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At least as a matter of discourse--and discourse has been a critically important front in the war by Ukraine against the Russian invading forces (regular and irregular) and the leadership apparatus of those forces in Moscow--President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speeches to the Parliaments of key liberal democratic states have been remarkable.
They have been remarkable for several reasons. First, the visualization of significs has proven to have powerful resonance. More importantly, perhaps, those significs have served to bring history forward in a variety of contexts tailored to the audience. Here is a wonderful example of meaning making from imagery to concept and then to imperative (the command of history, and the obligation of position). That was apparent in speeches both the the American Congress and the Canadian Parliament.
Second, the speeches were highly moral. They spoke to moral obligation to an audience that gauges its sophistication by its cynicism and "realism"--by its attachment to what they think is realpolitik bit which may in actuality be something more like institutional self pleasuring directed inward toward the cat fights that pass for politics. The speeches are meant to irritate--and they do. They are semiotically your parent or the adult lecturing--the meaning maker returning to the object (history) and its signification toward the construction of the present in the form of object (aid) signified by (military hardware) creating meaning (justice, peace, and the protection of the liberal democratic system as well as its extension to those who crave its discursive promise).
Third, but these are also speeches that make very clear that Ukraine knows its place. It knows its place within Europe--a point that was made to the little noticed 12 March 2022 Address by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Italians and all Europeans ("And you know that we must be together in the European community. This is
extremely important for Ukraine. And this is very important for you,
for Europe. Because this will strengthen Europe. This will protect
Europe. This will stop the war forever. . . About Ukraine, which seeks peace. And about Europe, for which it is time to choose. Choose Ukraine. For the sake of peace!").
Ukraine is delicately lecturing from below, or beside. Power relations dictate care; need dictates presumption. The speeches then serve as a means of moving almost to the edge of lèse-majesté. But perhaps it is more a reminder that the subordinate may in extraordinary times remind the superior power of its fiduciary duty and especially of their breach of duty. Here that is precisely what Mr. Zelenskyy does but in a way that fall within the zone of respect rather than as a marker of rebellion. Ukraine does not undertake these semiotic theatrics for its moral amusement--it requires something,and something important. And that something ought to be as important to its audience as it is to Ukraine.
But the most remarkable element of these speeches--variations built on a singular discursive trope--is the way in which, despite the utter blindness of the elites in the states to which these speeches are addressed (and to some extent wasted--in more extreme form perhaps even pearls before swine), the speeches taken as a while, nicely describe the emerging imperium of liberal democracy under the core of leadership of the United States.
This imperium imposes heavy duties on the Americans. These duties echo those of leading societal forces under Leninist theory. In this case, however, those duties are not vested in a Leninist party but rather in . That is, as the leading forces of liberal democracy, they have a duty to protect, engage with and lead the masses of states toward the goals to which liberal democracy aspires. Here, the consequence is clear--the core of leadership has a duty to protect the terrains of its imperium and to aid its subordinate components, and its peripheries, when they are abused or threatened by others. That was the essence of the speech that Mr. Zelenskyy delivered to the American Congress (see Text of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's address to Congress 16 March 2022 and to the Canadian Parliament 15 March 2022; and Text of "Remarks by President Biden on the Assistance the United States is Providing to Ukraine").
But it also generates responsibilities on the mass of states--arranged in order of precedence in relation to the center or core state. That was the essence of Mr. Zelenskyy's speech to the Canadian Parliament. Canada as a state near the core of leadership embraces the characteristics of a good global citizen, as a responsible element in the mass society of states that represents the best expression of the positive effects of imperium under the leadership and protection of the core. At this level the obligations are horizontal--sibling to sibling. And that was the essence of the speech to the Canadian Parliament--that siblings ought to aid each other under the guidance and leadership of its core and guided by the principles andr ules that serve as the framework of the liberal democratic imperium.Address by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Bundestag. Like the speeches to the Americans and the Canadians, the speech was a brilliant exposition of the role and obligations of a state at the periphery but near the heartland of the imperial center. It is a reminder that such dependencies--especially one like Germany with a history of lack of national self control in pursuing its own interests (as these might be conjured up from time to time)--have a higher moral duty in the service of liberal democracy than more peripheral states. And principal among its duties is the avoidance of betrayal--betrayal of its own values, of its moral interests, and of its obligations within hierarchies of liberal democratic empire. This Germany has failed to do. It contributed to the mess at its doorstep in equal measure to the contribution to the mess of its imperial master. And now is is called upon to help clean it up. This may be of little moment for the leadership to which the remarks were directed--one master may in their minds be as good as another. And that is a pity.
Or lose empire--again pearls before swine.
The tenor of these remarks was not lost even on the usually more obtuse elements of the press (see, eg here, here, here, and here). And the press did not a moment of perhaps telling signification (especially by officials not enough used to being called on their duty): "The main opposition party, the conservative CDU, expressed outrage that
after the address the chamber went on to discuss normal parliamentary
business, instead of debating the war in Ukraine. The transition
certainly jarred as the parliamentary president announced, amid booing
from opposition MPs, a scheduled birthday congratulation message." (here).
The text of the Remarks follows; they may be accessed from the site of the President of Ukraine HERE.
17 March 2022 - 12:02
Dear President Göring-Eckardt.
Dear Mr. Scholz.
Dear ladies and gentlemen, deputies, guests, journalists.
I am addressing you after three weeks of full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, after eight years of war in the east of my country, in Donbas.
I appeal to you when Russia is bombing our cities, destroying everything in Ukraine. Everything - houses, hospitals, schools, churches. Using missiles, air bombs, rocket artillery.
