Sunday, January 19, 2014

Our civilizational choice

Yulia is a brilliant person, and I wish she would write more often on our blog.We had a deep conversation yesterday after finding out the bad news about the repressive laws that just went into effect in Ukraine.

Yulia cited what a Party of Regions (the presidential party) deputy had to say about the new laws. He tried to frame the discussion as a choice of civilizations, and he feels that the West is trying to push their lifestyle onto places like Ukraine. The way the government is currently handling the situation is just an alternative to the Western way of doing things, he says.

This is all well and good. After all, the Western lifestyle is not always positive in our opinion. It is based on consumerism, and it can be wasteful, for example.

But what is being implicitly and explicitly used to counter the Western lifestyle is pretty much the same thing. The elites in their system (I don't know what to call it--Eastern? Russian? Donbassian?) drive fancy cars and fly around in private jets. The businesses they own are very similar to what Yulia and I are used to from America. The hardware store, "Epicenter," for example, is owned by a Party of Regions member. It is a big box store that is quite similar to "Lowe's" or "The Home Depot." The buildings themselves are sprawling landscrapers with giant parking lots located on stroads. They buy and sell large quantities of goods at low prices like "Wal Mart." What is so different from America in this case?

Yulia made the point that few people are suggesting that Ukrainians live in places like this:

Yulia's grandparents' village

or this:

The Carpathian Mountains

or this:

Our house

and live the kind of lifestyle that accompanies living in a place like this--growing your own food, repairing the old homes on your own, and entertaining yourself--like our ancestors did. Instead, the roads to these places are falling apart, the civic buildings are in decay, and there are few jobs here. People are all but forced to move to the city, live in an apartment, buy things from big box stores, and find a job to pay for all these things. This is what Yulia and I were doing in America, so what is all that different about the Donbassian lifestyle compared to the Western one?

Yulia and I think framing the discussion in terms of ethnic or civilizational divisions is inaccurate anyway. Look into any civilization, and those people were all growing their own food, repairing their own homes, and entertaining themselves at some point in history.

Those in power love to divide people up and claim them for themselves. That is what Vladimir Putin is doing with Ukraine, claiming that Russia and Ukraine are brothers in a pan-Slavic culture (Russia is, of course, the big brother in this metaphor.).

Pan Slavism is true--Ukraine and Russia do have some things in common historically, culturally, and linguistically. But why cut off Ukraine from Poland? Or Turkey? Or Austria? Or even Ireland? Surely they, and any number of countries, share much with Ukraine.

In the end we must conclude that this is just about elites fighting for control over people. Really, there is a worldwide consumer culture that happens to be dominant right now. This is at least true for Ukraine and America, the two countries we know most intimately. We are interested in an alternative to that culture and lifestyle, but we do not see it being encouraged by the elites in power right now.


  1. May be of interest. Nicely done photo journal of EuroMaidan's workings and doings.

  2. Thanks for sharing that. What beautiful photographs!