re Aimee saying that it's easier to repair a relationship if the man cheats, than if the woman cheats. Something that all Meds and MENAs and Muslims would instantly agree with. Descriptive, not normative. Relative comparison, not absolute.

However, what seems obvious and even sacrosanct to one group of people may seem flabbergasting and even heretical to another group.

This all goes back to the ethnic composition of the anti-woke left, and therefore, the ethnic composition of the woke left (WASPs, Ashkenazi Jews, Mandarins, Brahmins). The elite stratum in American ethnicity has always been WASP, and more recently mixed with Ashkenazi. See the original posts here and here.

Anglo and Nordic societies have always been way more gender-egalitarian than Mediterranean societies. That's the understatement of the millennium. But the point is: this is an ethnic schism between Meds and elite Americans (primarily WASP, it seems, with some Ashkenazi Jews and Brahmins enlisting in this round of discourse policing against the no-good, very-bad Med woman).

WASPs are trying to police Meds like Aimee out of the discourse, even if their whole brand is being Catholic, and Aimee's people (Lebanese) have been Christian and Catholic since 2000 years ago, while the WASPs just converted last year (literally in most cases), and if they're not British, their people may have only been Christian for 1000 years or less.

Multinational religions like Christianity always syncretize to adapt to local norms when they are spread outside the original source. Hence the Protestant Reformation -- remaking Christianity to adapt to Anglo-Germanic norms, especially for people (like the non-British Germanics) who did not participate in the construction of Christianity throughout the seven ecumenical councils of the 1st millennium.

And that's all well and good. But then these WASPs and Nords should not invade the Catholic church and start ordering them around. In this case, there are larger forces at work -- a broader attempt to impose elite imperial norms on subject peoples, after the American empire swallowed up much of the Mediterranean in the wake of WWII, from Spain to Turkey.

They never did subject those pesky Lebanese, though, who kept the Yankees out of their country by blowing up the Marines barracks in the early '80s, and Uncle Sam figured their tiny country was not worth the hassle (no oil). WASPs, or any other group of imperial elites, can never get over such a humiliating failure.

They would only welcome and go easy on the Lebanese if they genuflected themselves and begged to be part of the Anglo-American elite stratum. But they largely have not, even when they hold professional-class jobs and run for political office (like Green Party fixture Ralph Nader, my only other vote for president aside from Trump -- triggering libtards for 20 years and counting). They are not reliable clients of the imperial hegemon, and are kept at arm's length.

Contrast that with the WASPs' treatment of the Turks and Turkey -- way more favorable and enthusiastic toward their culture and people. It's not the exotic appeal of a vowel-harmony language, or the novelty of Muslim babes who don't cover their long luscious locks. Nope: it's that Turkey has been a NATO member, and a reliable client, since the early days. Whatever suspicions the Anglo elites may have about the Turks, they have far deeper suspicions of the Lebanese, based on the history of imperial incorporation (or failure to do so).

It's irrelevant if any particular Anglo elite person is not consciously aware of this incentive or motivation driving their behavior -- material forces often do not rise to the level of overtly articulated reasons. But they remain powerful forces nonetheless.

Unlike Lebanon, though, Italy *was* defeated militarily (WWII), after which Rome and the Vatican itself (de facto if not de jure) became vassals of NATO and the cultural institutions of the Anglo-American empire. Cultural imperialism stems from political-military expansion. This Anglo imperial transformation of Rome and the Catholic church was formalized soon after Italy's defeat and incorporation into NATO, during the Vatican II councils of the 1960s. The Mid-20th C. was a latter-day war of religion, where the Anglo Protestants came out on top of the Med Catholics.

The good news for Meds and Catholics is that this was a rather late development in the American empire, as we reached our peak of expansion during / right after WWII. So it will be the weakest piece of the whole, and the most likely to break off from our sphere of influence -- unlike the American Southwest.

Once Italy, and therefore the Vatican, are no longer political-military vassals of a Protestant empire, as we Americans continue our ongoing disintegration, they will reclaim their traditional roles and norms and institutions. Not that they'll LARP as Early Modern Counter-Reformation hardliners exactly, but it would be surprising also if they didn't reconquer their church with a lot of pent-up frustration from having it Protestantized for perhaps a century or more by the time these changes come.

Aimee, you may not believe in "collapse" for ideological reasons -- but for your people to seize back control of their institutions from these Puritan interlopers, you may have to! :)

(And no, I'm neither Med nor Catholic. Born & raised Methodist, 1/4 French, but unclear if they were Cath or Prot since they settled in New England at first, not Louisiana. Just cannot stand seeing wondrous, millennia-old human cultural institutions getting gutted by fleeting imperial finger-waggers, whether Puritans or Salafists.)

March 25, 2022

Streaming as the new (celeb)reality TV, Zoomers as neo-X-ers, 2020s as neo-'90s

As I observe more of the streamer phenomenon, the clearer it is that it's a distinctly Zoomer thing. I looked into the voice actresses behind the Hololive English Vtubers (I only watch Gura, but out of curiosity I checked all), and except for one who was born in 1993, all were born between '95 and '99. So are the couple of Twitch streamers I check in on (Pokimane and Wolfabelle, and Talia Mar back in the Among Us heyday), not to mention the most popular regular streamer on Twitch, xQc.

Millennials dominate the podcasting format, and the Twitter platform, while Zoomers dominate streaming and Twitch. When the rare Zoomer on Twitter deactivates, like @shamshi_adad just did, I can't help but think they're decamping to Twitch or TikTok to host a good-vibes virtual dance party in the streaming format, more suitable to their generation's sensibilities, and on platforms less thoroughly colonized by other generations. It's hard for me to even imagine Zoomers speaking in a podcaster voice.

Zoomers also seem to dominate the "follow my life" vlogging format, mainly on YouTube. I only watch one (Megan and Ciera), and they're late '90s births. So was that camping lifestyle vlogger who was murdered by her bf, Gabby Petito. I don't remember Millennials making content in this format when they were around 20 years old. The only thing that came close was lonelygirl15, and of course that was a scripted dramatic production.

