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Life Poem

Sloveniwhys: Ukr Edition

far from home
long away
its words grow strange
its whys go stray
it’s ghosts
ghosts i say


A lot of word salad as I try to untangle my thoughts about why Slovenia’s response to the Ukraine crisis and other world-stuff feels so weird from my Ausgänger vantage point.


Day 97

The criminal Russian invasion of their neighbouring smaller sovereign state continues. Their war crimes pile up. Their actions now clearly amount to a genocide: mass killings of civilians, torture of captives, abduction of children, erasure of Ukrainian language and identity, concentration—sorry, ‘filtration’—camps, theft of food. Their political, media, army, and government elites fall over one another to fall in line and wave their stupid ‘Z’ and spray themselves with the stink of shame and crime. Filth that will not wash off and will mark them for all those with eyes to see.

Precedent

Slovenia, my country, is a small sovereign state. For now. It is smaller than all its neighbours. Less than a hundred years ago, giving a child a Slovenian name was not allowed in my home town, and so my Dad was born Luciano under Mussolini’s regime.

After the second world war, the peoples and governments of the world joined the United Nations to (among other things) “… reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.

One of the key principles the signatories signed up to was that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

For a small country, like Slovenia, standing up and fighting loudly for this precedent, for this international law, is crucial.

Again, we are smaller than all of our neighbours, and to pretend that just because our last genocidal fascist occupation was 70 years ago, and our soul-crushing communist subjugation ended (officially) 30 years ago, we will never again face power-hungry tyrants out to dominate and destroy us, is idiocy.

And yet, many Slovenians do exactly this.

They bad-mouth the UN, the EU, NATO, the USA. They are ignorant of their neighbour states, yet think themselves so smart and world-wise.

Fools, blind and deaf and without memory.

But the UN is Useless

Some will refrain, thinking themselves smart.

Yes, many countries breach its charter. Does this make them right and the UN charter wrong? Worthless? Is it bad to have a shared moral standard?

People and states have a duty to themselves and each other to do better, to do good. Yes, we may sometimes fail—alone or collectively—but it is cowardice to give up because we are fallible.

Remember: the cynics are cowards. They act like nothing may ever turn out well, so they do nothing and allow criminals to thrive, and then they act smug when their lives are shit. Funny thing, that, acting smug while one’s knee deep in shit.

Worse, cynics do not act, and their inaction allows criminals to thrive. “

Američani So Krivi

Slovenians love to be anti-American. The US is to blame for everything. I don’t know why, but I suspect it comes from powerlessness. That it’s a kind of conspiracy thinking.

“I am small and weak and everyone pushes me around,” the little človek whimpers.

“But I am so moral and good, why doesn’t everyone see?” the little človek moans, while cutting corners to pocket some change.

“It is the other! The big bad all-powerful other is twisting the world to make me feel bad, to make sure nobody sees how good I am!” the little človek whispers.

“Yes, it’s lies and conspiracies, is why they have more and I have less. They don’t deserve what they’ve got,” the little človek hisses.

“Anyone who’s against the big bad, the other, they must be good, yes, good and precious,” the little človek chuckles.

I could be wrong.

But I suspect there’s a deep injury inside many Slovenian souls. Everyone wants to be important and loved and recognized. But … we’re not. We’re a tiny province of the EU, the smallest country in our neighbourhood, and nobody really needs to care much what we think.

I think this hurts pride and breeds envy, and so we take refuge in cynicism and hatred of America. Nice, safe contrarian positions, where we can show how smart and worldly we are, while not having to do a single thing and not being in danger anyway.

Except, Precedent

But if Russia today devastates Ukraine and Slovenians stand sullenly by, or even cheer for Russia, what will others think?

Slovenians find comfort in being midges, grumbling and whining from the sidelines, but unseen and unremarked. But are they sure their opportunistic whining will not be seen and seized and used against them?

I think it’s rather stupid to imagine ourselves so irrelevant that our venomous bile could never hurt us.

Blindness

One way to think about the mass media is to imagine that they are the eyes of a society looking at itself. Just like our eyes focus on some details and miss others, so our media. Some stories get blown up, others get blown away.

Recently, I’ve been continually horrified by the comments beneath every article about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the national Slovenian RTV website. Hundreds of vile comments cheering for Russia, spreading conspiracy theories, and happily nodding along about how it’s all the West’s fault. Adding a nice patina of anti-American context to the “balanced” reporting that makes Ukraine and Russia seem the same (see: Not the Same. Russia. Ukraine. below).

But these articles are rare and few! Most of the focus is on local politics, road accidents, domestic sports “achievements” and other topics similar to the coverage one would expect from a mid-tier city’s local news.

Things are not much better in other media. Tabloid gossip dominates, the world abroad recedes.

