Thursday, December 26, 2013

Focused emotions: In response to the assaults on Ukraine

By Michael

I am feeling restless. I have contradictory feelings--saddened by what the government is doing to Ukraine, but inspired by the people who are standing up to this destruction.

Here's what I am thinking about:

The government dispersed Euromaidan on November 30th, the day after the EU Vilnius Summit, by siccing Berkut on a couple of hundred protesters. Berkut beat the protesters and everybody saw what they did. People responded by coming out in droves that weekend, and they took back the Maidan.

On December 11th police tried to take back the Maidan and Kyiv City Hall from the protesters who had claimed the building as the "Headquarters of National Resistance." The police used relatively clean tactics (and even this is disputed) and they failed to achieve their goal.

It seems that now the Ukrainian government is trying to terrorize the Ukrainian people by
assaulting individuals instead of confronting the entire Maidan at once.

The government is trying to strike fear into the people of Ukraine. But nobody I know is scared. They are past being angry. They are fuming. But you wouldn't know this from just a superficial glance at the protesters.

Their self discipline and self organization is extraordinary. The protesters have forbidden drinking alcohol on the Maidan, for example. They have their own security and their own electricity. These are smart, coordinated, and focused people. Don't expect blind rage from them.

Here's how Kateryna Kruk responded to the Christmas Eve beatings in what I will call a "Twitter essay" (written on December 25th):

today was my worst day of .regime beaten not only Chornovol.they've beaten friend.everyone.1/4
every living person in Ukraine,'cause to live means to say truth and fight for better.regime hasn't attacked Chornovol.they attacked 2/4
our dignity and basic rights.from today I don't have pres.,gov.,I have bloody regime,from whom I,we,Ukrainians,need protection.3/4
democratic prodecures and rules of int.relations are important,but could they be more important than people,right to talk,right to live?4/4
This is probably the most poignant piece of writing I have read on Twitter yet. The Maidan movement is not about pure logic. It is about channeling intense feelings into a cause. This is deep and this is emotional. This is about everyday life and the rest of our lives. And that is more real than logic. The change that is happening in Ukraine can be called hyper reality.

That is why I'm writing to say that Yanukovych's regime literally beat my wife, Yulia, too, and I am pissed. As Kateryna says, "they've beaten me, my mother, my friend, everyone, every living person in Ukraine." She is absolutely right.

But her essay isn't only about the Yanukovych regime. Kateryna later writes, "democtratic procedure and rules of international relations are important, but could they be more important than people, right to talk, right to live?" Here she is referring to the response of the international community to the Maidan movement. The EU and the US have been following the situation here closely, but their responses have been merely rhetorical. The EU wrote a letter expressing their concern about the situation. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that attacks on protesters are "disgusting." But violence has been going on for quite some time now. The US has made conditional threats, but has not followed through with those threats when conditions are met. I have been documenting it myself here on this blog. On November 25th I wrote:
About two hours ago, there was a spike in tweets. I watched in real time as people called for help in a clash against riot police. They sent pictures and videos from Kyiv. Here is avideo that shows the scuffle unfold (fast forward to minute 43 for the fight). Police hit protesters with billy clubs and used tear gas to try and disperse the crowd
 November 30th:
The US government has vowed that the Ukrainian government will face serious repercussions if they use force against the protesters. Well, they already have as of four o'clock this morning. 
December 2nd:
Yesterday, however, the protests became violent at one point. There were clashes on Bankova Street as protesters attempted to storm the presidential residence. Using a bulldozer, protesters attacked riot police. The majority of protesters reacted valiantly, actually coming to the aid of the Berkut special forces police.
 And now Ukrainians are dealing with what happened on Christmas Eve. The EU wants the Ukrainian government to look into the stabbing, shooting, and beating, but they have missed one very big point--the Ukrainian government is one of the suspects!

It seems that the entire architecture of the political system on all sides in dysfunctional. No one doubts this architecture is important. As Kateryna says, "democratic procedures and rules of international relations are important." But something's obviously not working.

That is why the Maidan movement needs to be big. Ordinary Ukrainians must take on the problems they face themselves because nobody is going to do it for them. They need to re-form the system. That is why I am getting involved. This will be tough, with a steep learning curve, but at least it will be truly democratic with the people themselves forming a new kind of system and a new kind of country.


  1. A message worth getting out there Michael. I hope that both yourself and Yulia are well

    1. Thank you. Yulia and I are fine. Healthy and strong.
      Psychologically we feel very connected with other Ukrainians right now. Strangers are no longer strangers to us. They are friends and family. That is why an attack on one of us feels like an attack on somebody that we are close to.