By Jan Oberg
I'm 70 now, and all my life, I've heard that the Russians would one day make a surprise attack and, within 48 hours, occupy the Eiffel Tower. We in the West are weak－perhaps not right now but we will be within the next five years if we do not drastically increase investment in "defense".
And now we, meaning the West, are well into another Cold War－with China as the big new enemy.
In the mainstream Western media, you read and hear only negative things about China and its development, leadership, ruling party and policies. You do not read or hear that China remains the top country measured by citizens' satisfaction with their government, 95 percent compared with 38 percent in the United States－according to an authoritative survey by the Ash Center at Harvard University－and has abolished extreme poverty by lifting more than 750 million people out of poverty.
Most people in West ignorant about China
Most people in the West know nothing about China, its history, development, society or ways of thinking. And there is a strong correlation between knowing nothing and/or never having visited China and having a negative attitude toward the country.
The single foreign policy goal of the US/West is now to fight, condemn, keep down, contain and out-compete China. There are new laws to that effect in the US and $1500 million, according to Strategic Competition Act of 2021, has been allocated to train media people to write only negative stories about China and its Belt and Road Initiative, which is the largest cooperation project in history involving more than 140 countries including Italy, a European Union and NATO member.
Add that to the propaganda carried out by US media and you will understand that the idea of free media, diversity and objectivity and "independence" is turning into a dead herring. By the US itself, not by any other country, and by those mainstream media that merely reproduce American sources as the truth about the world.
West has blind faith in 'mainstream' media
But different from the Soviet Union－where very few believed in Pravda (The Truth)－most ordinary Westerners still trust what the mainstream and social media tell them－if at all they care to know about the world outside their own country or region－which happen to have the same anti-Russia, anti-China, anti-Iran perspectives coupled with no investigation or criticism of pro-NATO, pro-US, pro-military and pro-war or intervention perspectives.
The self-deception has gone quite far. I recently happened to listen to the last party leader debate in the German elections. None of the party leaders opposed the discussion facilitators saying, as if it was a fact, that Russia and China are big threats. And all party leaders, more or less enthusiastically, argued that NATO members increasing their military expenditure to 2 percent of GNP was necessary－a measure that defies intellectual thought since military expenditure, by logic, should be determined by relevant real threat analyses, instead of varying with the increase and decline in GNP.
But such is the intellectual level of our times that discourse on peace and disarmament has disappeared, has been cancelled or framed, or is frowned upon.
Such anti-intellectualism and one-dimensional military security thinking will, of course, boomerang, particularly on those who blindly follow the US as, say, East Germany followed Moscow.
One diagnosis is paranoia－pretended or real from within the Western sphere where the "military-industry-media-academic complex" (MIMAC) operates at a higher level and is much more powerful than the military-industrial complex that former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against in his farewell speech－one of the most significant speeches in contemporary times.
But there is more to it than paranoia. This paranoia serves a purpose－the increasing but self-destructive influence of the MIMAC, of militarism. Militarism can be compared to alcoholism or drug addiction; as alcoholics and drug addicts always need a "new shot" to feel good for a while before the need for more pops up again.
Unless you seek help in time, you are most likely doomed.
We are also dealing with the psycho-political projections of the West's dark side onto others－the West constantly blaming others for doing what it does itself to a much larger extent and on a much larger scale. I mean to say the West's tendency to blame China for so-called human rights abuses when it has saved millions of lives by lifting more than 750 million people out of poverty while about 20 percent of the US' population lives below the poverty line. Also, how can the West convince us that Iran, which has not invaded any country for about 200 years, is a threat to the world?
Seeing enemies everywhere－indeed needing enemies－is a sign of a weak, fragmenting society. A healthy human being does not see an enemy in another person first and finds a friend only when "the other" becomes like himself or herself. The problem is weak self-confidence and insecure identity.
Another term that aptly describes the West is "dichotomization ad absurdum" with no nuances in between: Us good, them bad; the Orient against the Occident; socialism or capitalism; Adam Smith or Karl Marx; either being with us or being with our enemies; either obedience or submission; either our "universal" values or you'll be demonized and punished.
Combine that with the Christianity-inspired missionary zeal－leave no territory untouched, 700-1,000 NATO military bases in more than 130 countries, special forces, infiltrating intelligence wherever an enemy is perceived to lurk, huge psychological operations and media deception, planting stories－all for the good of one, not the common good, as it is projected.
And then there is the very strong factor about which there is only denial: being in decline. The US and other Western countries now behave like an old patriarch who, nearing the end of his life, feels that he is losing power, that his role as a leader, authority and model is increasingly ignored－a teacher whose pupils no longer obey, some even laugh at him forbearingly.
Add to that, the day of reckoning－the West's "Pravda moment" when, like snowballing, citizens find out that they can no longer trust what they are being told－also because they have free access to alternative views, other countries' and news agencies news and to truly independent sources－and begin to use them instead.
That's when "another brick in the wall" will fall－à la Berlin in 1989. The system never was what we were told－for democracy, freedom, human rights, the common good of the world, and for peace. That was the propaganda tip of the iceberg. Underneath was the deep ice, the deep state, the military, political, psychological and cultural nuclear attack submarines.
Deep down there was the fundamental contempt for those considered weaker－militarily, system-wise, morally and in terms of race and civilization. To sell the tip of that iceberg, you need constantly to define yourself as higher, better and more powerful for the common good and therefore having exceptional rights that those lower down in a hierarchy cannot even dream of.
My view is that no one but the West itself threatens the West, and that Western images of threats are best understood as constructions of the mind serving the MIMAC－and therefore a dangerous perpetuum mobile.
Opposing creation of enemy images
We should, therefore, always oppose, criticize and provide alternatives to such enemy images instead of accepting the consciously manipulative "fearology" and professional psychological operation deception on which they are invariably built.
If Western leaders cannot learn to live without enemy images and projections, we are probably doomed. I refuse to see that as an option. Because, as Pogo the cartoon figure so wisely said: "We have met the enemy and he is us." Because at the end of the day, all it would take is for world leaders to come together to serve their peoples and say: Let's agree to reduce all the waste we create by weapons and militarism by, say, 50 percent, and spend the trillions of dollars on making the world a better place. Divert human and other resources from that to create common good. Let's see each others as partners and friends first and embark on cooperation, rather than confrontation.
Nobody－East, West, South or North－seems to have such a vision and thus we "drift toward unparalleled catastrophe". But once we understand that and the West gracefully becomes a strong healthy partner in a multi-polar, multi-cultural cooperative and non-confrontational world, humanity will have a great future and can more easily find solutions to its problems－be it climate change, poverty, global democracy, development, water, literacy and education, and peace.
The author is director of The Transnational Foundation for Peace& Future Research, TFF, in Sweden, peace professor and mediator at janoberg.me.
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.