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Profoundly Needed Perspective
my review of Konstantin Kisin's book, "An Immigrant's Love Letter to the West"
Disclaimer: Konstantin Kisin is a friend of mine, though not one I’ve met in person (yet). He did not ask me to read or write about his book and has not read this review. I do not think our friendship has affected my opinion of his book or my writing of this review—nobody asked for the review and if I didn’t find the book engaging and valuable, I would simply choose not to review it.
“I believe that here in the West we are suffering from a similar delusion. We have forgotten that the prosperity, safety, life expectancy, stability and freedoms we enjoy did not just fall out of the sky. They were built, over centuries, on philosophical and moral foundations that have withstood the test of time. They were defended over and over again by our ancestors who bled to defend them.” —from An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West, by Konstantin Kisin
“The reason many people in the West take freedom for granted is they think progress is inevitable. They think liberal democracy will last forever, because how could we go backwards when we’re always moving forward? Unfortunately, this couldn’t be more historically illiterate: Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome were the most advanced civilisations of their day. Technologically, culturally, philosophically, scientifically, and politically. Right up until the moment they collapsed. And then, you had century after century which made Game of Thrones look like a progressive utopia.” —from An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West, by Konstantin Kisin
A Story That Will Never Happen In Venezuela, North Korea, or Any Other Socialist Utopia
Something happened to me yesterday that’s highly relevant to the topic of the book, so I’m going to tell it here.
My favorite joke about being deaf isn’t one of the dirty ones, though I love the dirty ones. It’s when I have a premonition about something and I tell one of my friends that I have a fifth sense telling me something.
Yesterday I had a fifth sense that something important would happen at the audiologist’s office, and it did.
I use powerful hearing aids, controlled by an app on my iPhone. The miracle of free-market capitalism has given me, a human being, the power of hearing, which is something that makes me shiver at least twice a week and would make me shiver ten times a day if I were properly grateful.
I was in my audiologist’s office to get adjustments made, including a software update, but there were problems getting their computer to connect to my hearing aids. The most likely cause was that my hearing aids — which I have set to make the nearest open Bluetooth connection automatically — already had a Bluetooth connection. I love this setting for how easy it makes my life: sounds from my iPhone, iPad, personal computer, work computer, car navigation, etc., all get fed directly into my magic ears with no effort from me. So the next step was for the technician, the audiologist, and myself to all get out our phones and turn off Bluetooth.
When this didn’t work, we realized that we were in the office nearest the waiting room, so we had to get several other people, including a few staff members, to switch off their Bluetooth, too. Almost everyone had a Bluetooth-capable phone, several of whom had no idea what Bluetooth even is.
Think about that for a minute. Smartphones with Bluetooth are magic wands, tools that fit into a pocket and contain more computing power than the computers that enabled us to put human footprints on the moon.
And there were upwards of a dozen of them in this ordinary waiting room in the United States, one filled with ordinary citizens — most of them poor by US standards. Yes, poor. Audiology practices, at least in my area, tend to serve two kinds of clients. There are poor, elderly, and/or getting-disability-benefits folks. And there are I-have-a-job-because-I-can-hear-so-my-hearing-tech-is-really-really-really-important folks like me. The office has special hours for the latter group, times when we can bring hearing aids in for repair or adjustment and not have to wait, mostly outside normal working hours. As I’m a remote worker on salary, who can come and go as I please provided my deliverables get delivered, I can generally accept appointments like this one, during the day.
I can’t know this for sure, of course, but if I had to bet on it, I’d place money on the notion that only the audiologist and I met the US median income.
And they were all there, magic wands in hand, for the same reason I was — to have a human sense granted them by the power of free-market capitalism.
This is the kind of thing that would strike people who grew up in socialism as not just a fairy tale, but a stupidly unrealistic fairy tale.
