from the the-texts-are-coming-from-inside-the-country! dept
If you've paid attention to the news recently, you may be aware that there are some impressive protests going on in Ukraine, some of which have been met with violence by the Ukrainian government. I won't bore you with a comprehensive history lesson, but I think we may need a bit of context here.
Ukraine has gone through two revolutions in recent history, the first gaining independence with the fall of the Berlin wall and the second a mere decade ago when they threw out the subsequent government to try again. The reasons for the second were corruption on a near world record level and an economic system that was as stifled as it was depressed. Once under the thumb of the Soviet Union and all of its freedom-less trappings, ethnic Ukranians began leaning towards European ideals in the west of the country. Meanwhile, over in the eastern portion, ethnic Russians had settled areas where the USSR had displaced ethnic Ukranians, and the settlers retained more of a philosophical allegiance to their homeland. Since then, Ukraine has always been a battleground between Russia and Europe, particularly economically, with Russia tending to win out by strong-arming its neighbor through oil delivery prices and cancellations that virtually castrate Ukraine in the colder months.
The recent protests began when the current president, Victor Yanukovych, unilaterally torpedoed a broad trade agreement with the EU, one which had been in the works for years. Instead, Yanukovych bowed to Russia generally and Putin in particular, promising to build closer ties with the country's former master. Protesters protested, as they tend to do. But, rather than engage in a political process, or any true dialogue about the decision, Yanukovych's government has instead embraced the tactics of Middle Eastern nations that have since learned what happens when you attempt to stifle protest by fiat.
The controversial new protest laws have sparked concerns they could be used to put down demonstrations and deny people the right to free speech. They include provisions barring people from wearing helmets and masks to rallies, from setting up tents or sound equipment without prior police permission, and from traveling in convoys of more than five vehicles without authorization. A separate Interior Ministry order allowing riot police to use firearms came into force Tuesday, according to the official Ukrainian legislation website.Meant to stifle protests, these laws have instead supercharged the revolutionary spirit of Ukranians, who remember all too well what it was like when they allowed themselves to be victims in a similar way. These laws have been tried elsewhere, including the banning of masks, and they generally don't work. Times have changed and you can't put the cat back in the bag. The more you try to re-impose old restrictions on a newly free people, the more backlash you're going to get.
Which is what will make the reaction to this latest tidbit about Ukranian intimidation so interesting. Buried in a story about the protests, we learn that the Ukrianian government has abandoned all pretense in its attempt to rule by fear.
The government’s opponents said three recent actions had been intended to incite the more radical protesters and sow doubt in the minds of moderates: the passing of laws last week circumscribing the right of public assembly, the blocking of a protest march past the Parliament building on Sunday and the sending of cellphone messages on Tuesday to people standing in the vicinity of the fighting that said, “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”In other words, it's as though the Ukranian government had already gotten part of the way through Orwell's collective works as a blueprint for how to set up a government and then picked up 1984. Big Brother, as it were, is watching you. Fortunately, not only will this not work in the long term, it isn't even working in the short term.
The phrasing of the message, about participating in a “mass disturbance,” echoed language in a new law making it a crime to participate in a protest deemed violent. The law took effect on Tuesday. And protesters were concerned that the government seemed to be using cutting-edge technology from the advertising industry to pinpoint people for political profiling.
The messages appeared to have little effect. Three hours after they were sent, riot police officers pushed past barricades of burned buses at that site and were met by a crowd of protesters in ski masks and bicycle helmets, carrying sticks and ready to fight.And it was insane to expect any other response. If you back a wounded animal into a corner and threaten it with a stick, expect the claws to be unleashed. And that's an entirely unfortunate state of affairs. With all the avenues for discourse available to us today, seeing what were peaceful protests descend into violence from both sides due strictly to the Orwellian tactics of a government is no longer acceptable. For that government to have so recently been liberated from a gone-nation that had likewise utilized those tactics is insane.
So, despite a lack of sufficient coverage from our major media, keep Ukraine in your mind as the citizens there fight and die for the freedom of speech, assembly and governance.