From Big Bangs to Little Whimpers

Yesterday was one of those curious days one suspects will prove more important than anyone realised at the time. On the one hand, there was the public announcement that an American team working on the BICEP2 project had found a residual marker for cosmic inflation (see the brief BBC report here); on the other, President Putin signed an order recognizing Crimean independence and approved a draft bill on the absorption of the peninsula into the Russian Federation. The contrast between the excitement over extraordinary new evidence in support of the Big Bang Theory for the origin of the Universe and the sick feeling that Ukraine was being destroyed with barely a whimper could not have been more marked.

The Universe is too big a subject for most of us to grasp, but what is happening in Ukraine touches us all. There have been the inevitable sabre-rattlers with half-remembered notions of how the First and Second World Wars started, who are anxious to ‘stop Putin in his tracks’ — usually at the cost of other people’s lives. There have been the indifferentists who think the Crimea not worth bothering about and don’t mind being called ‘appeasers’ by the sabre-rattlers. Then there are those who are aware of the labyrinthine ties between Russia and Ukraine, Russia and Crimea, and the economic and political mess Ukraine is in whatever the outcome of the present difficulty. Western politicians, by and large, simply don’t ‘get’ the complexity of the situation, tending instead to see everything through the lens of their own experience.

If Syria has made us recognize how defenceless ordinary people are in the face of mutual hatred and joy in destruction, the situation in the Crimea reminds us that people may not want to live as we think they should. It is worth thinking through the implications of that and acting accordingly. We must pray for a peaceful resolution of the situation, but we should also pray that those engaged in trying to find a diplomatic solution should have the humility and generosity of spirit to recognize the right of others to live as they think best.


5 thoughts on “From Big Bangs to Little Whimpers”

  1. My concern for the Ukrainian and Crimean situation is that politicians are more concerned with the politics of the situation, than the people in the situation.

  2. “Men are born free and are everywhere in chains. They run to their chains.”~ The Social Contract R. Roussou

    The ties that bind often cultural, linguistic, mythical. “Mother’ Russia, for those who spent near a lifetime in a gulag, must be more than an irony for what mother would treat a child so? But to be awash in a world of insecurity, myth and half memory shine a more agreeable light than what some say is truth. Crimea has made its bed, now let them lie in it.

    • Some Crimeans, perhaps. I’m not sure what the Tatar population may be thinking. The referendum did not give voters the option of retaining the status quo. There is also the fact that many nations formerly within the Soviet block must be eyeing events in Ukraine with some anxiety. What would membership of NATO signify if Russia were to invade any other territory? How many countries might be drawn into the conflict, and at what cost?

  3. It is an interesting moment. Crimea was an autonomous Republic within Ukraine before the events of last month. What that means, constitutionally, I have no idea. I do know that there was an effort by the central government to take away Russian as the first language and as a former teacher of the dominant language to Native American speakers, I am perhaps hyper-vigilant around the intent and consequences of such actions. So, I watch referenda in Scotland, the decades of Basque struggle for its own identity, the joy of Russian speaking people in Crimea that for nostalgia or paranoia or real fear are being rescued from cultural annihilation by Russia and wonder some more. Are we at a point where we fear more the loss of who we are, how we see ourselves through language and customs than we are of geopolitics? Is this a devolution toward tribalism in an ever increasing homogenized marketplace of conformity, including linguistic uniformity where English is becoming the “lingua Franca’? It is too large a question for me to grapple with now but the Arab Spring, and the events in Darfur and Crimea all beg the question, have we made the world safe enough for small groups to seek their moment in the sun?

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