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The following text was presented by Ihor Andriichuk as part of the New School for Social Research Forum on War in Ukraine on March 23, 2022.
Good afternoon, dear faculty, and colleagues. As you are joining us today from your homes and workplaces, millions of people in Ukraine no longer have such things. As I am speaking to you now, they are constantly being killed by all types of weapons that are available and in all circumstances that are possible. I am invited here today as a Ukrainian—that means a person with a blue passport. I am addressing you today not as an exile, not as a victim, not as a local voice. I am speaking to you today as a Ukrainian with a degree in philosophy—and that has very little to do with the color of my passport.
We have a forum here today. Sadly, I liked the Greeks more than the Romans. So, I would stick to the dialogue—in its classical Socratic form. I will not provide you with an answer, yet I have plenty of questions for you. Please hear me out.
How did we end up here? How did we end up in a world where people in the country contributing ten percent to the world’s grain export are starving to death? How did it happen that people in a country with the third-largest river in Europe have no drinking water? How did it happen that there is no electricity in a country with fifteen nuclear reactors?
How did we end up with silence? How did we end up in a world where feminists are not condemning the bombing of a maternity hospital? How did it happen that there is no sympathy for the women giving birth in subway stations and basements? How did it happen that rapes are not aggravating anymore? How did it happen that the general public is concerned about bullying but not about bombing?
What happened to activism? How did it happen that the green energy advocates do not protest the use of revenue from fossil fuels to finance war atrocities? How did it happen that the animal rights advocates do not see animals suffering alongside humans? Is that because humans no longer have rights? How did it happen that humanitarian corridors are now the sites of crimes against humanity?
What happened to our own university? How did it happen that professors are not condemning the killings of their colleagues by indiscriminate attacks? How did we end up in an institution where literary scholars are calling it a crisis? How does it fit the legacy of the Graduate Faculty? How did it happen that we are once again raising money for the University in Exile?
Sometimes I am asking myself a horrendous question: do we really read the literature in our syllabi? There is Hannah Arendt—but how is it possible for people who read her books not to see the evil she described? There is Lenin (or, if you like, Trotsky—also a Ukraine-born New Yorker)—but how did it come for the readers to ignore violence unfolding? There is also Carl Schmitt—but has the concept of war turned into some kind of champagne? Should we call it a sparkling crisis if France and Germany are not participating?
I spent three years at the New School. I haven’t met many Socrateses on our campus or in Zoom. I haven’t met that many people who would abstain from commenting on something if their knowledge were modest. Not to mention acknowledging not knowing something at all. There is nothing wrong with being Socrates in this respect—one can always learn. And maybe start seeing things as they are. Things like a nation of more than 40 million people resisting the army you are so afraid of for four weeks straight. The people who are fiercely fighting for their right to live on their own. And for their blue passports. Ще не вмерла. Thank you!
Ihor Andriichuk is a PhD student in the Politics Department at the New School for Social Research.