Land unter (Floodings)

Did you ever read that quote “Climate change will manifest as a series of disasters viewed through phones with footage that gets closer and closer to where you live until you’re the one filming it”? (afaik by Perthsire Mags on the dead bird site)

Well, here I am

muddy brown water of a flooded river under a bridge. There#s less than 30 cm of space between the bottom of the bridge and the water

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is our village centre. If you want a reference: Normally, if you jump off that bridge, you’ll fall for 3m and then break both your legs. On Friday, heavy rain started falling in the southwest of Germany, especially my Bundesland, the Saarland. While there had been warnings, it was even worse than foreseen as the rain just didn’t move on. Within 24 hours, more than 100 l of rain fell per square metre, in the capital more than 150l , which is twice the amount we usually get during the whole month of May. The situation evoked bad memories of the Ahrtal flooding three years ago, when hundreds of people died, but at least they seem to have learned from that and the crisis management worked really well, with just one person injured and no deaths.

Personally, I’m fine, our house sits above the wetlands that are there to absorb the rain and our village wasn’t that badly hit, though the people next to the river had flooded basements. Other places are much worse off, with evacuations and water up to the ground floor. Rebuilding will take time and money. Oh, do I need to mention that the same day we were hit by this, the legislative finally gave green light to gutting our climate protection laws?

A Question About the Student Protests.

I have a question to ask regarding current student protests against the genocide in Gaza. Police in the USA is cracking down on them violently, as is usually the case. There have been a lot of student protests throughout history all around the world. I am of course not familiar with too many of them, but two from my own country were most remarkable. One such protest in 1939 led to a violent crackdown led by the Nazi secret police Gestapo and extrajudicial executions of a number of students and it is today the reason for November 17 being International Student’s Day The other was in 1989, the violent crackdown was led by the Communists secret police StB and it has sparked the Velvet Revolution.

In those two instances a pattern arises, one that is not difficult to spot. That leads to my question:

Was there at any time and any place in history an instance of violent smackdown on student protests where the judgment of history was on the side of the police and not on the side of the students?

From the top of my head, I do not know about such an occurrence.

A Good Rebuttal of “Capitalism is Good” Video

Someone posted this in comments on Pharyngula a few days ago and I think it is a very good video, worth highlighting in case you did not notice it before.

It mentions amongst many other things what I alluded to in my post, i.e. that the Industrial Revolution predated capitalism and was initiated by advances in science, not that it and the scientific advances were caused by it.

The Worst Thing Russia Has Done to Socialism

I had recently a get-together with schoolmates from university. Not with my friends from university, who are a diverse bunch of different ages and professions and with whom I meet usually once/twice a year on a hiking trip or New-year celebrations, but with people with whom I studied chemistry. It was a totally depressing experience for multiple reasons, some deeply personal that I am not inclined to discuss with anyone, ever, and some that I shall discuss in this post.

The discussion did get slightly political and at that point I realized that I am the only person in the group who does not think that “socialism” is a dirty word describing an inherently ill-thought-out, dysfunctional, and/or evil political system. Everyone else expressed more or less libertarian or conservative-leaning opinions, although I must say not to the extreme sociopathic extent that can be observed in the US political discourse. After a short debate, I have inadvertently killed it outright with what in retrospect was the nuclear option, although it was not intended as such.

I said, “Correct me if I am wrong, but at this table, I am the only person who actually has worked in the private sector his whole life and is not and was not employed by the state in an in-principle socialistic enterprise.”

What followed was a short awkward silence, re-seating, and a permanent change of subject.

You see, everyone else seated at that table was either an accomplished scientist, a physician, a teacher, a high-ranking military officer, or (usually) a combination of these. Education is free of charge up to a university for anyone willing to take it, even foreigners residing in CZ, as long as they can take the classes in the Czech language. Healthcare is free of charge at the point of receiving, with healthcare insurance being mandatory for the employed and paid for by the state for the unemployed (it could be better by forgoing the middle-man in the form of insurance companies IMO). And the military is entirely financed by our taxes and owned by the state, as it always was.

