The beautiful people of Ukraine have shown us how to respond to crisis. Credit: France24

Refugees with Rolling Luggage

Feb 28, 2022

Still glued to the situation in the Ukraine.

I think this is the first time we've seen large numbers of refugees with rolling luggage, a clear indication that no matter where you are, instability, war and chaos are getting closer to your front door.

Others have commented that this war is capturing the attention of the west because these people look like us. Ukraine is not the biggest conflict happening on earth today. And yet it rightly captures our attention.

Why are the other conflicts forgotten, and this one is centered? This should be a cue as to what matters to the owners of corporate media in the west.

This is obviously not a limited conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This particular war may or may not spill beyond Ukraine's borders, but eventually the deeper conflict will find it's way to your front door. Prepare.

This is a conflict about energy and power in the tumultous 21st century. As much as I want Putin gone, I'm not sure we'll be better off without an oppositional force in Russia. A Russian leader friendly to the west would simply hand more global control to the hereditary bankers in the City of London, New York, Frankfurt. etc.

Fuck Putin. A lifetime of crime. At the same time, he's a counterforce against the forces that are  currently hypnotizing and exploiting you and me. So it's complicated.  

I see the world through a prism of exploitation, because everywhere I look, there is exploitation.

I'm tired of giving examples.

If you don't see it, you're not looking.

If you're not looking, you're hiding. From the world, from the truth, from yourself.

There's suffering everywhere.

I am finding it difficult to respect people who want to paper over other people's pain. By what arcane rules do we decide which voices to listen to and which ones to ignore? And why does it always seem to serve the bankers?

This world is in deep trouble. In a dozen ways. You know all about it. The time has come to end for us to keep acting like it's business as usual.  

Whether you grasp the enormity of this situation, or just want to push it away, it's tempting to throw up your arms and say, but what can I do?

What you can do is stop living the way you have been, with those rose-colored lenses. People are SCREAMING for help all around you. What we are doing... what I am doing. What you are doing, these things are systemically fucked. Own it. Change it as much as you can. Stop playing along.

If you don't know what to do, start thinking about what you can do. You'll come up with something that you're uniquely suited to do. That's what this writing is for me, and it's not nearly enough.

In the last year I stopped eating fish. Then I stopped eating meat. Then I stopped eating dairy and wheat. The latter choices are for my own health, but the former were driven by a belief that removing myself from the fish market was the right thing to do.

Globally, I think we should only eat fish on our birthdays.  

This is something small, but it is the direction we must go in. We must keep making better and better decisions, and most importantly, we must keep trying to understand this complicated system in which we live.

We act upon it, and it acts upon us. Mindlessly participating is no longer a valid position. If you don't change your behavior and your environment, you are contributing to the creation of the dead world in which your descendants will suffer and perish.

Image from page 174 of "The adventures of Peter Peterkin" (1916)
In childhood, what is real and what is fantasy? Credit: Helen E. Ohrenschall

For most of our species' 200,000 year history, children have largely roamed free, able to explore and experiment and confront danger and opportunity on their own terms.

However, since the beginning of civilization, and intensifying during the last 200 years of industrialization, the experience of children has changed dramatically.

Now we sit at desks. Or on the floor, or on the ground, facing an authority figure who tells us what to think.

This is a double-edged sword.

It gives us common langauge and prepares us to cooperate. It can even plant the seeds of knowledge.

But this system also robs us of our agency in our own lives. We over-trust the 'authority' standing before us, and learn not to disagree with them, lest we be punished.

Some children adapt their behavior to win the favor of the tall one. Others bumble on, not knowing what is happening. Other's drop out, realizing early that the game is rigged.

An adult does not react to situations the same way a child does. When things get real, the child looks to the adult to tell them how to respond.

The adult does not have this luxury. There is no authority for them to trust. They must use their own senses... their own perceptions... to evaluate the situation, make a plan, and act.

The child takes direction.

The adult takes responsibility.

Like it or not, we have been condition to remain as children. We are conditioned to ignore the sounds of pain, even when they come from inside ourselves.

Nothing is all good or all bad. Only a child sees it that way. Adults evaluate benefits and costs, and act accordingly, in line with reality rather than their fantasy.

And so it is in Ukraine.

While we rightly celebrate the bravery and aplomb of the Ukrainian people, we must also remember that there is room for nuance. There's always bad in the good.

  • Disinformation, lies, and missiles are flying on both sides. Both sides are using video from other conflicts to win the propaganda war. Both sides are attacking each others computer systems. Both sides are blaming missile strikes and shelling on the enemy. NATO and Russian bullets are killing people on both sides.

  • Africans are being discriminated against. There are thousands of African students in Ukraine, and some are reporting mistreatment. Many are getting through, but there are also accounts of Africans who have been waiting days to board trains and busses, and there are accounts of Africans being excluded from Poland and being told to give up their seats.

  • The men of Ukraine have been conscripted into service. This is gender bias. Men can't leave the country while their wives stay behind and fight. In a truly free society, you would never dream of compelling someone to stay and fight, especially based on physical characteristics. Given the thousands of women and men who've volunteered to fight, I don't know why they put this stupid order in place. It's a reminder of the power of the state. Daddy is watching.

But there's always room for nuance.

The Ukrainian government infantilized the people by conscripting men, but this will be lost to history. Because something much more profound and conflicting  has also happened.

The government gave the people Kalashnikovs and told them how to defend themselves. They taught them to make molotov cocktails and obstruct the roads.

But it's not just violence. Ukrainians abroad are collecting and sending money. Others are acting in vital support roles, providing food and good cheer. The people have come together. They have stood up, and it is beautiful to see.

The message is clear.

You are not a child.

Your are an adult.

Take responsibility.

And the men, women, and other of Ukraine have taken up that responsibility.

This is why we are inspired by them.

When it is our turn to stand up, let us remember what the showed us.

Here in our comfortable boxes, in our world built for rolling luggage, many of us are still giving our work and our attention to the tall ones, hoping, unconsciously, to finally get their approval. Just as we did all those years ago in school.

Trained to sit and listen to the tall ones, we long for the opportunity to take the reins of our lives. (No matter your feelings about guns, an AK-47 in your hands changes your perception of your own power.)

A Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) team member fires an AK-47 assault rifle at a target  during a field training exercise - NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive  Public Domain Search
Credit: Chuck Mussi

In many ways, the war is already here. We live in conflict with the earth and each other. Things are crumbling rapidly.

Between now and when the war truly arrives at your front door, you must decide. Will you be a child, or an adult?

Remember, just because one side is lying doesn't mean the other is telling the truth.

You are going to make mistakes. The more good you try to do, the more mistakes you will make. Accept them, acknowledge them, and try not to do it again.

Accept that you have a positive and negative impact on the world around you. Look at as much of it as you can.

Embrace your shadow.

Listen to the voices in pain, even when they're coming from inside.

Will you give up comfort and pleasure to protect what you love? Or is comfort and pleasure all that you love?

This is the bargain we pay to enter adulthood.

You must hate yourself, and love yourself too.

Slava Ukraini