What does the typical streaming format and the "day / week in our life" vlogging format have in common? It's more of an episodic reality narrative format, only online instead of a TV / cable broadcast. Podcasting, on the other hand, does not focus primarily on the narratives, relationships, or personal-life thoughts and feelings of characters, let alone in a reality / documentary tone rather than a dramatic / theatrical tone.

Podcasting is a more theatrical kind of entertainment, the descendant of the talk radio format. Boomers have always dominated talk radio, notwithstanding X-ers like Joe Rogan and Alex Jones taking over once the Boomers aged out. Its heyday was the '90s and 2000s, with Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh being the largest figures. They're take-meisters, stand-up comics, and monologue deliverers, all in one. Their real personal lives only serve as occasional inspiration for a riff, a bit, a monologue, or a hot take -- not the central focus of the material. To succeed, you need to be someone who likes the spotlight on you, as you perform on a stage before an audience.

For those who have never watched a popular streamer, or are unfamiliar with Gen Z's tendency to exist entirely online and not IRL, it may sound puzzling to say that watching them sit in a chair, react to their chat, and play video games, is like a documentary reality TV show. When does the camera follow them outside the house? Why don't we see them doing mundane daily activities? Or talking to other characters in their lives?

Well, if Zoomers never leave the home (something they all make self-deprecating jokes about), then you *are* watching their daily lives as they sit in a chair in front of a computer set-up. Their whole lives are online and virtual, not IRL. Their daily activities are not going to the store and running into neighbors who they share funny stories with, it's scrolling their timeline and engaging with its content. So you are watching them go through all sorts of daily activities -- checking their subreddit, uploading pictures to Instagram, clapping back to haters on Twitter, reacting to other streamers' video clips, sending text messages, and so on and so forth. And the other characters in their online lives are also entirely online -- other accounts who they interact with, although every once in awhile they make an IRL guest appearance.

Call it "virtuality streaming" instead of reality TV, to reflect the fact that more and more, virtual is primary over IRL in people's lives. Otherwise, it's the same thing.

In fact, it's almost like the celebreality format of the 2000s, since these big streamers are not only letting you in to their daily personal lives, they're also doing whatever made them a high-follower account in the first place -- e.g., playing video games. They could never interact with their audience, never show themselves doing other daily (online) activities, and never refer to their private lives, and they would still be popular celebs for the entertainment value of their video game playing.

But in addition to their purely performer role as video game players (or RV camping hobbyists, or whatever their main draw is), they also let the audience in to follow the narrative of their personal lives, and often interact with their audience in real time. It dampens the pure theatricality of their main performance, as though the actors for a stage play took 30-60 minutes chit-chatting with the audience beforehand, got dressed and made-up and the like on stage rather than backstage, and took breaks during the performance to go to the bathroom, get a bite to eat, etc.

And unlike podcasting, where all the technical production is done off-camera or in post-production if it's pre-recorded, the technical work is all done on-camera for streaming, often by the streamer themselves. And usually the streamer is shown wearing their huge, wired over-the-head headphones to monitor their audio channels, the big-ass studio mic jutting into their personal space, and parts of their computer set-up visible in frame (keyboard, mouse, cables, beverage containers, etc.).

If the intent of the format were purely theatrical, like podcasting, these would all serve as Brechtian alienation techniques that would jar the audience out of the suspension of disbelief. But since the intent is documentary / reality, it only adds to the sense that you're sharing their personal daily life with them, as it's happening, where it's happening.

As with the original reality TV, virtuality streaming is not entirely spontaneous, unscripted, or unaware of the camera and mic. Still, on the spectrum from verite to theatrical, both fall squarely on the former side, while talk radio and podcasting fall on the latter side.

Having established the nature of this new format, and its generational make-up, we immediately see another connection -- that Gen X has always dominated the reality TV format, as first detailed in this old post. Gen X have been the stars of the format since way back in the early '90s, when MTV's The Real World debuted, right through their parental / middle-aged stage during the 2010s iteration, e.g. the Real Housewives series.

It seems safe to say, then, that Zoomers will always dominate the virtuality streaming format. They're pioneering it right now, as X-ers did in the early '90s, but even 20 years from now we'll still see this generation doing day-in-my-life vlogs of parenting life (echo-ing the mommy-blogger trend among Gen X-ers, which Millennial moms have scarcely been interested in). Or maybe they won't be married or have kids, given generational shifts away from those milestones, but Zoomers will still be streaming their daily virtual lives well into their 30s and 40s, however their virtual lives may change by that time. (And Millennials will continue to be podcasting take-meisters into their 50s and 60s.)

I attribute the difference in format preference to how attention-seeking vs. blending-in the generations are. There seems to be an oscillation between each successive generation: Zoomers, X-ers, Silents, and the Lost Generation, were all in the "blending into the background" direction, whereas Millennials, Boomers, and the Greatest Gen, were all in the "hogging the spotlight" direction. See some earlier posts here and here, mainly about the Zoomers' place in this generational rhythm.

If you're a real spotlight-seeker, the low-key, naturalistic, quotidian, warts-and-all nature of the reality-based format is just not going to satisfy your thirst. You're going to go to a more performative format. If the theatrical production involved in stage work is pulling you too far out of your comfort zone, then you'll withdraw to a more cozy format where you can just be your ordinary self. Also, the attention-seeking generations are assured of their own epic awesomeness, while the low-key generations question whether they're the greatest group of people around. The overly confident attitude suits the former to bold performers, while the uncertain and introspective attitude suits the latter to relatable pals.

One final note on the 15-year excitement cycle, each full cycle seems to oscillate between a high-energy setting and a low-energy setting. The high-energy cycles were 2005-'19, 1975-'89, 1945-'59, and 1915-'29, while the low-energy cycles were 1990-2004, 1960-'74, and 1930-'44. We're clearly in the start of a new low-energy cycle, beginning in 2020, which is drawing more from the '90s and early 2000s than from the late 2000s or 2010s, let alone the late '70s and '80s (whose revival matched the high-energy contempo zeitgeist of the late 2000s and 2010s). I could also see it drawing from the '60s and early '70s, although it's farther back for most people and doesn't have such instant nostalgia recognition.

