Jeff Cliff (themusicgod1) wrote,
Jeff Cliff

2014q1: Euromaidan

It's that time again; where I point out what exactly has been occupying my attention, I've accomplished, where I ...

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Jeff Update for an Important Reminder

Don't forget to mark your calendars for Petrov Day. Septembre 26th. Honour those who have literally saved the world by putting their head above the bureaucracy that is too inhumane and dumb to notice it's about to destroy us all.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled update

Where am I? What am I up to? How have I been?

One scene stands out, of 3 months. Jeff, remembering #OccupyRegina. Or Idle No More. Thinking, in both cases -- "this isn't really my fight". That Someone Else was taking the power structures to task. Someone Else had made some of the 'global' problems I view as personally 'mine' as their problem, and chose to do something about them. How the numbers and the crowd swelled with people I didn't know. How the hell. Sure, there's Riot Porn, and maybe I'm one those fetishists who can get off on that. That I was in both cases so deeply ensnared in my day job that not only could I not participate, that I feared participation. I was coopted. But enough on that -- in both cases the lines in the sand were drawn, and people very much like me took a stand, as I've taken a stand in the past. People I knew in some cases, but mostly strangers. It was almost by pure accident that we shared mutual interest and that they were taking the punches, not me. That they were sitting in the cold, not me.

Obviously it wasn't quite that simple.

But "mutual interest" isn't the whole story, either. There's something about human beings fighting against bureaucracy that is kind of 'by default' appealing. People really dig Star Wars, where the rebels win. I like underdogs but that's becuase I think despite the violence, greed, and ruthlessness we are all capable of, myself included, at the end of the day, if a group, whether organized by mythology, habit, economics or SERVER, is about to subject a smaller, more defenseless group, that if that defenseless group stands up for itself, and can do so, there's something that has been preserved by their doing so. That there's something in that to appreciate.

Decentralize ALL THE THINGS, right?

I heard of the Ukranian Revolution probably on twitter. At first, sounded like another #occupy. There's people who were otherwise much more 'normal' than I would ever hope to be, who were radicallized far beyond what I've ever been in a fairly short period of time. There was energy there. Obviously I would be drawn to it. I'm a sucker for that stuff.

And I had time. All the work I've done all Quarter, here in Thunder Bay, has been what practicing and jamming I've done for Östrich, plus a single editing gig(so 100% of my income has been bitcoin this quarter). All in all, has left plenty of time for keeping myself busy with things that did not involve what I should have been doing a lot more of(practicing, other more marginally productive things). I had free time.

I had access to some technology. A modest amount of technology, but enough to do something with. I was at Ohmbase, that day in particular. I was alone; there is/was a small community there, smaller than CrashBangLabs in regina, but bigger than the CSSS was when I first started trying to make a go of that. There's computers(both available to use and to take/hack/cut up/whatever), free network access(well at least for members, my membership of which has been paid for by my bitcoin purchased at perhaps 13$/pop at the run up of the 2011 boom)...for most of the quarter it looked like my bitcoin donation might have actually saved them -- the price went up enough that my 8 months of membership fees looked a lot closer to 140 months -- enough for them to survive for awhile.


So there I was, with enough time and resources to actually pay attention to that little spark that twitter showed had lit.

On went 2 live streams of video, neither in a language I could understand but you could kind of get the idea of what was going on. The protest signs looked almost identical to signs I've carried. There was the kind of music I've played going on at random. There was orthodox preists trying to make peace between people who were neighbours and for national political reasons were at odds. People had successfully stood up to a full assault by riot police, over multiple days, in the middle of winter, and stuck to holding their ground. People who had been given a lot less choice than I ever had, but who were taking that choice anyway. Framed in terms of "The Trap", they were making their own Freedom.

We can see, in hindsight, that that freedom that the euromaidan was denied, was what escallated the whole thing. Protestors were not given a chance to back down. If they even so much as sought medical care in a hospital, they were taken away and tortured and/or killed. They were caught in between a rock and a hard place.

They called out to the world to pay attention, and I had attention to give. So I gave it to them.
Now keep in mind. Canada is the largest home of Ukranian diaspora outside of Ukraine & Russia. Saskatoon is a good part of that. Peggy Nash, for example, had been involved in the Ukrainian community in her area. Ukraine isn't exactly next door, but it's something I have a good number of connections to.

I watched the tires burn, and people getting sprayed with water by Police, fatal in that kind of cold if not tended to immediately. Ugly and inspiring at once. I tried to read up on what was happening. I hadn't gone back to saskatoon to collect my data yet, so I didn't have access to all my usual information sources, but I made do.

