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The Comedy of Ukraine

Mar 31, 2022

The story we’ve heard is that a comedian with no political experience was elected President of Ukraine. Or was it a schoolteacher? He is an honest, educated man whose mission is to root out corruption and create a modern democracy. To build a better life for its’ citizens. What is real? What is imaginary? Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

The world is surprised and enthralled watching this courageous, clever man respond to a superpower invading his country. He has emerged as the most inspiring proponent of democracy seen in decades, reviving NATO and ideals that were drowning in cynicism and partisanship.

How did this happen?

I’ve been watching the TV show ”Servant of the People” starring Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The plotline is a preview of real-life – just substitute actor/comedian for teacher. Ostensibly a comedy, it is a primer on how to rescue a deeply corrupt society from rampant greed, and how hard it is to bring about change.

Naturally, there are the elite culprits, who play monopoly with the country’s assets and are used to silently winning behind the scenes. Other perpetrators are the politicians and officials who steal for themselves, and can be bought and sold. No one is spared in this satire. Greediness filters down and infects everyone. Citizens become cynical and stop following the laws; everyone evades the taxman, the licensing bureau, and the entire society becomes a black market.

Zelenskyy’s family (in the show) accept gifts of luxury items for “favors” from the government and are mad when he doesn’t play along. Ultimately, he can only rely on and trust childhood friends to be honest and help in his mission (although they are tempted mightily.) His description of corruption is this: greed, plus discretion, minus accountability. The powers that be try to stop him at every turn, and he triumphs - at least at the end of Season One (all that's available on Netflix!) 

This show is deeply serious. Ukraine had crossed many thresholds for entering the European Union except for the remaining level of corruption. It’s what doomed Afghanistan in the end; corrupt officials siphoning off the country’s wealth. They had a President who fled to save his own neck, probably with millions hidden away to live out his life comfortably.

We can all take a look at our own relationship with greed. How much is enough? What are you willing to do for money? Better yet, what are you willing to sacrifice to defend democracy? I believe the earth could support “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all if we utilized, sustained, and distributed resources wisely.

Biden said during the campaign that “the main challenge of our age is the choice between autocracy or democracy.” Democracy certainly is not perfect – and not immune to corruption - but it’s our best effort so far to live up to the ideals in the Declaration of Independence. Our freedom, we have discovered of late, is fragile. We are at a tipping point, and this astounding man in Ukraine, in the role of a lifetime, is showing the way.

Why did the Ukrainians elect Zelenskyy with 73% of the vote? Watch “Servant of the People” to realize this remarkable story was there all along, in plain sight.


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