Ukraine must build a strong civil society to overcome the current crisis
I am a Ukrainian, and twenty three years ago I was fortunate enough to escape the oppressive communist regime by defecting from USSR. Doing so, put me in the position to get a quality education and provided me with a unique opportunity to travel the world, observe various cultures and understand how different societies worked. I was able to live and work in 10 countries and travel to 55 of them.
Of course, each country had its positive as well as negative sides, but as I continued my globetrotting, I started to notice a peculiar pattern. One element was stubbornly present in all of the societies where the middle class was sizable (above 50%) and actually lived well.
This aspect was the sense of responsibility. The people saw the wellbeing of their society as their personal responsibility instead of delegating that job to their rulers. Sure the government and the politicians were in charge of running & reforming their respective countries, but at all times they had organized civil society breathing down their necks.
The people cared about what is going on at the top, they paid attention, they discussed political developments and most importantly they readily voiced dissatisfaction with the government and the politicians. They took specific actions to influence the leaders, by writing to their elected representatives, meeting them in person, organizing movements, striking and protesting if their concerns were not addressed.
As a result the governments and the politicians paid attention and for the most part acted in accordance with the expectations of the people.
I am convinced that Ukraine finds itself in the current predicament simply because it lacks a strong civil society. For the last 23 years, since Ukraine’s independence from the USSR, the elites were always financing and thus controlling the government, parliament, and the big media. The courts have been and continuing to be rotten with corruption. As a result the economy is in shambles, the investment climate is terrible, and injustice as well as corruption is omnipresent, yet majority of the people are passive and silent.
Only a small number of brave souls (less than 0.5%) actively protested this winter and even that small number was strong enough to depose the corrupt regime of the former president Yanukovich. But today, if we are to stand any chance of reforms, we need more people getting involved in breathing down the new government’s necks. And we need them everywhere in the country, not just the capital. Unless this happens our country is doomed.