The '90s and early 2000s era of reality TV was pretty unglamorous -- not to say downright grungy, just unglamorous. That changed during the mid-2000s and lasted through the 2010s, when reality TV focused on more high-energy, glamorous, and exciting lifestyles. Since we're in a low-energy cycle now, virtuality streaming is -- and will likely remain for the near-term -- an unglamorous format, like all other formats. But I could see when the next full cycle begins, in 2035, the Zoomers taking their live-streaming production to high-energy, glamorous, and exciting locations like fashionable nightclubs and restaurants. Or if they still prefer the virtual over IRL, recreating the see-and-be-seen nightclub vibe in an online platform, rather than doing word puzzles and playing video games.

This is yet another entry in the ongoing series of humanizing the Zoomers, BTW, since Millennials -- who make up most of the take-meister class -- are dead-set on portraying them as weird goblins and subhuman demons. Zoomers play into that stereotype in a self-deprecating joking way (e.g., Gura's previous alter ego, Senzawa, being a "blue-haired gremlin" or Em Beihold's new song about feeling like a "Numb Little Bug"). But Millennials are not just making humorous observations about how strange the Zoomers are to them, they're making them into caricatures that are beyond rational explanation or understanding, to dehumanize them and thereby raise their own gen's status (LOL).

Millennials are acting like 6 year-olds who got suddenly jealous that there's a toddler in the home now, and are trying to kill off their weaker sibling rival. It used to be that Gen X's identity was based on having to pick up the pieces from things that their Boomer elders had wrecked -- now we have to pick up the pieces of what our Millennial inferiors are trying to brattishly break. I don't care if your Zoomer baby sister has a center part or baggy clothes -- so did we back in the '90s, and it doesn't signal weird / demonic / goblin status, anymore than your own weird-ass look from 2008 did -- emo Bieber bangs, thinned-out eyebrows, and ballet flats. Lighten up -- it's just fashion!

March 20, 2022

Girls check guys' socials for brand synergy opportunities, not detective work (and a parody of "Material Girl" for the online persona era)

A recent post at the Red Scare podcast subreddit is just one among many mega-posts on the topic of girls freaking out over a potential bf having little to no presence on social media. The standard view is that this comes from a true-crime detective mindset -- to weed out serial killers and the like -- or a less paranoid version that still wants to sift through his posting in order to determine whether he's hiding some deep dark secret.

Only problem is, it isn't 2007 anymore, and nobody does the whole "over-sharing online" thing these days. Every post, on every major platform that you would check, is meticulously curated to present that account's ideal persona to the audience. Nobody is going to be blurting out their deepest darkest secrets, or waving red flags from a mile away, like they're LiveJournal-ing during their middle school emo phase.

In 2022, it's taken for granted that people can deceive others on the internet, especially when they have a strong motive. And that they can scrub their digital past, if they're concerned about what others would think. So online sleuthing is not going to dig up any real skeletons.

Rather, what's going on is that these girls are in status-striving mode, and want to see what their potential bf would bring to the striving table.

Recall this old foundational post on the generational structure of status contests. Silents and Boomers are the wealthiest generations in world history, so they competed over wealth. Gen X took a major hit to their wealth, for their entire lives, but they weren't wiped out -- so they competed over lifestyles, conspicuous leisure, and so on. Millennials and Zoomers came of status-striving age after the 2008 Depression struck, which none of them have ever recovered from. Competing over wealth is obviously a non-starter, but they will never have enough income to even compete over lifestyle activities. They compete over their personas, primarily through the social media platforms, which doesn't require much income at all to take part in. When IRL becomes unaffordable, go entirely online instead.

It's hard for pre-Millennials, even a very tail-end Gen X-er like me, to appreciate just how digitized and online-ized the Millennial and Zoomer sense of identity, personhood, and social interaction, have become. Their online persona is their primary self, and their IRL body is just a vehicle for doing quotidian tasks necessary to keep their online persona engaged in its engagement. For pre-Millennials, our primary self is the offline one, and we go online solely in order to do things we can't already do IRL.

So, the Millennial and Zoomer girls who are poring over the social media accounts of their potential bf are like the yuppie Boomers who would rapidly zoom in on the all-important question, "What do you do?" -- i.e., how much money do you make, and what kind of status does your career have? Or the Gen X girls who would zoom in on, "So, what do you like to do for fun?" -- i.e., what variety of lifestyle striving are you invested in? The Millennial / Zoomer girls want to know how much online clout their suitor would be bringing in, whether just within their narrow online sub-culture, or broadly to a mass online audience.

Becoming an item, let alone moving in together, getting married, etc., is merging the two status pools of each partner. No matter how much or how little she's bringing in, she's always going to want to know how much he would be bringing in on his end. For yuppie Boomers, the goal was DINK -- Dual Income, No Kids, to maximize their wealth-striving capacity. Think of how much higher up on the zip code totem pole you could be living, if you merged your income stream with someone else's, instead of living alone?

Millennials and Zoomers will always be too poor to afford owning property, or even rent high-up, so they don't care about that. However, they are no less intense in their striving drive, it just takes place in the online social media domain. Sure, not every girl can find a guy who makes 7 digits (follower count, that is), but they're going to aim as high as they can. Otherwise their online friends will think she's a loser, dating a guy with barely any followers, posts, or engagement on his accounts.

This is distinct from the notion of a "power couple" in the mass-media celeb sense. Very few of these couples will gain national or local attention. It's just the rational thing to do, when you want to maximize your status at the expense of everything else in life -- whether a dual-income household, or a dual-clout account. Pool your separate resources when they can be used jointly.

To lighten the mood on this otherwise depressing topic, and to adapt an anthem from the yuppie Boomer era to the online Millennial / Zoomer era, here's a parody of "Material Girl" by Madonna. Pronunciation guide: stress on 1st syllable in "CO-llabs" to fit it better into that line.

* * *

Some boys click me, some boys @ me
They should up their game
If they can't max my media metrics
I just block their name

They can simp, and they can "SHEESH!"
But I don't need no shrine
Only boys with co-brand collabs
Can be my king online

'Cause we're engaging within a virtual world
And I am such a virtual girl
Y'know that we're engaging within a virtual world
And I am such a virtual girl

March 16, 2022

NPC gripes about "burnt Starbucks"

Why do only white people whine about Starbucks tasting burnt etc? Just searched Twitter for reviews of their Sumatra line, which is supposed to be earthy, herbal, and dark-roasted. The black & Hispanic people never bring up the standard gripe about Starbucks tasting burnt, over-roasted, etc. (So far, haven't found Asians reviewing it). And it's not as though those groups are averse to leaving bad reviews of things.

