Original by Dr. Evgeniya Bilchenko; translation by J.Hawk
My address is intended for those Ukrainian intellectuals who have not lost the remnants of their common sense, my colleagues and kindred spirits. It’s pointless to discuss with closed minds. By intellectuals I don’t mean a specific social class of snobs, but people whose lives revolve around letters, spirituality, and education. Many of them attempt to participate in social and academic life. And I know that the overwhelming majority of these people are not in agreement with what’s happening in the country.
Here’s what I’ve seen in recent times: kitchen talk, half-whispers, pleas whispered into ears, claims that still more can be lost, injunctions to act with care.
Why are you afraid to speak the truth? Simple truth that our country is under a totalitarian regime. A dumb, lying totalitarian regime only interested in prolonging the war and profiting from it. In sacrificing soldiers for the sake of cheap PR. In repressing civilians. In sweeps and bombardments which kill not only separatists but also women and children. Is that not true? Just look at the morgue casualty lists from 2014 alone. In censoring the media. In arresting dissenters. In a complete prohibition on discussing this war, of which one can only say that it’s waged by “Russian-terrorist forces.” Not a step to the right, not a step to the left. A complete ban on discussing the complex causes, the hybrid character, the civic factor. In deportations. In dungeons. In constant lies about the Russian-speaking “Kremlin agents”. In a language and political purge. In public persecution of those whom they think can be spiritually broken. In marginalizing civic romantics who went to the Maidan for the sake of defending human rights.
Don’t you know that the Ukrainian government does not want peace, and it’s ready to throw there hundreds of boys, using the myth of liberation and bravery as political cover? Don’t you know that Russian armor vests are much better than Ukrainian ones, and that people are dying like cattle? For the sake of enriching yet another government volunteer organization? We’ve encountered the following case: journals made financial donations for Ukrainian soldiers, but the items they purchased resurfaced (after resale) in DPR. For the sake of making the president look good? You know that. You know that but you keep silent. Or you shout “Glory to Ukraine!” Because the draft notice will come not to you. It will come to the kid to whom you will hand the national idea, whom you will brutalize, whom you will bless to kill our fellow citizens under the pretense of defending the homeland and you will force to take an ever-greater revenge because after his comrades die there will be no forgiveness and there can be none. What tolerance are we talking about. It’s not you who will stand on the front lines.
Don’t you realize that the regime rests on control from below, by manipulating radicals whenever dissidents need to be dealt with? Why are you afraid to say that you were deceived on the Maidan when the idea of democracy was used to bring oligarchs into power? In a strange alliance with Nazis. Yes, with Nazis, this is no hyperbole. Don’t you know that public officials are giving Nazi salutes for the sake of their image, like for example Roman Skripin? You know they do. For whose sake are they doing it? For the president of a hostile country? And you know about the Azov Civic Corps. Are you afraid to speak of it because you don’t want them to become disappointed in you and then kill you, or fire you, or spit on you, or call you traitors? The only thing that you are not afraid of now is wrapping yourself in the Heavenly Hundred, though none of you became its members. Don’t you know that artists have their exhibits demolished if they contain humanist ideas?
I’m amused when smart, talented people with sly smiles tell me that the regime “is not all that totalitarian” because it’s “weak and incompetent.” Yes, the regime is incompetent but it’s not preventing it from consolidating itself, balancing between Nazism and bourgeois folklore. Aren’t you sick of this ideological kitsch in the form of “patriotic school education” (I’m totally floored by the Kherson version), the embroidered shirts which have replaced red ties, the scratching out of Tolstoy and Dostoyevskiy from schoolbooks? Don’t you know about the pogroms? About the persecution of writers? About the recent attack on the David Chichkan exhibit? About the raids that Kuzma Skryabin’s master classes have had to endure? About the strange deaths of members of his team? About universities being “de-loused” at the slightest excuse? About secret police showing up at your home if you have been listed as a Russian agent by the Mirotvorets web site? About the firing of teachers for visits to Moscow and “politically incorrect” speeches? About the warnings to be “careful” at work? About the scandals that have erupted around the professional lecturers on the Prometheus resource when they speak about culture using the “wrong” language? Slavoy Zizek gives lectures on any language he pleases. You need a state language? Then provide everything with subtitles, so that everyone can laugh at you. But don’t remove the lectures. Don’t you find it odd that some time ago you were dreaming about freedom of speech? Don’t you find it comical?
