Friday, March 4, 2011

Is Ukraine a Third World Country?

I always refer to Ukraine as a Third World country. I don't believe that this term has become outdated since the end of the Cold War. I don't even think that the Cold War has really ended, but this is a topic for a different post. In my opinion, the term "Third World" is very useful when describing a certain kind of reality, a certain way of being and thinking that is shared by a variety of countries in the world. 

So here is a list of characteristics that, in my opinion, make Ukraine a Third World country:

- our colonial past that still defines us in every way. Ukraine only achieved independence in 1991 after centuries of brutal colonial domination that destroyed our economy, ravaged our culture, and claimed the lives of millions of people. You don't get over such an experience just by declaring yourself independent.

- colonial mentality always looks for a master. In Ukraine, half of the country is eager to debase itself in any way to please the Russians. The other half, would do the same to please the EU. 

- the entire society is corrupt on every level. People insist on giving bribes even when none are solicited from them. The idea of paying one's taxes or not cheating on exams only provokes roaring laughter. The most successful person is the one who cheats the best.

- working hard has no prestige attached to it. Prostituting oneself, taking bribes, cheating and stealing are considered a lot more prestigious.

- contrary to popular opinion, people in such countries are not necessarily poor. Countries are poor because citizens steal everything they can lay their hands on. As a result, people do quite well for themselves while the state is falling apart.

- people are very resilient, cynical, harsh and unsentimental. However, they always turn a face of fake hospitality and accommodating niceness to a foreigner (who is always considered "stupid.") It always makes me feel very sad to hear a well-meaning Westerner gush about his trip to Ukraine where everybody was super nice to him.

I know that all of this sounds very harsh, people. But what can I do if I don't want to play the "let's-lie-to-the-stupid-foreigner" game any more. People from developed countries have this annoying tendency to pity those of us in the Third World. They like to imagine us as dirty, starving, piteous, and grateful for any handout. They believe they can enlighten us and improve our existence by bringing us the values of democracy, human rights and freedom. Little do they know that the very people who seem to listen attentively to their speechifying laugh uproariously behind their backs at their naïveté.


Pagan Topologist said...

OK, I suppose Poland really is a lot different. The people I knew in Poland were always devoted to hard work. Of course, most of the people I knew were academics, but not all. For example, I knew a professional driver whose job was to drive executives around. He was really serious about being a good driver. He saved for years so he could afford to own a car himself.

Pen said...

I would be very interested in reading why you believe the Cold War hasn't ended. Will you be writing on that? Or did I interpret your sentence incorrectly?

Clarissa said...

The short answer is: because the other side has neither suspended hostilities nor disbanded. :-) I will be writing about this at length soon.

el said...

Is Russia a 2nd or 3rd world country?

Waiting for your Cold War post, even if imo it becomes diminished in comparison to what can come from the Middle East. Apropos us, Israel was getting quite a lot gas from Egypt, which stopped ~a month ago. [Note: Gas is 40% of consumption to create energy of Israel Electric Corporation]. So far, no official pronouncement from Egypt.

In one Israeli newspaper is written that in the worst case we can burn fuel oil and diesel fuel, which will immediately affect the quality of air we breathe. The damage is not only economical, but also in trust with ability to hold economical agreements in our region.

Don't know whether you heard about Yusuf al-Qaradawi's return to Egypt.
From wiki: Al-Qaradawi has long had a prominent role within the intellectual leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood...

He supports suicide attacks on all Israelis, including women since he views the Israeli society as a "completely military" society that did not include any civilians. He also considers pregnant women and their unborn babies to be valid targets on the ground that the babies could grow up to join the Israeli Army.