So, why do these highly educated, highly intelligent, and oftentimes highly accomplished people think that socialism is inherently bad? Probably for the same reasons that I, too, thought so until some fifteen-twelve years ago.

We are the generation who still remembers the times behind the Iron Curtain. And although we did not experience the most brutal phases of that regime, it was still pretty bad at the time we were children. But when I tried to explain that what was wrong with that regime was not the “socialism” part but the “totalitarianism” part, it fell on deaf ears. I have managed to disconnect these terms in my mind, they have not. To them, the association between the two is too strong and they are seen as inherently intertwined.

And this might be, paradoxically, exactly because they never worked for a private company that habitually abuses its employees. They never experienced the disproportionate difference in negotiating power between a non-unionized workforce and an international corporation that feels laws need not be obeyed, if they exist at all in the first place. They had no first-hand experience with high-ranking managers of such corporations and thus did not get insight into their thinking (heck, I even met some who apparently thought that even laws of physics can be circumvented, although in reality that was possibly just a psychological pressure to force employees to commit fraud with plausible deniability). In short, they lack the experience that would show them that not all the propaganda we were shown as children were lies, and not everything that Marx wrote was misguided –  a lot of it was, unfortunately, very spot-on and true.

And for this perception of socialism being inherently and unavoidably totalitarian, I blame Russia and the version of socialism it imposed by force on the rest of Eastern Europe. I have already written about this in part 35 of my “Behind the Iron Curtain” series. Only I did not think that this legacy survives that strongly in my generation. Even after the literal Iron Curtain fell, apparently people keep its bad legacy in their minds still. And my conclusion that such mental barriers might be more difficult to remove seems to be, unfortunately, supported by my recent experience with my schoolmates from university.

International Student’s Day

Today is the day when we should remind ourselves that young people are the future and more often than not, they are at the forefront of progressive movements. 83 years ago today, eight students and one professor were executed without trial after they protested the fascist Nazi regime that annexed Czechia after the Munich Betrayal.  33 years ago today, hundreds of students were beaten to a pulp with truncheons after they protested the totalitarian communist regime that made our country essentially a puppet state of the USSR.

I wish today this year something similarly remarkable has happened, or perhaps nothing at all. Unfortunately, today was a demonstration in Prague. It was comprised mostly of older and middle-aged people (definitively not students) and they were pro-Russian, and therefore pro-totalitarian and pro-fascist. Some were even wearing transparent that alluded to the “good old days” before 1989. I despair at the state of the world.

Слава Україні!

One of the resident Russofascists has derided the above-mentioned phrase as militant nationalism and thus inherently baddy bad bad. Which baffled me immensely.

I am not fond of nationalism in any shape or form, militant or otherwise. However, we live in a world where most people have some national identity, usually centered around culture – language, art, history, and, sometimes, military power. That is an undeniable fact and nations, despite being social constructs, are undeniably also real entities. And trying to deny a nation a right to exist and engaging in behaviors toward ending its existence is internationally recognized as genocide. Which is arguably doubly baddy bad bad.

Pointing to the usage of the phrase in history and finding some unsavory groups that have used it is historically interesting, but I would argue that it is not particularly relevant to the actual context in which the phrase is being used. There are many phrases throughout history that were used by unsavory groups and it is silly to try and discredit a word or a phrase because it was used at some point in history by for example fascists. For example it is daft beyond measure when Republicans try to discredit the word socialism because Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei contains it, and it is equally daft to try and discredit the phrase Слава Україні! because Bandera was using it.

When it comes to words, context always matters. So lets look at the context in which the phrase Слава Україні! is currently used and how much sense opposing its use because “militant nationalism bad” makes.

One of the given reasons for the current Russian invasion of Ukraine is that the Ukrainian nation does not exist, Ukrainians are just misguided Russians. Unlike other given reasons, this one is probably honestly believed by Putin and his closest circle, possibly even by a lot of Russians at large.  And since Ukrainians are really Russians they need either to accept this or to be killed

In other words, the goal of the invasion is the annexation of the Ukrainian state and either assimilation or genocide of the Ukrainian people. Thus the war did not start as opposition to Ukrainian militant nationalism – Ukraine never posed any militant threat to Russia and Russia (Putin) knows it – it started as a result of Russian aggressive militant nationalism. And that is the context in which the phrase is currently used – to bolster and acknowledge the resolve and bravery of the Ukrainian people when faced with genocide.

