Russia and Scorpions
by Rev. Frank Julian Gelli
Is Putin a scorpion? Frederick Forsyth thinks so. Because of Ukraine, Crimea, all that. To persuade you, in the Daily Express the eminent English thriller writer tells a little tale about a frog and a scorpion.
To paraphrase it: a scorpion wishes to cross a river but can’t swim, so he asks a frog nearby to carry him across on her back. ‘I am no fool’, the timorous amphibian replies, ‘You would sting me!’ ‘If I did, we would both sink and die. It would be irrational, wouldn’t it?’ the scorpion argues. ‘Huh! You are right. OK, hop on then.’ So the frog starts swimming along, bearing the scorpion. They are half-way across when the frog feels a terrible pain. The venomous arachnid has stung her. As they both sink, the dying frog cries out: ‘We both die! What’s rational about that?’ ‘I know’, the scorpion gurgles: ‘It is irrational but, you see, it is in my nature to sting.’
So, Putin is the scorpion and Ukraine, presumably, the frog. Forsyth also wonders about Russian ‘national character’. More stinging implications…
Russia ‘has always been a conqueror of her neighbours’, Forsyth claims. Assume he is right: would Russia be unique in that? Britain, not the home of the nasty KGB but the cradle of Magna Charta, rights, parliaments and democracy also has conquered at least one close neighbour, notably Ireland. A land and a people Britain invaded, colonised, dispossessed, starved and for long reduced to the state of helots. Perhaps those who live in glass houses should not throw stones…
Thanks to her mighty fleet, Britannia’s conquests and colonialism have ranged far and wide. Australia, New Zealand, India, Burma, Cyprus, Malaysia, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Kenya, Malta, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Singapore…the list could go on. If Russia’s imperialism and expansionism betray a stinging, scorpion-like nature in her national character, ahem… where does that leave Britain?
To be fair, other, non-European empires have stung their neighbours. Ottoman Turks invaded and conquered Byzantium, Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Syria, Egypt, Arabia, Hungary, Cyprus, Albania, Bosnia, North Africa, parts of Persia…and so on. Scorpion-like behaviour galore, no?
The Arabs – of whom I am very fond – also spread out of Arabia and conquered and dominated many countries – tedious to enumerate them but…you get my drift.
Italy, the priest’s homeland, arrived late on the colonialist stage. Lenin mocked her pathetic, latter-day land grabs as ‘beggar imperialism’ but still, Italians had a go. Somalia, Eritrea, Libya, Albania and Ethiopia were subjugated and annexed to the reborn, ephemeral pseudo-Roman Empire. My people can be as bullying and as stinging as any other fellow scorpions, I grant you.
True, all such empires are consigned to oblivion. Instead, Mr Forsyth suggests, Russian imperialism is back. Actually, a universal empire is still with us. Since 1776 America has invaded at least 70 nations. Such as China, Haiti, the Philippines, Panama, Cuba, Korea, Guatemala, Russia, El Salvador, Grenada, Laos, Vietnam…Google it, to complete the dismal series. Of course, thanks to war technology, it is sometimes easier to dispatch drones than to invade. This scorpion, under the absurd President Obumble, has hit on a cheaper way to sting and kill the poor frogs.
Odd how Mr Forsyth’s article nowhere mentions the two valiant military adventures the cosy democratic sisters, US and UK, have lately undertaken. Against those Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq. The ruinations, horrors, miseries and bloodshed that the two democratic scorpions have inflicted on those unhappy peoples are ongoing, for everyone to behold. Too many Iraqis and Afghanis are perishing, like the innocent frog of the story. Meanwhile the guilty, obnoxious scorpions pretend it has nothing to do with them, preferring to engage in nauseating lecturing on the evils of Russian aggressions: it makes you sick!
That great artist and Christian foe of Soviet Communism, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in 1998 wrote ‘Russia under the Avalanche’. While sympathising with Ukraine’s autonomy, the Nobel Prize winner pointed out the essentially Russian character of Crimea, as well as some of the bogus nature of the claims of Ukrainian nationalism. He also observed the obvious: the US and its NATO underlings desire and act to weaken Russia. As the author of that extraordinary text, Lenin in Zurich, Solzhenitsyn invokes the devilish plot of the Bolshevik agent Helphand-Parvus in 1915: to use Ukrainian separatism in order to disorganise and destroy Russia. Plus ca change…
Pace Forsyth, there is no new Iron Curtain descending across Europe. The phrase was coined by Winston Churchill after WW2. A situation he and Roosevelt had helped to create at the Yalta Conference. The two democratic champions handed over Eastern Europe into the tender care of their wartime chum, ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin, thereby selling free people into slavery. But Putin is not Stalin and Russia no longer harbours and promotes the evil, atheistic and murderous creed of Communism. Nor does Russia attempt, like the old Soviet Union, to conquer the world. Au contraire, it is a decaying and pestiferous Western world, under the leadership of belligerent Anglo-Saxons, that seeks to export the worst aspects of its ideology and way of life. Peacefully, when the frogs acquiesce, but violently and ferociously when they resist.
Scorpion-like behaviour is not a prerogative of any one nation or people. But it is part of human nature. ‘Original sin’ is useful Christian theological shorthand for that. But no individual is determined or doomed to sting. God’s ineffable grace is available to save humanity from that. As to nations who take it upon themselves to act like scorpions… Fear the wrath of God!