Seizing the Logic
Many of my friends and colleagues who were unanimous in their indignation against the confrontation in Bankova, changed their opinion after the clashes in Hrushevskoho. They are not any longer convinced about the importance of a peaceful protest.
They began to accept the logic they had opposed before and rationalize, justify a physical attack. Radical methods – they admit – are also important and unavoidable. The authorities only react if the resistance poses threats, causes fears and brings havoc – otherwise it is not a proper resistance or a protest. Besides, the guys in Hrushevskoho are all “nice” and “normal”. And, by the way, the logic of “anything but war” is primitive, Soviet-like and outsider passive.
I agree with their reasoning but arrive at different conclusions.
The efficacy of a protest does indeed depend on how radical, critical and destabilizing it is. Peaceful standing in the Maidan did not create enough unrest and pose serious risks to the government, resulting in its low effectiveness. But the question is if violent confrontation is the only possible radical form of protest, capable of creating credible threats to the government? I also believe that turning to violence has proved a serious reactionary development in recent events. A shift from a peaceful protest to violent confrontation has heroicized violence and legitimized the rhetoric of hatred. It has authorized aggression, multiplied it, endowed with a special status and value and, ultimately, made it a precondition for victory, as if violence were the only possible way and cause of action.
But, above all, choosing a form of the protest is a part of what will happen after its goals are achieved.
Yes, the guys in Hrushevskoho are so “nice” and “normal”. But other guys, known as “titushkas” – they are the same guys, of the same age and occupation, and are also “nice” and “normal”. And football “ultras” are also “the same” guys who partly support Maidan, and partly those against it. But should we really be replacing a true assessment of people’s actions with a talk about “niceness”?
Yes, the logic “anything but war” is spineless and apolitical. But it is wrong to attribute it to those who look for a possibility of non-violent radical actions. It is rather a characteristic of those who shun any form of protest, preferring “anything but war”.
A World without Women
A possibility of a violent scenario became obvious before the actual attacks. It all started when women in the Maidan were asked to “gather near the podium” under a threat of a dispersal. Quite consequently in such context, the Maidan has turned into a parade of masculinity and everyday misogyny (look at how easily the word “prostitushki” has spread).
Nobody took to the Maidan’s stage to protest against such derision and othering of women, in spite of the fact that other forms of othering – especially by ethnicity – had been noticed and addressed. “Moskal” in the slogan “who does not jump is a moskal” was changed for “azirov”. Some bloggers expressed concern about the practice of othering by the style of clothes (or social class?). Gender othering, however, became almost implicitly accepted.
It reached its apogee in the sandwich kitchens, in the jokes about women from the Maidan’s stage, in widespread ridicule and the rhetoric of “real Cossacks who do not stay at home like women”, and even in the appearance of such Maidan announcements as: “Wanted: Young women to create a positive atmosphere for the EuroMaidan Cossacks”. Reportedly, women are not any longer allowed inside the battle zone in Hrushevskoho. And even if they were, it would not solve the problem. The real danger is that the exclusion of women has become part of the political economy of aggression.
I understand that my reasoning about peaceful protest may sound inadequate now, when the city chokes on gunfire and the smoke from burning tires; when the option of negotiations and non-violent protest is apriori denied importance and respectability. Nor am I trying to maintain neutrality that blends into the lack of principles. What I seek to do is to analyse and criticize the principle of male military confrontation that has been accepted so carelessly and has become widely authorized and emotionally heroicized.
From Ukrainian translated by Vladislava Reznik.