More or less what I read in Hebrew news:
The Region: Egypt gets its Khomeini
A portrait of Muslim Brotherhood's supreme authority

Returning to the post, since I left Ukraine at the ripe old age of 13 many things you write, like treatment of foreigners, are new. As for paying taxes and being against hard work, in our small town in Donbass people hardly had money to eat. Everybody who could - ran away to Israel, work illegally in Russia, bigger Ukrainian towns. People worked on dachas too. Seemed to me they had to work hard to survive. Illegal work on Russian or Ukrainian market f.e. is hardly a vacation. At school before USSR collapsed children named their parents' professions, like doctor, teacher, coal mine worker. Afterwards, in our town school most were in "no profession" category, meaning working somewhere somehow since their real professions just didn't pay! They didn't change from good life. I think both of us are right, considering different groups of people. You probably lived in a large city, right?

Clarissa said...

Small town in Donbass, huh? I'd love to hear its name. My mother's side of the family is from a host of small towns in Donbass. :-) And here we meet online. Life's funny.

Please don't even mention the work on dachas to me. This is a very Soviet kind of insanity that is extremely unprofitable economically but still people practice it like a religion. It's masochism, pure and simple.

As for the professions you name, half of my family are coal miners. They were never millionaires, of course, but far from indigent. As for doctors, a doctor will always be able to make money. How can a doctor be poor? The same goes for teachers. (The other half of my famile are teachers, so here I also know what I'm talking about.)

I knew many people in Kharkov who had no money to eat. Who would faint in the streets out of hunger. Every one of those people refused my offers of very well-paid respectable work. Every single one. They ostracized me for working, too. Just in case: I didn't work as a prostitute or anything. I worked as a translator.

el said...

RE teachers: At least about our small town you're mistaken. No salary + no tutoring students at home since 99% of population are too poor (every day less & less private students) & every teacher can't live off 10 town's "New Russians". Moreover, schools closing since there were no enough children. My school closed soon after we left. This entire info is 100% correct, not "friend of a friend told me" kind.

Shedding Khawatir said...

The characteristics you describe meet my experience in "third world" countries. However, I dislike the term "third world" for a number of reasons. First, I feel that it is most often used to reference the view you describe as "They like to imagine us as dirty, starving, piteous, and grateful for any handout. They believe they can enlighten us and improve our existence by bringing us the values of democracy, human rights and freedom" which is clearly wrong, as you say. Second, it groups together countries that have as much or more that is different than they do in common (regardless of what someone thinks that common is). Things that would improve the situation in one country might be useless in another, and the differences are at least as important as the commonalities, especially when considering change (and I don't mean "freedom and democracy" change either). Third, it assumes that these views are accepted. I can't speak for Ukraine, but in the countries I know, there is a small percentage that accepts these views and benefits greatly, a small percentage that adamantly opposes them, and a majority that apathetically goes along with the status quo assuming that's just how it will be, but could be convinced otherwise. Fourth, there are degrees, but who's ever heard of 2.5 world? There are probably other reasons too, but I often feel that "third world" is used to label rather than to analyze. You aren't doing this, but this is why I dislike the term and generally avoid it.

fairykarma said...

I googled Ukraine and "sex tourism" to see if you were being overly critical. I guess you weren't kidding!

Alexandra said...

Clarissa, I am sorry, but to my opinion, you are too critical!We are what we think. If we think in such a way and even tell that to all around, what do you think other countries should suppose? Not every Ukrainian is like you describe!We have a lot of potential and if we want to change sth, we should start from ourselves. Those who spoil our reputation, left for "better life" abroud. Ukraine is changing now,people are changing. Our country is beautiful,we have lots of attractions, and good climate. If we won't love the place where we live, who will??? Don't you think there are no bribes in Germany or Great Britain? Don't you think there is no sex tourism in Thailand or Holland? The difference is in that they love their countries!!! And don't tell everyone those disguisting things! And they have lots of tourism! Are we worse?? Only We, Ukrainians, can change something!

Clarissa said...

I only write about what I know. As soon as I discover something different, I will write about it.

The concept of loving countries is alien to me. So is the concept of concealing what I know or writing what I don't believe to be true out of some weird "love" for a country.

And yes, I believe that Thailand is a third world country as well.

The extent of bribery and prostitution in Germany, Great Britain and Holland cannot be compared with those in Ukraine in any serious context. Have you heard of many agencies selling mail-order brides from Great Britain?