Is it the cerebral vs. corporeal orientation? The overly civilized and cerebralized fraction of white people don't like all sorts of smells and tastes. The normal fraction of white people are fine with them, or actively seek them out. Same thing with perfume and cologne.

You'll never see a MENA person whining about burnt Starbucks -- they were one of the most reliable demographics, back when coffee houses were the place to be, in the 2010s.

What the weirdos describe as burnt, ash, and shoe-bottom -- a normal brain would interpret as warm, smoky, earthy, with animalic notes of leather. It's a heady cologne, but drinkable! The cerebrals can't stand any drink that doesn't taste like fruit juice or milkshakes. Kiddie tastes, at most rising to the level of sweet & sour -- but nothing pungent and earthy, like grown-ups can appreciate. They also don't like anything heavy or thick -- light and wispy only, like skim milk instead of whole milk!

It's a simple way to disqualify a reviewer of food and drink -- any view they have stems from their underformed senses of smell-and-taste, so why take it seriously? It's exactly like critics of music who are tone-deaf, can't dance, and have no rhythm. Or color-blind critics of painting.

Who cares what sensory deficient people think about the realm of the senses?

It's possible this is just counter-signaling the specific brand of Starbucks, since I didn't read as much hate (or any hate at all) for Peet's -- another West Coast style, dark-roasted, Indo-Pacific-heavy origin brand. But they didn't exactly love them either (e.g., Major Dickason's Blend, which I just finished a bag of, and really enjoyed).

The more I looked into the tastes of coffee snobs, the more they seem to despise the entire Indonesian area -- too earthy, not acidic enough, not fruity or floral enough, to the extent that those beans would be thrown out if they had come from any other region, as defective. Oh no, anything but drinks that don't taste like wine and fruity-floral perfumes!

And as usual, I don't get the sense that the normal brains find those Latin American or African types disgusting, let alone whining about "it tastes like drinking Herbal Essences shampoo" or something faggy like that. Normal brains appreciate the full spectrum of things, while stunted cerebral brains only narrowly fixate on one range, and get hysterical about anything outside of it.

This is yet another example of how hard it is to go by verbal reviews of physical things, given that reviewers are biased toward being wordcels and cerebrals, who can't appreciate the full spectrum of things. Who showed up to lounge around Starbucks, and savor their favorite drink every day -- much more reliable. But you can't look that up using a verbal algorithm like Google or Yelp or Twitter. You have to actually go there and see for yourself what others feel about it.

And of course these days no one hangs out in coffee shops anymore, but that's for another post...

March 9, 2022

Age of Empires is over in Europe, until long-term mass invasion (no WWI, Huns, Tsar, etc., and no more renaissances)

After Russia has begun to reclaim the Ukrainian lands of its former territory, and with news that Germany may begin to re-arm itself, hot-take-havers on both sides have begun to fantasize about the return of the Age of Empires in Europe. Russia is going to fill out its former Tsarist / Soviet borders, Germany will become the neo-Prussians threatening all of Europe, perhaps coming to another clash over Eastern Europe, and so on and so forth.

This is all total fantasy, stemming from the media -- including social media -- being primarily based on emotional tribalistic reactions, emotional management (soothing a loss, or hyping up the team for a win), and other group activities divorced from factual analysis, historical knowledge, and the like.

What follows is a whole bunch of posts in one place. Should last awhile, but if anything else occurs to me, I'll add more posts in the comments section.

* * *

The blogosphere ecosystem was host to both forms of online discourse, but it turns out most of it -- both the suppliers and the demanders -- was proto-social-media. Once Twitter et al became viable platforms, 90% of the blogosphere creators and commenters abandoned their academic or analytical "brethren," and the results are plain to see. Utterly clueless fantasies spun by all sides, for the emotional management of their team within a broader societal battle. At worst, see-through propaganda; at best, info-tainment for LARP-ers.

The reason I keep driving home the model of ethnogenesis and imperiogenesis, as popularized by Peter Turchin in War and Peace and War, is that it helps clarify not only some piece of the past that was not already covered by the model, but the present situation as well. Without a proper long-term perspective, you are helpless to make sense of what's going on now and is likely to unfold in the near-to-medium future.

So, will the current situation in Ukraine lead to the formation of new expansionist states -- empires? Well, what causes a people to cohere so powerfully that they not only fend off invaders, but begin and sustain expansions of their own? It is finding themselves at the meta-ethnic frontier between themselves and a highly different Other, one that is an expanding state in its own right. If they are quickly taken over, due to lying close to the core of the expanding state, that doesn't allow them enough time to feel the effects of the frontier. They are rapidly made into subjects, and adapt accordingly. However, if they are pressed up against for a long time, that forces them to view themselves in strong Us vs. Them terms, and to have the time and resources to organize themselves accordingly, without becoming quickly dominated by the expanding Other.

When this external pressure eases up, the response from the newly cohesive society does not immediately go away. There is hysteresis, where the response lasts for a long time after the initial catalyst has gone away. The logic is that the catalyst could re-assert itself after a lull or temporary setback -- so, best to keep your response active, even if idling, until the catalyst has been absent for a very long time.

Still, at some point the initial reason for your large-scale cohesion and expansion has gone away for a long time, and the empire finds itself losing cohesion, unable to expand further, and then outright contracting and falling apart. This also shows long-term effects, where they cannot immediately form a new expanding empire even if some new group of invaders poses a new meta-ethnic frontier for them. Rather, they will simply be over-run by the new invaders during imperial decline.

This model contradicts the progressive view of history, where everything goes in a new direction with no possible cycles to unwind the progress. It also contradicts the spergy models of cycles, where responses are rapid and frictionless and not prone to long-term momentum, allowing for efficiency, optimization, and other sorts of Homo Economicus behavior. Nevertheless, that's how history works. It is not "irrational" or "sub-optimal" -- it simply is doing the best it can do, and if it produces bad side-effects or falls short of some utopian ideal, then so be it. Real life is marked by uncertainty and variance at large orders of magnitude, and that is why processes with hysteresis are adaptive -- they keep you the individual, or the society, from being caught off-guard by a temporary lull or fluke, and instead keep things going for a long while just to be certain.