In the US, it’s not as accessible as it could be — some insurances and some state Medicaid plans don’t cover hearing aids — but it’s a hell of a lot more accessible than anywhere else, especially for people who are poor or disabled.
By the way, the free market is producing some terrific options for people to get hearing tech more cheaply and easily, including these.
(I tested these for the DarkHorse podcast, which the company sponsors, and wrote the endorsement that Bret and Heather read. Use code DARKHORSE to get a big discount.)
I had been both grinning and feeling grateful — for the miracle of my hearing, for the astonishing good fortune of being a woman in the West, where this miracle was available to me without any need for male guardianship, approval, or permission — for a few hours when I picked up Konstantin’s book.
KK’s book had been on my shelf for over a year. Some intuition (another fifth sense, ha) told me that there would be an Exactly Perfect Time to write about it, and there was. Now.
“Because by changing words they can change laws—without having to make any legislative amendments, which takes time and is a convoluted, public process. They can manipulate rules and, in turn, society itself, by changing the semantic meaning of words and how they are interpreted by those in power. They can also constantly change the rules of engagement, which keeps people on the back foot.” —from An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West, by Konstantin Kisin
The West is Committing Suicide
Societal suicide is a bizarre and terrifying thing to live through. Suicide on an individual level is tragic and preventable. (My thoughts on how to prevent individual suicide are here, by the way, if you or anyone you care about is struggling with depression.)
But societal suicide is something so surreal, so massive and mind-boggling, that there are times it scarcely seems real.
And yet it’s happening, obviously and overwhelmingly. The stupidity is so massive that young people in the West are marching under the banner of “Queers for Palestine" and echoing the words of their moronic college professors, who remind us that “decolonization isn’t a metaphor” and ask “did you think decolonization was just a word from your DEI seminar”? Young women, who would never be allowed to publicly show their faces and contradict the opinions of the government in the Middle East, march in “solidarity” with barbarians who would gleefully rape them before forcing them to convert to Islam or die.
If one were asked on October 6, “What scenario would utterly prove to you that the West is determined to commit suicide at the speed of light?” It’s pretty damn hard to imagine a better answer than a clear description of everything that’s happened since October 7.
(Links to receipts of all sorts of stupidity in response to the October 7 atrocity are available in my previous essays on the topic of Israel/Palestine and the anti-Semitism so uncovered in the West of late.)
“This acute form of solipsism didn’t come from nowhere. Russians weren’t born with it. It’s something that really flourished under the cloak of communism, because people couldn’t get things legitimately, so they had to find alternative ways of making ends meet. Money and hard work alone couldn’t procure the stuff necessary for survival, such as food, medicine, or housing. A person also needed connections to survive. Likewise, they needed to demand or perform favours, some of which were less palatable than others. None of it was pretty.” —from An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West, by Konstantin Kisin
The Desperate Need for Lived Experience
Westerners desperately need the perspective of people who know exactly what life is like in the socialist societies they are attempting to create here. The useful idiots who imagine that they’ll get to teach poetry writing classes or otherwise just pursue their esoteric, individual hobbies and interests while the central planning of government provides for everyone’s basic needs have no inkling of the hell they’re inviting.
Konstantin Kisin gets it. His family has deep roots in Soviet hell, including literal slavery and a grandparent born in a gulag. He spent his childhood maintaining the hypervigilance necessary in any totalitarian society, desperately trying to avoid giving any hint of failing to believe the only acceptable things about Communism and the Soviet regime.
He grew up in the USSR until age eleven, when his parents sent him — alone, and not speaking English — to the UK in search of a better life. In the West, he developed a happy and prosperous life, including a career as a small business owner running the podcast TRIGGERnometry and a long-term marriage to the love of his life with whom he now shares an adorable son.
Having experienced firsthand the difference between a society where individual effort can go a long way towards producing prosperity and happiness—and a society where individual effort is best put on keeping oneself off the radar of the authorities—he sees the cultural rot in the West with perfect clarity.
