The sacred and the profane
So it's here: The Weekly's first issue of the final year of this decade, this century, the last of this millennium - 1999. Soon we will all get into the habit of at first correcting mis-dated checks and then filling in blanks on applications and forms with this odd number. It seems as though it should be a special year - a memorable and dramatic year - given that it is the last, yet it seems to be off to a less-than-cheerful start.
As members of our community continue to celebrate the holy days of the Nativity of Christ and the Epiphany, the secular world pushes in: unrest in the Middle East with Iraq and Hussein, as well as a no-confidence vote in the government in Israel; a dreadfully harsh winter in Eastern Europe, coupled with calamities such as floods, as well as an almost total economic meltdown in Russia resulting in energy and food shortages, and increasingly frequent reports of deaths among orphans and pensioners from cold and malnutrition; never-ending bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia; and despite economic stability in the U.S., the possibility of an impeachment trial of the president.
In Ukraine, which is only slightly better off economically than Russia, the political posturing on the part of the elected and appointed leadership is reaching new lows of irresponsibility. When people lament the return of the "Communists" - in many ways, what they are referring to is not necessarily the return of the political party, but the more insidious aspects of Soviet mentality and methods that never really disappeared. Only the rhetoric and trappings of ideology slipped away. But the concentration of power in the hands of a few (and the consequent corruption); arrogant demands from the heads of factories and collective farms for obsequious supplication (modern-day "dannyna"); disrespect for the individuals, their capabilities, qualities and individual achievements - all this remains, even flourishes.
Is there really a difference between the pompous "businessman" Lazarenko (who stands accused of stealing millions from the coffers of Ukraine, under the guise of free enterprise) and the pompous "Communist" Tkachenko (who, under the guise of helping the people, stole from the same coffers by defaulting on a $75 million loan)? They both used their positions of power and public leadership not to lead, but to lie, cheat and steal on a grand scale. Who cares what they call themselves.
Is there much of a difference between the Pustovoitenko-supported, supposedly market-driven FIGs (financial-industrial groups) controlled by the economic reins in Moscow, and the Tkachenko-proposed, legislatively driven tripartite Slavic union controlled by the economic reins in Moscow? For the people of Ukraine it doesn't much matter.
As the profane tries to push its way into our holiday celebrations, it's more important than ever to remember that this time of celebration is really a time to honor the sacred. The small and large prayers, the rituals of family and religious tradition, reverence for the ancient and respect for the elderly, individual acts of kindness and youthful celebrations of joy. All the religions at this time of year celebrate the unity of the human spirit with the miraculous and the holy, and the perseverance of faith. In our community our religious traditions bracket the beginning of the secular new year. So, during this time, we wish you, our readers, happy and peaceful celebrations of the sacred in our lives.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, January 3, 1999, No. 1, Vol. LXVII
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