* * *

What is the invading force that has thrown a long-term meta-ethnic frontier upon Western Europe any time recently? The answer is: none. The US empire helped to defeat one moribund empire in Europe -- Germany -- but the other moribund empires were on their way out the door as well. America simply swept up what was falling apart: the empires of Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Ottoman, and Spanish (and the unified Italy, which was still not an empire). The only empire to escape incorporation into the expanding American empire was Russia, which like the US was still expanding or about to reach its maximum extent during the mid-20th C.

If the Russian empire had been losing its territorial gains throughout the 19th C., as were the Spanish and Ottoman empires, or had already maxed out its gains and would begin losing them to, e.g., decolonization after WWI -- as was the case for the British, French, German, and Austrian empires -- then it, too, would have been in a wobbly state after WWII, and almost surely would have been folded up into the American empire as well. But Russian expansion didn't hit the wall until several decades later, beginning with their invasion of Afghanistan circa the 1980s, when their state was already starting to come apart, and would ultimately break down entirely during the '90s.

Luckily for the Russians, however, the American empire could not scoop up the collapsing Russian / Soviet empire, because America's expansion had already hit its own wall, beginning right after WWII. The Philippines -- won by defeating Spain in 1898 -- declared independence with zero pushback from America. Our invasion of northern Korea failed to place it under our control. Cuba (the other big prize from 1898) declared independence in the late '50s, and we have never recovered it despite massive pushback from Washington. Then there were the string of failed Asian land wars in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. All our Latin American proxies were defeated by nationalists by the late '80s and afterwards. Iran overthrew the American puppet and has never been under our sphere of influence since the '80s. Nor has Iraq, despite decades of pressure. Afghanistan was never under US control, and the Taliban recently kicked us out altogether. Ditto for our attempts to control Libya, Syria, Venezuela, and other former and future members of an Axis of Evil.

If we couldn't even scoop up a minor Central American country like Nicaragua, in our own backyard, what chance did we have of scooping up the former Russian empire, on the other side of the world?

Our failure to expand by force is not contradicted by the growth of NATO after WWII. After all, most of the core were added right away. The additions that would actually pose a threat to Russia -- in Eastern Europe -- were not added until 1999 and later. We did not conquer the new NATO members by force, as we had Germany during WWII. Both parties voluntarily agreed to an alliance, which is not territorial expansion by force. It's more accurate to call these new NATO members "tributary states" or something, not proper members of the American empire like Britain, France, and Germany.

And sure enough, America is not about to lift a finger to militarily defend Eastern Europe, nor will it allow its tributary states of the former Warsaw Pact use their own militaries to enter a war against Russia. Rather than being an all-powerful unified front, NATO has revealed itself to be weak, unwilling to counter Russian expansion, and barely held together. This is not a demand for it to magically will itself into an all-powerful status, just an objective assessment of its impotence, lack of cohesion, and absence of enthusiasm to fulfill its stated purpose. It could not have turned out any other way, since it is the vehicle in Europe of the American empire, which has been stagnant or outright declining as an empire since its peak during WWII.

Maybe if the Soviets had invaded and occupied England by surprise in 1950, we and NATO would have gone to war over it. But Russia invading Ukraine in 2022? No shot, bucko.

So much for the idea that America's NATO presence would present a meta-ethnic frontier in Europe, to force some of them into newly expanding states to counter America. Then there's the matter of the duration of time -- NATO has only been around for 70-odd years, and in Eastern Europe for scarcely 20. That's not enough time to produce imperiogenetic effects, and its duration is not going to last much longer anyway. With the failure to unite and counter Russia in 2022, it is de facto over as a threat to any nation in Europe, whether Eastern or Western.

* * *

That only leaves Russia as the potential source for causing imperiogenesis in other nations in Europe. But the Russian empire has been contracting since circa 1990, and is not anywhere near clawing back its losses in the Central Asian Turkic lands, let alone the former possessions of the Lithuanian empire (in its Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth incarnation), or of the Austrian empire (except for Lvov in Western Ukraine, as seems likely). Russia taking back Ukrainian land is merely recovering parts of Russia that broke off during imperial disintegration. It's no different than if Texas breaks off during American imperial decline, and some American strongman eventually recovers it for America, while failing to re-take more recent and far-flung possessions like South Korea and Japan after they eventually break off from our empire. See the previous post about Ukraine being integral to Russian ethnogenesis.

And no, contra some fantasies within the right-wing info-tainment sector, the large-scale influx of non-Europeans will not force any European nation to cohere more strongly, to repel them and begin expanding again. These immigrants are 99% slaves from nations conquered by Europe or America, and 1% brain-drain status-strivers, brought in by the will of the ruling Euro elites in both cases. Although they are highly different culturally, they are not unified amongst themselves, even remotely, as though they were a confederation of tribes choosing a single shared leader and advancing on targets in Europe.

In a few hundred years -- or maybe sooner -- they and their descendants will not be in Western Europe at all, just as the Eastern Mediterranean DNA signature in the Italian peninsula disappeared after Rome went through its Crisis of the Third Century, which ended it as an imperial power and attraction for slaves and status-strivers. Local elites will be even less unified than they are today, making the organization of a multi-national slave ring impossible. If you cannot organize your own local institutions effectively, you will be unable to organize more difficult enterprises, like multi-national ones. That means the end of Europeans conquering others through war, but also the end of Europeans importing slaves by the millions.

Slave importation is not a simple, unorganized "open the floodgates" operation -- it is a highly coordinated and networked enterprise, with multiple layers of administrative and bureaucratic structure. When the glue that holds these structures together starts to lose its strength, the institutions come undone, especially at the periphery of the empire where contraction begins, such as trafficking slaves from distant lands.

