The Russian Kopi Luwak

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“Kopi luwak” is the world’s most expensive coffee, and it’s made from poop: from coffee beans that are partially digested and then pooped out by the civet, a catlike creature that lives in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The civet’s digestive enzymes change the structure of proteins in the coffee beans, which removes some of the acidity to make a smoother cup of coffee. It is mostly produced in Indonesia. In the US, a cup of kopi luwak can cost up to $80.[1]

Is today’s new Right populist ideology, in the US as well as in Russia, not precisely a kind of ideological kopi luwak? Old ideas, some of them even respectable (like the critique of financial elites exploiting ordinary people), are processed by today’s apes and turned into shit.

So is the best metaphor of today’s Russian and Belarussian ideological propaganda not that of their leaders and ideologists as civets gulping down some noble parts of our emancipatory tradition (anti-Fascist and anti-racist struggle, rejection of our commercialized and hedonistic way of life, fight against financial elites, the efforts to abolish leftovers of colonization, etc…), allowing their neo-Fascist digestive enzymes to remove the radical acidity of the emancipatory tradition they swallowed so that this tradition is pooped out as pieces of shit which smoothly fit the existing global system although they present themselves as its destruction? Lukashenko recently urged forgetful Europeto go through a moral cleansing for the (Fascist) sins of its grandfathers and fathers [2]; however, the actual intention of this moral call is to get rid of the radical emancipatory tradition that forms the core of Europe. No wonder such calls for moral cleansing lead up to undistilled outbursts of pure destructive rage.

As Peter Sloterdijk pointed out, at the beginning of European civilization, there is Homer’s Iliad which opens with the line on wrath:

“Achilles’ wrath, to Greece the direful spring / Of woes unnumber’d, heavenly goddess, sing!” (another translation: “Rage-Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed, / that cost the Achaeans countless losses.”

Will then the first line of a poem about Europe’s end be: “Sing the rage of Russia’s President Putin, murderous, doomed, that cost the Europeans countless losses”?

Recent public events in Russia brought out a name of this rage: on a big gathering in Red Square to celebrate the annexation of parts of Ukraine to Russia, the actor and singer Ivan Okhlobystin gave an inflammatory speech which ended with:

“We should call it a Holy War! Holy War! There is an ancient word in Russian: Goida. Goida is a call to immediate action. We need a war cry like that today! Goida, brothers and sisters! Goida! Fear us, people of the old world! Devoid of beauty, devoid of faith, devoid of wisdom! A world run by madmen, perverts and Satanists! Fear us – WE ARE COMING! GOIDA!!!” (Everyone should take a look at this horror: “GOIDA! Russians advocate for dialogue and reason! Ivan Okhlobystin – YouTube.”)

Gojda means, especially today: Let’s go! Don’t think, just obey and do it! It is not just an ancient Russian word but a word that was a battle call of oprichniki, the private army of Ivan the Terrible known for terrorizing his (real and imagined) enemies, so it clearly implies ruthless terror, torture, and killing. Incidentally, the only speech similar in tone to Okhlobystin’s is the infamous Goebbels’s “total war” speech in Berlin in early 1943, after the Stalingrad defeat. Indeed, a world of madmen,perverts, and Satanists devoid of beauty, faith, and wisdom, is quite an adequate description of Putin’s world. Although one must add that the Red Square celebration was a fake event: the crowd was mostly composed of state officials brought there by busses, and most of them reacted to Okhlobystin’s speech with no enthusiasm, just with indifference and fear (applause and shouts were added later by the TV studio).

This, however, should not deceive us: the fact that the calls to war of Putin and his clique are not supported by the majority makes them potentially even more dangerous: as we all know (and fear), such a desperate situation may lead them to trigger a global war in order to maintain power. How this “Gojda!” will look was instantly made clear by general Sergei Surovikin, a new commander of the Russian forces in Ukraine: destroying with rockets infrastructures of big cities and indiscriminately killing civilians (the same thing Surovkin did in Aleppo when he was “liberating” Syria). There is an unsurpassable irony in the fact that in Slovene (and some other Slavic languages), “surov” means “raw, brutal, cruel”…

However, although today’s Russia is arguably the purest case of ideological kopi luwak, we should avoid the fateful trap of constraining it to Russia and its allies. Are the Trumpian neo-cons not offering a similar version of kopi luwak? And, to go to the end, was the noblest liberal-democratic ideology often also not processed by our civets to legitimize global capitalist exploitation and “humanitarian” military interventions? We are all in this shit, not only up to our knees but – if I am allowed to conclude with a tasteless metaphor – up to our asses.

[1] The Disturbing Secret Behind the World’s Most Expensive Coffee (nationalgeographic.com).

[2]‘Forgetful Europe’ urged to go through moral cleansing (belta.by).