When I was a teenager, there was a Cold War on. Two superpowers sat watching each other, expecting to be attacked. Both countries spent huge amounts of money on weaponry to deter the other from moving against them. In 1961 and twice in 1983, wars almost erupted. Millions of men lived their whole lives, dedicated to the cause of maintaining their countries against their opponent.
Then, in 1991, it all ended.
The Soviet Union ceased to exist not because of an external attack, but because its own people opted out.
So all that effort, all those resources, all those people dedicated to maintaining the state simply failed. A superpower was unable to keep up the momentum to just exist.
There’s a tendency in our culture to believe that states are so all-powerful and all-controlling and all-capable that they control their own destiny. But if one the size of the Soviet Union couldn’t keep it together, can any nation-state? We’ve grown up where for the last sixty years, states have been mostly static. But the generation before that saw massive changes. Perhaps our stability in this has lead us to believe in the inevitability of the world as it is now. But as any Russian over the age of 30 knows, nothing lasts forever.
I kind of pity those who grew up behind the iron curtain. All their life, they were told that their way of life was superior to the Imperialist West. Yet after 1991, the news hit that they’d been lied to. Capitalism and imperialism was good, not bad. Communism and socialism were failed theories. As U2’s slogans during the ZooTV days said “Everything you know is wrong.”
If you’d grown up under one system, and then all of a sudden been told that everything you’d been told was wrong, would you believe it? If the west had turned to communism, do you think there’d have been Americans secretly thinking this new era was flawed, and that, deep down, capitalism and the rule of markets was really the right way after all?