To take a more modern example, Constantinople had a massive non-Turkish population during the Ottoman era, especially drawing from Greeks and Armenians and Saharo-Arabian Muslims (and a smaller number of Bulgarians and Jews). These days, 100 years after the Ottoman empire collapsed, those groups are more or less absent compared to Turks. Istanbul has lost the attractive power of Constantinople under the Ottomans, as well as the administrative ability to incorporate a double-digit percentage of multi-national foreigners. (Only one longstanding non-Turkish group remains, the Kurds, and mostly in the rural east, far from the core of Istanbul.) That will not change, no matter how much anyone in Turkey may pine for the bygone days of their capital's ethnic heterogeneity. Cosmopolitan opulence, endless cheap labor, exotic sex slaves, and vibrant foreign cuisine -- crave it all you want, it's not coming back after your imperial heyday is over.

* * *

To wrap-up things up, let's take a clear-headed look at Europe on the eve of WWI, the period that is currently tickling the fantasies of the info-tainment sector. In case you guys forgot what you learned in high school history class (everything), remember the acronym "MANIA"? The causes leading to WWI -- Militarism, Alliances, Nationalism, Imperialism, Assassination.

The key one is imperialism, i.e. these were not mere countries or nations, but expanding empires, all pressing against each other, vying for the high-risk / high-reward game of war as an empire. If you're a little podunk nation of no consequence, you can't win that much in war, and you'll likely lose anyway. So why bother with a WWI-level war? Incursions, clan feuds, whatever. But not a continent-wide cataclysm like WWI.

The reason that war, and its aftershock of WWII, was so unique in European history is that Europe had never had so many expanding empires all jockeying for territory at the same time. There were no rival empires to the Romans when they were expanding in Europe (only to the east, like the Persians). Most of the Middle Ages saw only one empire in the West -- France. There was also a Muslim empire in Iberia, which however did not threaten anyone other than France. And in the east, there was the Avar khaganate, the Byzantine empire, the Bulgarian empire, and the Kievan Rus, by the close of the 1st millennium. None of which were threatening Western Europe. The various Turkic and Mongol empires never threatened Western Europe either. Nor did the Lithuanian empire (Grand Duchy) that arose during the late Middle Ages.

The empires of WWI all had Early Modern origins (Britain, France after the Hundred Years War, Prussia / Germany, Austria, and Russia), or perhaps the end of the Late Middle Ages (Spain and the Ottomans). These largely Early Modern empires arose as reactions to the expanding empires of the Middle Ages -- Spain against the Muslim empire, the Ottomans against the Byzantines, Russia against the Mongols and the Lithuanians, etc.

Since all of those Early Modern empires blew each other up during WWI and WWII, with Russia staggering through Midcentury, there are no more European empires jockeying for territory these days. And to reiterate the original point, there are no replacements for the forces that gave birth to those Early Modern empires -- no new Bulgarians, Mongols, Lithuanians, Carolingians, Capetians, or Emirate / Caliphate of Cordoba.

Empires do not "assume new, less military / territorial forms" -- they simply contract and collapse, unable to control other societies by force. German banks exploiting Greek workers through the EU system does not make Germany an empire, nor does the international vogue for French, Italian, and Spanish cuisine make them empires either. Their former expansions have been contracting ever since WWI or before, and that will not reverse for many centuries at the earliest (assuming a new threat appears long-term on their borders, after they have already hit rock bottom internally).

Let's consider the two specific cases that the info-tainers are obsessing over -- the Russians and the Germans.

Russian ethnogenesis and imperiogenesis are rooted primarily in the invasion of Turko-Mongol empires, all of whom have been pacified by the Russians (and the Chinese) for centuries. The Ottoman pressure to their south has been absent for a century. And the Lithuanian threat to their west has been a void as well. If anything, the American expansion into Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, has been an attempt to stimulate Russian expansion all over again, by reincarnating the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth threat to Russia's wide-open western border. But the reality of NATO impotence in Eastern Europe is already rapidly becoming clear -- they're no Grand Duchy of Lithuania -- and the duration of the threat has only been around for 20 years, unlikely to last even a century. So, no, Russia will not reconquer Eastern Europe as they did under the Tsars.

German imperial origins are even shallower, beginning only during the 1600s (vs. the late 1400s for Muscovite / Russian expansion over their invaders). Most of the Germanic lands were a fragmented black hole of cooperation, left in the wake of the collapse of the Frankish empire during the Middle Ages, whether of the Carolingian apogee, or of the later Ottonian eastern rump kingdom. Both of those were finished by the late Middle Ages, and by that time the Holy Roman Empire was not expanding, and was not a centrally governed state.

Rather, German imperiogenesis came from the east, among the Prussians, who expanded westward to unify Germany. Sidebar: the Prussians were never a threat to Eastern Europe, which from the Early Modern period onward has always been under Russian control. And before that, it was the province of the Lithuanians, Bulgarians, Kievan Rus, and various Turkic and Mongol invaders. Viewing the Germans and Russians as some sort of eternal enemies is ignorance, owing mostly to the American fixation on WWII-themed info-tainment, one of the few times the two nations were locked in deadly battle.

In any case, the Prussians only began expanding during the 17th C., first by unifying with Brandenburg in eastern Germany, and then liberating themselves from being a fiefdom of Poland, culminating in the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701. Their formative experience was the expansion of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth on their borders, and there has been a void in that region ever since the contraction of the Russian / Soviet empire. So there will be no new Prussians. And since there is no new Britain or France on the western side of Germany, it's not as though the Rhinelanders are going to turn Germany into a new expansionist empire either.

Reality check: the only long-term source of empires in Western Europe has been France, whether the Gauls, the Franks, the Capetians, or the Bourbons. Ditto for the renaissances that coincide with imperial expansion -- not caused by the military expansion itself, but owing to a common source, namely the high degree of cohesion and cooperation, whereby the elites patronize unprofitable cultural production and culture-makers devote themselves to such unprofitable endeavors that may not even be realized within their own lifetimes, for the greater good of the whole people and nation.

So, the only nation to keep an eye on for the return to the Age of Empires in Europe is France. And just like the other former empires of the WWI era, they are dead and buried as an expanding force. There may be nationalist sentiment brewing, which will eventually allow them to recover their sovereignty from the American empire / NATO / EU, but that is not the same as intense solidarity coming from lying at a meta-ethnic frontier for centuries. Although breaking free from their American overlords, they would not become a newly expanding state against their neighbors.

