Can Everybody Please Shut Up for a Second and Listen to Volodymyr Zelensky?
The West Still Isn’t Really Listening to Zelensky. That’s a Big Mistake.
When I was in high school, I had a friend. Chris. He came from a messed up home. