V. MONTVILLE is the director of preventative diplomacy program at
the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
A former career diplomat, he specializes in the psychological tasks
in ethnic and sectarian conflict resolution. He directed the Esalen
Institute's seminar on the psychology of the US/Soviet relationship
in the 1980s and is also the director of The Russian-American Center's
project on ethnic conflict.
following presentation was given at The Russian-American Center
conference in November 1998:
There's a major split in American society between those people who
feel, to put it crudely, that you should feed the bear and those
people who feel that you should cage the bear. And this society
went through trauma during the 1950s, during the McCarthy period.
And the Cold War was real here, and what it did was, it polarized
the society. And so what you're seeing now is the fallout
of this, and that what you call arrogance is part of the response
to the "American victory" in the Cold War by those people
who saw Russia as an incorrigible enemy. And, on the other
side, you have people who I don't think are arrogant--who look at
Russia as a great culture and as a great society and who are working
to improve relations so that, again, the bottom line is, how do
you change this? I think you change it by simply increasing
contact and having more Russians come here and more Americans go
there, but in a context where people get to understand what their
goals and aspirations are.
It's a real advantage to be at this part of the program. So
many different aspects of the U.S.-Russian relationship--the economics,
the politics, the technology--have been covered. But what
I've been inspired to do is try to draw back and look at the values
that really surround or create the context for the U.S.-Russian
relationships. And I've had an opportunity to do a personal
interview on the history of the Esalen connection in the U.S.-Soviet
relationship at first and then the U.S.-Russian relationship.
And it's helped me to refocus again on the unique contribution that
Esalen as an institution and Michael and Dulcy Murphy as a couple
and all of their spear carriers following them over to Russia and
supporting this work have brought together. I think it's quite
I thought I'd start by just revisiting the Esalen connection in
this discussion of the value of values. I think what started
the Esalen connection was old-fashioned intellectual curiosity,
and maybe new-fashioned desire for the exploration of the paranormal
and all of the special interests that the California context that
Michael in particular and Dulce and their friends brought to try
to understand the scope of human potential. So it started
that way with early visits in the 1970s to the Soviet Union.
The very fact that being drawn by this intellectual curiosity and
this desire to explore new frontiers resulted in new experiences
with human beings found in the Soviet Union and new friendships,
because basically, this is what happens when you cross the oceans
into unknown territory and find a whole number, a new number of
human beings and discover their humanity.
here's one of the first values that comes to mind that characterize
this initiative--a kind of unfettered openness and an acceptance
of the innate worth and even preciousness of all human beings of
all races and colors and religious beliefs. That's the underlying
value, the underlying premise of this initiative that came out of
Michael and Dulce's initiative and the Esalen initiative.
That's the underlying value base. We can recall the statement
that Victor Erofeyev made the other night about, when we were talking
about despair and pessimism, where optimism in Russia was even more
despairing than pessimism, about the apparent genetic inability
he sometimes felt of the Russian people to reform or to modernize.
Certainly many of the reforming elites who spent a lot of time vilifying
and denigrating, degrading the Russian people. Somehow the
Russian gene pool had been drained and there was nothing left there.
This is about the first time I heard a Russian say this.
have been other meetings at Esalen where
this form of despair, which I think really reflects the long history
of this struggle between Russia and the West, the struggle to win
respect. It's the theme of the article that was in your folders
called, "Russia and the West" or "Moscow and the
West," and it helps to explain or give partially the answer
to Victor's question a little earlier of why this arrogance.
And coming from the U.S. as American commentators and politicians
react to the upheavals going on in Russia.