Opposing the phrase because “militant nationalism bad” thus makes no sense, definitively not without opposing the Russian aggression too. Without Russian meddling in Ukrainian affairs and without the centuries-long history of Russian genocides (yes, plural, Russians did perform multiple genocides in a few centuries, some more successful than others) there would be no need for militant Ukrainian nationalism. Without Russia constantly threatening Ukraine, the most aggressive demonstration of Ukrainian nationalism would probably be shouting at sports stadiums, like with most nationalisms in current Europe. It is Russia who inserted the need for militancy. It is Russia who unilaterally started the conflict, and it is also Russia who can unilaterally stop it.

Thus I, although I deeply dislike nationalism, say Слава Україні! and I will keep saying it until Russia stops the genocide and lets the Ukrainian people live in peace, choose their allies and decide their own affairs.

Several Ethnic Cleansings for the Price of One!

There is a looooong Russian history of ethnic cleansing. They are a bit subler about it, perhaps, than the USA used to be and certainly subtler than Hitler was. It is a Russian thing to displace by force people from somewhere to somewhere else far of, where some of them might survive and eventually some of their descendants might come back a generation later. In the meantime, the land acquires a significant Russian population. That is one of the reasons why Crimea is “Russian”, and why there are significant Russian minorities in the Baltic states. And Putin now hones this old fine Russian art to its most finest.

It was so even before the “partial” mobilization and even more so now – the people who are most likely to be drafted into the military and sent into the meat grinder are ethnic minorities from Russian colonies.

Yes, you read that right. I wrote colonies. People seem not to realize that while Spain and Portugal were busy colonizing South America, the USA were genociding Indians and everybody else was busy dividing among themselves Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, and southern Asia, Russia has quietly run their conquest, and colonization in Siberia. Siberia is not Russian territory occupied by Russians. It is a vast landmass occupied by dozens of different nations, both large-ish and small. Some of the smaller nations (some are counting just a few thousand people by now) are supposed to be exempted from military drafts, but the “partial” mobilization is trying to sweep them up even so (there is no such thing as a rule of law in a totalitarian regime ruled by an autocratic despot).

In a sense, Russia and the USA are the only empires that kept hold of most of their ill-gotten territories. In part maybe because their colonies cover a continuous surface of most of a continent, which makes it easier to kill off, displace or keep a hold on the local population – an uprising next door is easier to quell than an uprising half a globe away.

Putin is now not only attempting to expand the empire and to genocide Ukrainians – who are luckily giving him a hard time with it – but he also is doing his best to weaken the other nations in the Russian Federation whilst doing so. It might be just a coincidence, he might just be trying to avoid sending people from around Moscow and St. Petersburg, whom he needs to hold onto power and whose support might be shaken if their relatives start returning home in bags or not at all. But it might be deliberate too. Either way, he is really trying to be efficacious at this genocide stuff, what a chap!

I still don’t get how anyone who thinks of themselves being a leftist can support him though. I thought that leftists are supposed to be for the unlucky, the poor, the dispossessed etc. Supporting an autocrat juggling genocides for fun seems at odds with that.

Voting at the Point of a Gun

Imagine that your neighbor takes a gun, starts shooting at your house, and moves the fence between your gardens onto your land, eventually taking your children in the treehouse hostage. Then he points the gun at your children and tells them “You want to live with me now, don’t you?” and after one of them says yes, fearful for their lives, he declares that they all said yes and their wishes have to be respected and thus they, together with the piece of the garden he fenced off, are now properly his.

No analogy is perfect of course but this is roughly what Vladimir Putin has done with regard to Zaporozhnia, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson oblasts. There were no true referenda, there was just a publicity stunt theater with maybe some people saying “yes” on their own, some were (or felt to be, which is effectively the same) coerced and some said nothing but were recorded as saying “yes” anyway. The only surprising thing about the results is how predictably absurd they are.

