I’ve had a few people ask me what I think of the situation in Ukraine. I’ve read a few articles discussing the “libertarian perspective” on Crimea. But I haven’t said much about these issues myself, because I honestly just don’t care that much.
Brief disclaimer: As a libertarian, I do indeed care about the non-aggression principle, and I have genuine sympathy for anyone whose lives and property have been destroyed as the result of a political struggle. When I say, “I don’t care about the situation in the Ukraine” that should not be taken as callous disregard for the human costs of wars, riots, and uprisings, or a dismissal of potential violations of rights that will likely occur under future political regimes.
I just can’t motivate myself to spend any amount of time and effort doing the amount of research that would be required in order to develop a solid understanding of the events in a region of Eastern Europe that I know nothing about. The best I can tell, Crimea and Ukraine are both about to get really screwed over, as their region has now become the stage for the latest dick-measuring contest between Russian and American politicians. I feel bad about that, but I’m in no position to support any one “side” over the other.
Is this laziness? Apathy? The expected attitude from an “ignorant American” who would rather watch sports and play videogames than learn about human rights issues across the globe? No. In this case, my ignorance isn’t passive, it is active. I’m avoiding learning about this issue on purpose for a few reasons. It’s absolutely none of my business, for one. This dispute involves Ukrainians, Crimeans, and Russians. Maybe if you were really reaching, you could say it involves the EU. But it does not involve the United States. Period. In the grand scheme of things, this is no different from the civil war in Syria or any other conflict somewhere around the world that most people are happy to ignore. It’s none of our business, and intervening is sure to backfire and leave everyone worse off. In other words, even if I did do the necessary research to the point where I was comfortable “supporting one side,” it wouldn’t matter. The more people know about an issue, the more likely they are to take sides. The more they take sides, the more they will entertain the prospect of foreign intervention. And foreign intervention is bad. In this case, ignorance is essentially one extra buffer that stands in the way of public support of foreign intervention. Keep in mind – I’m not just talking about ignorance among the average American. After all, ignorance didn’t prevent intervention in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. In this case, I’m referring to ignorance even among the segment of the population that is politically active. The average Joe Six-Pack might have been ignorant about Iraq, but the people who follow and debate politics weren’t. They did their research and they took their sides, and look where that got us.
I’m also avoiding this story because of the natural contrarian streak I seem to have in matters of politics and philosophy. Everyone and their mother are lining up to tell you that what Russia does in the Ukraine is really really important and that you absolutely should be paying attention to it. The fact that they’re continuing to stress this suggests that people are ignoring them. The public at large just isn’t buying it. But that won’t stop the politicians and their media cronies from trying. Barack Obama, John McCain, Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, and Rachel Maddow all want you to care about this. They’re all pointing and yelling, “Hey, look over there!” So my natural reaction is to not look over there. Instead, my gut instinct is to assume that they’re using this as a distraction, and to look far more closely at domestic and economic matters. Presumably, they want us focused on Russia so that we’ll be ignoring far more significant developments at home. Maybe this line of thinking makes me sound like a conspiracy freak, but I’m just not falling for it. I refuse to let the political elites tell me what I should think about, what I should know about, and what I should care about.
The more I learn about the government, the more convinced I am that one of the best ways to protest it is to ignore it. So much of the power it holds over us is simply because we allow it to. And I’m not talking about violently resisting a police officer who attempts to arrest you or anything like that. I’m talking about much more benign and subtle ways. By trying to convince us that it’s really important, the government is attempting to steal the very substance of our lives from us. It wants us to spend our valuable free time obsessing over its power struggles. It wants us to desperately care about the latest bill, or the next court case, or the most recent “scandal.” This helps build the façade that the government is incredibly important.
But in the grand scheme of things, these people really aren’t that important at all. As I’ve said before, politicians just don’t matter that much. I have better things to do with my life than follow the latest developments in a geopolitical struggle involving people I will never meet that live on the other side of the globe. And yes, I do count watching hockey and playing video games as “better things to do,” as compared to this. Our time on Earth is limited. Our free time is even more limited. I won’t waste it on this. I’ll spend it on things I enjoy doing. I will live my life, and let the talking heads debate amongst themselves whether Mr. Oyamanovich or Mr. Koraysstatiov is the less corrupt authoritarian puppetmaster. They can have this particular argument without me. I’m busy saving the galaxy from the imminent reaper invasion and trying to get George McPhee fired, thank you very much.