The myth about Ukrainian democracy

Intellectuals pride themselves immensely for supposedly being people (generally the only people) who can with unfailing ability distinguish what is true from what is not true; of course only what is true matters. The intellectuals are intellectuals because they can tell myth from reality.

Yet, as experience suggests, there is hardly anyone in the world who is as prone to believe their own fantasies and other contorted figments of the imagination as intellectuals. Unlike the “common people”, who at some point may just admit that there are things beyond their understanding or which they simply don‘t know, the intellectual will go to intricate extents to explain to themselves first and then to others why certain apparently counterintuitive and not immediately evident things are true and while what seems real is not true. Incidentally, much of the history of philosophy, which is almost by definition a monopoly of intellectuals, is about this: what you see is not true, what we tell you and what you can read in these books is true instead. As Orwell put it, someone that intellectuals love to cite at every occasion: “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”

Highly intelligent people disputed for centuries on the nature of the Trinity, Plato’s cave and similar things: yet intellectuals take deep offence every time a hint of criticism is directed at them; they call this “anti-intellectualism”, and every anti-intellectual is in its essence a fascist. It’s difficult to argue with a point like that: nobody in civilized society wants to be a fascist today. Criticizing intellectuals means to reject reason tout court. Intellectuals are infallible priests.

One of the most recent myths about which Western intellectuals love to sing songs and write panegyrics is the myth of the “Ukrainian democracy”. The always so sophisticated and contrarian intellectuals apparently believes that Ukraine, a country with extremely little to show in the sense of democratic traditions, suddenly became a postidentitarian liberal democracy because in the last 30 years there have been presidential elections. The intellectual, in the truest purely intellectual tradition, rejects the evident fact that Ukraine has been at war with a large part of its population for the past eight years, yet fixates on the nominalist notion that Ukraine is a democracy. Because ideas of course are what counts, the material reality of the world is vulgar and mendacious. The intellectual, who in the West would make show of being extremely concerned about all minorities, does not want the demonisation of the entire Russian-speaking population which had been going on for years (and which many Western “liberal” intellectuals actively encouraged), he does not want to see the constant threats to and sometimes killings of opposition figures, the shutting down of media and parties rejecting the post-Maidan totalitarian revolutionary narrative. It was all just Russian propaganda after all.

It does not matter that even the now canonized Zelensky, the winner of the last presidential election, won because he ran on an antiwar message – only to be ostracised by the more radical groups, the “party of war”, who really make the weather in Ukraine and whom the Western intellectual did everything not to see.

The war in Ukraine is a horrible thing: yet to believe, or to pretend to believe that Ukraine was attacked just because it wanted to be free and democratic and bad people hate democratic and freedom is something so absurd that it really takes an intellectual to believe this. Someone who constantly poses as a hypersophisticated postmodern intellectual should understand that the world is a multifaceted and often vertiginously complex, yet for the sake of a well-tailored argument the intellectual does not refrain from indulging in the most childish forms of naivety and cartoonish caricature.

Often public intellectuals, like true histrions, like to stage themselves as courageous fighters, virtuous polemicists, defenders of democracy and enlightenment, people who have the courage to “speak truth to power” and other similar things. Yet a look at public discussion today shows there is remarkably little courage to contradict power in our contemporary career intellectuals. The Western intellectual today loves to denounce the dictatorships and the totalitarian regimes in far away countries, yet he is apparently extremely tame and conformist when it is about questioning the public consensus at home. Is it because for the systemic intellectual his entire livelihood depends on being the voice of the establishment or just because he cannot deal with criticism? Hard to tell. Probably every individual case is different.

The Western intellectual, who makes constant show of believing in democracy (“the people”, “the majority of the people”, “the wisdom of crowds”, “the collective mind” etc. etc., and the entire legitimacy of the Western rules based order is theoretically founded on this “democracy”, on the “the will of the majority”), wants people believe the noble idea of democracy is something worth dying for. The fact that the reality of democracy is not so ideal like the noble idea of it seems of irrelevant concern to him. He firmly rejects to see the recent experience of the failed democratic transitions in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan. The world is imperfect, vulgar and despicable after all, ideas are what’s important and highly moral people should never renounce their principles. The Western intellectual purports to stand on the side of open and welcoming cosmopolitanism, but at the same time believes that the Russians are lying, the Chinese are lying, Muslims are lying and crazy, the Africans are crazy: essentially the entire world is lying or crazy, only the Westerner is not lying apparently. It follows that the majority of people in the world is lying or crazy… It surely takes an intellectual to reconcile the intellectuals’ claim to a monopoly of reason (to criticize intellectuals means to criticize reason) with a passionate taste for writing magniloquent praises and lyricism about democracy the intellectuals love to indulge in.

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