Irish skin in Tel Aviv

It didn’t happen all at once. I arrived in Israel and survived for two days. A friend and I had flown from St. Petersburg, Russia to Tel Aviv at the end of a year spent wrapped in scarves, traversing snow and ice, and learning to text with gloves on. The sun had become but a distant acquaintance. So in a desperate attempt to reignite the spark in our relationship I booked a ticket to the shores of the Mediterranean and shamelessly threw myself beneath the sun’s fierce gaze.

I played it cool to begin with; I ignored the blue sky and glittering sand at first and went sightseeing instead. On the second day of the trip we visited Jerusalem and I returned to the hostel with a red neck. A small red tinge along the line of my t-shirt. I was encouraged by this, the sun and I had flirted and I was enraptured. That patch of warm skin made me nostalgic for the beaches of long-past summer holidays. All I wanted was that special one-on-one time that I had so craved while in the northern wastes.

The next day I stepped outside and exchanged a knowing smile with the sun; that would be the day we rekindled our love. The sun and the sand were waiting for me; I could hear them from the hostel window and my knees trembled. I did remember my weak white skin and I bought some sun cream, protection if you will, in anticipation of my communion with that heavenly body.

The sun was hypnotic and time shimmered to a stop. I walked across the sand and felt that glorious heat on my feet, my forearms, my shoulders, the tips of my ears. As I lay on the sand I was engulfed. An embrace. Now and then I ran between the beach and sea, the water a warm blue, and my towel a crackle of sand. As I sank further into hypnosis soon all I knew was the sun, my thoughts fragmented at its touch, and I scarcely knew my own name.

Two people from the hostel joined us on the sand. Their presence imposed a chronology on my blissful delerium with the sun and it appeared to be lunchtime. We prepared to leave the beach and in doing so I caught a look from one of them. A pained crease of the brows and an awkward twist of the mouth directed at me. “You’re looking a little red”. I laughed and inwardly rolled my eyes, I was used to that. Practically every summer there had been a day when my skin would show its allegiance to my father as we sat red and uncomfortable amidst a sea of olive skin. I paid it no attention and smirked that I was used to it. I walked back to the hostel to change.

Mirrors can be cruel things. In the bathroom I was forced to see what that look had expressed. I had underestimated the sun; I had been so enamoured by it that I had failed to see that we were not compatible. I was not emotionally and physically strong enough and so I was burnt; a transcendental, cross your chest and pray to God kind of burnt. I looked like I had been held under an iron, the skin around my eyes crispy and raw. What’s more I had two white hand prints in the middle of my chest. I thought I had clean forgotten to apply sun cream in the blur of time and heat when in fact it appeared that I had simply stopped mid-way through. The sun a screeching harpy, inducing me to lower my hands and lie supplicant on the sand. I looked like I had either been branded twice by the white hand of Saruman, or like a ghost was hugging me from behind.

Needless to say I got loads of compliments for my new look. I turned heads walking along the promenade, while shopping in the supermarket, just about everywhere in fact. One women was so impressed at how the colour of my legs matched my t-shirt (a fetching crimson of course) that she stopped and stared, her mouth hanging open in awe.

I cursed that light in the sky.

The next day I attended a party. I covered my legs and body as much as possible. My trousers and shirt hid the evidence of my tryst with the sun, while also providing me with a pleasurable rubbing massage. I felt ashamed and used. I desperately hoped that my attire would disguise the pain I was in, the fact that it hurt to blink, and that every ten minutes I had to excuse myself from whatever conversation I was in to go to the toilet, roll down my trousers and splash cold water on my legs and face. I remember neither names or faces from that evening, just trousers wrapped around ankles, shiny red flesh, and despair.

It so happened that I only stayed for two more days in Tel Aviv after that. England welcomed me home, her rolling grey clouds a welcome and cooling relief from the sun, which was a good thing too, since we were no longer on speaking terms.

‘Russian lies.’ An article by Serhi Datsyuk.

