Monday, June 23, 2008

Why are Ukrainians unhappy?

According to a recent major world survey, happiness in Ukraine, along with the rest of the post-Soviet nations, rates near the bottom of the selected countries that were surveyed and ranked. The survey authors have posited that Ukrainians are unhappy because of poverty and because they are comparing themselves to Western European nations.

Financial Hardship and the Happiness Paradox

At the same time they also claim that United States is unhappy because it's so materialistic. I think it's simplistic to assume that unhappiness comes from the fact that people who are richer simply want more, although that's probably a factor. It's also simplistic to assume that post-Soviet people are unhappy simply because they are comparing themselves to Europe, as some have posited, although that's probably a factor as well. (In terms of national income levels most post-Soviet nations are at, close to or above the level of income during Soviet times, so comparison to the past is probably not a major factor anymore.) I doubt there is much to support the conjecture that materialism and envy is mainly to blame for unhappiness in US or the post-Soviet world.

I think there are deeper and more fundamental factors these surveyors need to look at. If I were to make a guess, I would guess that the poor (and rich) nations that have the highest levels of happiness also happen to be the nations with the strongest families (high percentage of marriages, low divorce rates, birth rates above replacement levels, etc.) and higher religiosity levels as well. There are many research studies showing these two factors being closely connected to levels of happiness, and that shouldn't be suprising given how important relationships are to human happiness - both strong relationships with people and a sense of a transcendent connection to a Higher Power. And those two factors also reinforce each other. More religious nations have stronger families and nations with a stronger culture of the family also tend to be more religious. Welfare states can take mitigate the poverty problem to some extent, but they can never replace a loving family.

So, while the United States is richer than Denmark, Switzerland and Austria, its divorce rate is also higher, so the people are less happy. There is significant psychological research showing that people who divorce tend to remain just as unhappy decades later as they were immediately prior to their divorce. (And those who considered divorce but decided to work it out are actually happier than those who never had serious relationship problems. Psychology Today did a major report on this a couple years ago.) And Switzerland which has the highest level of happiness also has dramatically lower rates of divorce than either US or Ukraine - only 25%.

The scholars who posit that wealth increases happiness are correct, but only to a point. For example, in US the happiest people are in the middle class, not in the upper middle or upper classes. Basically, levels of happiness tend to increase until they hit about $50,000-60,000 of family income, after which the level of happiness slowly declines with every dollar of increase in family income. (If you are interested in reading more on this particular topic, I would recommend a book by David G. Myers called "An American Paradox".) So, the optimal level of income that tends to support the highest levels of happiness is in the middle class of the nation that you live in. The middle class is important not just as the guarantor of democracy and stability, but it is also important in insuring national happiness. It would follow that nations that have a large middle class will tend to be happier nations than those that have great disparities of incomes, as in the communist and former communist nations.

Another factor to consider is the size of the country. It would seem to me that people in smaller countries tend to be happier than people in larger nations. After all, the happiest countries of Denmark, Switzerland and Austria are all rather small countries, all with populations under 10 million. That would be an interesting relationship to study.

The Philippines, India and Iran are happier than Moldova or Ukraine, because of greater social capital (family) and spiritual capital (experience of transcendence and/or community of faith). After so many years of communist rule, much of both social and spiritual capital has been destroyed in post-Soviet societies. China has seen a major drop in happiness, and much of it can be explained by the same factors. The reality is that where the state used to replace the family (state-run daycare, youth organizations, homes for the elderly, etc.) and the church (communist propaganda, official triumphant atheism), today it doesn't do that anymore to any significant extent. And Chinese families are beginning to disintegrate along with economic development, as divorce rates in China have doubled in just a few years. And there isn't much spirituality left after communism. Which is why underground Christian movements are booming in China, as documented by formed TIME Magazine Bejing Bureau head, David Aikman in his last book, "Jesus in Bejing": . The same thing is happening in Ukraine, except that given the high degree of religious freedom in Ukraine, Christians in Ukraine are not underground, but actually quite open and public.

