Open borders can civilize the brainwashed

By Taras Frolov

The mind refuses to accept that my country has started a devasting war against Ukraine. Any war is a tragedy but this one... when basically every Russian has a relative or friends in Ukraine it is not only a tragedy, but also a collapse of everything we’ve known about good or evil, about who we are.

Historians will try to find out what has led to this aggressive act. I am not a historian. But it appears to me that the existence of borders is one of the reasons which made this war possible. Besides the obvious axiom: if the world was free of borders and united there wouldn’t be any war; there is another not so explicit consideration which we ought to understand for the sake of our future.

Since the war started, I happened to talk to “pro-Putin” people. Most of them are not supportive of the war itself. As many have pointed out, these people listen to propaganda and believe that Ukraine is full of Nazis, and the Russian army is set to go free the Ukrainian people. But why don’t Putin’s supporters consider other sources of information? The reason is not because they refuse to think and just take for granted what is fed to them by TV. No. Many of them try to digest and question what is told by officials. Yet, after that digestion, they still believe in what federal TV channels tell them.

You see, what Putin’s propagandists do - they look closely and quite sincerely at what is widely spread in Russia, and then “attribute” that to other countries, mostly to Ukraine but also generally to Western world. In other words, the propaganda machine describes corruption, selfishness, itch for money, readiness to lie in order to reach a specific goal, conformity, hate and subordination (which anyone can easily observe in Russia), but declares that these things happen in other countries. Since Russian people see all of this in their own country every day, it is very easy for them to believe that it also happens in Ukraine and everywhere else.

The problem of many Russians is that they simply don’t know that it could be different. They don’t know that there is a world where empathy is not a weakness, where solidarity truly exists, where people may do good for free, where a superior position at work does not give the right to humiliate or abuse.

Just imagine, you go to work to earn money not to do what you like. You hear “must” and “have to” starting from kinder garden. You can buy food and even clothes but not Apple products. You learned from your parents that “nothing can change” and that it is safer to tolerate abuse and suffer than raise your voice. Of course, chances are high that you’ll start to think of this behavior as normal. You’ll assume there’s no alternative.

There were several instances when I tried to explain to these people that they should not measure other nations by Russian standards or, as William Shakespare has put it: West “may be straight though they themselves be bevel”[1]. I could see how my opponents tried hard to comprehend that, but that was beyond their reasoning. Why? I think, mostly because they have not seen the outside world. The world was closed for them. Initially – by the iron curtain, lately – by complex visa procedures, and, of course, by poverty.

My personal experience shows that a person’s support of Putinism is inversely related to the days spent beyond Russia. As such, my hypothesis is that if the borders were open, more people would be able to see how the Western society is organized and would have been less subjected to the lies of propaganda.

Ukraine and the West will win this war (unless the old man of unsound mind kills us in a nuclear disaster, which I believe will not happen). Ukraine will need all the help possible to rise from the ruins, to start peaceful life. But that’s not all.

After Putin’s end the world will come face-to-face with disappointed, scared, and poor Russians. It might sound crazy but if a fence put around Russia and it is isolated from the outer world, the result will be the opposite of "peace and safety". The only way to stop such tragedies from happening again is to show that the world is a wonderful place and make it possible for all nations to see it.

[1] Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed, When not to be, receives reproach of being, And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed, Not by our feeling, but by others' seeing. For why should others' false adulterate eyes Give salutation to my sportive blood? Or on my frailties why are frailer spies, Which in their wills count bad what I think good? No, I am that I am, and they that level At my abuses, reckon up their own, I may be straight though they themselves be bevel; By their rank thoughts, my deeds must not be shown Unless this general evil they maintain, All men are bad and in their badness reign William Shakespeare