Rather, the situation would look more like the Balkans, where in the wake of Ottoman and Austrian imperial collapse, none of the member nations can cohere strongly enough to expand against the others, notwithstanding a long-term regional power -- Serbia -- enjoying greater sovereignty than the others (who became vassals of the American empire). France will become the Serbia of Western Europe when the American empire collapses.

The political / military Balkanization of Western Europe will be accompanied by a new cultural Dark Age in Europe (and obviously in the imperial core of America). The original Dark Age spared France, which enjoyed the Carolingian Renaissance, and the later peak of Capetian culture under Louis IX. But that was back when France was an expanding empire, birthed by its status on the frontier with the Roman empire. No more Romans, no more Carolingians or Capetians. This time around, France too will fall under the Dark Age.

Westerners derisively ask what the Arabs have created, invented, or discovered since the late Middle Ages. Already, we can begin to ask that about ourselves, and the joke will only sound more mordant as time goes on and the reality becomes obvious.

The silver lining, though, is no more WWI or WWII-level cataclysms. We're going to adapt to sub-imperial status, where nobody cooperates on a massive scale, whether for militaristic expansion or for transcendent cultural production.

March 3, 2022

The centrality of Ukrainian lands in Russian ethnogenesis

Kiev has not been under local rule ever since it was destroyed by the Mongol Empire during the mid-13th C. In the mid-14th C., it was incorporated into the Lithuanian Empire (the Grand Duchy), which later merged with Poland (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). By the mid-17th C., it was won from them by the Russian Empire, where it stayed for centuries, right up through the Soviet era.

So, in the present context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is more of a restoration of their historical territory, rather than taking over a polity with a long-standing history. That goes for the rest of Ukrainian territory, except for Lvov in the far west, which was only added to Russia in 1939, and was historically a part of the Polish kingdom / Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth back to the mid-14th C., before getting taken by the Habsburg Empire in the late 18th C. when Poland was partitioned among the major empires.

This post is not a normative justification for any side in the war, but a descriptive analysis of the deep historical dynamics that have led to the current state of affairs. Crucially, this war cannot be analyzed as though it were the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or the American invasion of Iraq, since neither of those were restoring long-held territory of the invaders, and the invaders saw the target population as a wholly different Other, whereas Russians view Ukrainians as brothers, having grown up together in the same place with the same history and subject to the same formative experiences.

What distinguishes the West from the East, in this context? It is not a snapshot of their traits right now, but rather their long-term historical roots, not just in some static genetic sense, but more so how they were shaped into a cohesive people or ethnos over the centuries.

Following Peter Turchin's popularization in War and Peace and War, the main force that binds a bunch of people together, to think of themselves as Us against Them, and to form a common defense and polity for the purpose of preserving Us against Them, is being encroached upon by an expanding empire -- especially if it is across a meta-ethnic frontier, where there are totally different languages, religions, subsistence modes, etc., on either side.

The nations and empires of "the West" all grew up in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire. In fact, they were brought into being by the encroachment of the expanding Romans out of the Italian peninsula. This was most powerful in northwestern Europe, namely today's France, beginning with the Merovingian period of the mid-late first millennium. They were not Mediterraneans by culture, did not speak Italic languages, were more nomadic / less sedentary, and practiced a different religion from Rome (although they were similar from having descended from a common Indo-European source).

Some modern members of the West owe their existence to a second-order effect of Roman expansion, i.e. the expansion of first-order cases like France. Most obviously, Britain, who were occupied by the Romans, but not for long, and not so intensely. British identity was instead forged by the expansion of France, especially during the Hundred Years War -- much longer, and much more intense of a pressure than Rome ever was to the British Isles.

None of the Slavic peoples were even around for the Roman Empire, let alone its collapse. Their migration period was the second half of the 1st millennium, long after Rome had bitten the dust. And their migrations took them far away from the old Roman borders, namely toward northeastern Europe, so they had minimal contact with the first-order effects of Rome like France, and could not become second-order effects of Roman expansion like Britain did.

Only some southern Slavs felt the second-order effects of Rome, namely from the expansion of the Byzantine Empire (a first-order effect of Roman expansion). And much as an expanding Britain arose due to an expanding France, an expanding Bulgarian Empire arose due to an expanding Byzantine Empire. Still, Slavic people on the whole do not share the deep historical forces that shaped the West.

Rather, the peoples of Eastern Europe were forged together by an entirely different group of expanding empires -- the Turko-Mongol nomads from the Central Asian steppes, whether they were Khazars, Mongols, Tatars, or whoever else. As far as Indo-European speaking farmers who adopted Christianity were concerned, all of those Turko-Mongol speaking nomadic pastoralists practicing Tengrism or Islam were equal to each other, and equally alien to Us. This forging of identity took place during a separate time period as well, from the late 1st millennium to the early 2nd millennium.

Those European nations that sprung up in the wake of the Romans, were not subject to these later pressures left by the Turko-Mongols. So there is little in common to the particular historical forces that birthed the Western nations, and those that birthed the Eastern nations.

There is a portion of the eastern Mediterranean that was subject to both Roman and Turko-Mongol pressures, especially Anatolia, which is why it has both Western and Eastern characteristics. But the Aegean region is not what we usually mean by "the East" when discussing Russia vs. Western Europe. And in the Balkans, the largely Slavic population there today was not there during Roman times, so they did not grow up on the Roman frontier, only on the Turko-Mongol frontier, which is why the Balkan Slavs are more solidly Eastern.

* * *

Getting back to Ukraine, the first major polity in the region was the so-called Kievan Rus, known back then as simply the Rus, from whom both Belarus and Russia derive their names. From what I gather in a hotly contested theoretical debate, the early ruling elite were likely Germanic / Scandinavian foreigners who quickly adopted local Slavic culture.

However, none of the Germanic migrations have left a genetic signature in today's genepools around Europe, whether Spain, Italy, or Eastern Europe (no Visigothic, Langobard, or Varangian blood in those places). [1] Generally, the elites out-reproduced the commoners in the pre-Industrial age, so if the Germanics remained in the places where they migrated to, especially as a foreign ruling elite, they ought to have left a sizable genetic contribution to the present-day populations of those places. And yet they have not. So, either they inter-married with the local majority as quickly as they adopted their culture, or they simply went somewhere else after awhile, perhaps dying out sometime afterward.