To sum it up, Ukrainians are unhappy because:

1. They are poor - the Ukrainian economy is behind the rest of Europe at this point in history. The closer Ukrainians get to middle income nations, the happier they will get.
2. Ukraine's middle class is still fairly small and undeveloped. The middle class is the happy class. As it grows, Ukraine's happiness levels will grow.
3. Ukrainians are seeing a high disparity of income levels developing in the post-Soviet period. This creates negative tensions in society and is not good for harmonious social development. A strong family life tends to create a major offsetting effect for this phenomenon.
4. Ukrainian family life is quite unhealthy. The nation is experiencing a high level of relational rejection as seen in high rates of divorce, coupled with a very low birth rate, one of the lowest in the world. A strong culture of the family is needed for the formation of significant stores of social capital in Ukraine.
5. Ukraine's spiritual capital was seriously damaged during the years of Communist rule, although not as heavily damaged as in Russia. There's a much greater degree of religious freedom and the rates of growth of churches and religious organizations in Ukraine are much higher than most of the rest of the former Soviet Union. And this portends well for Ukraine's future.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why Ukraine Needs to be in NATO

In spite of the fact that the Russian Federation is growing economically and is becoming more intertwined by trade with the rest of the world, I believe it still poses a major danger to Ukraine's territorial and cultural integrity. Ukraine absolutely needs to become a member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And this is quite apart from the fact that NATO is an elite organization, being a member of which will add political weight to Ukraine, and the fact that joining NATO has been a precursor to joining the EU for all of the Eastern European states that have taken this path.

Yes, trade and democracy tends to lessen conflict, at least between real democracies. But Russia is not a real democracy and neither does it pretend to be. "Managed democracy" is a form of authoritarianism, which is precisely what Russia is. Entangling the Russian empire into the European and global trading systems is going to make it more difficult for Russia to wreak havoc. But Muscovites are not a reasonable kind of people. They easily destroy their own economic benefit for the sake of pride and power. How else do you explain the recent events of the complete blocking of trade with Georgia, for example, and now bringing the situation to the brink of war by pulling Russia's troops into Georgia and shooting down a Georgian recoinnassance plane?

Wealth breeds pride and hubris, and power breeds corruption and desire for asserting that power. Russia's newfound oil wealth is getting to the Moscow leaders' heads and they are becoming much more assertive and reckless. The fact of the matter is that, unlike the Western European states (or Greece, or Rome, or the Mongols, or any other empire known to history), Muscovy has never lost its empire. And as long it has this empire, it continues to justify having it, and not just having it, but expanding it. Because in their view, if you are not expanding, then you are contracting. Which is probably true in Russia's case. And as long as Russia remains an empire, it will never be a safe and reasonable country to deal with, and especially so for its neighboring nations that used to be part of that empire and are now seen by Muscovites as a target for reabsorption, at least in part if not in whole. Russian officials are already threatening to break up Ukraine and refusing to leave Ukraine with their Black Sea Fleet on time, even though the Ukrainian Constitution prohibits foreign military bases on Ukrainian soil. Russia will cease to be an empire only when it looses its entire Asian possessions, as well as the Southern Muslim Republics and possibly the Tatar areas as well. Although they are so intermixed with the Tatars, they may choose to stay together, but if recent history is any guide, if Bashkiria and Tatarstan autonomous Republics within the Russian Federation were given a choice, they would choose to be independent.

On top of it, Russia will be a majority Muslim nation within a generation. Since it's not really a democracy, that's less of a concern, since democratic Muslim nations tend to elect more religiously and politically extreme governments. Also, since Russia's Muslims are fairly secularized, it could become more like Turkey - a secular Muslim empire. Easier to deal with, but not exactly European material.

So, NATO is going to remain an important option for Ukraine to take advantage of to secure its own future.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kateryna Yushchenko calls for abolition of church tax - 19 Jun 2008

This just in from Ecumenical News International

Wife of Ukrainian president calls for abolition of tax on churches

Kiev -- Ukraine's first lady, Kateryna Yushchenko, has said church charities should not have to pay tax, and she urged that the law be changed.
[ . . ]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Російський МЗС заявляє, що в Україні не знають ні російської, ні української мови

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is expressing deep concern over the supposedly dire state of the Russian language on Ukrainian territory. The Russians are also claiming that the loss of Russian language fluency among Ukrainians is leading to the decrease of quality of Ukrainian education. (Thus perpetuating the Russian myth of the Russian language being the language of education and civilization and the Ukrainian language being the language of village bums.) They also claim that while Ukrainians are forgetting Russian, they don't know Ukrainian sufficiently well, thus not speaking either of the languages very well. After many years of growth of imports of Russian-language books into Ukraine, these imports have started falling and the Russians are getting worried.

