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Nature vs. Politics in Ukraine

May 19, 2011

Well, this certainly falls into the interesting news items pile: while checking the day’s news over at BBC this morning, I found the following article, “Ukraine weather forecaster’s remarks spark storm.” It turns out in her rather routine weather report, Ludmila Savchenko of Ukrainian National Radio, decided to inject a little politics. She said on air live:

“One cannot remain indifferent to this beauty which is amplified by the tender scent of lilac and lily of the valley and the melodious trilling of the birds.

(But) at times it seems that such wonderful days are a gift from nature to compensate us for the chaos, lawlessness and injustice which reigns in our country.

It is simply incomprehensible that anyone can dislike this paradise on earth, this country, and the Ukrainian people so much that they treat it so badly.”

You can listen to the report below. I urge even my non-Ukrainian speaking readers to listen, because you’ll notice it sounds, well, like a normal weather report. She never breaks stride:

Her bosses were not amused. The executive Roman Tchaikovsky was quoted as saying, “It is not the kind of theme (politics) that merits mentioning. A person must talk about the weather concisely, with knowledge and accuracy, and even with wit, but only about the weather.” Good to see wit it still ok. Savchenko was immediately fired — not that this was a surprise to her. She noted, “I said what I believed was true and I still believe it. I knew I would never go on air again.” The powers that be have ensured the weather will be taped from now on, as to prevent any future weather related political assaults on the Ukrainian people.

Those are the facts at hand, but oh so many questions. What on earth did Mrs. Savchenko, an ordinary looking middle-aged woman with a nice job, wake up this morning and decide she was going to denounce the faults of Ukrainian society on air? What pushed her to the edge? Is she political? Is she a kook? At what point of living in a society run by criminals and pimps does one decide to say something about it? Can anyone in Ukraine really disagree with what she said? The last opinion poll I read noted something along the lines of 11% of Ukrainians approving of their government. And how should we views such an act? Is is an act of courage — one lonely woman speaking truth to power in a Gandhian act of defiance in a totalitarian society? Or simply another convenient act of protest that does nothing really challenge the interstices of power and the order of society?

One thing we do is that everyone with a vested interest is going to bleed this for all its worth. Ukraine’s resident attention-queen, Tymoshenko made sure to chime with a Palinesque sense of appropriateness as soon as humanely possible, remarking on her “heroism.” It’s as if Tymoshenko knows if she comments on daily news items she’ll get at least a paragraph in every Western-writing article on the events (wait, a second…). And I’m sure all the good NGO-liberals (see here and here) are busy at their typewriters right now, coming up with more bromides against Yanukovych and co., as they work assiduously to cut and paste this curious episode into prescribed narratives about Ukrainian politics in an effort to back parties just as corrupt and morally bankrupt as those in charge now.

Before I was finished my morning news perusal, I came across another news item from Ukraine on BBC: “Ukraine MPs hurt in parliament brawl.” You can watch a video of grown men beating each other in Ukraine’s parliament. How àpropos. Yes, I think I prefer Savchenko’s Ukraine with its paradise of lilies, and lilacs and melodious birds, than the ignorance, lies, and violence of Ukraine’s ruling elite today. No matter her intentions, or the adjacent circus, Savchenko’s weather report was a proper act of defiance and a ray of sunshine (come on, I had to use a metaphor at some point!).

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