In either case, the Germanic / Norse / Scandinavian influence on the Kievan Rus must have been fairly minimal. They culturally adapted to the local Slavs, and genetically mixed themselves in (as a small foreign minority, not affecting things much), or took a hike before too long.

But this whole business about the Norse migration into Balto-Slavic Eastern Europe is ignoring the ethnogenetic cultural factor that makes all these disparate peoples form into a cohesive Us -- namely, a wholly different Them encroaching on Our turf. In the case of the Rus, this was the Khazar Empire (Khaganate) from the east. Centuries later, the Rus were brought down by the expanding Mongol Empire. During that entire time, everyone in the territory of the Rus -- whether Germanic or Slavic or Baltic just a few centuries earlier -- suddenly, right here and right now, felt the pressure from expanding Turko-Mongol groups originating in Central Asia. Germanics and Balts and Slavs would have instantly put aside their minor differences, against the Turko-Mongol menace, to forge a new single collective identity -- the Rus.

The next empire to rule over Kiev, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, arose on the frontier of the expanding Kievan Rus, and largely took its place. From their origin near the Baltic Sea, they were also being hounded at the time by their fellow Balts during the crusades to Christianize them -- Lithuanians were the last in Europe to adopt Christianity. But then the Rus were also Christians rather than pagans, and their Slavic language and other culture was more strange to Lithuanians than that of their fellow Balts, the Livonian crusaders. The Lithuanian Empire was no less subject to pressure from Turko-Mongol invaders than other Eastern empires, at that time mainly the Golden Horde (the northwestern section of the Mongol Empire), from whom they won control over Kiev in 1362.

The primary pressure that forced modern Russia into existence was also the Turko-Mongol invasions under various incarnations. As they were closer to the Turko-Mongol action than the Lithuanians were, the Russians developed a far more intense cohesion that has kept them as the leaders of the Eastern European sphere ever since. In fact, once the Turko-Mongols were taken care of, expanding Russia turned its attention to the Lithuanian Empire on its other, western border, not to mention the fleeting threat of an expanding Sweden during the 17th C. Russia's capital was moved north from Moscow to St. Petersburg for two centuries, reflecting this shift in regional priorities.

Eventually Russia conquered the lands of the former Grand Duchy and much of Poland from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including today's nations of Belarus and Ukraine. This unfolded gradually over the second half of the second millennium (see here for maps and timelines).

Later threats came from the expanding Ottoman Empire to their south, centering around the northern shores of the Black Sea. The Ottomans were Mediterranean, Muslim, and Anatolian mixed with a Turkic-descended ruling elite -- very different from the Russians or other Eastern Europeans.

So, during its entire history of ethnogenesis, Russia has shared the same fate as the lands of today's Ukraine -- pressured by Turko-Mongol empires from the east, the Lithuanian empire to the west, and the Ottomans to the south. As far as Russian ethnogenesis is concerned, "Ukraine" is simply one part of Russia -- and a very central part, at that. It's not way up in the north where the Turko-Mongol and Ottoman pressures were weaker. Ukraine includes much of the steppe-forest transition lands where the Slavic farmers were right up against the Turko-Mongol nomads.

Imagining Russia without Ukraine is like imagining America without Texas and the Southwest, on the border not only with Mexico but with the Indians (Navajo, Comanche, Apache, etc.), who served as the main cause of American ethnogenesis. Not surprisingly both have a history of fiercely independent horse-riding frontiersmen -- the Cossacks and the Cowboys. Sure, some parts of America look down on Texas, just as some parts of Russia surely look down on Ukraine -- and yet, America isn't America without Texas, and Russia isn't Russia without Ukraine.

* * *

To conclude, here is a helpful post from Turchin's blog, while the Donbass "separatists" ("join-Russia-ists") were staging their protests back in 2014. He links to other articles of his about why Russia is not Russia without Crimea, as seen by the place of Sevastopol among the Hero Cities of the Soviet Union. A city with such sacred significance is hard to let go of for Russia. He argued at the time that Russia would not waste resources annexing eastern Ukraine because there were no sacred cities there.

However, those Hero Cities also include Odessa and Kiev, in addition to the Crimean peninsula, drawing a boundary around much of Ukraine's territory. They include other cities conquered from the Lithuanian Empire, lying in today's Belarus and Ukraine and Russia, such as Smolensk, Minsk, and Brest (and of course, Kiev itself). And another that was central to Russian expansion in that direction, St. Petersburg.

These Hero Cities were chosen for their role during WWII, but you can see that the list is mostly a rationalization of the earlier expansion of the Russian Empire.

Thus, Ukrainian lands are sacredly central to Russian ethnogenesis not only because of their role in the Turko-Mongol struggle, but also against the Ottomans, and the Lithuanians. And just as Russia is incredibly close with Belarus, being in a state union since the post-Soviet 1990s, Ukraine will inevitably be incorporated into Russia as well. State union, annexation, puppet government, whatever other mechanism may enact it -- it will happen.

Russia is simply not Russia without the Ukrainian lands. You can like that fact, you can hate that fact, and whatever stems from that fact. But it's a fact, and there's no point in denying it or remaining ignorant about it, when our government is so centrally involved in trying to break Ukraine away from Russia and into the US-controlled NATO / EU empire.

[1] See the discussion and citation in this old post on the greater genetic similarity in Eastern Europe, due to the Slavic migrations having taken place most recently, and in lands that were sparsely settled before then. I postulated the greater genetic similarity as a second factor, after the cultural / ethnogenetic factor, for why Eastern Europe shows so little separatism compared to Western Europe.

That continues right through the present situation, which I noted in the Ukrainian context back then, since "separatists" in eastern Ukraine want to join Russia, rather than split off into their own little autonomous nation, a la Ireland declaring independence from Britain. This is more of a reconfiguration of polities, rather than fragmentation like you find in the West (e.g., where Basques, Catalans, and whoever else, all want their own separate nations after breaking from Spain).