A truly reckless and horrifying year has come to pass. Today marks one year since the renewed invasion of Ukraine, which started in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea. Hundreds of thousands of lives have needlessly been lost on both sides; their lives, with all the promises that each offered to the world, have been extinguished. Dozens of cities have been reduced to rubble. Countless human rights violations have occurred, such as torture and rape. As the rest of the world is metaphorically entrenched in a prolonged senseless war, thousands in Ukraine are sleeping in hardened trenches as their nation’s frozen soil continues to prove its worth.
Sitting quietly as I watched several others break the professional etiquette by speaking about the conflict as we all took a brief recess in the meeting; all that was accomplished by those who decided to make the room terribly uncomfortable was that they revealed the modicum of knowledge they had in the matter.
For some of us outside of Ukraine with no blood ties to the land, the feeling of dread and horror has not receded since this date last year. Those who bother to inform themselves and have had enough exposure to people from all corners of the world (one of the greatest benefits of living in a city like Toronto) are that such conflicts as in Ukraine, the Sahel and countless others strike close to our hearts. Last year, I wrote an article on how we must not give in to despondency and be more mindful of our actions. The article focused on the community, which primarily follows my Instagram account, and that is of the watch community and their daily act of sharing a photograph of the watch that they wore on any given day. Though the article was received well within that community and by a surprising number of people outside that group, the article’s main aim was not accomplished. Though people started documenting their day-to-day lives once again, it was not done in a more mindful manner. Many online, like those in the meeting I was uncomfortably sitting in, were merely happy to set aside the suffering and injustices of millions of people simply for a laugh or in an attempt to get noticed.
For some of us, and by that, I mean the group of humans who are not content to get our news from late-night comedy shows that only devote the first ten-minute A Blocks to the news, this is starting to become unbearable and grating. This conflict does not look like it is coming to an end, as those in the meeting so proudly stated. Past conflicts such as WWI have shown us that it is common for an aggressor to lose on the battlefield but keep throwing away hundreds of thousands of lives as it keeps fighting until it is diminished to the point that it no longer can. With the likelihood that the aggressor’s leader would lose their life (one of the many downsides of leading an autocratic regime), this war has the ingredients of a purposeless and drawn-out era of misery.
Those who do not live in a conflict zone continue to have their own struggles. The financial and health difficulties which plagued our lives before this date last year, even before the pandemic, have not ceased. They have, in fact, accelerated for most. This does not excuse us from brushing aside these matters and acting belligerently. Sadly, one enlightening thing was mentioned by one of the people during the meeting’s break. He quoted a celebrity podcast host who claimed that periods such as these are normal, that millions of people will die, and that there is nothing wrong going on. Another person quickly fired off another celebrity podcast host who had said the same thing. What these two people were missing is that we have not experienced this within our lifetimes, and conflicts which impact the rest of the globe economically and potentially threaten to drag the rest of the world into a conflict with multiple sides armed with nuclear weapons are not normal.
Those who do not put in the work to be informed do their best to make sense of the world as they stumble from one burden to another. We buy into convenient narratives that have consequences, for our elected leaders notice as we lose interest in such conflicts. Claims that this period that we are living in is normal are false. Claims that the unprovoked war on Ukraine is a proxy war between the West and the aggressor are false. Such a war should not be mistaken or written as an Existential War. To do so would be to disregard the lives lost.
Note: the name of the nation, which is the aggressor against Ukraine, was not named due to not everyone in that country supporting the war.
Time of writing,
February 24th, 2023