Lies in Russia exist as a way to put off and ignore change, change that has long demanded attention, change that must be initiated. Lies in Russia are an attempt to shift responsibility of the state’s actions onto others, to whitewash the state’s misdeeds. Lies in Russia are dangerous for Russia herself, because they generate an unescapable hatred which will consume her from within. Russia will be cut off from the surrounding world and as a result will become a danger to our world because of her lies.

Russia’s information war against Ukraine

Current sociological data which examines Russian attitudes towards Ukraine and vice versa highlights a striking imbalance. If we examine several different pieces of research a broadly cohesive picture emerges:

1) Nearly 90% of Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine and around 60% of those in Western Ukraine have a positive attitude towards their Russian neighbours; and over several years their attitude has shown almost no change.

2) More than 50% of Russians have a negative attitude towards Ukrainians, and this figure shows no signs of decreasing.

These results confirm the peaceability of Ukrainians, and highlight Russian aggression. Furthermore the Ukrainian government has historically shown its peaceful nature towards Russia. Evidence of this can be seen in Ukraine’s renunciation of Nuclear Weapons, the severe reductions in the fighting capability of the Ukrainian army, and Ukraine’s continued obsequious relationship with Russia.[1]

How has this inbalance, of love on one side and hatred on the other, come about? Why do Ukrainians love Russians more than the other way around? If I can answer these questions honestly, which neither those in power in Russia or Ukraine have ever attempted to do, then I would say that the current situation is the result of an information war waged by Russia upon Ukraine; a war built upon lies. This war has created a rising wave of Ukrainophobia and this would have been impossible without lies, it is these lies that pushed the Russians to hate the Ukrainian people. They serve as the foundation of the information war; they constituted Russia’s main ammunition as it set off for war.

The war declared by Russia is taking place on several fronts; there are battles being fought over trade, information, history, and technology. If economic damage is the result of trade and technological warfare, then the presence of historical and informational ‘fronts’ tells us that there is more at stake here than money.

The principal reason for the human casualties in the Ukrainian civil protests of 2013-14 is firmly rooted in the huge ongoing, widely published, cynical and unbridled information war against Ukraine whose lifespan extends further than 10 years.

And the reason for this information war? The sheer unwillingness of Russians to stand up to the Russian elite and to recognise the rights of Ukrainians to their own independence and self-determination.

The results of the Russian state’s information war against Ukraine would not be so deplorable if it had not coincided with the oligarchical, police, bandit state of Viktor Yanukovich. The effects of Yanukovich’s particular brand of politics were such that the East and West of Ukraine, plus the Crimea, grew disconnected and increasingly split off from one another. This was expressed in the reach of television; Ukrainian television was not accessible to those in the East and the Crimea while the Ukrainophobic Russian television enjoyed a presence throughout the country.

Members of the Ukrainian police subdivision ‘Berkut’, sent from Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, shot at people on the street of Kyiv precisely because they considered the protestors on the Maidan a bunch of Banderovites and Fascists. The members of this law enforcement agency spoke and expressed themselves purely with the words of Russian state propaganda. The shouts of hatred directed at Ukrainians derive directly from Russian state television.

I am not trying here to wrest responsibility for the informational inbalance between Ukrainian and Russian television in Ukraine from the bloodied hands of Yanukovich’s government however it is our task to rectify this inbalance. Nevertheless let it be said that here we are not solely talking about the former Ukrainian government.

Indeed it is not only the former president Yanukovich and his cronies that should be made to answer for the spilt blood of the Ukrainian people.[2] Responsibility for this lies too at the feet of Vladimir Putin, Dimitri Medvedev, Sergei Lavrov, Dimitri Kiselev, Vladimir Zhirinovski, Sergei Glaz’ev and Dimitri Rogozim. The actions of these men, enemies of Ukraine, led to serious human casualties, and for this, we shall hold them accountable.

