10 spectacularly stupid things that people have said to me since EuroMaidan started

EuroMaidan is the general name given to mass protests that erupted in Ukraine when the government backtracked on signing an EU association agreement. According to some folks, the government did this purely to appease Russia. According to other folks, association terms were not favorable enough. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle – as it usually is. I could be wrong, though.

Anyway, protests tend to bring out the stupid in people who are observing said protests from far away. Here is some of that stupid, for your reading (dis)pleasure. A lot of these comments are translated, some are paraphrases, but I’m not changing the meaning of anything here:

1. “Yeah, the Ukrainians are out there on the streets because being out on the streets is fun.” 

Here comes the clue train, last stop you: Ukrainians are ANGRY. Ukraine has basically been stuck in the 1990s for two decades now. There is lack of basic governance, social institutions barely exist, health care is a grim joke, corruption is so bad that it is unnoticeable, it’s as much a part of daily life as the weather. Now, Ukrainians act out their anger in different ways. Some Ukrainians are quietly angry, others are loudly angry. Some are resigned. Some are active. But to say that they are out there out of the desire to have “fun” is contemptible. Obviously, any kind of street protest inspires a feeling of community – which in itself is a warning sign. Ukraine so thoroughly lacks community today, that people must go out into the streets en masse to find it.

Let’s also not forget that protest was violently dispersed just last week. There is danger that the situation could get worse. This is about bigger things than “fun.”

go fuck yourself

2. “Oh, so you’re questioning the merits of the EU association agreement? Who’s paying you?”

Oh yeah, THE KREMLIN is showering me with cocaine and hundred-dollar bills right now, so that I specifically point out a very simple fact: the eurozone is in trouble – and Ukraine’s economy is in WORSE trouble – and while there are long-term prospects for this relationship, there are little short-term solutions for what Ukraine is going through. And all of the platitudes in the world about human rights and democracy won’t help right now.

3. “Russia wants to offer Ukraine brotherhood – and ungrateful Ukrainians are rejecting that!!!”

So when Gazprom sits down at the negotiations table with Ukraine, what is on Gazprom’s mind? Brotherhood? Or business? Don’t get me wrong, Ukraine and Russia are close, they have always been close, even the disdain for Russia in Western Ukraine is a kind of symptom of that closeness (we tend to actively despise that which, on some fundamental level, greatly affects us) – but politically speaking, Russia quite obviously looks out for itself. Of course, there are moments of grace in that relationship. Under Yeltsin, in the early days of chaos, there WERE discussions about attacking Ukraine. It was brotherhood that prevailed then – perhaps brotherhood will, in the future, spare these two countries more trouble (I hope).

4. “Please don’t try to smear the Ukrainian protest movement. It is a progressive movement. The Ukrainian right is tolerant of gays, for example. It’s not like the Russian right.”

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Look, pointing out that the protest movement is DIVERSE and full of DIFFERENT people with DIFFERENT interests is not the same as smearing it. Instead, it’s called “being in touch with reality.”

I’m sorry, but there are some really unpleasant people in the protest movement. There are unpleasant people in EVERY protest movement. That’s just the way the world works.

5. [I quote some sad fact from Ukrainian history] [Some idiot who's never even been to Ukraine does not believe said historic fact - and FREAKS RIGHT OUT, accusing me of using Ukraine's messy past to somehow paint Ukraine as a "bad" country]

Look, I enjoy talking about Ukrainian history, because it is also, in part, my history. I prefer to do it with people who are also from Ukraine/have some cursory knowledge of Ukraine/are not brain-dead. This should be simple enough. It never is, for some reason.

6. “Stop trying to spread disinformation. We KNOW you can’t speak Russian in Kiev. Not even on the streets.”

I love this. This is great. This is beautiful. This is random people trying to tell me, a Russian-speaker who’s originally from Kiev, whose relatives still live there, how things REALLY are.

