Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
21.10.2006 | Yevhen Sverstyuk
Point of view

The word must strive towards truth


The Ukrainian information realm in the broad sense is our knowledge of ourselves and our knowledge of our historical calling. Without understanding of this calling – on the border of two worlds – any conversations about a national idea are empty chatter.

In higher Ukrainian individuals the awareness has crystallized of this role. Yet the pettier mass said that this was a mirage, useless from a practical angle.

Ukraine’s age-long tradition lies in those higher not having strong shoulders to lean on, reliable support from the nation, a spiritual centre, religious communities.

Our first task is to create this nation from those people who not so long ago were considered building material.

How can we awake in each Ukrainian a person with honour and dignity?

This is the first question which faces the media, schools, the Church, the State.

This question should be posed each day by every teacher and journalist.

What is the situation like with the information realm today?  Firstly, it is up to its ears in the bog of communist standards, applied by the Russian state to post-communist reality. We are immersed in the mire of entrenched lies and crafty propaganda directed at weakening Ukraine.  Ukrainian broadcasting is littered with Russian pop culture, the Ukrainian market is inundated with Russian cheap rubbish.

And this is reflected in the corresponding chaos in people’s minds.

However let’s not forget that we have never had such freedom, never had so much world recognition as a state, nor had Ukraine ever been the focus of so much world attention as it was in autumn 2004.  Never have our politicians had such a chance to honestly find a place in the nation’s history. And never have Ukrainian journalists had such a chance to establish a good name for themselves!

And a good name is the main thing in life. Some think that it is position, capital. Yet these are ephemeral moths in comparison with a good name which remains among the people, and in history.

Over the 15 years of Ukraine’s independence how many have sparkled and then fizzled out! Sometimes it was people who were capable, and had character. Sometimes it was successful ministers like Hryhory Kypra. 

What did they lack?

They lacked a high goal and the gift to serve. Had they had this gift of commitment to serving Ukraine, they would now only be attaining their peak in our eyes.

What do the people expect from each of us?

They expect a good example of civic activity, an example of the dignity and stoicism needed at all times.

They are very ready to heed an honest voice.

Of course it is difficult to rise up. Of course we are dependent on circumstances. One person is dependent on the owner of the channel. Another on pressure from the family. A third is influenced by his own weak nature and the temptation of cheap success.

A person is prone to be the same as all the others. However as with all of them, this descends into mediocrity.

The individual begins with the daring effort to rise above mediocrity contingent on circumstances.

History begins with the flight from bondage.

Thinking of our present journalism, it sometimes reminds me of a nervous lady moaning and criticizing all the time.

She moans about bad weather, about the rain, the heat …

She gathers bad rumours and savours them. She has reconciled herself to the feeling of being worth less. A nervous being is ready for any capitulation.

Of course in our information sphere there are clear-headed and sober minds, there are talented individuals.

It would be good if they created their club, their school, their higher circle which would provide a good standard, would create a moral climate.

We badly need the creation of such a core because of the malignant rot of the past which ferments in weak individuals.

We need to develop journalism with influence and authority, like that which developed over centuries in Europe.

We need influential names to stand out from among journalists in political life.

We need people with a high sense of responsibility and intrepidity.

And, very importantly, we need a deep Christian foundation for words with substance.

The word must strive towards truth, towards the rock. And let fickle waves crash against it.

Only such a word has lasting force.

I would especially like to stress the national instinct in our journalism. I avoid the word “nationalism” as too vague.  Present-day nationalism descends into rhetoric. And we need a healthy national instinct which will guide us in holding our heads high and at each step affirm our dignity and responsibility.

The national instinct prompts a courteous Frenchman in response to your question in English to reply in French.

The instinct reminds a Pole that wherever he may be, he is a Pole. Admittedly though, all of Poland speaks only in Polish.

The constitutional norms regarding the Ukrainian language will work in Ukraine when they begin to work in each citizen. The Ukrainian language will become dominant when we cease slavishly accommodating ourselves to the street and to individuals who ignore the Constitution.

It is at ourselves, at our weakness that we need to complain.

However the national instinct relates first and foremost to love. It is only love that tells us how to care, and nurture and protect. It is this that is the “national idea”.

If that idea were in the air, we would not have such a “political elite” which builds its political platform on anti-Ukrainian playing cards. That means on civic immaturity. The eastern regions are simply derelict and neglected regions, from the sanitary, cultural and national point of view, where they deported or recruited people from western regions and led them to forget their language and customs.  It is they whom Russian political technologists are trying to use.

A kind of rehabilitation is needed there in optimum cultural conditions.

The Ukrainian information provisions should gradually return people to the norms, i.e. transform negative confrontation into natural cooperation based on principles of law.

Unfortunately, we are forced to spell out axioms regarding the defence of national interests, the defence and observance of the law, the dignity of the citizen and the state. And we must explain these axioms to those people who want to govern the Ukrainian state, and also to journalists who want to provide the country with information.

At the same time we have a people who achieved the miracle of Maidan 2004, who did not forget their dream to be freed of lawlessness, their rejection of slavery passed down over generations which was used for a dictatorship of terror.

The people are traumatized and tormented. Yet they free themselves from slavery quicker than the political elite.

I was startled that my improvised address to the roundtable attended by the President[1] received such a lot of attention from the public. After all things were simply called by their real names, and there was the reminder that God’s Law is unchanging and eternal and is for everybody.

This attention shows that the people will already not endure criminality, deception and betrayal. They want an honest and worthy regime.

They want information which is truthful and uplifts the spirit. A healthy spirit spurns falsehood, temerity and all forms of inadequacy.

Faintheartedness sighs that Maidan 2004 has been lost. Commonsense tells us that Maidan showed the end to an age of slavery. We will swallow yet one more wave of shame in the return of the revolting guests to our not yet cleaned house  however the period of their return is by now a short farce. And in that short period the state roles will have to be played according to the rules of decency and national tact.

Of course one will have to remind them constantly “you too are people”

“and do not sully God’s image with dirt

Do not try to fool your children that they are here on this earth

Only to be ruled” (Taras Shevchenko)

But in order to be reminded that one needs to hold oneself high.

[1]  This roundtable was convened by President Yushchenko to try to end the political stalemate in the Verkhovna Rada, and led to the Universal Memorandum.  As well as the leaders of the political factions in parliament, a small number of public figures were also invited  (translator’s note)

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