It is easy to hate the state. It is mostly inconvenient, slow and unpleasant. It is associated with pointless bureaucracy, inefficiency and lack of people-orientation. Working for the state is a punishment that should be avoided. Paying taxes is a stupid story, because the state will not use them effectively anyway. There is one nuance with all these theses — we forget that we are talking about our state, which directly affects our lives.
Ukrainians have a long and challenging history, where falls prevail, and the struggle for survival is the main logic. We did not have our state for many centuries. Instead, the occupying administrations imposed imperial game rules on us.
It left us with a deep colonial trauma that still has its effects. We are used to perceiving the authorities as governors of the centre who ultimately take care of people's interests. Therefore, the most thoughtful strategy was to minimize interaction with the state apparatus, use informal systems and rules to ensure one's existence and engage in subversive activities if one had the strength to do so.
It was an entirely rational and reasonable strategy for many years, which helped us survive, form and preserve as a Ukrainian nation. But the problem is that this strategy is absolutely not suitable for building one's own country today.
In 1991, Ukraine got its independence. I use the verb get, not gain, because this process took place relatively calmly and bloodlessly when, in fact, the ruling communist elite of the republic reached a specific consensus with the population about leaving the USSR.
However, there is a persistent feeling that most people have not understood what independence means.
Among other things, we have not changed the perception of the state as something alien and hostile when the best strategy was (and still is) to avoid the state wherever possible.
The problem with this approach is that for 30 years of independence, we have allowed a largely ineffective but, let's be honest, Soviet system to persist and encapsulate itself, which has one of the defining influences on our lives because the state sets the rules of the game, uses the coercion system and directs resources.
After the Revolution of Dignity, there was a significant shift. A certain number of reputable professionals went to work for the state, seeking to initiate system reports.
Public organizations and associations began to work actively with public politicians and instruments. At the same time, this strong dislike and contempt for the state remained in the general background.
There are often calls to directly or indirectly create parallel processes, institutions, products and tools that would replace the state. That is, we continue to act according to the rules of the underground — we create simultaneous structures that are more comfortable to interact with and trust.
This game could have been played forever without the full-scale invasion on February 24th, 2022. For the first time in the years of independence, our statehood was so openly questioned.
What seemed to be a direct fact has again hung in the air — will Ukraine exist as a state, or will we again become a nation without a state?
Today's war is existential for the Ukrainian people. This story is not exclusively about civil servants, the military or a separate social group. It is the war of the entire Ukrainian people.
This war cannot be won thanks to something alone. It requires the mobilization (moral and procedural) of the entire adult population. It also means that some things can only be done by the state. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are part of the state.
Officials and state institutions carry out negotiations on joining the EU and NATO. The exchange of secret information takes place exclusively between state structures. Many processes are related to the state in one way or another.
The effectiveness of these processes (and, in some cases, their presence or absence) is directly related to the capacity and adequacy of the state and, more precisely, state institutions. Civil society does fantastic things but cannot (and should not) replace the state.
We have to do fantastic things to win this war. Including realizing that the Ukrainian state is ours and we are responsible for what it is, recognizing all the bad and all the good (because it is).
We must take responsibility for its transformation because we need a solid and capable state to win.
In 2022, it seemed that the victory should become an impetus for qualitative changes in the middle of the country. 2023 made us realize victory is impossible without these qualitative changes. So, let's start now.