Essays On War

Markiyan Prokhasko. Margines


Sometimes, it feels like the world of people we aspire to be a part of is somewhat unreal. It’s comparable to a game with a Facebook interface that simulates reality. However, when someone distracts you, you simply hit pause. Likewise, you can log out of Facebook.

But deactivating Facebook doesn’t negate the reality of power outages, air raids, social or economic problems, or wars. Although we don’t witness them all the time, we still see them more frequently than we realize with our very own eyes. These issues are constantly present with us. They are as real as Jupiter, which keeps the Earth at the perfect distance from the Sun. This very circumstance allowed our hospitable planet to form, which we are now devastating at an alarming rate.

Uploading content onto Facebook creates numerous problems that initially seem genuine. For instance, should I permit the existence of a calendar, or would my comments shake the fabric of space and time, causing it to disappear? It appears that real-life individuals do not allocate as much time and effort to discuss topics that are incredibly important to them online. In fact, they would most likely not argue with genuine individuals in the same way they do with their online „avatars.“

The physics of complex systems delves into topics such as text, transportation networks, and network games. Although games may be unrealistic, Dr. Yuriy Holovach, a Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, once stated, „When a certain number of heroes are hunting dragons online, the heroes and dragons aren’t real, but the emotions are.“ Could it be possible that the opposite holds true as well? That on Facebook, „the emotions are genuine, but many other aspects are not“?

To put things into perspective, let me share a little story. Once, I got into an argument with a so-called „technician.“ Based on his arguments, one could easily assume that the question of who governs Kyiv is almost an irrelevant humanitarian issue that does not impact our understanding of the universe. After all, what is the Kyiv government in comparison to the vastness of the universe? It’s just a drop in the ocean, a speck. But the truth is, with just one decision, the hypothetical Kyiv authorities could shut down any scientific institution and that would be the end of it. Hence, all these seemingly insignificant issues, such as politics, freedom of speech, corruption, nepotism, and their presence or absence, are all very real and can significantly impact our lives.

If all countries were like Ukraine, then it’s highly likely that we wouldn’t have had the Hubble or Webb telescopes. On the one hand, this is entirely understandable. Survival, statehood, identity building, and victory are all more pressing issues. Wealthy countries have the luxury of allocating funds toward science, but even in the wealthiest countries, funds are usually scarce for such endeavors. However, this country is apparently not putting it off for some „better day.“ 

Perhaps it’s better to do something, anything, rather than putting off a lot of things for „sometime in the future.“ Looking back, we see that Ukraine, unfortunately, put off many things for „sometime in the future“ over the past thirty years. Issues like information policy, the military, education, language, European integration, minority issues, Russian television in Crimea, the influence of the Russian Church, and many others were not a priority. They were not timely, and we were poor; pensions, scholarships, and gas prices were more important. Yet, paradoxically, these problems were not solved over the course of the last thirty years, since they depend, in a sense, on issues that are „not timely.“ In other words, what good is a pension increase in 2021 if entire cities and regions are economically devastated, and millions of Ukrainians suffer as a result? Perhaps things could have turned out differently if the state’s priorities included issues that were „not timely,“ issues that couldn’t be „spread on bread.“

I understand that now there is a war going on, people are dying, and we are on the brink of an economic, demographic, and humanitarian crisis. The situation is very serious. But from this reality, we can step down to Facebook, where we see another. Sometimes it’s just as real as the victory of the Cossacks over the Muscovites, like in a popular video game. This is a truly serious matter, and emotions are real. But then, when you log out of the internet, you realize that the world is more expansive than a wall-to-wall screen. Are we for or against the calendar? Can we support Zelensky as soldiers or not? Should the president confess or inspire in his New Year’s speech? Hundreds of friends break their lances in these battles. It’s very real and serious, but when you step out of the social network, you find yourself in an even more tangible reality.

However, just as we can escape the confines of Facebook’s virtual world, we can also transcend the limitations of our human civilization. All of our achievements in language preservation, civil liberties, democracy, economy, art masterpieces, and modern technology become just a tiny square drawn with a pencil on a sheet of lined paper from a distance. What good is human civilization if it could vanish due to climate change? How can we fight for democracy when only a handful of people may survive in a post-apocalyptic world, fighting wars over cans of food? What difference does it make in how many nuclear weapons we possess if humanity fails to prevent an asteroid from wiping out civilization, just like it happened to the dinosaurs? We step into the pencil-drawn square, preoccupied with debates about who should represent Ukraine in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Within this square, we enter the microscopic Ukrainian segment of Facebook, discussing topics like the views of female soldiers on the nude calendar or writing comments on beauty contests to call out Russian imperialism. Engaging in Facebook arguments shouldn’t lead us to believe that certain discussions occur „not at the right time.“ Climate change, the universe, spending time with loved ones, being happy, or even gazing at the stars — who knows when our last chance may be?

There is never the right time for stealing, money laundering, and trading with Russia, as dealing with that country has only led to further complications. Everything else is fair game and it’s the perfect opportunity to engage in something more positive. The civilization we live in, the real world outside of the internet improves our lives. But why is this so? I believe the answer lies beyond our borders, in the vast universe perpetually „out of time.“

Facebook trends determine timeliness and untimeliness, but we can’t define the lives of our civilization, whose purpose encompasses the whole universe, and certainly not the lives of others, based solely on what’s popular in our own Facebook bubble. Even if something worthwhile arises from the arguments, it cannot determine the course of our civilization or the lives of the people in it.

Translated by Yulia Lyubka and Kate Tsurkan