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Friday 25 February 2022

There's No Point In Asking You'll Get No Reply

As if we - the population of the planet Earth- haven't collectively and individually suffered enough during the last couple of years you wake up one morning in late February 2022 to discover that the megalomaniac in the Kremlin has decided to kick off a war in Europe by invading Ukraine. It seems there often comes a point where democracies get hoodwinked by dictatorships, where the application of gradual pressure and due processes is shown up to be not worth anything when a dictator decides the rules don't apply to him (and it is usually a him). Putin has taken a long cold look at Ukraine, a country he believes doesn't really exist anyway- to him it's Russian- and decided that he's got little to lose and factored in that no one will stop him. The Ukrainians may fight but there's no one in the West willing to fight (understandably) and sanctions could take years to have any effect. He just takes Ukraine because he wants it, because he wants to turn the clock back and because his ego tells him he can. There's nothing much to say really is there? What can we do? It's not like this country has improved its standing in the realm of geopolitics and international affairs in recent years. I can't imagine the combined words and threats of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss played any part in his decision to invade. 

It sounds glib but we all stand with Ukraine don't we? Just words to make us feel a little better maybe there's depressingly little else any of us can do. 

In 1989 The Wedding Present recorded some songs for a Peel Session in Ukrainian due to lead guitarist Peter Solowka. I bought it on cassette in 1989, it came in a lovely box. My copy has long since vanished. This photo comes from the internet but shows what a well put together package it was. 

Peter formed a three piece group called The Ukrainians in 1991 to record punk and post- punk covers in a traditional Ukrainian style. He left The Wedding Present in 1992 and has been recording and touring as/ with The Ukrainians ever since. In  1991 they filmed a video in Kyiv, the first Western band to do so (this was in the days before Ukraine gained its independence from the USSR). In 2002 they released a three track EP of Sex Pistols songs in Ukrainian. This one is a hugely enjoyable romp through Pretty Vacant. 

Цiлком вакантный

In November 1981 the fledgling New Order played a gig in New York at the Ukrainian National Home, a venue and gig titled Taras Shevchenko (Shevchenko was a poet, writer, artist, folklorist and political figure and in 1847 was convicted for promoting independence for Ukraine, writing poems in Ukrainian and ridiculing members of the Russian royal family- a worthy stance to take then and if was still alive now). 

The group were taking tentative steps towards dance music, struggling with their equipment a little and incorporating the temperamental sequencers and electronic machines into their live performances. The setlist is half songs from Movement and half singles- Everything's Gone Green, Ceremony, Procession and an early version of the then unreleased Temptation. It was was released on VHS in 1983, titled Taras Shevchenko and given a Factory number (FACT 77) and later released as a DVD along with their 1998 performance at the Reading festival (a very different gig in terms of scale and scope). Despite the slightly shonky, nervous, at the edge of falling apart nature of Taras Shevchenko, it is one of my favourite New Order artefacts, well worth three quarters of an hour today. If you want to skip to Temptation, go to 35.35- anxious, out of tune, bum guitar notes and unfinished lyrics but gloriously, brilliantly alive.


Martin said...

It may sound glib, but it's true.

Anonymous said...

In democracies all over the world we can sing our 'truths' from the rooftops. We can even say the world is flat, or that vaccinations are a conspiracy, or that an alien reptile race rules the world and we won't be put in prison, shot or tortured for that. In other parts of the world it's a different story. Blessed are those who struggle against tyrants. Long live Ukraine.

jesseblack said...

Britain could probably do more than any single country, by seizing all the money-laundered assets you host, using laws you already have on your books. This government surely won't. Nonetheless the British people should scream for it.

Walter said...

It makes me depressive and angry about what's going on in Ukraine and I only can agree to your words. Our governments only found a few harsh words when Putin took over the Krim and made the Georgian republic another satellite of Russia. We let him fulfill his megalomaniac dreams that captures us back into cold war days. I am with the people of Ukraine but I have less hope that Europe can/will support them. A great choice to feature The Ukrainians. I always liked Davny Chesny -their version of Those Were The Days.

Swiss Adam said...

Spot on Jesse- only problem is the government and Tory party are up to their necks in Russian money.

Jase said...

Oh, but it will all be fine now because Russia have been banned from the EuroVision Song Contest.

That neatly encapsulates the whole situation really, doesn't it?

A mad dictator orders his servants to invade a helpless country and kill innocent people, so in retaliation we stop them singing happy songs and impose limp economic sanctions that will be lifted in a year or two once the dust settles.

This is going to look great in the history books, isn't it?

Swanditch said...

What I don't understand is why the USA was dead set on making UA a part of NATO.

Anonymous said...

Jesse - just can’t agree. I despise this Government as much as anyone but that doesn’t mean they are always more blameworthy than any other Government and the suggestion we could do more in sanctions than anyone else is frankly nonsense. Above all else ( other than military action which clearly won’t happen) the Ukrainian Government are calling for Russia to be removed from Swift - the Uk Government are calling for this but the US, Germany and other European countries won’t do this. I am always more than happy to have a go at this Govt but frankly there are others falling far too short here and it is a disservice to Ukraine to not recognise this

jesseblack said...

I didn't blame the current government for the swamp of pillaged Russian money in the UK. That has indeed been a bipartisan failing. I simply said they were unlikely to do anything about it. And while I'm not saying it would stop Putin, putting pressure on him via his oligarchs is one of the only non-military options available, and the UK is indeed in a unique position to apply that pressure since so much Russian wealth is invested in British assets. A perspective worth reading from Paul Krugman: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/opinion/russia-ukraine-sanctions-offshore-accounts.html

jesseblack said...

None of which is to excuse the behaviour of the rest of Europe, btw. But compared to cutting off gas supplies, freezing/seizing the money of ultrawealthy oligarchs should be politically much simpler.

Anonymous said...

'where democracies get hoodwinked by dictatorships.' Yes, I'm astounded that anyone, with even the most basic understanding of Putin and his origins (not to mention since he's been President), would even begin to think he's a 'normal' politician bound by the constraints of decency and humanity. He's a gangster, nothing more, nothing less. And Russia is little more than a mafia state run for the benefit of kleptomaniacal psychopaths in expensive suits with fat yachts and even fatter property, much of it in London and the home counties. That anyone believed any different is astonishing.