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September 4, 2014 / Congau

Our Good Guy Democrats

We are sure that our side is right. It’s easier that way. When having a preconceived idea of the world, future events will make more sense. We all do that. It’s natural and it’s human. Order is made from chaos, if only in our minds.

Of course nothing comes from nothing, and all conflicts have a cause in the past, but the chains of events are usually quite murky, and unfortunately for our peace of mind they are not easily reduced to handy formulas. But still we try. We wish to see simple forces of good and evil, and that wish is self-fulfilling and comes true.

For a conflict to make sense to the Western mind, at least one of the fighting parties must be called democratic. We generously grant this title of honor to whoever seems to be our allies. Those who fought against Gaddafi in Libya were democrats and thus received Western support. Those fighting against Assad in Syria were at first democrats, but the war has now dragged on for so long that a more complicated picture has had time to appear. In Ukraine, our side, the western side, are of course the democrats, and that has been the name we have given them.

Why not? They are on our side, therefore they are the good guys, therefore they are democrats. That makes the world simple and it saves us from the laborious task of digging slightly deeper into the recent history of the conflict, but it’s a dangerous practice for it raises the stakes and makes people more eager to be a part of the war. Everybody wants to fight for what is right.

But how can we be so sure? Some sober analysis would probably be a good idea before we throw in our unconditional backing. Are they really democrats, and if so, in what sense of the word? In the end they may still be worthy of our support, but that should not be based on simplified terminology without substantial meaning. So let’s ask the question what makes western Ukraine and it current government democratic and whatever is the underlying meaning of this word when applied to this particular conflict.

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