Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Memories of the future - Anna Ackmatova, Ludwik Fleck and Stanisław Lem

"We are going to speak about the future. Yet isn't discoursing about future events a rather inappropriate occupation for those who are lost in the transience of the here and now?" (Stanisław Lem, Summa Technologiae)

At the crossroad of reconciliation and historical consiousness we find memory. Reconciliation points to the future; historical conciousness to the past. Memory is in the present and transforms both. Memory, like reconciliaton, is first of all, deeply moral and personal. On the other hand, memory is also social mediated, imagined memory and as such, the core of a 'social imaginary'. (Charles Taylor) As a social imaginary, collective memory is also _idealized_ historical consiousness. It reveals how we imagine history as history.

In Ukraine memory is not only a crossroad, but also a disturbing trap and paradox. Untill recently 'reconciliation' only seemed thinkable as a strategy of memory in the service of a vindicative, 'totalitarian', 'etnic-national', 'patriotic' or 'kitch' representation of history. 'We are all victims', said former president Yushenko, 'so let bygones be bygones.' This egalitarian imagined memory of expelling the whispering, haunted voices of Ukraine may on face value look like an attractive Ukrainian social imaginary. However, as we know, without struggling to see the naked truth, reconciliation is hypo-critical. And if reconciliation is a process of moral learning, aimed at a desired future, this 'historical consiousness' - this representation of history - this 'inability to see', blocks this promised future. The more we want it, the less we get.

Maidan not only demands political change, but also aims at 're-conciliation' - mind the 're' - and that makes new honest, truthfull strategies of memory imperative. Could Lviv and Odessa - cities of the Borderlands (Ann Applebaum) - become a crossroad and a birthplace of a different ethics of memory? Isn't it the fate of the Borderlands only to know about themselves through the eyes of the other? Are, than, these remarkable cities not already the asylum where this _ethics_ of memory is already wandering below the streets and squares? 

In this moment we create a monument for three heroes of this wandering memory: Anna Akhmatova, the Russian, Ludwik Fleck, the Jew, and Stanisław Lem, the Pole. All outcasts, displaced children, of the Borderlands, of Odessa and Lviv. Akhmatova, Fleck and Lem are not looking for grounded Ukrainian mnemotic narratives. They give, each in their own way, voice to 'the other' - the wandering ghosts that are persistently among us, but whose whispering voices can hardly be heard.

Each of them suggest a line of mnemonic transformation: poetic, epistemic and phantastic. Anna Akmatova's Requiem shows the power of poetic memory: the creative retelling, reshaping and preserving of haunting stories. Ludwik Fleck is a master of epistemic memory: the meticulous and painstaking genealogy of matters of historical and scientific facts as the interplay of 'styles and communities of thinking and memory'. Stanisław Lem - who most of us know as a briljant science fiction writer - is probably the most complex of our triplet. He invents phantastic memory: his Solaris explores the inescapable memories of the ghosts we desperately want to forget. But Lem also explores - e.g. in - Perfect Vacuum - the mnemonic void of remembering what never happened, but could, should or will. As such he is our guide to memories of the future.

All three of them more or less embrace their fate of deliberately being Unzeitgemäß as a pre-condition of an ethics of memory that does justice to the other. They demonstrate the hard personal work and sacrifice required to create a different Ukrainian social imaginary. In hearing their voices and transforming them in sites de memoire they become our personal companions in our quest of re-conciliation as a memory of the future. As said, reconciliation is deeply moral. And personal. As is memory. You can't have the one, without the other.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

We can do, what they can't do: boycot Putin's Russia!

Hardly a day after Flight MH17 was shot down near Donetsk Angela Merkel called the extension of sactions against Putin's Russia 'premature'. She was fast, too fast. 'First we need a thorough and careful investigation.' In the meantime the Guardian reports that the covering up by 'Seperatists' and their Russian allies has already begon. I think Anne Applebaum put it very right in the Washington Post: "The Malaysia Airlines crash is the end of Russia's fairy tail. The battle in Ukraine is now a 'real war'." Indeed, Angela was fast, too fast. As if she was reluctant to wake up. 'Just let me dream on for a while…'

To be honest: she, and her collegues in the European Union deserve a lot of credits. As a European in heart and soul I'm proud of what the EU has accomplished the last halve of a century. It is the world's best and most promising peace and justice project. It succeeded in making the EU a region of peace and prosperity with no precedent in history. And the EU did it by talking, by using diplomacy, by a system of peaceful and juridical interventions, by soft pressure. I suspect it is Angela's dream - and not only hers - to prevent Putin's Alleingang, just like Robert Schuman wanted - and succeeded - to integrate post-war Germany in a European economic structure. 'Two World Wars is enough.' That's why the EU got and deserved the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. That's why I found the cartoon of Merkel in the Kyiv Post comparing her with Von Ribbentrop rather distasteful.

