Ukraine – One American Expatriate’s Point of View

As an American who has been living in Kharkiv, Ukraine for the past two years, I’m often asked for my opinion on the current situation in Ukraine by Ukrainians. I’m also often the recipient of concern for my well-being from friends back in the USA. While I’ve exchanged private email and messages with a number of people, and posted a few news stories to my accounts on Facebook and VK, I haven’t actually written up a statement of my own until now. I guess the time has finally come for me to write a few things about the current state of affairs here in Ukraine, and in Kharkiv in particular.

A Brief History Lesson

The Kievan Rus, 8th-9th Century

The Kievan Rus, 8th-9th Century

To even begin to understand the situation in Ukraine, I think Americans need a bit of a history lesson. The fact is that most Americans probably couldn’t have located Ukraine on a map before the recent unrest began, and most of them have zero understanding of Eastern European history. As evidence of this, I cite one question that Americans frequently ask me about Ukraine: “Isn’t the Ukraine part of Russia?” No, Ukraine is not part of Russia, and it’s not “the Ukraine” anymore. During the Soviet era, Ukraine was one of the republics of the USSR, and was known as “the Ukraine” in the west as it was a regional republic within a larger whole (the USSR). Today it is an independent nation, and as a result, the “the” before its name has been dropped. In any case, Americans really do need a bit of a history lesson when it comes to understanding politics, society, and ethnic issues in Eastern Europe, as they generally don’t understand much of anything about this entire region.

The Kievan Rus was established in the 9th century by the Varangians as the first historically recorded Eastern Slavic state. It rose to substantial influence and power during the Middle Ages, but had disintegrated by the end of the 12th century. It was invaded by Lithuanians, Poles, and Mongols, and its territories belonged to those groups entirely by the 14th century. In the 15th century, various regions of modern Ukraine were ruled by the Polish, the Lithuanians, and the Crimeans. By the 18th century, Ukraine had been split between the Poles and the Russians. By the 19th century, it was possessed by the Austrians (and later the Austro-Hungarians) and the Russian Empire, and it remained so until the 20th century. Read more »

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Imagine if…

Imagine that you are a woman, and you were born in 1968. As a child, you fantasized about having a husband and family of your own one day. When you grew older, those fantasies started to take on a more sexual nature, and you began to imagine losing your virginity and having sex with a man you loved. Imagine that you read about sex, love, and intimacy in magazines and books, and saw it portrayed in the cinema. It was usually portrayed either as something beautiful, emotional, and pleasurable, or sometimes as something raw, dirty, and lustful. Whenever you saw portrayals of a person having sex without consent, it was portrayed as evil, horrible, and destructive. So, naturally you were interested in sex. You wanted to feel that pleasure for yourself. You thought about it often, and couldn’t wait until you met that special man you felt safe enough to share your first sexual experience with.

Imagine that such a man finally came along, and after several months of courtship and fooling around, you decided it was time to lose your virginity. You shared yourself with him, and it was…painful…not much to speak of. You asked around for more information from your friends, and discovered this was not uncommon the first time, or even the first few times. Some of your friends told you that all you needed was more practice and experience, so you kept trying. Read more »

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Government, Extortion, and You

Government vs. Mafia: What's the Difference?As an anarchist, I see the world through some quite different lenses than most people. I see government as nothing more than another kind of Mafia; one backed by pieces of paper written hundreds of years ago, and agreed to by small groups of men huddled in special rooms, discussing the best methods for running and maintaining what they euphemistically called, “civilization.” To me, however, what they discussed and agreed to hardly seems civilized. In fact, their agreements seem downright barbaric. For me, there seems precious little difference between the State and the Mafia.

How do government agents differ from Mafiosi? Is there a difference at all, or do they have essentially the same function? I’ll be exploring these questions in the remainder of this article. Read more »

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Would You Use Violence Against Me?

Arrested for wearing masks at OWS protest

Arrested for wearing masks at OWS protest

This may sound like a silly question. You’re probably already thinking, “of course not!” Bear with me and keep reading, because I’m going to dig into some of the nitty-gritty details of how our global culture works, and you’ll see exactly why I am asking you this question.

Consider some government program that you really love.  It doesn’t matter where you place yourself in the political spectrum, or what the issue is. You might be pro-choice or pro-life, and your local government supports your position. You might be in favor of universal health care or against it, and your local government supports your position. You might be in favor of invading Iran or against it, and your local government supports your position. It doesn’t matter the issue. Just find something that you believe is a just cause, and your government supports that cause. For most people, this should be easy.

If you can’t think of an issue, then take a few minutes, maybe do some Internet research, and come back and continue reading once you have an issue that fits the bill.

Now that you have an issue, let me say that I completely support your right to have that opinion.

I do not agree with that same government program.  So, let me ask you this: Are you willing to give me the same consideration that I am giving you to be against that program? Are you willing to allow me to disagree with you?  Are you willing to allow me that without using force against me to make me support that cause?

It wouldn’t make any sense, would it, if I were not allowed to act upon my disagreement.  Correct?

If you like that government program, you should be free to support it in any way you choose.  You’re welcome to give as much money you like to support that cause. You’re welcome to volunteer your bodily efforts in supporting that cause. I would never dream of using force against you to prevent you from supporting that cause.

Are you willing to give me the same consideration I’m giving you?  Am I free to act upon my disagreement in the same way? Am I free to not pay for that same government program due to my disagreement with it? Am I free to not give my bodily efforts in support of that cause?

Am I free to not like and not support that program without you advocating the threat of force or use of force against me?

Please realize that it does not matter which government program we’re talking about, but I’ll give you a number of programs which I disagree with, do not like, and do not want to pay for or give my bodily support to: The Department of Education, Social Security, Medicare, the Armed Forces, Foreign Wars, Corporate Welfare Programs, Personal Welfare Programs.  Those are just the tip of the iceberg, but there should be something in there for everyone.

Do you support the use of force against me for my refusal to pay for these programs, for my refusal to agree with these programs, for my refusal to lend my bodily support to these programs?  Or do you afford me the same rights and peaceful solution I afford you: to support or not support any programs in whatever ways you see fit?

I will not pick up the gun to force you to support any program I believe in.

Will you pick up the gun to force me to support any program you believe in?

Realize that the government will absolutely use force against me, allegedly on behalf of the taxpaying citizens who voted for that program. They will pick up the gun. They will threaten to use it, or potentially actually use it, for my refusal to participate. Your use of government is merely the indirect use of the gun against me.

Violence is at the core of the Statist solution to social problems. The gun is the core of the Statist prescription for “improving” the world.

Your support of The State, regardless of your support of whatever program, is the support of the use of the gun against every person who refuses to participate in or fund whatever government program.

Will you continue to use that gun, or will you put it down, step away from it, and choose a more peaceful path through life? Will you use a proxy of force against me to solve the world’s problems?  Or will you reject that proxy in favor of a peaceful, non-forceful method of organizing society?

Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh

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Voluntaryism: Building an Authentic Human Civilization

Anarchism = Peace

Anarchism = Peace

When I stand up for voluntaryism in my life, people often make the argument to me that people are inherently evil, and will inherently do evil to one another, and that without government to protect the people, they will suffer.

If you believe our species to truly have this within our nature, then I say to you that you have never watched the development of children. No child is born with the belief in the divinity of their own race above all others. No child is born believing in the divinity of Barack Obama. No child is born believing in the divinity of United States of America, or Caucasians, or Catholics, Muslims, Jews, or what-the-hell-ever.

When a child does wrong, either by intent or by accident, we can see the immediate guilt upon them. They feel bad, regardless of whether they meant to cause harm or not.

No child believes in destroying his fellows without first being brutalized by an adult, or one of his peers. Read more »

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A Few Questions About Animal Rights

animal rights protest

If humans don't eat them, what will?

There’s one question that I’ve never seen adequately answered by any of the animal rights activists with whom I’ve discussed the issue:

What do you think will happen to all those animals when humans stop eating them?