7. “Oh, so you’re sympathetic to the protesters? You must be a fan of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis!” vs. “Oh, so you have serious reservations about the protest? You must be a fan of Russian imperialism!”

superman is done

I realize that times of trouble force some people to abandon nuance, while many others don’t even know what the word “nuance” means. But some really have no excuse.

8. “These Ukrainians who are protesting HATE the Russians.”

No, most of them are simply fed up with the Kremlin’s policies (particularly the gas issue) – and even more fed up with chaos and corruption at home. It’s not ALL ABOUT RUSSIA ALL THE TIME, you know. And it must be said that the Ukrainian protest class has even welcomed Russian opposition activists who have come down to Kiev to see what’s happening for themselves. Once again, as I already mentioned, there ARE some scary people in this protest. And as history has repeatedly taught us, even a small group of scary people can unleash hell. And some of those scary people are also provocateurs, which further complicates things. But of course, accepting the notion that the Ukrainian protest is actually kinda complicated is too much for people who have the intellectual capacity of a catatonic hamster. 

What stands out at EuroMaidan right now are not messages of hate – it’s messages of love and hope. It’s the kind of love and hope that makes you wonder if the phrase “candle in the wind” was wasted on famous blond women.

9. “Ukrainians are UNITED.”

Ukrainians are divided. No point in trying to ignore this. In fact, ignoring this is downright dangerous. Also, Ukrainians themselves know about the division in their country. People are aware of it. They talk about it and try to bridge it. Whether they’ll succeed remains to be seen.

10. “Lenin’s statue being destroyed is a great thing for democracy.”

I don’t like Lenin and I’m glad his statue is gone. HOWEVER, even I can admit that statues being smashed to bits is not a sign of a healthy society. In a healthy society, there would have been a referendum on the thing. We’re far from referendums and debates, however. We are in a different territory altogether. A lot of people were sick of that statue – but destruction and removal are fundamentally different things. Think about it.

In a functioning democracy, people aim for consensus. Taking up hammers is a last resort.

I can say “fuck Lenin and his statue” and mean it – but can still wish for a better way.

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40 thoughts on “10 spectacularly stupid things that people have said to me since EuroMaidan started

  1. Well said and balanced. Ignorance is the best friend of tyranny and unfortunately, Yanukovych and Putin have many friends.

  2. I don’t know much about the Ukrainian protests, but I do see that the people saying the stuff in bold are more ignorant than me about it. I hope the protests end in a resolution that benefits everyone. It probably won’t go that way, but I can hope.

  3. Hello. This is my very first visit to your blogcasa. I’ve been trying to follow the issues in the Ukraine and elsewhere, such as in Greece, Thailand, and Pungesti, Romania where the local people are fighting Chevron’s fracking industry, and it is often difficult because of the language barrier. I suspect this might create a problem for those who are monolingual in English. So I appreciate your efforts to communicate several good points that require more insight and information in order to elicit more than a knee jerk response based on sheer ignorance of history, culture and even political-economic realities.
    You’ve made your points quite clearly here.
    I would like to emphasize the one about human nature because it is in play far beyond this issue. There are indeed many scary people in the world. Some are protestors, some are politicians, some are leaders of corporations, many are involved with the militiary-industrial complex and a banking system without ethics. There are scary people everywhere, in every walk of life. Often the scary people manage to get their way because they make the most of being ‘scary’. Sometimes this does not work but it still garners them the attention they desire.
    Let them make noise–but don’t let them dictate anything. Make a better, smarter noise instead. I think you’ve done that with this post. :)
    Nice to meet you today.

  4. I used to live in Romania, unfortunatelly never got to go to Ukraine (Mexicans need a visa blah blah kind of troublesome) but I guess since we were neighbors we got a lot of news from Ukraine. I was there during the 2009 ruling against Ukraine for that border on the Black Sea.
    I remember I was appaled when I learned how much control does Russia have over some countries such as yours just by turning off the gas pipes! I mean, it is atrocious, they can just let people freeze to death! And of course that is why gaining control over those gas deposits on the Black Sea was so important to Ukraine, right?
    I wish you and Ukraine the best!