But enough is enough! We have to put an end to Putin's power politics in Ukraine. And not only in Ukraine. Putin has also to bear to full responsibility of the human disaster in Syria by preventing any UN intervention. Sure, he can boast on making the destruction of chemical weapons possible. But only at the prize of a total shoot out by Assad and his gang, and other sinister fundamentalist bandits. So enough is enough! Putin has to be stopped first of all in Ukraine. And we, the citizens of Europe have to do it. We have to give our politicians a hand.

Here is my plan. We, European citizens, can boyot Putin's Russia. We can decide not to buy Russian products. We can stop our cooperation with Russian cultural and scientific institutes. And, most effectively, we can put pressure on our national and internation enterprises, financial institutions, investors to stop investing in Putin's Russia and to use their influence to change its power politics inside and outside Russia. So we can boycot Gazprom. Just an example of course, but not a bad one. Or stop the take over of our soccer clubs by Russian oligarchs. Just kick them out. Of course we have to be very careful. Our goal is to hit Putin and his apparatshiks, not the common Russian citizen. Indeed, every Russian citizen who wants Russia to change, deserves our full support.

How can this be done? First, we have done this before. Think about the boycot of South Africa, and Shell in the seventees. We can do it again. But this time it needs to be an all-European initiative of decent European citizens. I suggest we create a 'network of networks' in the capitals of alle EU countries, who can coordinate this all-European initiative. It means that all citizens of the EU can be involved in stopping Putin, in making the next step to a Europe of peace and justice, and in supporting the Ukrainian effort in becoming an democratic and peaceful state.

This is my idea. I think we owe it to the 298 victims of MH 17, and by the way, the hundreds of Ukrainians who lost their lifes due to Putin's cynical power play. Ukraine = Europe! Who will join me?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A statue for Ira

I don't know Ira. I probably never will meet her. Though I feel that I should. This is what the Kyiv Post wrote about Ira:
»Meanwhile, in a courtyard near their apartment building a block from the local Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) office, Ira, a 30-year-old physical education teacher who did not give her last name because she feared being persecuted by the government for her separatist views, along with her five-year-old blue-eyed daughter Nastya and some neighbors, stood in protest. The group held signs reading: "Let's live in friendship," "SBU - here is my home" and "We don't want war."
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Ira explained that Sloviansk residents were not separatists as the Ukrainian government has painted them to be, but merely people who were fighting peacefully for their freedom. The violence witnessed in recent days, she said, began when the Ukrainian military went on the offensive.
"We are peaceful people. They brought this fight to us," she cried. "We can't sleep like normal anymore. Now we sleep together. But we don't sleep, we lay awake waiting for the war to begin."«

This little story of a young woman, with a lovely child captures in a few words the Ukrainian tragedy: the catastrophe nobody ever wanted. Just look at how she frames her reality: "As … painted them to be.” Painting the other in a dirty war of words is a very effective way of robbing the other of his or her humanity. On the one side, painting the other as 'facists, banderites', on the other side, 'separatists, thugs'. The truth is, as Ira shows, that this 'painting' is just what it is: throwing with cliches, deforming real humans to a caricature of what they realy are. You can't symphatize with a caricature, with a 'facist' or a 'seperatist', but you can shoot him. 
"We are peaceful people who are fighting for their freedom", says Ira. I know an Ira from Lviv, and I know her very well, who could have said the same - she actually did. The one Ira is painted as 'pro-Russian', the other as 'pro-Ukrainian'. It's a bloody shame that the painters of this All-Ukrainian drama have only blue and yellow and red and white pigments. They rob my both Iras of what they realy are and want: young Ukrainian women who both want to live in a peaceful Ukraine, that respects them and offers them them the possibility of a decent life. Not a life of fear.
In the end it is all about masks. It is no coincidence that Ira is a woman with a human face who moves me. It's a relief to see her face and 'hear' her voice, in stead of the abundance of pictures of men with masks who are hiding their humanity. I'm getting every day more fed up with this war of masks. As long as we keep wearing masks, we keep shouting and shooting. We keep painting the other in untruthful, inhuman colours. Ira doesn't wear a mask. That's why she deserves a statue.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ghoststories - Restoring humanity in Ukraine

I want to write stories of grieve, mourning and suffering. Hundred-and-Two death Heavenly Heroes in Kyiv. Forty-Six men burned, suffocated and shot in Odessa. Soldiers and citizens dying in Slyaviansk. I want to write stories of grieve. I want to write stories of mourning. I want to write stories of suffering.

But I don't want to do it on my own. I challenge you my Ukrainians. I challenge you my Ukrainians from Lviv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, Simferopol. Join me. Join me in giving all, ALL, of these ghosts of the Ukrainian suffering the story of their life.

All these victims - death wasn't their choice. They didn't want to die. Certainly, they had a cause, which they considered a just cause. But they didn't deserve to die for that cause. And even if they were prepared to give their live, it shouldn't have been taken so brutally, and without reason. For once the longing for the Ukrainian nation shouldn't be drowned in blood.

It's not to late. We killed them. You and me. Because we didn't stand up and said: 'OK, it's enough. For once we gonna create a decent, sovereign Ukraine nation in a non violent, peaceful, human way.' Why is that so difficult? It's not to late. We can begin with looking for a new way of mourning together. We can write a monument for the unknown citizens of Ukraine. We can give them a human face, human dignity again. Regardless of their political convictions, and their 'ethnic' - o, how I hate this word - roots.

