On Ukraine

It is difficult to find words of solidarity that do not sound shallow and are not a mere lip service to express our horror and empathy at the suffering of the Ukrainian people in face of Russian invasion. For some practical suggestions on showing solidarity we would like to point you to Olga Burluyk’s list here.

At the same time as we sit glued to TV and smart phone screens to follow news from Ukraine, we are also reminded not only of the fragility of peace but of the erasure of a wide range of ongoing conflicts that are sadly so much a part of ‘normality’, rather than the exception to our collective existence, that they don’t even make it to the news headlines.

As Convivial Thinkers committed to widening how we understand the world, we are concerned by the reassertion of cold-war-inspired geo-political binaries, where a monolithic and righteous ‘West’ is castigating Russia as ‘the bad guy’. There are two key consequences of concern for us at CT on the re-assertion of this binary. The first is that, whilst there is no doubt that Russia’s unforgivable invasion of Ukraine, with all of the loss of life and instability, is to be fiercely abhorred and challenged, it nonetheless highlights the failure of global diplomacy and finding avenues of shared dialogue that would prevent conflict in which ‘ordinary’ people are invariably collateral damage. This requires us to collectively introspect on how conditions were created for this conflict to be seeded in the first place, and there is a responsibility on all sides for this failure.

Secondly, the concern and solidarity being shown to the Ukrainian people, a position that we wholeheartedly share given the violent upheaval that they are now facing, is sadly not there for the refugees being created both by this conflict as well as the many other ongoing global conflicts. Here we find essential hypocrisy, with many Western countries actively involved either as makers of weapons or with boots on the ground, unwilling to then accept the resultant refugees from Yemen, Syria, Iraq, or Libya. Even with fleeing Ukrainians, only some European countries are creating safe passages. Besides not opening up safe passages for the refugees, another aspect that can be seen amongst some of the Western countries is their flimsy attitude of extending ‘fake solidarities’ towards Ukraine, which is not generating any assistance to the sufferings and losses. All of this implies that there is only humanity for some, and even that is oftentimes trumped by the primacy of economic interests.

In a larger context, we are wondering what this invasion and violation of principles of humanity implies for the vision of a world of many worlds, the pluriversal utopia, in which all find space to flourish and which we collectively pursue. The actions of the Russian government are only the most recent example of one world refusing to be part of the many. In a world order determined by the primacy of the pursuit of nation state interests, are there enough cracks for pluriversal alternatives to the patriarchal, capitalist, neo-colonialist, extractive ways of being?

These days we need practiced and practical solidarity with the Ukrainian people and all people suffering from war, oppression and injustices. And we mustn’t stop our collective struggle for a world in which many worlds fit.