Ukraine is in a pickle

To be in a pickle means to be in a very difficult situation.

In my view, the number one problem is that in Ukraine there are two nationalities. Those in the North and West are Ukrainian speakers; those in the South and East are Russian speakers. I suppose this would be tolerable if Ukraine were a federated State like Switzerland with two distinct linguistic groups, but it is not; it is a centralized hierarchival State. Moreover, most citizens of Ukraine are bi-lingual. The tension is over domination and discrimination.

The second problem is irrendentism. Ukraine’s neighbor on the East is Russia. This means that like Hitler who annexed the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Germany because this was the area of Czechoslovakia where the dominant language was German; so likewise, Putin annexed Crimea to Russia, and is fermenting trouble in the Donbass region of Ukraine. To add to this situation is the fact that these Russian speaking regions want to be part of Russia. They eagerly accept Russian passports.

The third problem is that both Ukraine and Russia have bad forms of government. I consider placing power in a single individual to be a form of dictatorship, as did the ancient republican Romans and Spartans. Rome placed power in two consuls who had veto power over each other. Sparta had two kings and five ephors checking them. Thus, power was spread as it is in Switzerland today between seven members of the Federal Council. In Russia there is the “dictator” Putin, while in Ukraine there is President Zelensky with a dubious linguistic standing and sympathies. In any case, both countries are subject to the whims of these individuals.

The fourth problem is that despite signing the Budapest Memorandum (1994) [ signatories: Ukraine, Russia, Britain, United States], in which Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a commitment to respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty, that guarantee has been broken by Russia under Putin by annexing Crimea and creating an ongoing Russian “hybrid” war in the Donbass. And the other signatories have reneged on their commitment to protect Ukraine.

“Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime”

I am sure you have heard this proverb many times. The proverb uses fish to stand for all food. It could be rephrased as: “Give a man some food and you will feed him for a day. Teach him to get his own food, and he will be fed for a lifetime.” The idea is to make a person self-sufficient.

However, the proverb presupposes two things. First, that you are allowed to fish in a particular place for free. But this is not true in places such as Illinois (where I live). I am allowed to fish only if I purchase a fishing license. Second, this assumes that there are fish in the water where I wish to fish. But given our ecological policies, there may not be any fish to fish for; or, they may be diseased and inedible.

Generalizing, in order to get food on your own, you must have free access to subsistence land. For the time being, there are indigenous stateless people who do have some limited free access; the rest of us who live in States, have to purchase or rent such subsistence land.

What happens when machines take over?

Below is a film about the Luddites in England (1811-16)

Kirkpatrick Sale, Rebels against the future: the Luddites and their war on the Industrial Revolution: lessons for the computer age, 1996.

Below, an interview with Kirkpatrick Sale on his book (1996):

Below, an interview with Kirkpatrick Sale on his book, The Collapse of 2020 (2020):

Reflection on recent demonstrations

I am neither a sociologist nor a historian, but when I reflect on the various types of demonstrations and rebellions in history they seem to have a limited range of causes.

As I watched on the Internet the various demonstrations in the United States — on the face of it — as protests against police brutality — specifically, in the killing of George Floyd — a few things came to mind.

The first is why did people go out to demonstrate? And the answer cannot be simple. It is a mixed bag. On the one side, the killing of George Floyd was a spark or catalyst that ignited the the frustration of people not only with police brutality, but also with the government, and the whole politico-economic system.

There are a host of very poor young people who took to demonstrations in righteous indignation, but also for the excitement, for the violence, and for the looting. The fact that these demonstrations were widespread in the United States, and in some places even in the world, is a symptom of economically and politically repressed populations.

This Covid-19 pandemic has created an unemployment situation equal to the Great Depression of 1929. In addition, the attempt to control the pandemic with a lockdown has frustrated people’s social feelings — that is why coming out and risking infection seemed to many a secondary concern.

And what is the response of the government?

In some better form of government, the response should be to alleviate the causes, but in the present form of government the response is to the symptoms: to quell the demonstrations.

And the response, as it is, is inconsistent because, to begin with, there are mayors, governors, and the president. And it is obvious that President Trump has a dictatorial streak when he warned the mayors and governors that if they don’t restore order, he will send in federal troops.

However, there is a wider underlying tension within the government. On the one hand, which was evident in Obama’s presidency, in having the greatest number of arrests of whistleblowers; this is the effort to safeguard a knowledge of government activity from the public, which, as such, is an expression of a resentment of democracy. This same mentality wants to suppress as much as possible demonstrations and popular unrest.

So there is a tendency to militarize the police with better protection and better weapons. But, on the other hand, there is the propaganda rhetoric of the United States as the land of freedom: the right of assembly and expression of grievances. The result is an ambiguous stance towards protests and demonstrations.

Now, historically protests and riots have had little impact on the major policies of the United States government: as with the Covid-19 disease, they have resulted in mostly emergency anodynes for the symptoms.

Thousands around the world protest George Floyd’s death in global display of solidarity, June 1, 2020.