I cannot underscore enough how difficult what Euromaidan was doing actually was. I had to come inside during #idlenomore. My feet were numb with cold, and that was just for a single, fairly short protest at the leg, and I was dressed warmer than most people present. Yet Euromaidan succeeded in the snow and cold. Whenever I was stuck in a situation that demanded pushing hard to continue, I used to think of those poor bastards in the infantry or communications at D-Day, with heavy backpacks, jumping out into neck or waist deep water on the beaches of Normandy. No matter how bad my day was, or how difficult what I was trying to do, or how far I had to walk, it was easier than carrying 50 pounds of crap through gunfire over water at nazi lines. I might have a differnt metaphor in the winter to drive me, now.

Not all of it is black and white, though.

For example, like #Occupy, Euromaidan and its allies included a lot of people from a broad spectrum of Ukrainian society that, by the way, isn't Canada and not bound by its norms. It included some who would by any definition of the term be termed accurately as Nazis. There was probably some instigators from the US, and possibly a few agent provocateurs. They may have even been a good part of why it became as violent as it had. But there were things that they were fighting -- their government had made protest illegal, much as Regina had shut down #occupyregina, Canada had used brute thugs on the street of Toronto during the G8/20 summit, and similar to how Quebec is still using Kettling and their loi 78 to effectively do the same very recently. So, underdog or not, they were fighting a fight I would have liked to think I would have fought. Good on 'em. Even if they were nazis, right?

Things did not resolve themselves quietly, but for a time it looked like it calmed down. The government stepped down, Yanukovych skipped town, I turned off the streams, stopped F5ing /r/worldnews and other close-to-realtime feeds and went to Saskatoon.

Bitcoin should have been going through the roof. The Ukrainian government was broke. Its financial system being quickly convertd to firestuff. Europe came to an agrement that meant european banks can take from both governments and citizens pockes with impunity. But with MtGox unravelling itself in about the most painful way it knew how, we even saw a decrease, over the quarter, though still above yearly average price. Oh well.

I often wonder what the endgame of #occupyregina or #Idlenomore could have been. It's not like there isn't a substantial portion of the country in either case that would be happy with *anything* that could come from either camp. So at best it seems like we would get to a similar point, a point where a lot of what we take for granted no longer applies, and we have to figure out what works, fairly quickly, because canadian winter is crazy bitch, and will fucking stab you if you don't move fast enough.

Now we saw what happened next.

The regional power, Russia, stepped in.

The politics of the world, in away perhaps similar to how some view what happened at 9/11, shifted. I mean, to some extent it wasn't something that changed just then -- higher level historical processes were at play, and Russia would have become involved in Ukraine sooner rather than later, if we are to believe the US government's assessment as uncovered by Wikileaks. But still -- there was a change.

Personally, I think that those in the know saw this coming a lot longer off than I did.

Justin Trudeau Called it, though at the time, he was forced to appologize for steping outside of the overton window. I think that his play was a shrewd one, though, forcing Russia to deny their true intentions. Against other state actors this might have worked. Putin however has shown to be willing to act regardless of optics.

Now granted, you could flip this situation around. Viewed from mainland China, or Russia, there have been quite a few military actions over the past 20 years or so, where the US has moved in a perhaps seeminingly benevolent way, but which conveniently limited Russia's sphere of influence. The US was talking about putting missile defence structures in Poland and Turkey in the early 2000s, and the Russian government was prety upset about that. The US has also been intent on allowing Monsanto to continue to ruin what's left of the global flora commons that it does not control, and Russia has threatened outright nuclear war on that before this whole mess started. But you'd think that that would be something that perhaps the US and Russia could negotiate on, even if slightly worrying that Russia would be so explicit, that this is a single isue, compromises could be made, and if Monsanto had to lose out, so fucking bad.

But Russia putting troops into the territory of a former nuclear power, and a nation with a defense relationship with the UK is a little beyond that.

For starters, Russia kept doubling down. It jailed its own opposition leaders, one of whom appears to be a friend of a friend of a friend at most. Noticing the US was going the diplomatic route, Putin upped the ante and used force, and then effectively lied about it, claiming the soldiers involved were not russian. What little checks on power remained to restrain him were torn down, leaving him with increasing amounts of state power.

The Internet was the first to go when hostilities started. Censorship in Russia, the internet cables between Ukraine and Crimea cut. Reporters and journalists had a hard time, to put it lightly. Russia made it so that they could act with impunity, and we'd never know hat hppened. Dissent, not that it had much breathing room in russia, got clamped down on.

Like the League of Nations, in the face of a similar Supreme Leader of a time long ago, the UN has not been very helpful except as a sign of how far apart Russia and its centres of power have insulated themselves gainst the west, and vice versa.