Please join me in writing their ghoststories. The story of the live and death of every one of them. Wouldn't it be an act of real human heroism if one decent man or woman, living in Lviv, writes a little personal note on a 'pro-russian' casualty in Odessa? And wouldn't it take real human courage for a decent man or woman from Donetsk to realy look in the live of one of those killed 'facists and banderites' of Lviv?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's good to be back in Lviv!

It's good to be back in Lviv. I'm wondering what the mood of Lviv Today will be. Being in Ukraine today means being in the heart of Der Weltgeist. You could sense that at the Nuclear Top the last days in The Hague. It was perfectly clear that it was very convenient to have all these world leaders together. Talking about nuclear arms and waste was a good pretext to have the opportunity to discuss Ukraine and make again some tough statements on the Putin War on Ukraine.

It's good to be back in Lviv. It's also good to see that Frans and I, and my collegues of Governance & Intergrity, made the right decision, a couple of years ago, to go to Ukraine, after we were very succesfull in working on the integrity of government in The Netherlands and Belgium. Every citizen deserves a government that's good enough, however most citizens are deprived of such a government. 'A good enough state' is a human right, and it should be in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We thought it would be wise to extent our activities to Central Europa. And then we decided to go to Ukraine. "Where Ukraine goes, Russia goes." That was our opionion. And quite unexpectedly we find it confirmed today. It has become evidence based practice. But even in a more radical way then we presumed in 2007. 'Where Ukraine goes, Russia goes. Where Ukraine goes, Europe goes. Where Ukraine goes, over time, the world will go."

It's good to be back in Lviv. When we started our experiments in making a contribution to curbing corruption and improving the integrity of local government in Ukraine, on a summer course in Kyiv, all the attending civil servants - from east to west - recommended that we should go to Lviv. So we did. The first years pro bono. The two of us. Frans and I. Four times a year a week. Talking and experimenting with the mayor, civil servants, the guys from City Institute and City Council: Andriy, Iryna, Ihor, Galena, Orysya, Taras, Volodymir, Natalia, and our good wise guide, the Dutch Honorary Consul, Bogdan Pankevych. Since about a year the Lviv Local Integrity Program is founded by Europeaid. 

It's good to be back in Lviv. The last time was in Januari, and before that in November. By the way, not only in Lviv but also in Kyiv. Of course Euromaidan changed everything. It's hard to imagine what happenend these five months. It's a historical monster, an emotional rollercoaster, which normally would take five years or even five lifes. Kyiv and Lviv. Kyiv: antagonistic, struggling, activistic and, in the end, violent - a tragedy of the common people, which I can't help thinking could have been avoided. Lviv: more reflective, fueling Euromaidan with human power, somehow beter placed to capture the spirit of Euromaidan. When Frans I and where in Kyiv and worked with Euromaidan 'second echelon' leaders, it was a tremendous experience. But when we could take the Hyunday to Lviv, we also felt relieved.

It's good to be back in Lviv. Especially at this conference about decentralizing government and empowering, economically, fysically, financially municipalities, civil society and urban development. It's gonna be quite a thing, and very important. Without exagerating: it's about dismantling the (post-) soviet state. But there is a real huge trap here: if we only dismantle the (post-) soviet state, and not the (post-) soviet mind, than we most certainly fail. Let's face it: concentrating more money and power in the cities will on the short run increase the risk of corruption. So I was a bit dissappointed to see that in the two day program of the conference there is only halve an hour reserved in the program of Friday afternoon, dealing with the integrity of local government. That seems to me a bloody shame. What was  Euromaidan all about? Lviv has an unique experience on working on local integrity to share with mayors, experts, ministers and ambassadors. So I have to think about how making a bit Maidan here.

Anyway. It's good to be back in Lviv. Sitting on a couch in the Dnister Hotel listening to the musak I usually only hear at Glory in the city center. I'm very happy to have my guitar here - a pretty Washburn I bought here last Januari. Home is where you guitar is. So I will definitely do a little private concert in Room 518. They certainly will know that I'm back in Lviv.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mychailo Wynnyckyj PhD (Kyiv-Mohyla Academy): Delayed invasion / MayGambit – Thoughts from Kyiv on 22 March 2014

Is an invasion of eastern Ukraine by Russian troops imminent? This seems to be the question on everyone’s mind tonight. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper alluded to such a possibility during his press conference with Ukrainian PM Yatseniuk in Kyiv today. Yesterday, the US Embassy in Kyiv issued an updated travel warning: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine and to defer all travel to the Crimean Peninsula and eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lugansk due to the presence of Russian military forces in the Crimean Peninsula, and in Russia near the Ukrainian border.”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Andriy Sadovyi, Mayor of Lviv: Nearest steps for local authorities

Specific quick decisions that must be accepted in the near future in industry of local self-government. It is not a fantasy or dreams, but clear implementation of commitments by Ukraine, which we assume signing the European Charter of Local Self-Government.