Russian MFA is calling for the maintenance of "the multi-century tradition of Russian-Ukrainian bilingualism" to promote "the spiritual unity of our Slavic peoples", although obviously they want bilingualism in Ukraine, not in Russia. If the Russians want true bilingualism, they would take measures to promote Ukrainian language within the territory of the Russian Federation. Such efforts are definitely needed, since many Russians don't even believe Ukrainian language is a language at all, but rather a corrupted Russian dialect, and that in any case Ukrainians are not a real people and Ukraine is not a real country and its independence is a temporary aberration. This is also the impression they are giving to the "far abroad".


Російський МЗС заявляє, що в Україні не знають ні російської, ні української мови
17.06.2008 15:23___ www.ПРАВДА

Міністерство закордонних справ Росії вважає, що російська мова в Україні залишається об`єктом "жорсткого пресингу по адміністративній лінії".
Відповідний коментар Департаменту інформації і друку МЗС Росії розміщено на офіційному сайті російського зовнішньополітичного відомства, повідомляє УНІАН.

У МЗС Росії зазначили, що за останні 16 років в Україні видано понад 70 нормативно-правових актів, спрямованих на обмеження російської мови в суспільно-політичному житті.

За інформацією російського зовнішньополітичного відомства, в Україні з 20,6 тис. раніше існуючих середніх шкіл викладання російською мовою ведеться тільки в 1 тис. 345 школах, а в Києві з 3 тис. 550 шкіл з російською мовою навчання залишилося "всього лише шість, де все ще можна почути російську мову".

МЗС Росії поділяє заклопотаність українських "русистів" і вважає обґрунтованою їх тривогу "з приводу повсюдного звільнення російськомовних викладачів вищих і спеціальних навчальних закладів, заборони на використання посібників російською мовою", а також у зв`язку з тим, що "вчителі російської мови і літератури одержують нижчу зарплату порівняно зі своїми колегами - викладачами української та іноземних мов".

"На жаль, вищенаведені факти лише мала частина того, що насправді відбувається з "розмиванням" російської мови в Україні, котра є об`єктом жорсткого і масованого пресингу по адміністративній лінії", – наголошується в коментарі.

Серед заходів адміністративного тиску на російську мову МЗС Росії виділив "заходи з витіснення російської мови з теле- і радіоефіру, українізації кінопрокату, перекладу системи вищої освіти українською мовою, введенню обов`язкового тестування випускників шкіл українською мовою".

Також Російський МЗС наводить факти скорочення імпорту російських книжок, застосування виключно української мови при транспортному обслуговуванні пасажирів, розпорядження щодо захисту дисертацій тільки державною мовою, заклики приборкати інформаційну "експансію" іноземних мас-медіа (читай російськомовних ЗМІ тощо)".

"В результаті влада "одержала те, що хотіла": різко падає письменність населення, люди, не знаючи ні української, ні російської мови, удаються до т.з. "суржику". Всі ці незграбні дії по дерусифікації культурно-гуманітарного простору вже поставили Україну за освітою громадян на 67-е місце в світі", - зазначається в коментарі.

"Наполегливе небажання прихильників форсованої українізації вирішувати проблему російської мови на основі чинних законодавчих і відповідних міжнародних актів веде до відчуження значної частини населення від влади і створює напружену атмосферу в суспільстві", – вважають в департаменті інформації МЗС Росії.

У МЗС Росії переконані, що "до питання про російську мову на Україні слід підходити з урахуванням законних прав та інтересів мільйонів громадян України, котрі вважають її своєю рідною, або використовують у повсякденному житті".

Friday, June 6, 2008

Кучма пропонував москвичам Крим в обмін на Пруссію


Кучма пропонував москвичам Крим в обмін на Пруссію

06.06.2008 18:34___ www.ПРАВДА

Екс-президент Леонід Кучма не допускає можливості перегляду статусу Криму і Севастополя.

Про це він заявив, відповідаючи на питання читачів журналу "Кореспондент".

"Можливості перегляду статусу Криму і Севастополя не допускаю. Якщо в 94-му і 95-му ми не дали цього зробити в значно загрозливішій ситуації – коли небезпека виходила не тільки ззовні, але й відкрито сепаратистського керівництва Криму – то, сподіваюся, зараз цього і поготів не вийде", - відзначив він.

За словами Кучми, він ніколи не обговорював питання територіальної приналежності Криму з керівниками інших країн.

"Правда, у неофіційній обстановці іноді говорив деяким москвичам приблизно так: ми згодні віддати вам Крим, але тільки після того, як ви віддасте японцям Курили, східну Пруссію – німцям, а США повернуть вам Аляску", - розповів екс-президент.


Instantly invite friends from Facebook and other social networks to join you on Windows Live™ Messenger. Invite friends now!