So from Euromaidan standig up on twitter against their government, to their government clamping down harder, escallating until street violence spiralled out of control until Russia stepped in --- now we have consequences

  • Ukraine was a former nuclear power. They gave their nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for a promise of neutrality that has now been broken. People across the board started to wonder about whether this exchange was good idea for ukraine, in retrospect. It turns out that this would probably not have been a good idea, given earlier turmoil the country faced
  • Other nations bordering russia, especially those with sizeable ethnic Russian minorities, or minorities which could appeal to russia, either former nuclear powers or those who could potentialy become nuclear powers, are going to look at NPT a lot differently. This, by the way, effectively includes Canada. Russia does not share a land border with us, but they are close enough to share aispace, and some disputed ocean, no doubt including the oil underneath it. And since this started, Russia has started to step up
  • Nations that aren't really nuclear-capable, but who are still nearby enough to be subject to Russian interferance, are much more likely to fall into disorder and chaos. Bosnia is one example.
  • Every possible way of diffusing this situation can be viewed with suspicion as either being too harsh, not harsh enough, or leading to something undesirable on one side or both. What was once a local political struggle has lead to a seriously difficult, high level problem, stakes involving all of us. War is not an option - a full war between Ukraine and other countries directly threatened by russia and their allies and Russia could quickly devolve into a nuclear world war, a true global catastrophe. And unfortunately, the balance of power is such that Russia could view pushing towards war as a "rational", if greedy, step on every level until the last choice to push the red button.
  • With US sanctions, and an escallation on both sides, it's unclear that we're going to see as much space exploration as we could have had by cooperating. Sure, officially we're still cooperating. But this path does not seem to offer much hope that this will continue. Realistically, hope in the future depended very much on this kind of high level suspicion not playing itself out in this direction, whether or not the american empire unravels.
  • Russia has started to put bombers capable of deliving nukes in test patterns in airspace threatening Canada. In the same way that exercises along the Crimean border lead to military activiy within Crimea, we saw a seriously threatening positioning of offensive air power on our borders. What are we to even make of this?

Harper has taken a hardline stance against their aggression. Military ties supended. Russian soldiers sent home. Visits from high level Canadian officials. Though the NDP and Liberals have been excluded, on an unaceptable partisan basis(though something we've come to expect from Harper), Canada has been tied to this issue very tightly. On one level it makes sense -- our Ukrainian side is just showing.

China, has stayed as neutral as posible.

We are moving into an era where guns, not butter, might be more important. Neither may help, even. Governments may not be willing to act in your defence. For sure, western government's willingness to ousource defence spending to the US taxpayer, something the right has complained about for quite some time, has to end. We shouldn't have been spending anything on military, as other than offensive wars in US theatres Canada has been at peacetime for some time, given we're also in debt, as a nation. But I think a reasonable % of our GDP must be earmarked for defence, at this point. Unfortunately we're going to have to work with the people and institutions in place at he DND, too, as a nation. We can no longer risk apathy. Russia has shown that it will chip away at borders, and that apeasement, as in the case of Georgia in 2008, is not the answer.

Don't get me wrong.
There is still time. There are many differences between now and previous times. Russians may by and large support Putin, and Canadians may re-elect Harper, and global geopolitics may be precarious, and we may all seem like we are threatening eachother -- but there's a lot of unnecessary tension baked in. The US Government has been a bit of a pain -- scolding russia over invading a country (as if they think the world has forgotten "Shock and Awe" in Iraq). The global financial system is still a parasite, mercenaries and war profiteering are still in play on both sides. And the future, in any case, is up to us, and not decided yet. I'm still using Russian livejournal, and I still think that Russians share a lot in common with Canadians -- we have the same winter, the US has been a dick to both of us, etc.

I have thought, how did my parents generation manage this kind of high level global tension? Drugs? By letting government officials with their paws on the nukes decide the future of mankind, since they were going to do it anyway? I think we can do better, but even so...not everyone is going to be able to take the time out of their life to learn russian on the turn of a dime. We face tradeoffs and not every path we can take from here will lead away from nuclear conflict.

After I got back to Thunder bay from Saskatoon, ben_harack and Kyle and Jordan were watching The Trap, and Ben suggested I join them. It describes Putin's ascension to power, and partially explains why brinksmanship to the point of nuclear extinction of mankind even makes sense, in a twisted only-possible-in-game-theory way.

While that was going on, because I haven't had a webserver, and just as timegoes by, and websites come and go, a lot of the content I've put on the web has been slowly washed away. I got to see what I figured would take a decade: almost all traces, outside of say reddit and a few other places, that I ever existed. Artifacts and music that I've made, lost to time. It's like my very identity, and proof of who I am is slowly being lost. I guess vanishing slowly into history beats freezing to death on maidan square but still.

And what's worse, I'm getting the feeling that all this technology has lead to a situation where I can't even be clear, when something important happens, a global, immediate threat has come up, that we won't even take it seriously. Sure, my family turned on the TV when Russia first stared threatening war. When tanks amassed on the border of Poland we started paying attention. But to what extent are we even capable of acting on this information? To what extent do we notice?

It's clear we can't, and probably shouldn't undo Euromaidan. Or for that matter, #occupyregina or #idlenomore. We have to live with the consequences. How though? That is the question.
Tags: canada, censorship, failure, game theory, history, i was wrong, independence, nazis, oh shit, united states, values, war, your possible pasts, yuo fail it
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