Thousands of Ukrainians died in three weeks. The occupiers killed 108 children. In the middle of Europe, in our country, in 2022.
I am addressing you after numerous meetings, negotiations, statements and requests. After steps in support, some of which are overdue. After sanctions, which are obviously not enough to stop this war. And after we saw how many ties your companies still have with Russia. With a state that just uses you and some other countries to finance the war.
During the three weeks of war for our lives, for our freedom, we became convinced of what we had felt before. And what you probably do not all notice yet.
You are like behind the wall again. Not the Berlin Wall. But in the middle of Europe. Between freedom and slavery. And this wall grows stronger with each bomb that falls on our land, on Ukraine. With every decision that is not made for the sake of peace. Not approved by you, although it may help.
When did it happen?
Dear German people.
Why is this possible? When we told you that Nord Stream was a weapon and a preparation for a great war, we heard in response that it was an economy after all. Economy. Economy. But it was cement for a new wall.
When we asked you what Ukraine needs to do to become a member of NATO, to be safe, to receive security guarantees, we heard the answer: such a decision is not on the table yet and will not be in the near future. Just as the chair for us at this table. Just as you are still delaying the issue of Ukraine's accession to the European Union. Frankly, for some it is politics. The truth is that it is stones. Stones for a new wall.
When we asked for preventive sanctions, we appealed to Europe, we appealed to many countries. We turned to you. Sanctions for the aggressor to feel that you are a force. We saw delays. We felt resistance. We understood that you want to continue the economy. Economy. Economy.
And now the trade routes between you and the country that has once again brought a brutal war to Europe are barbed wire over the wall. Over the new wall that divides Europe.
And you don't see what's behind this wall, and it's between us, between people in Europe. And because of this, not everyone is fully aware of what we are going through today.
I am addressing you on behalf of Ukrainians, I am addressing you on behalf of Mariupol residents - civilians of a city that Russian troops have blocked and razed to the ground. They just destroy everything there. Everything and everyone who is there. Hundreds of thousands of people are under shelling around the clock. No food, 24 hours a day without water, no electricity, 24 hours a day without communication. For weeks.
Russian troops do not distinguish between civilians and military. They don’t care where civilian objects are, everything is considered a target.
A theater that was a shelter for hundreds of people and was blown up yesterday, a maternity hospital, a children's hospital, residential areas without any military facilities - they are destroying everything. Round the clock. And they do not let any humanitarian cargo into our blocked city. For five days, Russian troops have not stopped the shelling specifically to prevent the rescue of our people.
You can see it all. If you climb over this Wall.
If you remember what the Berlin Airlift meant to you. Which could be realized because the sky was safe. You were not killed from the sky as now in our country, when we cannot even make an airlift! When the sky gives only Russian missiles and air bombs.
I am addressing you on behalf of older Ukrainians. Many survivors of World War II. Those who escaped during the occupation 80 years ago. Those who survived Babyn Yar.
Babyn Yar that President Steinmeier visited last year. On the 80th anniversary of the tragedy. And that was hit by Russian missiles now. It is exactly this place that was hit. And the missile strike killed the family that went to Babyn Yar, to the monument. Killed again, 80 years after.
I appeal to you on behalf of everyone who has heard politicians say: "Never again." And who saw that these words are worthless. Because again in Europe they are trying to destroy the whole nation. Destroy everything we live by and live for.
I am addressing you on behalf of our military. Those who defend our state, and therefore the values that are often talked about everywhere in Europe, everywhere - and in Germany as well.
Freedom and equality. Opportunity to live freely, not to submit to another state, which considers a foreign land its "living space". Why are they defending all this without your leadership? Without your strength? Why are overseas states closer to us than you are?
Because this is the Wall. The wall that someone doesn't notice and that we are hammering on while fighting to save our people.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I am grateful to everyone who supports us. I am grateful to you. Ordinary Germans who sincerely help Ukrainians on your land. To journalists who do their job honestly, showing all the evil that Russia has brought to us. I am grateful to the German businessmen who put morality and humanity above accounting. Above the economy. Economy. Economy. And I am grateful to the politicians who are still trying... Trying to break this Wall. Who choose life between Russian money and the deaths of Ukrainian children. Who support the strengthening of sanctions against Russia that can guarantee peace. Peace to Ukraine. Peace to Europe. Who do not hesitate to disconnect Russia from SWIFT.
Who know that an embargo on trade with Russia is needed. On imports of everything that sponsors this war. Who know that Ukraine will be in the European Union. Because Ukraine is already more Europe than many others.
I am grateful to everyone who is taller than any wall. And who knows that the stronger one bears more responsibility when it comes to saving people.
It is difficult for us to endure without the help of the world, without your help. It is difficult to defend Ukraine, Europe without what you can do. So that you don’t look over your shoulder even after this war. After the destruction of Kharkiv... For the second time in 80 years. After the bombing of Chernihiv, Sumy and Donbas. For the second time in 80 years. After thousands of people tortured and killed. For the second time in 80 years. Otherwise, what is the historical responsibility to the Ukrainian people still not redeemed for what happened 80 years ago?
And now - so that a new one does not appear, behind the new Wall, which will again demand redemption.
I appeal to you and remind you of what is needed. The things without which Europe will not survive and will not preserve its values.
Former actor, President of the United States Ronald Reagan once said in Berlin: Tear down this wall!
And I want to tell you now.
Chancellor Scholz! Tear down this wall.
Give Germany the leadership you deserve. And what your descendants will be proud of.
Support every Ukrainian.
Stop the war.
Help us stop it.
Glory to Ukraine!