One of the challenges a writer faces–even if you have a great idea or a trend that you would like to be a part of–is a lack of specialised knowledge. Knowledge is like a great world tree that takes time to grow. But perhaps there are seeds inside me, seeds that were planted a long time ago.
I saw myself seated in class as my history teacher said in dramatic flair, “It was a clash of ideas! The clash between communism and capitalism… It was a clash of ideas. It is not that capitalism won. It is that communism collapsed.” What do I make of these teachings that wrote ‘The End’ when Gorbachev appeared on the scene?
If only life could provide us with a clear, succinct and final ‘The End’. But life never gives us that.
None of us is born into this world with a clean slate. There are histories we must grapple with. Sometimes it is our own. Sometimes it is of the people or peoples that we find ourselves faced with. It’s the same story with the Invasion of Ukraine. If you wanted to truly understand it, it would take decades. You would have to wave a magic wand and try and see the many events, trigger points and collection of stories that created this gigantic event that is playing out on the world stage.
I’ve heard stories of the former USSR that came to me via the Central Asians of the Stans that I met when I was working in Japan. They’re all Bilingual, Trilingual and Quadrilingual. It’s impressive. They speak Russian, their mother tongues as well as English and Japanese. Their linguistic abilities notwithstanding, they’re all deeply proud of their respective countries, in spite of all its imperfections. It’s rare to see that, even from people who are from the so-called blessed countries of the world.
Nationalism is a sense of identity that one feels, even when one is away from home. It is particularly strong amongst people from some nations and floppy among others. It is a sense that one belongs somewhere, even when the winds of commerce have brought you someplace else.
Ukraine’s quest for independence and recognition of its independence comes easily to Western media and to the liberal mindset. Who dreams of empire in our world? It is unthinkable. The best we can hope for is a business empire it seems and that, too, probably won’t last.
The Romanovs were in power for three centuries before the October Revolution that turned Russia–and half of the world–upside down. Rasputin’s role added a nice scandalous touch to that story. There’s nothing like a rumour that cannot be verified. He was a holy man and healer who’d grown increasingly close to the Tsarina and her son who was often sick.
In the press, Putin is represented as longing for an old empire that is no longer around. On the American news stations, I see the resurgence of an old enemy that they had forgotten about. When I lived in China, the Chinese were sure that they were the new enemy of the Americans, but it seems that old wounds can always be relived.
Is this a renaissance? It cannot be. For the past, while it has shaped the present, is no longer here. They say that history repeats itself. When I was younger, I may have bought into those cliches that we repeat so often that we think them to be true. You know, “History is written by the victors… History is repeating itself…” And so on…
Now I think that it is not possible for history to repeat itself. Nor is a true renaissance actually possible. Perhaps there existed old grievances that had never been laid to rest. And while empire may never be reborn, it may still cry out for the glory days it never truly ever had.
For even the glorious days were never that glorious to begin with. And even if they were given the privilege of time, they would be unable to repeat themselves.
All we would hear is an echo.