Lately Russia has been in the news quite a lot, and as a blogger who is very much concerned with gay rights, it’s about time I say something on the subject as well. However, as usual, I won’t be taking the common Western view, because as things go in international politics, that view is usually flawed. Instead, I’d like to give some thought to why Russia has imposed these terrible laws and how the West really isn’t any better.
To do that, we’ll have to go back in history. It doesn’t matter what time or place you go back to, you will always find tensions between countries caused by ignorance. After all, whether you go back to the Peloponnesian wars or to the Cold War, the common factor is always that two nations, made up of people who were all identical at birth, end up despising each other and praising their own nation.
But in this case, although ignorance seems to be universal, it is the Cold War that is particularly interesting. Back then, people in the West were led to believe that Russians were evil, while at the same time, people in Russia were told that everything about the West was bad and corrupt. In that respect, not much has changed. Both sides still have that nationalism and both sides still have that urge to be better than the other.
So, when the West finally gained some sense and started giving proper rights to the LGBT community, it is hardly surprising that Russia decided not to follow their example. After all, following Western example would be like losing a battle, and that is just unacceptable. Therefore, instead, Putin decided to do the exact opposite: he made his laws even worse. You know, just in case anyone still needed proof that nationalism and self-centred views are not a good combination… (I’m looking at you America and China).
Now, I am not saying that comparing Putin to Hitler, as so many have done lately, isn’t justified. Although we have to base ourselves on Western sources and history has taught us that those are not always equally reliable, I do assume that he truly is the evil, corrupt man we are told he is. But that doesn’t take away the fact that, now that the West has finally gained some sense, they seem to feel so superior that they believe they can impose their newly gained ideals on everyone else.
Of course, I’m glad that the belief in gay rights has become so prominent in the West that it seems like they’d be willing to start a war for it, but as much as I would want those rights to be extended to the rest of the world, the way it is being done right now is not the right way. You cannot force people into adopting your own ideals. All you can do is convince them, because if you need force and threats to make people do what you want them to do, then how are you any better than someone like Putin?
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep pressure on him, but that is because we have long passed the point of no return. It went wrong the moment Western countries started threatening others with trade sanctions, and from that point on you can expect nothing but opposition from nationalistic countries such as Russia. Now, pressure is probably the only way we can convince Putin to repeal his laws, although convincing him that gay rights should be extended to his country as well has become pretty much impossible.
In the end, all we can do is learn from this, as we should have done so many times before. You cannot force people into new ideals, much like we weren’t able to force people into different religions a few centuries ago. What should have been done, and what can still be done from this point on, as difficult as we have made it for ourselves, is to introduce people in other countries to the idea of gay rights in a gentle manner. We can give them the reasons and show them the effects, but eventually, the change has to come from within, because the big alien threat that the West is really isn’t anything but a big alien threat, and nobody is going to listen to that.
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