You may not know this, but hundreds of Ukrainians are emigrating to Israel, many of them for political reasons. Among them is professor and academician Viktor Malakhov whose final act was to give a lecture about fascism in Ukraine. Don’t you know that his friends and colleagues from the Kiev-Mogilev Academy are writing denunciations? Don’t you know that the first thing I’m offered when I tell them my profession, at the passport control of the Tel-Aviv airport, is political asylum? But why should I leave my country? Because a marginal minority of fanatics is pretending to be the majority on the Internet? Perhaps you know nothing about denunciations? Denunciations against the dean, associate dean, department chair, denunciations by illiterates and jealous officials? Denunciations whose web has trapped writers’ associations, including the National Writers Union of Ukraine? Don’t you even know that the people accused by these denunciations are even afraid to admit they’ve been denounced? That the deputy minister of education confessed to me in person that he is afraid of Larisa Nitsa, even though legally she has no power over him? But she’s a “patriot.” That’s currently the most popular Ukrainian profession.
Very well. Do you know what a “Maidan poet” is, and how is Maidan different in my “blissful” vision from an ordinary square? It’s different because the Maidan is full of people, and a square is full of cattle. Judging by how many of the current patriots behave, there was plenty of the latter there. And as someone who has not left this spot, I can’t put my finger on the moment when the popular thirst for justice and the democratic outrage against violence were subverted by nationalist propaganda. Or, to be more precise, when that propaganda harnessed this liberal outburst. When did the idea of freedom, the replacement of a civil society by the police state begin in my country?
You say “but at that time there was no war”? So “the war justifies everything”? Let’s assume it does, even though it doesn’t. Just try to raise the topic of the war and how it is being fought. Btu you are afraid of that far more than playing at being politically correct.
I never concealed by biography, which contained everything: from combat volunteerism in the Right Sector to the peacekeeping trips to the Donbass and Russia. It was important for me to see everything with my own eyes. I was not happy with what I saw. No person who was concerned when students were being beaten not be concerned when thousands of soldiers are dying and, even more importantly, thousands of civilians too. And yes: I’m saying this for those who want to write denunciations on me. I believe that both Ukraine and Russia are equally guilty in this war. Both Ukraine and Russia. Russia shouldn’t push into a foreign country with weapons and volunteers, one can’t just quash international law with a finger. Even for the sake of “one’s own brother.” Ukraine has no business subjecting its own citizens who happen to have a different opinion to mass repressions. If you think they are primed by propaganda, try to answer their arguments. And stop looking for inferior proletarian genes. The militia…Such fights ought to be short and led by police forces, not the military. Otherwise call it a war already. A civil war. Ukrainain-Russian one. Hybrid. Of unknown nature. But—call it a war. Nobody who has spent a lifetime combating censorship of one regime welcome censorship by another regime
I will tell you what you are afraid of. The first reason is that you don’t want to be known as traitors. You are terrified that if you open your eyes and stop supporting your in-too-deep brethren, you will be morally destroyed. Yes, destroyed. Your identity will be knocked out from under you. And you are fearful people, you won’t be able to cope. But what’s even worse is the fact that your identity has been knocked out from under you a long time ago, because slaves have no identity. Therefore many of the revolution’s participants are deserting, getting killed in the war, or are chasing demons at various intellectual happenings. The second reason is more banal: the fear of being fired, beaten, arrested. I’m not condemning. I understand. But I also know something else.
Don’t you realize that speaking out is the only way to save yourselves? You think that if you allow others to denounce your neighbors, keep quiet when a retiree wearing a St. George’s Ribbon is beaten, or whisper me in the ear “Zhenya, be careful,” you will be shown mercy? History shows that no-one shows mercy to anyone. No-one to anyone. But you still have the ability to preserve honor, with which we will all face the Almighty, if you excuse the pathos (some will enter Nirvana but to my mind cowardice is the strongest karmic obstacle to liberation).
So, no matter how you refer to our intellectual excrement, it will remain excrement just the same. And it will stink worse under an embroidered handkerchief than it would under open air.