Discover more from EO+WD | Employee Ownership + Workplace Democracy
The Russian Invasion is Forging Ukraine's Winter Soldiers into Democratic Citizens
Ukrainians are seen leaning into democratic ideals in the middle of war.
As the Russia-Ukraine war continues to unfold, the world has seen Ukrainians defending their home through unity and mutual reliance. In sharing food and resources with people who can’t wait in lines, driving trains coming back with supplies after evacuating others, housing strangers in volunteer shelters, aiding troops in making Molotov cocktails, and fighting without question, Ukrainians have been coming together to practice an emergency participatory democracy. While Ukraine is receiving aid from various outside sources such as the Salvation Army or the UN, it is mainly the citizens themselves putting the interests and needs of their peers first without any request from the government or holding a position in government.
According to Julia Keugten, Senior Advisor at the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Participatory Democracy is “concerned with ensuring that citizens are afforded an opportunity to directly participate, or otherwise be involved in the decisions that affect their lives.” While this seems bound to happen on an individual level when in a war-zone where everyone is left to fend for themselves and thus has complete control over the decisions they make in their lives, civilians are in-fact not acting alone or against each other. This goes to show a sort of human nature to equally all participate in the betterment of the majority, even when not seeking a reward or title. Ukraine has and is showing the power of democracy as well as the instinctive manner in which people, when all experiencing the same losses, fall into democracy on all scales, big and small. In this, Ukrainians are exhibiting what Rebecca Solnit argues is basic human nature in the face of disaster:
“In the wake of an earthquake, a bombing, or a major storm, most people are altruistic, urgently engaged in caring for themselves and those around them, strangers and neighbors as well as friends and loved ones. The image of the selfish, panicky, or regressively savage human being in times of disaster has little truth to it." - Rebecca Solnit.
As tighter and tighter centralization of power leads authoritarian to crumble, we may see a riptide of democracy pulling in the opposite direction, giving power and choice back to citizens. The citizenship Ukrainians have displayed in battle need not stop once the war is over. One Ukrainian resident, Vladymir Balabanov, sets his hopes high for the country’s revival after seeing and engaging in this natural emergence of participatory democracy stating, “People who fled are coming back now. We see our country in a new way. We have changed, and we want to change Ukraine for the better. A year of war has left us tired, but with hope.”
Read more about Rebecca Solnit’s hopeful vision of humanity on The Marginalian.