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Dostoevsky’s Six Nightmare Prophecies That Came True in the 20th Century, Part Two

Uncle Fyodor wasn't fooling around when he diagnosed the problem of human evil.

R.J. Moeller


April 1, 2013 - 2:00 pm
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“Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Click here for the first three in Part One.

Perhaps the best explanation for the Nostradamus-like talents of Fyodor Dostoevsky can be found in this telling quote from a personal letter he sent a friend upon embarking on a career as a writer. Old Fyodor was an astute student of the human condition, but his motivation did not stem simply from academic purposes or from the fact that he wanted something, like political power.

Dostoevsky, believe it or not, actually valued life and wanted to live it more fully. He sought to realize his own purpose and function, and then to share his findings. He believed that just because we can’t know everything about our existence and the ongoing tale of humanity does not mean we cannot know anything. Nearly all of us say we want to find answers; most prematurely resign from the hunt.

Fyodor never did. And as a result, his novels remain as relevant today as they were 150 years ago.

In the first half of this essay on the 20th century sociopolitical nightmares that Dostoevsky predicted in his novels, we identified three specific areas of the culture that the great Russian writer correctly foresaw would suffer under the rise of secularism and socialism: the institution of the family, the private religion of the people, and the value such a nation puts on human life.

Today we will take a peek under the hood of three more important areas of society that would ultimately sit under judgment of the prophetic pronouncements Dostoevsky made in his impressive body of work:

  • Economics of Envy: The War on Private Property
  • Idolizing the Intellectual: The War on Higher Education
  • and Social Engineering: The War on the Individual

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All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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Great article. Very well done. I really appreciate the effort you put into this. It's a keeper.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I recall "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" in which the protagonist corrupts an entire planet due to telling "a lie" or was it "a joke"? I think it was the latter. (With Dostoyevsky it's the ambiguities, even the contradictions, which enliven his writings).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Social engineering, an irreplaceable plank in the socialist platform, never works because of the complexities of even the simplest societies. The socialist committed to science and logic is left floating in the wind with an idea that doesn’t produce the results their theories promised."

Exactly right! If we only made a point of "testing" the socialist schemes before implementing them widely, we'd soon see how ineffective they are.

The tragic fact is that the far Left can't point to a single VILLAGE that implements their visions of Utopia successfully without coercion, let alone an entire country that is successful based on the principles they advocate. If voters simply noted that one fact and refused to vote for untested leftist nostrums, our world would be immeasurably better in very short order.

In my view, the Left should test every one of their schemes on a localized, short-term basis among volunteers of their own choosing. If their schemes can be shown to work well without resorting to coercion - threats of execution or starvation in particular - they could and should start winning us over. But if their ideas can't be made to work in even limited experiments like this, what on earth makes anyone believe that they would work on a national basis without even trying them first?

For instance, let's try Obamacare somewhere, perhaps in one city, where people really believe in it and want to give it a serious try. Let this experiment run a year or two - whatever is necessary to thoroughly test it and prove whether it works or not - and then assess it after the test period. If there is widespread agreement among intelligent people of all political stripes, then we can get serious about implementing it more widely. But simply concocting these schemes and then forcing them on people after some very dubious political tactics is just foolishness.

I'm willing to keep an open mind and give these schemes an honest try when they are proposed but we MUST test them first, honestly and thoroughly, before rolling them out to an entire country. If the tests fail, there is no reason to assume that a national implementation will succeed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Loved the article. Sorry I missed the first part.

Dostoevsky certainly did despise progressives, socialists and meddling do-gooders. But I disagree on one point. Dostoevsky had no problem with centralized authority, as long as that authority emanated down from the Tsar or the Orthodox Church.

He was no admirer of individualism. He was ambivalent about America. Dimitri tells Alyosha, "I hate that America, even now...I love the Russian God though I'm a scoundrel myself. And I'd die over there." In "The Devils", one of the characters, I think it was Shatov, talks of going to America and being beaten and cheated by his employer, being accosted by pickpockets and oddly, approving of everything, "spiritualism, lynch-law, revolvers, tramps...".

"The Devils" is my favorite novel of his I think. Karamazov is second.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Loved the article. Sorry I missed the first part. "

There is a link to the first part in this essay. It's right below the caption on the first video.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks I've read it now.

This has been a great series. But I'm always dubious about Americans who take Dostoevsky to heart. I view him primarily as a satirist. Too many Americans take him too seriously and miss out on his jokes.

Grushenka's captivating little foot? The hilarious spoof on Karamazinov (Turgenev) in "The Devils"? Come on - this guy wrote good comedy.

To be sure, neither 'Rebellion' nor 'The Grand Inquisitor' were the stuff of jokes. But old man Karamazov was a high quality buffoon.

Once one reads Gogol's whacked-out fiction, it's easy to see where Dostoevsky is coming from. He's Gogol - not quite as funny - with cruder composition skills and a more modern sensibility.

But like Gogol, Dostoevsky was a master at setting up an elaborate joke. And the fact that so many Americans take him so seriously might have him laughing right now - wherever he is.

And the fact that both western conservatives and liberals seem to gravitate towards his work is rich with irony.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Brilliant work, R.J.

Just a beautiful two part piece.

Thank you for your fine efforts.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you, I hope for more essays like this. Refreshing insights.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks you for this article. I really enjoyed it and would be interested to receive more like it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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