Russia and Ukraine are at war.
Once again, we in the West, safe from the immediate consequences of the war, take brave stands. These brave stands include Conservative politicians demanding the expulsion of Russian diplomats, reluctantly reducing the flow of Russian oil, (we’ll bravely pay a price at the pumps they say as though this was some sort of solidarity with real people who are being killed instead of an exercise in vanity), and otherwise calling for what amounts to war, more war.
CCM drops Alex Ovechkin from their marketing. Junior hockey stops bringing over teenagers from Russia. A University briefly bans Dostoyevsky. More brave stands.
Isn’t it odd that our society has taken great pains to understand and educate ourselves about the struggles of people of colour, and other oppressed peoples and now we turn around and collectively dehumanize people for their ethnicity? Have we learned nothing, or even regressed? We wear a pose of being at the apex of progressivism, and behind the mask we give vent to the same ‘othering’ that humans have always had lurking inside in the dark corners of their hearts. The same impulse that led to pogroms and slavery and countless other atrocities, Rwanda, Auschwitz, the Killing Fields of Cambodia.
The last time we were here, I remember the hysteria well. It led to war with Iraq, and twenty years in Afghanistan. How many dead, how many shattered families, and for what exactly? I remember thinking at the time, why are we going into Iraq, how do we get out, what’s the endgame. and being alarmed when Nancy Grace, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton all spoke with the same voice. That was a new experience for me. Just as there is darkness in our hearts, there is an instinct to run with the herd. When these two primal forces align, and walk hand in hand, there is no more dangerous time.
It’s wrong to invade another country, wrong for soldiers and especially civilians, to be harmed and die, this is already tragic. But ask, why? Did this war was start in a vacuum? Do you think this is skin deep, the work of one evil man, or are there layers to the onion? What is really going on, who can you trust for information? Ukraine? Russia? The foreign press of various countries? Random social media accounts? Is it possible that people are trying to manipulate you? And where do we go from here? These are just questions.
I am a big boxing fan, and to see the Klitschko Brothers on the front lines, and Oleksandr Usyk, fly from London to Ukraine, leave a position of safety, and take arms to defend their homeland, it puts a human face on the struggle, and that of World Champions, men of honour and achievement, whom I admire. They could die. Kiev is well on its way to being encircled as I write this. The contrast with our leadership in this country is stark. Our leaders run, in every sense of the word, from difficult things. The contrast too, between the emergency they declared regarding Ottawa (which was certainly illegal) and the emergency that the Ukraine is facing is stark. How would they respond to an emergency of this nature? Enemy tanks and rockets, civilian casualties, destroyed airstrips and power plants? They are already, in the midst of this war, in Parliament discussing ‘environmental racism’. Is anything serious to them, or is it just another pose? They’re always looking for the next safe thing.
I don’t blame them. What is rewarded in our society is the safe thing – not the hard thing. The safe thing is to run with the herd, whether that means looking down at anti-vaxxers yesterday or Russians today, or Japanese-Canadians in the 1940s. That’s how you move up in a company, a political party, a bureaucracy, blend in, say the right thing, when the winds change, go with them. What we will find in time is that, after too much of always doing the safe thing, there is no more safe thing.
Don’t give in to the safe thing. Do the hard thing. Refuse to generalize and demonize people. Refuse to add your voice to the chorus, the chorus that is calling for the blood of others. Stand for reason and fairness, for understanding and peace.
My Opa went on technological exchanges to the USSR in the mid-seventies, their focus was on drilling rigs. On the trips they were briefed by Canadian intelligence to keep their lips buttoned, and I assume the Soviet engineers got a similar talk from the KGB. They had intelligence escorts to keep an eye on things throughout the trip. This was the Cold War, the last time we had ‘othered’ Russia and they had ‘othered’ us.
Opa told me that one night they all got drunk on vodka. He said that they talked openly (as one tends to do after a bunch of vodka and arm-wrestling) with the Soviet engineers, the intelligence escorts turned a blind eye. So what did they talk about? Did they let ‘state secrets’ which they didn’t have anyways, slip?
No. They talked about their families and children, and the challenge and fun of being an engineer.
That always stayed with me, and bears remembering now.