He knows what he’s talking about, and he tells the story beautifully — it’s powerful and affecting without ever slipping into being gratuitous or salacious. The book is a fast, easy read, something very hard to do well on a topic of serious importance. It’s also quite funny.
The connections he makes between what happened in the country of his birth that set up a population for decades of oppression—and what the West is currently doing to itself—are chilling. They read like snippets from future history books, telling the story of how the West set itself on fire.
“This time around, however, the Bolsheviks’ old model — which was based solely on class — has been updated with new components, which makes it even more powerful and destructive. These additional facets take the form of gender identity, attacks on masculinity and endless obsessions with race, all of which slot very nicely into human prejudice, which is almost hardwired into our brains.” —from An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West, by Konstantin Kisin
“Like many modern-day grifters, they also firmly believed in the idea that oppressors must pay for the sins of the fathers. So, in order to do this, they implemented a policy of collective punishment for anyone they thought to be privileged or privileged-by-proxy.” —from An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West, by Konstantin Kisin
“Do they really think I need to hear a sales pitch on communism after everything my family has been through? These people, who tend to have double-barrelled names and posh accents, are either tone deaf to the point of ignorance—or they’re telling me to bugger off back to Russia.” —from An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West, by Konstantin Kisin
The entire book is fabulous, but I particularly enjoyed two chapters: the final chapter, “Ten ways to destroy the West,” where he uses the conceit of having failed to convince the reader that Western culture is good and offers ten ways to speed up the decline and death of the West. From “See everything in terms of race, always” to “Drink the Kool-Aid of cultural relativism,” that chapter is poignant, powerful, and bracing. It ties together the cultural rot that’s killing the West with its ultimate Marxist consequences so effortlessly that one wonders if a time traveler handed it to Foucault in the 50s just to get this insanity started.
From the section, “Embrace self-loathing”:
By burdening people with a nagging sense of guilt and humiliation, we hasten the process of Western decline because they’ll have a reduced sense of worth. As this gradually becomes more pervasive and reaches critical mass, entire communities will feel powerless to halt the destruction of their culture; they’ll acquiesce and be totally passive.
I also am very grateful for the section on comedy, of which he knows a great deal, having done stand-up for years. I knew almost nothing of British comedians before picking up this book, but now I have a ton of names to search on YouTube and keep myself laughing for a good long while.
Suggestion: Christmas Break Is Coming Next Month
Do you have kids? Would you like to provide them with a powerful and pivotal experience to help shape their worldview, to perhaps inoculate them a little against the cultural rot that surrounds us? I think this book would be challenging but appropriate for most kids 11-12 years old and up. Here’s my suggestion: order this book and do whatever it takes — bribe your kids with cash, let them open a Christmas present at the end of each chapter, make their visit with Grandma contingent on it — to get your kids to read it. Read it with them. Talk about it. When they open their gifts and are playing with them on Boxing Day, ask them if they think even the richest people in Communist countries have things even half so nice?
Help them see that everything they take for granted is a result of generations who fought, bled, and died for the way of life we enjoy in the West.
If the West completes its suicide-in-progress, your kids are going to have to fight harder than you want them to—harder than you can probably bring yourself to imagine—to get a way of life even half so miraculous back.
This book will help arm them. Please, read it.
Announcement: A Giveaway
My comments are usually only open for paid subscribers, but I’m opening them for everyone on this. If you’d like a copy of this book, leave a comment. I’ll use a random number generator and pick three winners. Merry Christmas!
About Me and My Substack: I’m a data scientist whose great love is mathematics, but I also enjoy writing. My posts are mostly cultural takes from a broadly anti-Woke perspective—yes, I’m one of those annoying classical liberals who would’ve been considered on the left until ten seconds ago. Lately I’ve regained a childhood love of reading and started publishing book reviews. My most widely useful essay may be this one, about how to resist the demon of self-termination.
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