The crisis in Ukraine—a few thoughts

The Internet is rife with Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns. In any comment section on any platform, you’ll see the trolls.

I’m posting this video from my tiny little blog, to do my part against that wave.

It is stunning that anyone could hear such eloquent pleas for peace, and not back down.

The cynicism and dehumanization of the other necessary to do so, while simultaneously proclaiming that other to be “one” with you… it must have been a cruel life to lead someone there.

I pity Vladimir Putin. It is only the fog of state media propaganda that protects him from his own people.

Wherever there is sunlight, like a vampire he will burn.

And so he lives increasingly in the dark, unhinged, controlled by the delusion that somehow, ruining the future will make up for the disasters of the past.

It is hard to pierce the veil of selective coverage and outright lies. Our own media has failed us so often. Our own biases.

But no matter how I spin it, no matter the affordances I try to make for differing worldviews and values, I simply see no justification for this invasion. This isn’t a game of Risk, with its little plastic figurines. Forty-four million lives are on the line, if not far more.

In the early years of this blog, I posted my concerns about Russia’s interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs, and about increasing autocracy in Russia.

It is interesting to see seeds planted decades ago bearing bitter fruit. Not that I was any prophet.

Just the other day I was thinking to myself, Too bad I didn’t study Mandarin instead of Russian, probably would have been more useful….

But I guess if we’re going to have another cold war, those Russian classes feel like a better choice in retrospect.

In my early twenties I was fortunate enough to heed somebody’s recommendation that I read The GULAG Archipelago. (I just received two volumes of it that I was missing as a birthday present from my sister.) It was an astounding book—Solzhenitsyn’s account of the cruelties of the Soviet prison camp system never left me. It seems more and more that the system that produced those atrocities never fully reformed; the tsarist court and the Politburo are still with us in their way.

We are fortunate in western countries that, with our many and manifold failings, we do have long histories of democracy. We look back to, say, the U.S. Constitution in 1789, or the Iroquois Confederacy, or British traditions of parliamentary supremacy, or the Magna Carta in 1215.

Russians look back in their history and see a long line of authoritarians, with the occasional benevolent dictator. For every Peter there’s an Ivan. For every Alexander, there’s a Josef Stalin. Russian Empire, Soviet Union, Russian Federation… it’s all the same.

Such a natural thing then to fall into yet another cult of personality, to be led along once more on the road of conquest.

Let’s do what we must to keep our commitments, equip our friends, and defend our allies.

Like the last Cold War… this too, eventually, shall pass.

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