February 22, 2011

The Potential of Extremism in Ukraine: the less one knows the more soundly he sleeps?!

There are a lot of definitions of the notion “extremism”, but the most distinct one is: extremism is an inclination to solve difficult problems by means of radically simple extremes. Cultural extremism is a recognition of everything that is different as “strange”, “maleficent” and indiscriminate extirpation of it. Economic extremism is “to take away everything and divide it”. Social extremism is “to defeat in rights”, “force into ghetto”. Religious extremism is to divide the world into the “faithful” and “unfaithful” and debar the right of the last ones of their own faith. Genetic extremist is a “biological regulation” of all the dangerous, undesirable, and misbegotten. Political extremism is a political recognition and argumentation of any above listed types of extremism and also practical implementation of such kind of ideas by means of discrimination, violence, and psychological pressing of the objectors. All this has already happened before, it exists somewhere now, and is well know to everybody from the history and political geography.

If we are in a difficult situation, then regularly a question arises: is it possible to overstep the law (in order not to break it ever again in the future), to scrub round the burdensome rules (in order to struggle that other people observe them rigorously), to break one of the commandments (in order to repent afterwards and become an example of obedience), to immolate, eventually, the interests of minority group for the benefit of majority group (for the last time, clearly)… Each of us is familiar with this from an everyday life. Such an extremist thinking is a moral ground for extremist attitudes appearance, and the attitudes, in its turn, may become a basis for cultural, social, economic, and other historically known types of extremism.

Moreover, extremeness is a natural phenomenon. In normal conditions protest groups have it, especially youth. If the system of nurturing and education works, the possibilities of self-realization exist in the framework of official social institutions, and inevitable sanctions for outrageous behavior exist as well, then the destructive potential transforms into innovations, creative ideas, and useful activity. If there was no a cooperative movement in the USSR, then the majority of nowadays post-Soviet businessmen would not be featured in the ratings of “Forbs”, but in the reports of the Department of socialist ownership stealage struggle. If there was no “perestroika” and “democratic transformations”, then a lot of liberals, marketers, and young reformers would adhere to dissidents and emigrants.  

Politicians, who are playing with radical slogans and using inappropriate political technologies, encourage the transformation of natural extremeness into extremist attitudes and destructive displays. The largest danger of political extremism consists in its practical simplicity and an indulgent underestimation of the factors which favor this extremism.

Political extremism doesn’t need fanciful ideology and sophisticated program. In order that it becomes a reality there is not much needed. It’s necessary that one politician comes and says, “I know what your problem is. Everything is very simple. We are ideal people by nature who are endowed with the most advantageous prerequisites for happy life. But subtle enemies disturb our happiness. Let’s destroy an enemy and we will live as in a fairytale! Immediately. Without any additional efforts. The quicker and the more radical the measures are, the more guaranteed the result is!” And the “enemy” is being announced. 

Political extremism doesn’t need mass activity and a broad support. The minority always starts up and brings to rotation the “mincing machine” of the terror. It is not a coincidence that any totalitarian projects have a peculiarity to arise in small communities, extraparliamentary parties and in other “medium-undergrounds”.

Radical minority, attacking a dangerous “enemy”, is always stronger than any majority, busy with routine. It is possible to do everything that comes to one’s mind with an “enemy” who is beyond the law, beyond the right for compassion, protection, and presumption of innocence and also with any representative of “enemy kind” and any sympathizers. In such a way, all those, who could critically evaluate the situation or, at least, sympathize are blocked. Extremistically active marginal minority easily starts to impose its will on the majority.

Political extremism doesn’t need convincing reasons and arguments. Everything begins from the little. Baal Shem Tov liked to tell a parable about a drop of honey because of which a major war flared up. Emir Kusturica in the movie “Life is a miracle” demonstrates how within several days only Serbs and Bosnians turn into the most vicious enemies. “Manezh Square” began with a fight of football fans. The history of Ukraine also bears a lot of such examples.

If there is a political leader who claims that he takes all responsibility for “downsides”, and if everyone who wants to get even is given a possibility to do this on a no-name basis, in other words without explaining one’s grounds, calling a name, and what is even better – in a uniform and with a mask, as a part of an “emergency” organization, the maximum swing and intensity of the “measures” are guaranteed.

It doesn’t matter how stupid the ideas a la “arson of Reichstag” may seem to a normal person, their effectiveness consists in their shocking idiotism. And the only thing left afterwards is to saddle up a wave…

Is extremism a real threat for Ukraine? Unfortunately, it is. As the researches held by “Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS)” together with the “Institute of Human Rights and Prevention of Extremism and Xenophobia (IHRPEX)” demonstrate, 10% of the Ukrainian population approve violence over the representatives of some races and nationalities; around 17% of respondents have extremist attitudes. The most alerting results of the research are that the majority of people with extremist display do not represent the junior age group (as in the majority of the countries), but the middle age group – aged from 30 to 40. In addition, according to the level of education, people with extremist display do not belong to under-educated part of the society, but to the medium-educated one, so we deal with already formed personalities and formed points of views. In such sociological conditions it’s very difficult to talk over the questions about nation building, history, language, ethno national and migration policy without “foaming at the mouth”.

There is one more important moment – separate actions that are forms of extremism (fomentation of hostility, terrorism, obscenities due to hatred) are punished by law in Ukraine, but extremism itself is absent as juridical reality. Even if somebody commits any illegal action and makes a statement that he has committed it as an extremist, he will be punished, but according to a different article. There is a reference about extremism in the law on the fundamentals of national security, but the meaning of this phenomenon is even not explained in it. I think that legislators, sociologists, and politicians have to interpret this phenomenon over again and take a decision if there is a juridical phenomenon “extremism” in Ukraine or there is no. And what should be understood under this phenomenon?..

The only thing is evident, it will not be possible to “know less and sleep soundly” while millions of people in Ukraine are not socially and economically settled, and at the same time every other person is able to take apart the Kalashnikov gun, and every third person was brought up with the stories about revolutionaries, partisans, and national-liberators.

Alexander Feldman, UNIAN