  5. I live in an area of Ireland which has suffered its share of demonstrations, protests, and unease over the years. I can identify with this post as I have often had to listen to other peoples’ opinions on what goes on here; opinions that range from patronising and smug, to downright ignorant and insulting.
    I hope the people of Ukraine are given the positive future that everyone deserves.

  6. It’s good to see some balanced discussion of the protests. I know very little about them, and when I’ve tried to find information it’s difficult to get unbiased, balanced analysis. Thanks.

  7. Very fun and heuristic analysis. Really enjoy reading this. Thank you for posting it. What I’ve learnt from this with retrospect of what was happening in my country, FYI China, is that what is happening right now is exactly what has been required to happen. Nothing is out of nowhere. I guess what I find the strongest consensus with is the #9: People gather and unite because of event.

  8. Now it’s hard to admit what’s happening in Ukraine. It’s something wrong and useless. Ukrainian government have already made a decision.

  9. I used to live in Latvia while it was still in the USSR. I witnessed all changes, the terrible corruption afterwards, etc. I have read and know from personal talks about both Ukraine and Russia. There are lots of misinterpretations and most often people don’t even realize what the real situation there is. Ukrainians are great people, I feel sorry about these troubles and mass protests because they do not facilitate any improvement, sometimes people suffer even more. Hopefully, this will result in some kind of positive change for simple people of Ukraine.

  10. Pingback: More EuroMaidan stupidity: concerned helicopter mom doesn’t like my tone | Natalia Antonova

  11. Great post. I only hope that in Ukraine both sides find a way to compromise on the major issues, although I fear that given the conflicting natures of EU and Russian foreign policies in the region, the solution may partially be out of the hands of the people and government of Ukraine.

  12. As an American who visited Kiev in 2012 (a wonderful and interesting city) and whose fiancee` lives in Ukraine, I can say that Ukraine has many economic issues that need addressing and I am happy the people there are “taking it to the street” as we did via the civil rights/anti-Vietnam war movements. Thanks for the perspective!

  13. Having had first-hand experience of those who migrated via Religious Asylum (1970-79) to the United States, the story lacks the oppressive quandary Ukrainian identity dismisses today. The protests are as divided as the population who seeks them. The entire Baltic region is awash with Russian attitudes. Since the demise of Orthodox Churches and Jewish Synagogues, morals have beset a new byproduct of survival, the body for sale.

  14. I am from Odessa, I speak Ukrainian fluently and though my mother tongue is Russian, I want Ukrainian language to be our official State language. I want Ukraine to have tight bonds with Europe, and stay away from Russia. I want our government to care for our people and not only for their own personal selves. I want my mother, grandmother and my friends to live in dignity, in every sense of this word. But some might say I should keep quiet as Odessa stands alone. Some might also say that as I am not in Odessa right now, I should better shut it. They might have a point. But so have I. And so do about 40 million people out there, in the very geographical center of Europe. Re-blogged to http://homethatwebuilt.wordpress.com

  15. Reblogged this on Home that We Built and commented:
    I do not enjoy politics. But what is taking place in Ukraine now is no mere politics. And because it touches me deeply and personally, and maybe because I am so far away from there now, I wanted to share this good article. It is not an attempt to solve the whole issue, my only wish is to spread the word of good old common sense.

  16. I’m American married to a wonderful Ukrainian woman!
    I now have my life firmly planted in my home country of the good ol’ USA but watch intently what is happening in my wife’s home country… plus it helps me communicate with the in-laws lol. I really enjoyed your article very well done! Feel free to visit me over at http://www.eatshopstaylive.com would love your feedback on my less intense topic of reviewing restaurants and stores!

  17. What Russia will have done even before any of this violence occurred would have been to flood the country with scary people of an innofensive cast.
    That’s how such regimes take places the Checoslovakia Austria and Norway. (Compared to the stupid way tht they didn’t take places like Iraq and Afghanistan yet.)

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