It is precisely these people who unleashed and oversaw the war of information against Ukraine. It is these people, along with Yanukovich, that bear the responsibility for the blood of those Ukrainians that have died.[3] They cannot hide behind their verbose and deceitful declarations of faith in Russia’s relationship with Ukraine. Their actions have spoken louder than their words. Putin’s rewarding of Dimitri Kiselev on the basis of his lies about Ukraine, while the bloody events on the Maidan were still unfurling, surely transcends any simple binary of good and evil. [4]

Additionally there are also instances where Ukrainophobia has been spread amongst the general public in a thoughtless and irresponsible manner. For example Mikhail Zadornov, Ivan Okhlobystin, Sergei Luk’yanenko, Iosif Kobzon, Vladimir Lanovoi and Elena Bystritskaia among others. However every one of them (with the exception of Ivan Urgant) found, in their own time, the bravery to confess their error in propagating Ukrainophobia. From the moment of Russia’s provocation in the Crimea, a true understanding of the situation started to form amongst the Russian intelligentsia (for instance Makarevich and the repentant Okhlobystin, not to mention others who, one hopes, will too, see the light).

Even if these people’s words were thoughtless, that does not mean they were empty and without impact; their words have brought much grief and pain to Ukraine. During the course of the full scale information war waged by Russia, what they said and wrote about Ukraine took on the form of fully fledged acts of war which in their turn helped lead to blood on the Maidan.

Russia’s provocation in the Crimea can thus be understood as a direct continuation of Russia’s informational war on Ukraine. It is, in short, a war of nerves, in which Russia plays antagonist, baiting Ukraine to a violent response, upon which Russia gains the justification to unleash a full-scale war. From a political point of view this brinkmanship has been a failure for Russia because Ukraine has not and will not bite, and the Crimeans will see first-hand what is waiting for them come the transfer of the Crimea into the larger whole of the Russian federation.

Before the events of February 2014, Russia’s information war provided Russians with the opportunity to feel pity for those provincial philistines, for politicians to sure up their poll numbers, for TV ‘experts’ to push up their ratings, and for academics to research and write their doctoral theses. However after the bullets and the blood in Kyiv the ground shifted. Following the events spanning 2013-14, Russia’s information war against Ukraine ceased to be just unacceptable but became downright dangerous. The danger generated began too to threaten the Russian residents of the Crimea and indeed Russians themselves.

Ukraine is doing everything it can to make Russia accountable to the rest of the world. A declaration of zero tolerance for Ukrainophobia will be broadcast on Russian TV channels in Ukraine. After all to shut them down would not be right. Russia’s lies need to be exposed and shown both across the world and in Russia. We know how the internet can trump television, though Russia has yet to find this out.
The war declared on Ukraine is founded on the basis of the destruction of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, up to and including the absolute liquidation of Ukrainian identity. In light of this we will fight relentlessly and ruthlessly, and we will do so with not a spot of blood on our hands.

Lies are destroying Russia.

Ukraine is not Russia. Even during the most primeval periods of the dictator Yanukovich’s rule, thankfully there were just two sources of lies in Ukraine. The first was made up of Russian television stations (including the local ‘Inter’), the second of pro-government stations (‘UT-1’, and more recently ‘112 Ukraina’). In 2004 when Ukrainian TV channels promised to no longer accept nor accommodate censorship, they in effect successfully inoculated themselves against the brewing information war.[5] It is this that has essentially saved Ukraine today; the truth about those in power slowly, but surely, cast light into the shadows of the corridors of power. This is not the case for Russia.

If one can say that in Ukraine it was truth that destroyed the former government, then in Russia the opposite will be true. Those in power in Russia, those who stand apart from, and indeed against, the country’s people, will be destroyed by their very own lies.

In order to rid Ukraine of Russia’s lies, it is first necessary to cleanse the source itself: Russia. In this context, the idea of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s essay ‘Live not by lies’ requires rethinking.[6] How does one rid Russia of lies in the first place?

Solzhenitsyn wrote that ‘Violence has nothing whatsoever but lies to dress itself with, and lies have nothing but violence to hold them in existence’.[7] The modern-day Russian government has invented a rather modern scheme for implementing violence where said violence masquerades as concern for the wellbeing of the state and the country. It essentially consists of shifting the focus and the blame.