I do not for a minute think that Putin or his toadies like Lavrov actually believe what they are saying. They do not believe that the referenda were fair and representative or that they are not waging a genocidal war of conquest against Ukraine but merely an intervention against Nazis. They just lie through their teeth and want to use force to make everyone else behave as if the lies were true. And that sums up the whole of Russian foreign policy over the last hundred years or so, and it only got worse under Putin.

I expect some of the local FtB tankies still think that “the West” and Ukraine should negotiate peace with Putin. For the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around that stance. Putin has lied so many times over the time of his reign with regard to Ukraine that he is on record saying mutually exclusive things (the same goes for Lavrov). Anything he says today, any promises he makes, any guarantees he gives, any oaths he swears, none of that can be believed. And how on earth is one supposed to negotiate in good faith with someone who gives them absolutely no reason to have any good faith whatsoever? How are we supposed to believe the promises he gives today when he broke literally every promise he gave in the past?

I do not like war. I am a pacifist at heart. I do not like to hurt living beings of any kind, especially not humans. But I am also a realist. I destroy weeds and kill pests in my garden. And I also know that I am capable of hurting others in self-defense. I know that it is not possible to negotiate with someone who does not respect any moral rules and laws except their own power. In the analogy that has started this article, it would be the police who would be tasked with restraining your violent neighbor. Without the existence of the police, it would be up to you to get your kids and garden back and teach him a lesson to not try and hurt you again, perhaps with the help of your other, sensible, neighbors.

Putin has put the whole world in danger and he will keep doing it until he is stopped. If we give him 15% of Ukraine today, he will demand more tomorrow, killing or deposing millions of Ukrainians in the process anyway. There are clear historical precedents for how these things go, WW2 being the most obvious one. Dictators of this type have never enough.

As much as I do not like war, giving Ukrainians the arms to defend themselves and push the invasion force back into Russia is the only way to stop their genocide. The only way that does not direct military intervention that is. Doing nothing is not a pacifist stance. Doing nothing is allowing the genocide to take place unopposed, thus effectively supporting it. If you do not oppose Putin, you support genocide.

Some good news: Self ID is coming to Germany!

I’m not going to waste many words on the shortcomings of our current government. Sometimes you could think the libertarians had won and absolute majority and weren’t just the most junior of the three partners, but while their youth is turning more and more pro fascist, the current leaders still have some classic liberal values.

Ages ago, our constitutional court declared the “Transsexuellengesetz” (transsexuals law) of 1981 to be unconstitutional some while ago, because it’s frankly menschenverachtend (that’s a German word you need : despising humans and humanity. Stronger than inhumane), but the ruling conservatives had blocked any sensible attempts to reform it, so up to this date trans people still needed to have their actual gender validated by psychiatrists, who got to poke their nose into people’s most intimate things like masturbation habits. Yes, if you’re wondering what that tells you about somebody being trans or not, you’re not alone. And trans people had to pay out of pocket for that particular privilege.

The proposed new process is as easy and streamlined as I believe it to be possible for Germany: You go to the registry office, declare your gender, pay a small fee, have it changed. This can only be done once a year.

Of course, transphobes are frothing at their mouths, wailing about how men will now just enter the women’s sauna. Somebody smartly pointed out on Twitter, why that is nonsense. Let’s take our hypothetical cis male pervert who wants to spy on the ladies in the women’s sauna. He goes to the registry office to change his gender. Congratulations, she’s female now. Her name changes and all her official documents. Her employer is informed, if she’s married, so is her spouse, her health insurance is informed, every doctor she visits has her listed as female. Only when she comes to the sauna, the owners tell her to fuck off, it’s a private business. So she sues the sauna. She spends a lot of money on this, probably raising a lot of media attention, all the time being gendered female. Does that sound a realistic scenario for some cis dude who wants to harass women? I mean, there’s enough mixed saunas around.

Let’s say she wins in court and the sauna has to let her use the women’s sauna. Does he now get to harass the ladies there? No, because harassing people is illegal for women, too. Something many terves don’t seem to understand, since they spend so much time doing it.

