Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ukraine's example of peaceful opposition is a bright light in a dark tunnel of tyranny

It is the quiet dignity and the surreal composure of the Ukrainian people that has taken over, following the massacre of some 81 of their comrades who were brutally killed under orders from someone in the former president Yanukovich's regime. And as the world watches, and as Canada sends a delegation to Kiev as observers, to speak with the 'people' in charge, and the EU waits for some signs of stability in a very fast moving and so-far peaceful situation, even Ukrainians who are already employed have been volunteering to supplement the police forces, in a period of transition and potential turbulence.
Meanwhile Yanukovich himself has fled, probably into the Crimea, taking refuge likely under Russian protection, where there are still some reports of a potential 'second theatre' for this revolution. He is wanted for crimes against humanity, given his alleged culpability, and certainly his narcissistic self-indulgence while he served as the leader of the Ukraine. Watching the eyes of the people of Kiev who walked peacefully through the ornate and sumptuous estate he had built for himself, replete with several expensive automobiles, we saw incredulity, amazement and even contempt for his abuse of power and the accompanying access to money.
This motion picture of a regime change is so different from those in the streets of Cairo and in Tunisia as to be almost sullied by any comparison. The people of the Ukraine are demonstrating to the rest of the world that they trust their own people, that they are fully aware of the options available to them in such proximity that they are seizing their own opportunities, even in the face of what has proven to be a very brutal regime.
Those hundreds of flowers laid silently on the street in Kiev, in honour and in memory of the Ukrainians who died from the bullets fired by Yanukovich's military and/or security forces, speak volumes, not only in the picture they paint lying there against the black asphalt, but in the silent procession of the people, in an almost sacramental manner, bending down and placing them gently on the hard, cold black street. Theirs was, after all, a demonstrably peaceful demonstration, albeit one that threatened the continuing presidency/puppet of Yanukovich, and those who died have become martyrs to the changes the people are demanding.
Now, one of the more significant and pressing questions is whether or not the people leading the transitional government, supported by allies from various countries including Canada and the United States, can and will be able to negotiate with an apparently so-far intransigent and deeply offended Putin who is continuing to reject out of hand the notion that Ukraine can be simultaneously engaged in the development of democratic institutions, the rule of law and access to both jobs and a secure future, and also continue a cultural and linguistic and historic relationship with Russia.
If Putin uses the example of Karzai in Kabul, who has rejected out of hand the request to sign the security agreement with the United States, leaving his country without U.S. forces on the ground, following the termination of their official deployment, at the end of this year ( a move that will certainly provide an open door to the Taliban to return to power in that country), then the conflict in the Ukraine could become another protracted blemish on Russia and the United States as well as the European Union.
Is it not time for people like Putin and Assad, and the Ayatollah in Iran, and Kim Jung-un in North Korea to wake up to the fact that history has passed dictatorships by, that, by definition, dictators are relics, paleolithic monsters still attempting to preserve a system of governance that has long ago been proven dysfunctional? And is it also not time for leaders in both Beijing and Moscow to moderate their support for rogue states and their brutal dictatorships, and stop justifying their shipments of guns and military equipment propping up these dictators, while at the same time, foreclosing on the kind of information and education and open media that people living in healthy nation states require.
Power that resides in a single individual, or a small cabal, that manipulates all of the instruments of the state, including the economy, the press, the education system, the health care system, and the patronage that flows into the hands of so many people to "buy" their loyalty to the corrupt system which has contaminated their hands, and their lives, in a kind of secret duplicity, is, by definition, abusing itself. It has turned in upon itself, and can do nothing except implode inevitably, leaving a mess that normally takes decades to unravel and replace.
Once entrenched, political systems are extremely hard to excise. Normally a political/surgical excision is messy, often without precise precedent and leaves scars and spilled blood, in conditions far from those pristine hygienic kind in the operating rooms of the world's hospitals. Politics, itself, is often, and too often in our view, a brutal instrument, that has extreme resistance to subtlety and to nuance and to delicate manoeuvres, given the desperate need for recognition and rewards from the people on which the process depends.
However, as the president of Google pointed out this week, the new technology, because it links everyone to instruments that circumvent any official information system, and thereby undermines all pretense to assurances that "all is well" when everyone knows that all is not well, may have made dictatorships obsolete. Let us all hope that history proves his observation valid and reliable, and that those few archaic vestiges of omnipotence in a single man, (and it has been men throughout history!) will become the subjects of archeologists and political scientists who are preparing their dissertations and not the residents of some "pleasure dome" built with the money that could have and should have provided education and health care and peace and security for the people.
Ukraine, we are watching, often in awe, at your attempt to shed tyranny, and hopeful that we can join hands with you in your march into a brighter and more stable and more democratic future, with or without Russia as one of your partners.

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