It works like this. The Russian authorities have been, for many years, committing acts of economic violence in their own country (bearing in mind that Russia’s energy resources lie in the hands of a few dozen families). The money earned from this violence is quickly spirited out of reach of the national budget to be privately used by those in power and those around them. This understandably causes the Russian people to hate those in power.

But if this hatred is redirected towards different nations (i.e. it is they who are guilty and our lot is not all that bad) then the hatred generated can be redistributed and those in power in Russia are cast in a different light. They are now occupied with the important task of fighting external enemies, and subsequently hold the moral right to use unaccounted-for public resources, and to whip up aggression and hatred towards these so-called enemies.

Thus the Russian state’s lies about itself become less visible as they are slyly obscured by lies about the foreign. Russia thus becomes a generator of lies, pumping hatred into the wider world, expelling hatred from within itself.

Many countries, as of today, have been successful in repulsing Russia’s imperial hatred: the Baltic states, Georgia, and now Ukraine. All the same Russia continues its poisonous externalisation. Such externalisation is only partially successful however; there is hatred which is impossible to redirect onto another, and which builds up, rotting Russian from within. If the production of lies and hatred is not stopped, Russia will not be left alive.

To refer back to one’s rethinking of Solzhenitsyn’s 1970s proposal: how possible is it to stop lies and hatred on an individual level in this contemporary scenario? Today, Solzhenitsyn’s method of personal withdrawal and non-participation in lies appears inadequate. Of course it is tempting to sit at home and just watch the TV channel ‘Dozhd’’and to write honestly and openly on social networking sites. [8] Such is the temptation to just communicate through virtual means, and to end up disconnected from the world around you.

Non-participation in lies outside of times of crisis only really speeds up the onset of crisis and the destruction of the system of lies. But once in a global context, in a global crisis, individual non-participation in lies is no longer adequate. Without personal acts of social protest, that cause and push change forward, a state which is committing theft on a monumental scale and offers no plans for social reform itself will only be aided by those who choose not to participate.

Our situation demands a public intellectual who is focussed not just on speaking short, quick truths about the now, but to tell a larger truth, a truth that relates to the future. If they place truth in perspective, with intelligence and insight, if they contextualise it, the possibility of a sense of communality between Russian and Ukraine can emerge.

Russia needs its own Maidan. A place where there is no hatred, where the truth is sought, where together an understanding and formulation of the future can be built. To live ‘not by lies’ means as much as to avoid individual lies as it means to avoid collective ones- those of agitation and propaganda, veiled as TV news by the Russian state.

Television news sets the parameters and assumes the role of creator in our modern reality. In comparison, the influence wielded by social networking sites and internet news is not of the same magnitude, they lack the informational resources and thus the same ability to shape opinion and thought.
The distribution of news and information on the internet is utilised by a very small circle. Its influence has indeed been growing, but it still not even a close second to Television. The Maidan in Ukraine was able to overcome Russia’s media influence because, in this case, the internet was able to overcome the television. On the Maidan the internet succeeded in fulfilling its dynamic and powerful ability to educate and inform.

Today there are virtually no TV news outlets in Russia that are of any quality. In place of news there is just agitation and propaganda. If one permits a little generalisation, the essence of such agitation and propaganda can be summarised as follows:

  • There is a positive depiction of Russia and her government (Russia is the coolest, and that’s down to her awesome leaders)
  • Russia is surrounded by enemies (the worst of whom are the USA, Europe, the Baltic states, Georgia and Ukraine) and the government is bravely fighting them to create a grand imperial Russian empire
  • The Russian empire is heaven on earth and if only the former Soviet states were to return to the fold then a kingdom of worldwide justice would reign supreme and Russia would once again be a world power.