When I only read the national news, I thought there might be a weird pro-Russian slant to Slovenian reporting. But as I checked out more websites I realized that they’re not pro-Russian. They’re pro-vincial*. Provincial.

*They’re also tacky and stuffed full of crap ads fighting to make money from the poor schmucks reading them.

The Slovenian media has given up on seeing itself as the media of a sovereign country, the world abroad has receded to be replaced by a focus on home and province. Now, the thing I worry is: if the media has become blind to the world abroad, is this an indication that the Slovenian public and politicans have also brought their eyes down to the level of the local parish?

Because, if this has happened, then the prognosis for long-term Slovenian independence is quite poor. After all, if you don’t look outside your borders, you can’t have an international strategy, and without an international strategy, well … you’re not going to have an independent state soon.

Precious Provincialism

I have a rough theory about why Slovenian political elites might enjoy Slovenia sinking from sovereign state to dependent province.

As a province, the local politicians are no longer responsible for hard issues. Economic hard times? Ooh, well, it’s because of China, USA, Germany. War nearby? Nothing to do with us! We’re too small to matter. Implemented a poorly-thought-out policy? The EU made us do it!

But, even as a province, there are still many troughs for politicians and their friends and families to feed from. EU development aid, projects, NGOs, quangos, and more.

As a province, further, every time something goes right—economic good times, popular EU policy—the politician claims it was all them.

And, as a province of the EU, there’s another excellent benefit. Getting rid of political opponents is super easy. No need for political prisons, arm-twisting, a knock at the door in the dead of night, or dangerous ballots. Just start choking in them red tape. Slowly and surely they’ll figure out, if they’re smart and ambitious, that they can just cross the border, move to the Netherlands or Germany or Estonia, run their company there and live a good life as an EU citizen. Then, if they say anything bad about Slovenia, just remind the remaining locals that the basterd is a filthy citizen of nowhere, a traitor to their nation. Possibly even someone who laughs at the national poets and the national grammar!

Yeah, ok, that last bit might be a bit auto-bio. Bite me.

Not the Same. Russia. Ukraine.

Let me be clear. This war is straight up the most black and white armed conflict I have seen in my life.

You have an evil aggressor (Russia) using lies and propaganda and heavy artillery and cannon fodder to carry out a genocide against their neighbour.

And you have the victim (Ukraine), fighting for their survival.

This war is so simple that anyone who cannot support Ukraine, at least morally, is either blind, an idiot, or evil.

After so many years of grey and murky conflicts, this one is easy. Are you on the side of right or wrong? Easy. And as a citizen of a state remote from the war, showing your support is dead easy. Donate $1 to support Ukraine, and you’ve done your part and shown where you stand.

Can’t Support Ukraine. Not Perfect.

Perfectionism, like cynicism, is a dumb excuse for not doing good. No side is perfect and makes no mistakes, but pretending someone must be flawless before one can support them is just dumb.

The real world is flawed. Always been, always will be. But here’s a fight between good and evil, and it’s as simple as it gets.

To the Slovenians

Do the right thing. Donate at least a euro or ten. Support Ukraine. Here’s a charity that keeps folks alive. Go on.

To Everyone Else

You too. Don’t be shy. Here’s a big list of other charities.


I try not to write only about Ukraine, but … these days, months, I often fail. It’s a terrible thing, and a test of our common humanity, how we respond to Russia’s aggression, how we collectively resist.

I use this blog to clear my mind and soul. Thank you for understanding.

2 replies on “Sloveniwhys: Ukr Edition”

Thank you for this. I found it inspiring, challenging… and a bit depressing.
Hailing from the UK, home of Brexit and just the least legitimate attempt at moral high ground we’ve ever had in a leader, I don’t think our population would be much better.

Your Province argument is very true. I don’t think it was an intentional decision of UK politicians to let Europe take the fall for unpopular decisions – I don’t want to give our politicians that much credit; I ascribe to them far more lazy short-sighted incompetence than efficiently evil forethought; but we had 20 years of the EU being blamed for sensible recycling, electronic power, privacy, human rights legislation that eventually the common Brit decided the EU was bad. Let’s hope no other Provinces vote with their feet so foolishly.

Thanks for encouraging me to support Ukraine even more fervently.

I wish you luck and hope.

I suspect societies usually change through crises – things have to get bad enough for for enough people to decide they need to sort things out. Problem is, crises are risky beasts: always the chance a society breaks. That said, I think and hope the UK will eventually figure things out. I really like the place.

For supporting Ukraine, I try for simple determination, not fervour. I’m always a little worried about fervour – makes it easy to lose one’s head. Though it’s hard, and I’ve often got to kick myself to calm down, I think we’ve got to support Ukraine but keep Russia and its residents separate in our minds. Even though a lot (most?) of them do support the invasion, and, well … just no comment. A lesson on perspective and nationalism and propaganda, I suppose.

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