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OPINION: A humanitarian crisis in the making

'We kept taking apart the Russian nesting dolls, hoping a better one was inside. Nope, we ended up with the same thing'
A Vancouver rally in support of Ukraine.

I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that we are shocked, horrified and angered by what is taking place in Ukraine. If you are having a bad day, read no further. There is no silver lining. I don’t have enough candy to coat this.

For me, this crisis is a reminder of something I learned a long time ago. Bullies often win. Bashar al Assad is still in power in Syria, the Taliban is rounding up people in Afghanistan and Russia is engaged in an unprovoked invasion of a country to gain a new satellite.

We all want peace, but sometimes simply hugging it out doesn’t work. Even those who might support this war must wonder about the consequence from lives lost, financial collapse and environmental destruction. So far, Russian leaders think that’s okay. 

Ruminating about recent events in Canada, you may want to call Mr. Trudeau a dictator for trying to stop three weeks of trucker protests and disruptions. However, Mr. Putin arrested more than a thousand war protesters within a few hours. That is a true dictatorship. 

Having been in the middle of a few wars, I always want to seek peace and compromise. Often it works, but sometimes the peace pipe is tossed in your face. 

I’ve seen it in my own business life and in families. If sociopaths, bullies and narcissists eventually get their comeuppance, it can take years and many people suffer along the way. Karma just doesn’t always work in our favour.

In the employee/human resources world, troublemakers often end up leaving with golden handshakes, if ever. Organizations are happy to avoid messy lawsuits. It happens in families as well when dealing with family estates, wills and divorces. Life is not fair. All of these villains seem to be able to brush themselves off and unleash their tactics elsewhere. Behind them is a wake of destruction. 

As far as Ukraine goes, this is the Soviet Russia we grew up with in the 60s. We kept taking apart the Russian nesting dolls, hoping a better one was inside. Nope, we ended up with the same thing. Perestroika has long since evaporated. What’s old is new again. 

I do see a problem for Russia. It is a thin hope. This is not the old days of the Soviet Union where information depended on micro-film and secret messages. This is the Internet age with an ability to use the dark web for communication and the all-pervasive social media that we love to hate. They may gain something, but they have lost anybody who might be sympathetic.

Also, Ukrainians are no longer simple peasant farmers like some of my wife’s relatives who settled in Alberta nearly 100 years ago. They are educated, sophisticated Europeans, Westerners. They have not just tasted freedom, they’ve had the full meal. And one more problem, not all Russians are so willing to simply trust their government like in Soviet times. These are different days. We’ll have to see if any of this makes any difference.

To borrow from Seinfeld when Jerry has rented a car on paper, but they did not hold it for him—he declares that holding is really the important part. Taking a country is one thing, but holding it is another. No doubt Mr. Putin has a plan for that, but humans have a way of making things difficult, especially when fighting for something they believe in.


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About the Author: Philip Maher

Philip Maher is a consultant and photojournalist. He has managed international communication projects for more than 20 years, taking him to more than 80 countries. His twitter is @mercytraveller.
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