Dreams of Europe

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We often talk about there being "two Ukraines", about how compatible or incompatible they are, how love draws them together and mutual distrust drives them apart.

However, we rarely notice that Europe also has two faces. They look in different directions and only occasionally see each other.

There is the Europe that presents a more or less emotionless face of rules and regulations. This Europe ends somewhere along the frontier between Germany and Poland. A kind of Euro-protestantism prevails: it has lost faith in European civilization but preserved its sense of morality. The European idea has been transformed into a set of rules and a collection of institutional procedures. Where there is no faith, rules become paramount.

The other Europe is spontaneous and emotional, the Europe of faith. This is Young Europe, comprising in the main the countries of the former socialist bloc. For the people living in these countries, Europe is still a vision, an ideal, utopia. They believe in Europe but often ignore its rules. For them Europe is a kind of mystical ecstasy in which they can forget about legal codes. In the face of Euro-catholicism and Euro-orthodoxy, they are filled with faith and ready to die for Europe, but not always ready to live for it. For them rules are too trivial for them to be concerned with.

Us Ukranians, we are that other Europe.

All that remains of the faith that western Europeans – the Euro-protestants – once had in the absolute value of Europe is a set of rules and regulations, and so they find it hard to understand us. They cannot grasp the significance of our European flags waving in the midst of tales from Ukraine's days of glory, the fires of revolution and nationalist slogans.

They do understand a great deal about our protests, but they still cannot comprehend what is most important about them: for us Europe is emotion, not rules. It is a far-off ideal, in which we have faith. Europe is a deity with whom we wish to unite, not the set of rules that an absent deity's high priest would have us live by.

Europe is also a light at the end of a tunnel. When do you need a light like that? Only when it's pitch black all around. Why else have the protesters made a symbol out of the simple act of switching on the torch in their mobile telephones in the middle of the night? Because each torch is a little light at the end of a little tunnel.

***

There is a paradox at the heart of the Ukrainian rebellion. It is an ideal milieu for society as a whole to live and grow in just the same way as a living organism lives and grows. But outside of the actual rebellion, there is virtually no such thing as society: there are only individuals and tribes – a "war of every man against his neighbour", in which no one trusts anyone else. People are divided into families, clans and groups, not only "there", "on the top of the heap", but also "here", "at the bottom".

However, human beings are creatures who can conceive of something greater than small communities. People feel stifled in small communities, and just a small amount of solidarity often proves insufficient. There are times when people yearn for the universal brotherhood of humankind. It is this utopian brotherhood that is the ideal society.

All the Kremlin propaganda about "revolutions funded from abroad" is wrong, not only at a practical level, but also at a personal level. People in Ukraine are not coming out on to the streets in the hope of getting something; they do so in order to give. They freely give of their time, their comfort, their food, their possessions, their money, their joys, hopes and sorrows. In short, their daily bread. And they are not looking for anything in return.

We are no longer dealing with "colour revolutions". We are dealing with revolutions in which people make a gift of themselves.

***

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Originally Published in This Issue of Krytyka