Saturday, December 14, 2013

The kind of revolution we want to see in Ukraine

By Michael

I woke up to beautiful, warm singing by honey voiced men several days ago. It was a funeral procession. Another one of our neighbors in our small village had died. This is the second death that Yulia and I have been present for since we moved into our house five months ago. This trend, unfortunately, will continue. Residents of our village are slowly dying off, and no one is replacing them. The houses and gardens left behind by the deceased are usually not tended by surviving family members. The houses slowly rot without anyone heating them in the winter and the gardens become overgrown.

There is no plan for the moldering villages of Ukraine. The Soviet era farms that dot the countryside are already in an advanced state of decay. They look like ancient Greek ruins--a column here, a doorway with nothing around it there. However, these ruins have only been around for 22 years. There are modern aspects to these ruins as well. I found an old weigh station and guard shack for vehicles leaving one of these farms. I imagined what the Ukrainian countryside was once like. My god, things happened here, I realized! There were farm hands, truck drivers, mechanics, guards, store clerks, and teachers working here.

Those people are still living in these rural villages. Their adult children are in the cities where the jobs are. The Ukrainian countryside is therefore a sort of vast retirement community. And they are in danger of becoming ghost towns. Yulia and I think they deserve a better future than this. That is why we are trying to keep our village strong. We want it to be a place where things happen.We want other young people to join us, and it does seem that there is a desire from others to do so. We also want to defend this land from being bought up by oligarch controlled agribusinesses who will exploit this land and eventually ruin it. This is a dramatic change from the status quo, but it is the kind of future we want to see for the Ukrainian countryside.

Yulia and I have been interested in the idea of dramatic change in Ukraine for quite some time now. When we first moved to Ukraine, Yulia made it clear to me that we were not moving here in order to assimilate. We were coming to create the kind of world we want to see. We view what we are doing as part of the greater change we see unfolding on the Maidan in Kyiv and, indeed, all over Ukraine right now.

A lot of people have been critical of the Euromaidan protests, claiming that they are not a real revolution. Sergei Mikheev, for example, has this to say about the current situation in Ukraine:
Calling the events “a revolution” is an exaggeration. There is no revolution, just like there was no revolution in 2004. Revolution is a change of the social and political system. There was no change of the social and political system in 2004; and it is not happening at the moment. Thus, the events are mostly “fake” and manipulations, even though many people sincerely believe that they protest against everything bad and for everything good.
His definition of "revolution" is appropriate, and it is the definition I will use here. He is also right in saying that the 2004 Orange Revolution was not a revolution. However, he is wrong in coming to the conclusion that there is no revolution happening at the moment.

The Orange Revolution was not a revolution because a new party was simply voted into office without the dramatic changes that are needed in order to make an actual revolution. There was a clear aim to the Orange Revolution, the overturning of a fraudulent election. When that happened, people concluded "mission accomplished." The political and social systems, as Mikheev states, were not changed (enough).

What is happening now is a revolution because protesters are demanding and creating political and social change. Their demands for political change are clear: the resignation of the president, prime minister, and others. They also want the Association Agreement signed with the EU. These are the political and economic aspects of the revolution. They have not happened yet, and it may take some time for these things to happen. The protesters are being peaceful, and, unfortunately, it takes time to create change in this way. People ask for evidence or examples of what, precisely should happen if the protesters are successful. They want a road map for the future. Those asking this have good questions, but they need to be patient. Events can unfold in a number of ways, and it is impossible to predict how. Ukraine will just need to deal with political change as it comes.

For those that want examples of a post revolution Ukraine, here is one that addresses a particular aspect of society: journalism. As far as I can tell, Euromaidan is about ordinary people taking control of the destiny of their country. Hromadske TV has emerged as a living example of this. Hromadske TV is an internet television station that has been broadcasting news about Euromaidan on the internet. They have a no frills sort of an approach. Their studio appears to be located in an attic in Kyiv. Their small newsroom is visible behind the news desk, while the anchors sit with laptops in front of them. The anchors have a flat screen monitor and "Hromadske TV banner behind them. They often have audio, video, and internet speed problems. But these superficial problems are made up for by substance. The quality of journalism they put out is professional and superb. These (mostly young) journalists have a bright future, and I certainly hope this will become the model to replace oligarch owned news companies in Ukraine.

No comments:

Post a Comment