Curt on Ukrainian ignorance of the legal, commercial, political world

” . . . between exposure to much less information, less information about systems, zero awareness of commercial, legal, and political systems, they are handicapped”


I have always considered americans ignorant, but that ignorance is cultural, not systemic. We are taught ‘how the world works’ from birth. Law, commerce, the environment, weather, and scientific method are systems we understand – and we look at the world as systems. Partway through my third year here, I have begun to see that it is not just a matter of language and culture, but people in this part of the world are just exposed to much less information than we are. So between exposure to much less information, less information about systems, zero awareness of commercial, legal, and political systems, they are handicapped compared to us. They are skilled in ‘small’ systems (the family and friends) but they are not schooled in american-scale systems: big complex things that work because people do what they promise. The vision the average (ignorant) american high school kid understands, (even in the lower classes) is almost inconceivable here to the average person. I know very well educated people here, and very smart people, but they think in the “Radius of Their Cultural Trust” like all of us do. And that means that they think ‘small’. They have small ambitions. Small companies. Small circles of trust. And they have small wallets because of it.

Maybe today i’m sensitive but it really bothers me.


  1. elmer

    Your friend Curt is wrong.

    First, there are people who do indeed understand democracy and its systems, very very well. One need look only at the journalists at Ukrainian Pravda, for example, and guys like Oles Doniy, Mustafa Nayem, Serhiy Leshchenko and many, many others, who have fought for democracy. This goes back even to the so-called “sheestdesyatnyky,” the dissidents from the sixties.

    Second – the mafiosi from Donbas and other areas of Ukraine understood and understand democracy extremely well. That is why everything they did was designed to crush democracy, including government office patronage, lack of elected governors, and horrible judiciary.

    Third – everything done in Ukraine was based on trust – the mafiosi relied on it, and not on any written agreements. The Ukrainian Constitution was made to be broken, in the Ukrainian world. That is why the song by Green Jolly ranted again “poinyattiya” – “understandings” which was the underpinning of corruption and the Ukrainian mafia system.

    Fourth – “small”??????? Curt has no idea of the billions and millions of dollars involved in government mafia enterprise???????

    Fifth – people learned that in order to survive, they had to keep under the radar of the government mafia – hence, small companies as a matter of survival, or some mafioso would take it away.

    1. Roman

      I don’t think his observation is contradicted by anything you said. In fact I think he’d agree with all of it.

      He’s reacting to three years of conversations with Ukrainians. I think some of this (small thinking, strange ideas, understanding consensus but not incentive) is just your usual lower-trust society. But I do think a lot of it is not knowing how the world works.

      He illustrated this to me by describing the enterprising behavior even of criminals in the US.


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