Friday, April 25, 2014

fast times in Ukraine

the Ukrainean Event as philosophical venue

On the PBS News Hour, Janusz Bugajski (Center for Strategic and International Studies) says what may seem obvious, but there’s an implicit, important philosophical point to be drawn for Habermasian discourse (after my quoting):
It’s a free choice...of every nation that emerged from the communist bloc to belong to the international organizations that best protect their security and that best ensure their prosperity and their development. And all the Central European countries, almost, have chosen to ally with the West, because the European Union and NATO provides the security, stability, sovereignty, and development. The Russian world, the Customs Union, the Eurasian Union, will be a source of instability, because Russia cannot provide that sort of security, integrity and international — and national independence.
Security, integrity, development, independence, stability, and prosperity happen to be basic values of individuals, groups, and communities, as well as for a healthy nation.

The homology here is very important: The nation is no more valuable than what individuals (and groups of individuations) can value.

Decades ago, in Habermas’s wonderful essay on “The Development of Normative Structures” (book: Communication and the Evolution of Society, 1979), he highlighted this homology (or “isomorphism”) in terms of “ego-to-ego” vis-à-vis “group-to-group” relations. Large scale values make sense relative to their lifeworld basis: small scale, living human values.

Only inasmuch as a person sees lived values reflected in the Image of the region can the appeal of “national” (or inter-regional /international) interests motivate public support.

Yet conversely, small scale engagement with values is the basis for broad-based social support for political aims. Inasmuch as small scale engagement is urgent, large scale values make sense.

Habermas’s confinement of the notion of solidarity to political association misses the nature of solidarity that is political: Its durability originates from non-political life (psychological, cultural, social, pre-political).

But his misconception is resolvable in terms of his own thought—just not in terms of his recent lectures that try to motivate solidarity top down, rather than to better appreciate its bases bottom up.

The Ukrainian Event has everything to do with Habermas’s longstanding frustration with European nations’ low interest in a United States of Europe (which EU constitutionalization would, in effect, define). How Ukraine finds trans-ethnic nationality (or politically coherent inter-regionality) is informative, in microcosm, for the greater EU challenge of securing a balance of regional and continental relations as a singularly prosperous political constellation.

I think that the Ukranian struggle to authentically bridge ethnic and inter-ethnic regional aspirations, independent of its neighbor Russia, is critically important for understanding struggles within the EU as political entity trying to make a multi-regional, continental community more effectively democratic while not unduly compromising the motivating values of its localities that drive prosperity.

So, I’m fascinated to see the Ukrainian Event evolve.

Putinism spurns Ukrainean history of inter-regional kinship

One might argue that deeply ethnic Russians in Ukraine deserve to have their desire to be part of Russia respected. Ethnic Ukrainians ought to let the Russians have their separatist referendum, and the issue is just getting militant Ukrainian Russians to accept that Kiev will let the referendum happen. But that would be an invalid claim.

Though the history of Ukraine is so tempestuous that it’s vertiginous to retrace, Ukraine had gained its autonomy before the Soviet Union; Ukraine was one of the grand triad that formed the Soviet Union in the first place (with Belarus and Russia); and Ukraine was regarded as a nation with its present borders (more or less—it gained territory from Poland and others in the west) by the Soviet Union until Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the USSR happened just days before the USSR dissolved. It was not Russia that “owned” the USSR. during the USSR, when the UN was founded, the international recognition of Ukraine (with its present borders) made it a founding member, at Moscow’s insistence; i.e., it was important to Moscow that Ukraine (with its present borders) be internationally recognized as a sovereign nation apart from Russia.

So, there’s ample historical reason for the U.S. to insist that Russia stop its covert promotion of civil war. A headline today says “Russia warns Kiev to back off,” which is puerile Putinism. Putin’s intrusion into Ukraine’s internal affairs is like a bully picking a fight then blaming the victim for defending himself.

Foreign Minister Lavrov even sounds like a bully: Russia is “a big, independent power that knows what it wants.” If one traces the chronology of the Maidan uprising, it’s clear that the U.S./Europe were responding to indiginous tendencies within Ukraine that are deeply rooted in its tempestuous history, not EU desire to expand eastward. But the global economy tends to push appeasement; the EU can’t stand more recession. Capital would rather give Putin another chunk of eastern Ukraine than weather another war.

But failure to orient action in accord with internationally-recognized norms that Russia promoted for a century risks—who knows? The EU recession continues a year longer than otherwise? China gets adventurist in the south Pacific? Other autocrats see how to use recessional fears to bully minorities? Russia falls into economic depression, like Iran?

Russians ought to wake up: Their dictator is no friend of Russian prosperity.

doing permanent good for Ukraine: restoring inter-regional kinship

Progressive Ukrainians are showing how making democracy is an assemblage art. Their good work is being taken into eastern Ukraine to show how True democracy can belong to fellow Ukrainians who are ethnic Russians. This can work.

Also, the inspiring formation of True democracy in Ukraine is a great context for thinking about political nationality as a trans-ethnic conception of common ground and mutual prosperity. Ukraine might become exemplary for trans-continental futures.

In the EU, difficulties with post-ethnolinguistic senses of ‘nation’ are probably important aspects of regressive ethnic fervor that inhibits transnational, pan-European solidarity for the sake of making “Europe2020” reality. Ukraine might become a great example for the EU.

There can be validity to fervent nationality that is about inclusive prosperity—at once multi-ethnic and trans-ethnic—for “Our” greater good.

The meaning of ‘nation’ is “Ours” to define and institute.