American Exceptionalism – Leftie Edition

I grew up behind the Iron Curtain, in a Warsaw Pact country. We were taught that this is the great alliance of socialist countries banding together to counterbalance the evil imperialist NATO. Lead by the great and both technically and socially advanced USS. And in my childhood naivety, I really believed that the USSR is The Land Where Tomorrow Already Means Yesterday (“Země kde zítra již znamená včera”, a bonmot that was bandied about very often). I believed in USSR exceptionalism.

We were taught a lot of things about how evil NATO is and how good the Warsaw Pact is, but we were not told that the Warsaw Pact is possibly the only ostensibly defensive alliance in history that has never defended anyone from anything but attacked its own members instead – the occupation of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. I do not remember ever learning about that at school, but admittedly the regime fell apart at about the same time when we were reaching recent history in our curriculum.

Later on, when I learned about it, it was a revelation. Not an exceptionally sudden one, it did not come to me as an epiphany one sunny morning, but one that evolved and matured over the years as I absorbed new and new information about what NATO did and what Warsaw Pact did, but a revelation nevertheless. And not a nice one – the world superpowers are not divided into good guys and bad guys, they are divided only into bad guys whose badness depends on your vantage point.

One can justifiably show to various parts of the world, mostly in the Global South and in the Middle East, where the USA and NATO have done a lot of harm. There were coups instigated, democratically elected governments overthrown, countries unjustly invaded, and war crimes committed. The end result was invariably political chaos and instability from which none of the afflicted countries has fully recovered.

However, in central and eastern Europe NATO was not the bad guy. Here the bad guy was the USSR. People in Eastern Europe in general and in Ukraine specifically do not, on average, need much encouragement to not like Russia and like NATO. And they do exactly that, in fact. Using their own thinking, deciding in their own interest. NATO never harmed them. The USSR (Russia) did. Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – none of them needed to have their arms twisted to want to join NATO as security against Russia who never really ceased to be a threat and whose occupation forces have left just one generation ago – with scars from that occupation still being visible to those willing to look.

With the war in Ukraine, a lot of people in the comments at FtB are spending a lot of time bemoaning the evils of NATO and how it was NATO’s evil machinations that have caused the Ukrainian people to turn on their pro-russian president in 2014 and kick him out. But the EU, Russia, and the USA all have a political and financial stake in Ukraine, yet apparently only the USA and the EU have managed to persuade Ukrainians to want to ally with them. And why is that? It is not some unique evil capability that only CIA has that has persuaded the Ukrainian people to decide to want to join the EU and NATO. It is because Russia has harmed them. And now continues to harm them and tells, quite loudly, that it intends to continue to do so.

The right-wingers think the USA is exceptional, the Shining City on a Hill, unique, perfect in every way. That is daft. But to believe that every decision everywhere that aligns with the USA interests is always and only the result of some nefarious USA machinations is equally daft. It is American exceptionalism too, only turned inside out. If you consider yourself a leftist, really try to treat all people equally. Allow both pro- and against-USA-aligned actors to have their own agency.


Simon Whistler has made an excellent video essay about the Holodomor in Ukraine.

Content warning: graphic depictions of human suffering.

The Czech language has a similarily sounding word “hladomor” which means simply famine. I always understood it to be a combination of the words for hunger (“hlad”) and plague (“mor”). That might be a case of folk etymology though, the expert opinion one for the Czech word I could not find online. The Ukrainian term came according to Wikipedia from “морити голодом” i.e. torture by hunger. Whether the two words are false friends stemming from different roots or if they share common ancestry is however secondary to one fact that I have learned only recently – the Ukrainian language does sound a bit like in between Russian and Slovak/Czech, which should not be surprising, so I am in fact able to understand spoken Ukrainian a bit better than Russian (still not very well without subtitles though). One such similarity to Czech is that Г in Ukrainian is pronounced as “H” in Czech (in English like the H in  “have”) and not as Czech “G” like in Russian (in English like the g in “grave”).

