Sunday, August 07, 2005

On the Andrij Yushchenko Controversy

I am quoting the following paragraph from one of the first Kyiv Post op-eds on the Andrij Yushchenko affair because I completely disagree with it (read the entire piece here):

"It’s worth separating what’s outrageous about the above from what isn’t. Listening to some of the journalistic rhetoric, you’d think young Andriy was an outrageous decadent in the mold of the Marquis de Sade, squandering the national wealth on ceaseless orgies. In fact, his lifestyle is not atypical of that of young people in positions analogous to his. It might be unfair, but the kids of powerful politicians tend to be showered with gifts and offered opportunities the rest of us don’t get. They get offered high-paying sinecures. When Ukrainska Pravda editor Olena Prytula says in a recent interview that Andriy’s lifestyle raises corruption issues, because Andriy’s unnamed benefactors might be trying to influence the president, she’s mistaken. There’s nothing that says a First Child has to take a vow of poverty, and there’s nothing illegal about a private citizen – which is what Andriy is – accepting gifts or a high salary for doing too little work. Without proof of a quid pro quo involving his father, what Andriy owns – or borrows or uses or accepts as a gift – is no one’s business but his own and his family’s. Unseemliness is no crime. This is a free country."

All of this is unfair, and even if it is legal, it's a so-called "free society's" more legalized form of corruption, and one of the more important tasks of a free press is to rigorously investigate and expose the privileges of the rich and famous, and of those whose privilege derive from connections to people in power, and to pressure them into doing positive things with their wealth/power/privilege/prestige. I do not think that people with lots of wealth and who are in positions of power and/or privilege, especially when their privileges derive from family members who are in politics, are entitled to a private life that is free from scrutiny by the press. I do not want to see Ukraine become a country like the United States in which wealth is worshipped above all else and in which we think that people are simply entitled to the wealth they have amassed. Given that so much wealth is amassed by questionable means, even in the US, the press should act like hound dogs on the wealthy: Justify yourself, and we will leave you alone! That's what the press was asking of Yushchenko--please explain to us your son's behaviours and wealth, justify it if you can, or take a stance on it if you can not! Instead, Yushchenko has blown up and blown off the press's concerns--very disappointing. I hope that the post-OR powers will strive to build the kind of Ukraine that they proclaimed they would, one that is EUropean (i.e., in the EU sense of Europeanness). That means developing a social democracy that does not allow the wealthiest members of society to pocket as much of the nation's wealth as the wealthy of the United States do. It means promoting a press willing to ask questions about how wealth is made and used, especially when it reaches relations of politicians and touches the levers of power. I am very pleased to see that the Ukrainian press is more willing to scrutinize the lifestyles of the rich and famous than it is in the US.

And in the end, we find that Andrij probably has been acting in an illegally corrupt manner as well, via his copyrights. . .the hounddogs did a good job sniffing out this one.

No comments: