Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Revolution Will Be Privatized

From Ukraine comes word that President Viktor Yushchenko is reaping the fruits of his famed Orange Revolution: his 19-year-old son has just been given the lucrative copyright to some of the uprising's most popular and resonant symbols. These logos once spoke for an entire people yearning to oust the old corruption of the past; now they will make money for a few highly-placed, well-connected insiders -- a potent symbol of the new corruption of the present.

Indeed, the younger Yushchenko has become a poster boy for the excesses of Ukraine's new masters. (Do we spy another George W. in the making? Oh, what a lucky land!) Andriy, a college student, swans around town in a $150,000 BMW, brandishing a platinum Vertu mobile phone worth $45,000, and is accompanied by a retinue of beefy bodyguards and buys thousand-dollar bottles of champagne on regular outings with his girlfriend -- who drives a more modest $90,000 Mercedes.

But good lord, what's all the fuss? Yushchenko was part and parcel of the old corruption, having served as Prime Minister under oligarch faction boss Leonid Kuchma. And the "Orange Revolution" leadership was itself top-heavy with oligarchs, including the new Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who made a pile in the first wave of murky "privatizations" years ago.

The Orange Revolution was sparked by a presidential election in which exit polls showed that Yushchenko should have won against the Kuchma faction's candidate: the disparity proved that the vote had been fixed, said the international community -- including the Bush administration -- and so a new election was held, giving Yushchenko the presidency. And there's little doubt that the original vote was fixed. But here's an interesting fact: the discrepancy between exit poll and final result in Ukraine was no greater than the similar disconnection between the exit polls that showed, across the board, John Kerry defeating Bush in the U.S. presidential election. Yet while the US media happily jumped on the Yushchenko bandwagon -- "What a travesty of democracy! It must be rectified!" -- they have consistently ridiculed any suggestion that the equal disparity in the American election was also a complete travesty of democracy.

Oh well, what can you say? We're living in the Age of Oligarchy, where it seems every "revolution" is just a falling out among thieves. But perhaps Bush can take some pointers from Yushchenko's family values. Why not assign the copyright to, say, the American flag to young Jen and Barb? Those little gals need a nest egg, too. Maybe Laura -- or Neilsy! -- could have the rights to the national anthem. After all, what's the point of contolling a country if you can't cash in on the dreams and ideals of all the little suckers out there?