Wednesday, 29 September 2010

11. July 8, 2009

Dear Mikhail Borisovich!

Your thoughts on the state and on public governance seem quite convincing. I am a biologist by education, and some principles that work in nature, I am internally prepared to easily carry over to social mechanisms. There is very much in common, and evolution in the biological world seems to me the most fundamental law. The nervous system, that is the system of administration in the highest sense, originated from undifferentiated tissues. We don’t know why it happened, perhaps because of an inner necessity, not captured by our intellect. Say something like this. But considering the merits of a different level of evolution, we can understand exactly how this process went. Every creature is a monument to a certain step. Here it is essential that this “higher formation”, the nervous system, in principle does not work “against” the organism. If such a thing were to happen, the organism would respond with immediate destruction, and the nervous system would perish along with the organism.

Actually, this analogy can be applied to a system of “state-society”. A poorly working state is a dying society, and the state, correspondingly, dies too.

Biological processes absolutely do not have an “ethical” aspect. Social services do. Such a strange thing as morality is is neither based on the class nor on the group, it is exclusively attached to the individual. Whatever the state structure may be, governance is always in the hands of one person or a small group of persons. Their level of morality, as it seems to me, determines very much. A theocratic, monarchic, democratic of socialist state is good or bad, as it seems to me, depending on the level of morality of its leaders. In this sense, a good monarchy is better than a bad democracy. A hundred years ago, Lev Shestov [73] said: “Where there is no freedom, there is no bread”. Where there is no morality, there can’t be social justice - I allow myself to paraphrase.

It is difficult for me to be engaged in a discussion with you - you have a great experience in and specific knowledge of management processes. But then, last week, an acquaintance came to me - a theoretical physicist, who lived for thirty years in Europe, translator of many books on management theory, and for several evenings we had “rubbed” all those issues that you covered in your letter. I was your self-appointed representative, while he attacked me frightfully, and drew up a completely different system of arguments. You would have had a much more productive talk with him than I. As a result, having been sucked into an unfamiliar set of problems, I decided to read a thick volume of John Ralston Saul [74] (Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West). I do not know if I will read it to the end, but I have a feeling that this book is arguing with you far better than I could.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.

I honestly admit that much of what you have written in your last letter elicits in me inner protest. I also admit that I wrote you a very diligent reply - to each utterance of yours - the whole week long and then realized that I have neither sufficient expertise or genuine interest in those topics that are so important to you. To the point that there arose a sense of discomfort, familiar to me from school years, when I had to take an exam in social studies or, at the university, in the history of the party. No, impossible.

After all, my role in essence comes down now to giving you a reason to express everything you have pondered over the last six years, so that a multitude of people, whose eyes are fixed on you and whose souls are turned to you - especially to you as a person compelled to pay for large public accounts with his personal, unique, unrepeatable life and health, - would find out what exactly you are paying for.

I fervently hope that there will still come a moment in life when we will sit and have tea together, the three of us - I shall invite my friend, with whom I discussed your views on the state, its powers and role, for a whole week, - and you fight, and I sit in a corner, watch and listen; this is my favorite pastime since youth - to listen to clever disputes.

I wish you strength, health, vigor.



[73] Lev Isaakovich Shestov (1866-1938) was an Ukrainian/Russian existentialist philosopher. He emigrated to France in 1921, fleeing from the aftermath of the October Revolution. He is known for his opposition to the dominant place of reason in philosophy.

[74] John Ralston Saul (°1947) is a Canadian author, essayist and President of International PEN. Saul is particularly known for his commentaries on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good, the failures of managers and the confusion between leadership and management.

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