Loyalty, Dissent, and Betrayal: Modern Lithuania and East-Central European Moral Imagination

Loyalty, Dissent, and Betrayal: Modern Lithuania and East-Central European Moral Imagination

Loyalty, Dissent, and Betrayal: Modern Lithuania and East-Central European Moral Imagination

Loyalty, Dissent, and Betrayal: Modern Lithuania and East-Central European Moral Imagination


Loyalty and betrayal are among key concepts of the ethid of nationalism. Marriage of state and culture, which seems the essence of the congruence between political power structure and collective identity, usually offers a simple explanation of loyalty and dissent. Loyalty is seen as once-and-for-all commitment of the individual to his or her nation, whereas betrayal is identified as a failure to commit him or herself to a common cause or as a diversion from the object of political loyalty and cultural/linguistic fidelity. For conservative or radical nationalists, even social and cultural critique of one's people and state can be regarded as treason, whereas for their liberal counterparts it is precisely what constitutes political awareness, civic virtue, and a conscious dedication to the people and culture.


Dissent: act of betrayal, or loyalty? Leonidas Donskis’ new remarkable study is one consistent, thorough, and dedicated effort to provide an answer to that question.

A highly important and timely effort it is, since that question today haunts all those bold and restless spirits who rebel throughout the planet against the ethically blind and morally odious condition in which their fellow humans have been cast; it is also a question deployed now, as it has been since time immemorial, by all those who want to lock the humans they rule in that condition – to defame, blackmail and marginalize such dissenting spirits. and it is on the outcome of the on-going confrontation between the dissenters and their detractors that our shared chances to survive or perish on the overcrowded, globalized planet these days ultimately depend.

The flourishing of ethnic and tribal loyalties in the age of global interdependence only appears to be paradoxical. As the community loses its hold on the fate and the daily life of its members, and as communal identity and territorial sovereignty lose their practical import, all three gain in spiritual significance. Haunted by uncertainty oozing from the unannounced and bewildering changes in the stakes and the rules of innumerable world-wide games, our contemporaries seek shelter in something nearer to hand, easier to understand and so perhaps more amenable to control. As there seems to be precious little one can do to make the planet a safer and more trustworthy place – perhaps here at least, in the neighbourhood one knows, among people one can talk to and whom one can hear and understand, one could hide from the storms raging outside? Dreams of local retrenchment are natural, even if mistaken and ineffective responses to the planet running out of joint and rapidly turning from the site of opportunity and exciting adventure into a wilderness teeming with awesome, frightening threats and unspeakable dangers. and there is hardly any other imaginable entity on which to pin the hope of shelter as tempting, and apparently as made-to-measure of the purpose, than the kind of ‘communities’ known to the Europeans (and increasingly, under Europeans’ influence, to the rest of the planet’s residents) under the name of nations.

Donskis explains – lucidly, convincingly – why this is the case; why people who desperately seek secure shelter tend to be willing objects of the nationalist recruiting drive, why they crave to trust the nationalists’ promise of safe, cosy and comfortable home, and why that promise cannot be kept and the trust cannot but be betrayed. Among imagined communities, nation occupies a very special place, since it is an inseparable part of the idea of the ‘nation’ that it ties together, into one fully determined and unbreakable sequence, the past that cannot be revoked with the future that is up for grabs. Because the nation is already a community of history, it appears to be exquisitely fit to become a community of fate. in this abominably frail and unpredictable world full of treacherous bogs and quicksands, some solid . . .

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