Ukraine’s house of cards

I read BBC news. Daily. They are biased toward euro skepticism. It does well to counter my euro optimism and I think between the BBC news website and a little bit of my own digging I can get as accurate a picture of what’s going on in the world as you can by just sitting in front of your computer. It isn’t perfect and I think I could probably do a lot better to acquaint myself with the realities whizzing by around me.

As I am writing this, twenty six people have died since the violence started yesterday. These were members of the Maidan movement as well as law enforcement. We all know what Stalin said, it is cliche by now. These were people, like you and like me. They had families, hopes, aspirations, embarrassing memories of that one time at band camp. They were all alive a couple of days ago and are now dead.

Protests like this have been happening all the time. Group A wants something to change, they may or may not represent a majority of the population. The government says no, there is a standoff, a spark, and then broken lives. All in the name of political change. Which side you take is entirely a matter of opinion. There is very little to distinguish a right choice from the wrong one and indeed, often times, such a distinction is nonsensical as the contention is in fact about a conflict of interests between the groups.

Case in point, the Ukraine came to the spotlight of international news eight years ago when the so called Orange Revolution ousted mr. Yanukovich (yes the same man) from power under similar conditions, though without the loss of life. The politics devolved and the main protagonists of that event have all but disappeared. Today Viktor Yushchenko is not an active voice in the movement, and Yulia Tymoshenko is confined to a prison cell from which she occasionally makes statements that fall on deaf ears, both in her own country and abroad.

Eight years of political power play in Kiev and the Ukraine is back to square one, something of a future case study on the cyclic nature of history. We follow the developments and we argue back and forth about who is in the right and who is in the wrong, making statements, informed or not about how things should be and what is to be done.

Which brings me to the title of this article. How accurate is the Netflix show (I should find the book)? Surely it’s fiction and characters and plot features are great exaggerations of what actually goes on in our democratic systems. What I find is always lost in the narrative is often at least as important. We are never shown Zoe Barnes’ funeral, we really barely know her and the only attention her death is given is as an expose of NSA spying through the developments that follow. It wasn’t necessary you will say, we already came to know Peter Russo, it’s all the same. In this case, two is a statistic.

The fact is we all too rarely consider the reality of death and the toll that is being exacted. The coroner has to put her body back together… The initial report of the death toll in Independence Square came from a doctor who was in the protest camp. He was tasked to take care of these people, and there was little to nothing he could do for them. He would’ve had to do this in the blistering cold, acrid smoke of burning rubber, raging fires and in the chaos of a riot police raid on a fortified camp full of exhausted but determined… what?… Activists? Terrorists? Protesters? Hooligans?… People.

While I believe that we should be masters of our own destiny the truth is that there are probably far too many of us for representation to work the same way that it did for the Athenians. Individual voices become statistics. Individual ideas become abstract ideology that we attach to with varying levels of conviction, and only the loudest are heard. We elect one from among the loudest whom we most agree with and then it is out of our hands. Whether they meant what they said or not becomes irrelevant, they have the power now. The only way we know of for a group of elected people to govern is by means of politics. Yes the very same kind of politics that happen in your office, just with higher stakes and consequences that are farther removed.

Democracy is the least bad system of governance that we have been able to come up with up until this point. The Ukraine is now showing us why that is the case. I salute you neighbors, and I hope that it is not in vain.

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2 thoughts on “Ukraine’s house of cards

  1. The Athenians didn’t have it so great either. Just ask the guys they sent to Sicily. Least bad yes. Just ask somebody in Ukraine if they’d rather have a screwed up democracy from say France over the, well whatever government you’d like to call Ukraine’s at the moment. Maybe one day Ukraine will have it. But in the meantime, it’ll get ugly.

    • Ukraine is a democracy in the sense that governance is done by people who are elected or chosen by people who are elected. All modern states in what we call western civilization adhere to this model. Every one has their variation but it is still some form of governance by representation.

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