During the protests in Ukraine, several articles were written about protesters asking for donations in Bitcoin. Two points were being made: one, this was a great way for people around the world to support the protesters, especially when moving money in and out of Ukraine was becoming increasingly difficult, and second, how it was disappointing that they had received less Bitcoin than the football fan who famously made over $20,000 by getting his Bitcoin sign, with QR code, on ESPN.
But I don't think that's very important, I don't think it made any difference, I don't think it was a good idea, and I'm glad I didn't send any money. I know, I wanted to start talking about politics because of how I believe Bitcoin can change the world. So what better way to start than by talking about how it can't?
Of course, these articles were posted before Russia annexed Crimea, and before a lot of details about the strange mix of parties and interests that took over Ukraine became more widely known.
Clearly the majority of protestors were simply unhappy with President Viktor Yanukovych. Their resentments included concerns about his relationship with Moscow and with general corruption. But some disturbing groups were also involved in the protests, and now play a role in the new government established after the former president fled the country.
These groups are often referred to as "right-wing" or "ultra-right-wing", but I will refrain from calling them that. There are many conservative parties in the world that might be colloquially referred to as "right-wing" and there is nothing wrong with these parties. The parties and groups I am referring to here are something else entirely.
I don't mean to be oblique, but I want to forestall any attempt to apply Godwin's law. Because when you are talking about groups and parties composed of people were are descended from, inspired by, and sometimes actually including, members of the Waffen SS and the Nazi party, then Godwin's law does not apply. These are not people to be compared to Nazis, these are actual, real Nazis. These are the true anti-semites, although the term has been so overused and misused in recent times to the extent it has been shamefully cheapened. These are the real fascists, and I used the word plainly, not as what John Michael Greer would describe as a "snarl word".
As many are now aware, in 1954, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev administratively transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, a bureaucratic move that made almost no difference to anyone. Indeed, if, in Canada, Labrador was to be administratively transferred from Newfoundland to Québec, this would have a greater political impact than the transfer done by Khrushchev.
It is an accident of history that Crimea ended up a part of a new country called Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That doesn't give anyone the right to invade and occupy the territory, but it does give some perspective.
I don't like Russia's government and policies. Vladimir Putin may be a de facto dictator, homophobe and master manipulator, but when he talks about Ukrainian Nazis, he's not just blustering, he's telling the truth. I don't want people in the Ukraine or Crimea to suffer. I hope a peaceful end is eventually reached. I also don't want a cent of my money to reach the thugs in Ukraine trying to grasp at the levers of power, and desperately trying to recreate the horrors of the past.
But how did this all start? It started because the government of Ukraine was bankrupt, and corrupt, and this not only breeds discontent, it gives extreme elements more of a chance to infiltrate society and spread their message. When people lack hope, they are more likely to listen to extreme messages. This isn't unique, we've seen the same thing in Greece with Golden Dawn, and similar movements, large or small, throughout Europe.
Maybe if Bitcoin, or something like it, had been available 10 years ago, other options might have been available to the people. They might have been able to sustain businesses through greater international sales, services, supply contracts, and other import/export arrangements, while also developing a more robust local economy free from interference from the state.
I won't pretend that Bitcoin is a simple fix that could have solved everyone's problems, but it would have given people more options, more freedom, and more flexibility. Sending Bitcoin donations to Ukraine today is not likely to help anyone, and could actually make things worse, but Bitcoin might provide more options to other peoples, in other lands, in the future.