Humans are the only natural predator left for the majority of them. Think about it. Some species will run amok, others will go through mass starvations and die-offs, and others may simply go extinct. At the very least, ecosystems that now have at least some form of balance will become totally unbalanced and spend decades if not centuries re-adjusting to the new circumstances before they reach equilibrium. If you can answer how to deal with this issue without killing animals, I’m all ears. So far, the animal rights folks I have spoken with score a zero with useful responses. All their solutions ultimately end up in mass casualties of animals, which were going to happen anyway, if we just left things as they are. If anyone reading this post has a legitimate and workable response that does not involve killing animals, I’ll be super-impressed. Read more »

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A Few Questions About Taxes

Tax Protest in London

Tax Protest in London

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that taxes and budget in the USA are related (they’re not), and that if 10% of the budget goes to something, that 10% of your tax dollars go to that same thing (this doesn’t happen).  (Note: In reality, the income tax goes to paying the interest on the national debt, and the USA borrows more money from the Federal Reserve to pay for all those services we’re about to discuss.)

Let’s also assume that our hypothetical wage slave (aka: taxpayer) earns $75k per year, and pays taxes within the standard range on that salary.

That means our hypothetical wage slave pays about $22,500 per year in state and federal income taxes, depending on the state in which he resides.  This does not even take into account the additional taxes he pays every year on things like: utilities, gasoline, products he buys, etc.

Where does his $22,500 go? Read more »

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Arguing Against Statism

statismI am an anarchist, and I get really annoyed speaking with statists.  Their reasoning and ideas are so deeply flawed, and they’re so hopelessly inured of them that it feels like banging my head against a wall.  So I’ve written this post to (hopefully) shine a bright light into the face of darkness.

Anarchism, Libertarianism and other like philosophies are rooted in the (outlandish?) notion that interactions between humans should be conducted voluntarily rather than forcibly.  The State always uses force, and thus I am opposed to the State.

First: I want you to imagine for a moment that the entire planet is overrun with Mafia families. No matter where you go, except for extremely remote places, the Mafia rules in one form or another. Different families control their domains differently. Read more »

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The Cautionary Tale of Timmy McGinnis

vandal arrestedI’d like to tell you a story about my fictional friend, Timmy McGinnis.

Timmy was a pretty normal guy, who did pretty normal things for a young man.  That is to say, Timmy did some things that were against the law.  He liked to smoke pot, and he occasionally played a practical joke on someone that might involve vandalism.  He also liked sex.  He routinely filmed his practical jokes, pot smoking, and sexual escapades with a video camera he had received as a gift for his 16th birthday.

One day, some police officers came to Timmy’s home with a search warrant.  It seems one of the women that Timmy had consensual sex with had filed rape charges against Timmy.  Timmy had only had consensual sex with this girl, we’ll call her Sandy Vagina, but unfortunately for Timmy, she was drunk at the time, and she didn’t appreciate the fact that he’d posted the video he shot of them having sex to the internet.  It was quite clear from the video that Sandy was completely intoxicated.  She seemed to be having a good time in the video, but the jury decided she was drunk, and therefore she couldn’t “meaningfully consent,” and Timmy had raped her.  Timmy was sentenced to 15 years, and was released on good behavior after 7 years. Read more »

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Central Banking for Dummies

burning moneyA lot of people in the USA now understand that the Federal Reserve (similar to most other central banks around the world) is a private bank that controls the money supply, allegedly on behalf of the government, despite that the government has the right to do this itself through Congress.  That’s thanks to people like Ron Paul and the Campaign for Liberty. But most still do not really understand how the Fed works. Allow me to break it down for you in personal terms.

Imagine that you are the government of the United States; or more specifically, you are the US Treasury. Now imagine that your bank (let’s call your bank Fubar Bank International) is the Federal Reserve. Finally, imagine that your wages or other forms of income were the taxes raised by government and the IRS (also a private company). If that were the case, this is how your banking would work:

You would work, and when your paycheck arrived, it would not actually belong to you. It would be directly deposited into Fubar Bank. Read more »

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