Turning Power into Show: Ukrainian Experience
Ukraine became the first playground in Europe where supranational elites were testing various social technologies aimed at mitigation of the role of the State in people’s life. The classical model of the State is obsolete, it’s time to transform it into a show.
Whoever stays behind the process, they act very consistently. The so-called Euro-Maydan revolution of 2014 was a carefully stage-managed event that impacted the worldview of millions of Ukrainians badly. A highly corrupt model of the State oligarchy based on historical connections with even more corrupt oligarchy from Moscow was replaced with a seemingly democratic “new course” of Poroshenko and Co.
Over 5 years of his presidency, the last residuals of constitutional law were compromised by an unprecedented anti-people policy that resulted in an endless war in Donbass, multimillion migration, and record decline of living standards of common people. His fake pro-European rhetoric is nothing but eye washing for the Western partners who should ignore the omnipresent corruption which has infiltrated the whole pyramid of the Ukrainian State hierarchy. In 2019, the State corruption in Ukraine probably reached its limit. Hence, it doesn’t make sense to keep Poroshenko in power any longer once he can offer nothing new with his system of state looting. Ukraine was accepted the poorest European Country in 2018.
Nevertheless, Ukrainians seem to be one of the most adaptive and flexible nations in Europe. They found out how to survive in almost unbearable conditions of the total poverty and lawlessness. Some of them left the motherland to strive abroad as guest workers. The others managed to arrange their living in Ukraine through minimizing their interactions with the State as possible. However, such modus operandi has had its day. The new model of Power commends itself after the president election of 2019.
Such a model is represented by a leader of the present presidential race Volodymyr Zelenskyi. What makes Mr. Zelenskyi special is his alienation towards the old oligarchy-fed sandbox from which all the other candidates (including Poroshenko) are originated. Rumors try to link Zelenskyi with one of the old enemies of Poroshenko a billionaire Igor Kolomoyskyi. But it would be too primitive to be true. Besides, Kolomoyskyi is going through quite tough times now while living in Geneva in exile. And even if so, it does not change an emerging trend becoming more and more visible in a political landscape of Ukraine.
The trend implies domination of a playful media discourse over a traditional bureaucratic populism based on seemingly professional approaches to improving governance of the Country. People are sick and tired from a boring roundabout of the same overcorrupt bureaucrats who exchange chairs in government over decades. Their empty promises have turned into a tasteless mental chewing gum that would not work anymore. Being fully aware that life in Ukraine can hardly get better in a nearest perspective, people are looking for a colorful show with amazing characters capable of giving a fresh impetus in their gloomy day-to-day routine.
And Mr. Zelenskyi can deliver what Ukrainians are looking for — the true excitement. The less professional he looks in a State governance the better. His personal charisma along with creativity of his team represents what the retrograde thieves from the State establishment are unable to defeat — a totally different agenda of unusual political steps, weird public discourse, down-to-earth relatable humanity, and complete disrespect to powers-that-be. He communicates with public via video clips, internet memes, and TV shows. He demonstrates that a State management is not something special — even a comic can do. He insists that the only property a good president must possess is a personal human decency. This is the most powerful anti-system protest in the Ukrainian political environment ever. And people take it with clapping.
What would be the final consequences of such a show-like government if Mr. Zelenskyi wins the presidency? First and the most important effect is that the State as a system will loose sacrality. No piety towards governmental institutions with their historical backgrounds will erode an obsolete people’s belief in the right of a Tsar, Hetman, or President to act on his own while the commoners take it for granted. In a limit, people should give up honoring State hierarchies. The aim is to show that any vertical hierarchy of a traditional State government is irrelevant to what is happening in reality as though no hierarchy is available at all.
The second effect might be in a radical simplification of governance structures. Interactions between the State and the citizens should be primitive enough to be executed through a mobile application at your smartphone. Tapping screens should be sufficient to vote, pay taxes, or establish a company. The simpler the better. Hence, hundreds of parliamentarians as well as thousands of governmental bureaucrats would become redundant. The Estonian Electronic Government seems an appropriate exemplary use case.
Yet another and probably the less obvious effect implies blurring the line between the State and the corporatocracy. Staying formally the State regions, different parts of Ukraine would be actually involved in the sphere of interests of various transnational business entities. “This is all about economy, stupid” should be transformed from a famous conspiracy motto into an actual state of affairs. Corporatization of the Nation State would lead to domination of commercial interests of the global elites over any national agenda. What can better orchestrate globalization than refusing to take the State seriously?
Can Mr. Zelenskyi and his team reach the given goals in a seamless manner during the next 5 years? Nobody but time will tell. Will common Ukrainians benefit from the show-like governance? Highly unlikely. Will Ukrainian plutocratic oligarchy be destroyed to zero? Hope it will. Will you see the next stage of an unprecedented social experiment in the post-Soviet space? Undoubtedly you will.