Democracy under the bombs
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Democracy under the bombs

Photo: ua.depositphotos.com / palinchak
10 March 2022
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On February 24, 2022, I woke up at 5:05 am with the work messenger notification sounds. The short message stated, “The war has begun…”. My lecture for the students of the political science department scheduled for 8 am was automatically canceled. Indeed, our usual lives were canceled from then on.

Let me share with you some thoughts that cloud my head during these days of total insanity. These may seem emotional, however, under the bombs, it is understandable that one appeals not to established world order, international rules and practices, but to the fundamental pillars of the civilized world such as peace, justice, and humanity.

Ukraine is under attack for being brave enough to be a democracy in the close proximity of authoritarian Russia. Obviously, the aggressor cannot allow the flowers of freedom to grow in its own backyard, it is a matter of its survival. However, all of a sudden, these flowers turned out to have deep roots and sharp thorns. Ukrainians have shown that under their skin they have armor, forged from love to the homeland and fury to invaders. Our people succeeded to rapidly go through the emotional stage (“how this is possible at all in our civilized world?”) to the proactive stage, when the desire to be a part of resistance and victory is stronger than despair. The formula “feel – think – act – reflect” is currently in motion nationwide.

As of now, everyone does whatever is in his/her power from the place they are. Ukrainians are entering the territory defense forces, giving shelter to internally displaced persons, volunteering to supply food, medication, and equipment to those who are in need or on duty. People all across the country build barricades at the entrances to cities from sandbags and iron structures. Our teenagers, who were forced to experience the war in its fullness, are blocking propaganda pages in social media, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Students weave camouflage nets and sort out humanitarian aid. Homeless people help the territorial defense forces to collect bottles for Molotov cocktails – improvised explosive devices. Atheists say they have started praying for defenders. The resistance is being waged on multiple fronts simultaneously – the military, diplomatic, information, humanitarian, spiritual.

In a short span of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our country and our people have mobilized beyond imagination. Existing regional, language and political cleavages have vanished as a result of the new all-nation experience we are going through. The unity has become a tangible reality and has materialized in strong support of each other. Ordinary people, not organizations or institutions, turned out to be heroes these days. Even having a life under the bombs, they spontaneously have synchronized with each other in serving others, defending, providing aid. The Ukrainian authorities also have demonstrated their ability to swiftly react to complex emergencies and currently enjoy a tremendous level of people’s trust. Like never before, according to the sociological survey conducted on March 01, 2022, Ukrainians support the activities of the President (93%) and local mayors (84%).

At the same time, the whole democratic world is standing at the crossroads. It is entering a period of consequence and momentous choice. Would it be a “sin” to sacrifice one democracy to supposedly protect many? Would a utilitarian approach not to interfere in someone else’s war amount to the greatest good of democratic world? Is it morally permissible not to act but watch how people from a young democracy are paying with their lives for universal values of liberty and justice?  It can be seen as a moral dilemma on an international scale. Immanuel Kant’s “categorical imperative” means we can determine right and wrong by asking if we would want to universalize an act. The question is, would we want to live in a world in which an international “aggressor”, powerful madman invades into a smaller or military weaker democracy at any moment?

Ukraine is feeling like it has been thrown in with a lion in the Сoliseum. Everyone else took their seats and supported the “gladiator” throwing to him their swords and arrows. However, they should be aware that the outcome of this drama will determine their future as well. Ukraine is fighting for itself, for true democratic values and rights at once. Is it enough for the rest of democratic world to simply hope that this lion will be full of its first victim and will not jump on the podium looking for another picking? In other words, how many “young” democracies can be sacrificed in the name of security of the “old” ones?

Our international friends from all over the world provide us with words of support, they pray for peace. Indeed, we pray it would never happen again to Ukraine or any other country. For this, the threat to democracy stemming from Russia must be stopped resolutely. Obviously, the aggressor took the hint that when the whole democratic world follows the rules, it is the best time to destroy it in parts. We urge every one of you to help us to defend our land, our sky and our people in every possible way. We urge you to help peace and justice to prevail.

Author: Olena Rybiy, lecturer at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

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