May you live in interesting times. When I first heard that as a kid, I didn’t realize it was a curse. I took it at face value, just as I wondered as a seven-year-old why the miracles we read about all happened 2,000 years ago and there hasn’t been a fat bird since. It was the beginning of a deep skepticism about religion that I have never lost. I wondered why all the great events of history were so long ago. (Despite the fact that some of them actually happened not long before I was born.) The past is a different country when you’re young, so my children once asked me to tell them about the famine.
Unfortunately, the last few years have been far too interesting. Not content with letting humanity linger for a while and contemplate a global pandemic, Russia launched a war in Europe. But it’s not the geopolitics, it’s the human nature that shapes it that interests me.
Hope and Denial: We should no longer wonder why the Allies allowed Hitler to annex Austria or Czechoslovakia. No one, including Ukrainians, wanted to believe that Russia would invade Ukraine despite having hundreds of thousands of troops stationed on the borders. What did we really think they were doing there? Did we really believe that they were busy doing exercises? Or that Russia – after Syria and Chechnya – was not a warmonger?
Hubris: Clearly, Putin never imagined that Ukrainians would put up so much resistance, or that the EU, with so many disparate national agendas, would agree on such a strong, coherent, collective response. He appears to have believed his own propaganda that Ukraine would capitulate and that any sanctions would not really work. But this is where it gets interesting…
Defiance and resilience: These are qualities that Ukrainians have shown in the highest degree. Far from being some kind of appendage of the long-lost Russian empire and not a “real” country, Ukraine has acted more patriotically than pragmatic and inspired many.
Which brings me to the most interesting thing: I don’t think the EU really intended to go toe-to-toe with Russia in the same way it has. I think it was their intention to make statements and tighten existing sanctions a bit while they continue to quietly trade, develop gas pipelines and engage in mutual “cash is king” realpolitik. But no one could have predicted the impact on people of the Ukrainian attitude and determination not to bow to Russian intimidation.
President Zelenskyy’s phrase “I need ammunition, no ride” will go down in history. He and his compatriots have shown what the human spirit longs for, especially in times of crisis: leadership. And they led not only Ukraine. They have pushed the EU to act on a scale that it probably did not intend. It was not Russia’s actions that compelled us to act, but Ukraine’s.
People are moved by bravery and sacrifice. We are often forced to follow those who demonstrate. This war was shaped by human emotions that Putin could not foresee or understand. The people of Ukraine are suffering now, but ultimately this act of brutal aggression will bring down Vladimir Putin.
A second opinion
Jaysus, being Irish is exhausting. A four-day national holiday to celebrate (among other things) our patron saint? There are countries that have less holidays at Christmas! Is it a bit smug? I really hope so! There’s nothing I like more than excess. I am the opposite of a martyr, so unfortunately I will never attain holiness. That and the lack of miracles.
But what’s Irish this weekend? Green clothes? Omnipresent drinking? (We hate being stereotyped by him, but it’s still what a lot of people do on Paddy’s Day.) Do people still eat bacon and cabbage? Do many still go to the fair? I’m not sure if any of that matters. For the past few days we’ve been celebrating being Irish. And maybe that’s nothing. Ireland has changed tremendously in my lifetime and even more so in our centenary. We were homogenous and isolated, and now we are diverse and outward-looking.
I also wanted to list ‘judgmental’ as a trait of ancient Ireland, but a quick glance at Twitter will tell you that vicious hypocrisy hasn’t gone out of style here… I digress. Maybe it’s impossible to say what it means to be Irish – let’s just agree that it’s kind of awesome.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/the-war-in-ukraine-is-being-shaped-by-human-emotions-bravery-and-sacrifice-moves-the-rest-of-us-to-act-41449549.html The war in Ukraine is shaped by human emotions. Bravery and sacrifice move the rest of us to action