A linguistic interlude aside, whilst I knew from school about a number of famines throughout history, The Holodomor was completely unknown to me until well after the fall of the Iron Curtain. During my education, the collectivization in the USSR in the 1930s and in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s was always taught as a quick and glowing success of the regime. The demonization of the Kulaks, as mentioned in the video, continued well right until the end of the regime. We were taught that some farmers refused to join колхо́з and were punished as the dastardly criminals they were, but the sheer scale was never mentioned, nor was the fact that this was done along national borders. And that there ever was a famine in the USSR was not denied just because it was never mentioned at all. Maybe it would be mentioned later on with some west-blaming if the regime did not fall, but I doubt it. I have checked the most comprehensive world history book from that era that I own, an official textbook for high-school curriculum and it portrays the era s as I have just described – blaming only the kulaks and mentioning it all as just some isolated setbacks by some rebels who received some non-specified punishment. No mention of famine at all. Only a very brief mention of Stalin’s cult of personality and his “heavy-handed” dealing with problems (an understatement if I ever saw one).

And thus a genocidal act of a paranoid power-hungry maniac fell from history books for three generations. Not the first one, not the last one either.



In case you are wondering why Putin is so hell-bent on capturing Kyiv, here is a very, very short summary for you.

Kyiv is not only the capital of the current Ukraine. That in itself would still make it a very important military target, but still not worth the fervor with which it is being attacked.

I grew up as a child with Slavic fairytales and Slavic mythology. And many of those fairytales and myths are centered around Kievan Rus’. A lot of literature that young Slavic people, especially East Slavic, read during their formational years are thus centered around this city. It is, in a very real sense, the cradle of East Slavic culture.

None of that of course excuses current atrocities being perpetrated by Путiн хуйло, but it does explain why he is throwing so many other people’s lives away in order to capture the city asap. If he succeeds – and I fear that is only a matter of time, alas – his propaganda could – and would – play it up way beyond and above its strategic importance.

Brown vs. White Refugees and Poland

This article might be misunderstood as an apologia for racism or a misdirection, so I must start it with a statement:

Please do not mistake an explanation for an excuse.

There is a lot of racism towards non-white people in all of Europe. It is strong in the Slavic nations and it is indeed very strong in Poland, which is currently ruled by a racist covert clerical-fascist party (which luckily does not have overwhelming majority support yet I might add). This does no doubt play a significant role in Poland’s willingness to accept Ukrainian refugees readily, whilst it was refusing Syrians staunchly for the last few years. A policy that I find abhorrent and which should never be in place. Czechia is guilty of the same thing and I oppose that too. I criticize my own government for this and I shall continue to do so.

However, that is most definitively not the sole reason and it might not even be the main reason in this particular case. In my opinion, the main reason here is not that Ukrainian refugees are white, but that the aggressor they are fleeing is Russia and the refugees are Slavs.

There is a lot of panslavic sentiment still floating around (I have written about it before). Slavic people do have a shared identity and they do feel some connection with each other. One of the reasons for that apart from some intelligibility of our languages is that most Slavic nations were oppressed minorities pretty much everywhere for several hundred years, many gaining independence from an oppressive regime only very recently.

But wait, you might say, aren’t Russians Slavs? Yes, they are.

And they are probably the single exception to the rule since they were mostly the oppressors, certainly for the last few hundred years. Poles do not like Russians specifically that much. Russia played for example no insignificant role in destabilizing and partitioning the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in a way that eerily resembles current events in Ukraine. And they did not rule their part of Poland exactly kindly afterward either.

Poles and Ukrainians thus share not only a generic common Slavic identity but also a relatively recent common history. They were both compatriots and allies as well as enemies and rivals in that history, but not very recently and those differences pale with one thing they have common very recently indeed –  a ruthless oppressor, Russia. Ukrainians did not forget the Holodomor, Poles did not forget the Katyn massacre and both definitively remember the forty-something years of being dictated what to even think from Moscow afterward.

It is all of course much more complicated than I can ever hope to describe in a short blog post even if I knew everything there is to know about it. And motivations on an individual level always vary wildly. It definitively is not as simple as “Poles think brown people bad, white people good”, although a lot of (not only) Poles are no doubt like that.