Ahh the Empire! Also, don’t forget that old archetype, dear to the hearts of all Russians, the ‘Great Mother’ who forces all before her to sacrifice their rights and freedoms. But this victimhood would sadly be in vain – the empire will not return. At least not in the form as dreamed of by the Russian political elite.

It is here that we now lower ourselves into another lie; the lie of the Russian elite to its people, and what’s more, to itself. The Big Lie about the possibility of an empire. How can they not see that states the world over are collapsing only to be replaced by corporations; how can they not see that the future of social organisation lies in self-organised communities and it is these communities alone that are capable of fighting the corporations.

Despite this, the Big Lie lives on in Russia. The Lie kills any conception of a future which does not feature the grand Russian empire, and its inevitable rebirth. The resulting vacuum of original thoughts and ideas acts as nourishment for the lies of the Russian elite. From the vacuum a fundamentalist orthodoxy arises followed by a rejection of secular education. Those in power in Russia are continuing to lie about the most important thing of all, the future’s form; they deny it of any flexibility, of any options, variants. The path is straight. The Big Lie must be destroyed first because it sits at the heart of the Russian lie making machine.

My message to the Russian elite is simple. The Empire will not return. Start looking for a different future. Stop lying to yourself and stop lying to the Russian people.
[1] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Ukraine] & http://www.startribune.com/world/253417511.html

[2] It should be pointed out here that it was not only Ukrainians that were killed in the protests.

[3] See above.

[4] (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26839216. A reference to his appointment as managing director of RT?)

[5] A reference to the end of the Orange Revolution of 2004 where most media outlets began to ignore government direction and influence in matters of news reporting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_press_in_Ukraine).

[6] (http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/SolhenitsynLies.php)

[7] My direct translation from the article, but here is the larger piece the quote comes from, in a slightly different form: http://voluntaryist.com/articles/solztwo.html#.U0GQroXWE80.

[8] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dozhd: relatively speaking an independent Russian media outlet)

 

Source: http://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/datsuk/53116eef447b1/

‘My Ukrainian Brothers!’ A piece of advice from Arkadii Babchenko.

Ukrainians! What on earth are you doing? What Maidan? What tents? What blockading of Parliament? What could you possibly mean by ‘free self-expression of the people’?

Hold on. Give me a few minutes and I’ll tell you how it’s done.

What you must do first of all is take a bottle of whisky and head over to the town hall. At night. A glass or so down, agree amongst yourselves that it would be much better to have the Maidan transferred to the other side of the Dnieper river, away from all this disturbance and bother.

A little while later start to harass and scare the people around you. Promise them a sea of blood and a world of pain at the hands of the terrible OMON (Special police force). Call them weak little mice who are scarcely fit to stand in the presence of the statues of latter day Soviet power.

Most likely a voice will speak out from the crowd, calling the surrounding mass of people to ignore you and not to fear; he (or indeed she) will call for them to realise their own voice and will start to rally those around to go and nail their demands to the doors of the Central Election Committee and camp out there replete with tents and campfires. Make sure you ridicule him as best you can, defame and marginalise him. Shower him with jokes, make him out to be some nutjob who thinks the best course of action is to storm the parliament with a snowplough. All in all do your very best to lead independent minded citizens into the capable hands of the police who circle around in an ever tightening vice.

Once you’ve done that collect 2 million roubles (roughly £40,000). Make sure it’s no less than that at every collection.

With this money put up a stage with an awesome sound system and call some second-rate performer to sing and dance for the gathered crowds. Then lead out onto the stage whoever the hell you can: stars of the little and big screen, insufferable bores, ‘celebrities’ who love the sound of their own voice. Essentially anyone who can shout loudly and at length.

Keep this process going for two years.

Ah! Toilets! Don’t forget the fucking toilets! What kind of revolution would it be without those? This most essential undertaking will involve working out how many port-a-loos you need. Once you have done this reach an agreement with the supplier, collect the money, pay for them and put them up in all of their revolutionary glory. Bam. You will have achieved one of the most important goals of the revolutionary movement.

What other trivia can you focus on? You could run a survey labelled “march on Maidan or into a swamp?” Even if 80% support a march onto the Maidan lead everyone into the swamp anyway. Do not under any circumstances say the word revolution. Nor so much as hint at a ‘change of the system’. For God’s sake don’t call people out onto the street. And please don’t call things by their real names. It’s just best to keep things objective you know? Let’s be restrained about this.
Move on to coming up with a load of fun and creative ways to grab people’s attention: White ribbons, white balloons, a white drive by, a white cycle ride, white line dancing, or maybe a competition for the best placard, best egg costume and even best tank costume. You get the idea.

Wherever you can, form human chains, human ropes, human pieces of glittery string. Go on marches, put on events, walk and talk with famous writers. This must go on for two years. It would be stupid to be quicker than that.

In the breaks between going for walks and coming up with creative publicity stunts you find that you will have lost some of those protesting in the swamp (of freedom). They have been locked up and, in the friendliest way possible, you will have forgotten about them. This too is an important moment. Don’t bother to call for the courts to be blockaded or for your comrades to be released. Don’t try and get people out onto the streets (geez). Remember to only sign petitions that are useful to no one, to make loud appeals, and to give the list of political prisoners to Yanukovych and then to discuss it with him at length while at literary gatherings and other such important occasions. The more meetings the better. If you think one is enough you are wrong. Whenever the big man calls go immediately and talk. Talk. Talk…
Also don’t forget to elect a constituent assembly. Perhaps you could call it ‘The coordinated council of the opposition’. Its most important task would be to meet through the course of the year in a hall which costs 150,000 roubles (£3,000) to rent, and once inside, to fiercely debate the date of the next meeting. Most important. Make sure everyone is invited, whoever isn’t too lazy that is, I would of course include acrobats and singers in the invitation.

Then later, after about two years, when only 5,000 from the original 100,000 remain standing, and the remaining 95,000 care little for anything you have to say, elect a leader of the united opposition. A great leader. A strong leader.
This nearly brings us to the culmination of your efforts, a shuddering culmination of unadulterated ecstasy.

The great leader of the United Opposition must without question start to accept unconstitutional hand-outs from Yanukovych’s sweaty palm (all the while repeating “Who really holds the power here?” – an essential incantation worth remembering as nothing good will come of your work without it). Even ignoring this behaviour you will go on to lose the upcoming elections. But this is obviously completely irrelevant as the elections will not bear any resemblance to TRUE elections in the SLIGHTEST, obviously they will be rigged from the start and only represent an exercise in THEFT AND THE PRESERVATION OF THE CRIMINAL STATUS QUO! and so on and so forth…

After this start to prepare for new elections, for the, err, local Kievan council. Which is still very important.

And Oh! Would you look at that. Following the euro-integration protest you are already yapping away at one another, squabbling over the local Kievan elections which mean little if anything at all. People have stopped going out onto the streets, the protests have become a distant memory, the wider public sit at home while Yanukovych and Azarov (The Ukrainian PM) sign an agreement which cancels the Eu integration process. You succeeded in crawling up your own backside and the protests exist now more in name than reality.
Cool huh!? There’s no other way round it really.

That’s how it’s done. The Russian way.

If we can be serious now- as soon as someone starts to climb onto the podium and say “we don’t want a revolution”, as soon as someone starts to open their mouth about guarantees that Yanukovych has laid out, chase them out of the crowd without a second thought. If you slow for just a second, this opportunity will pass you by and you won’t even grasp at how it happened. Look at the Russians again. You must focus on the Maidan and on the direct expression of what you want and need. Yield just one step, one sideward glance to this regime and that will be it. Game over. To regain momentum and a steady gaze would be impossible.
Bear this in mind now. This is truly important, important right here and right now, in these, your first steps, your first days.

 

Source:  http://www.snob.ru/profile/27517/blog/68364

Written in November 2013, as the Ukrainian crisis was starting to unfold.

N.B. Unfortunately access to that article is no longer available. Unless of course you wish to pay for access.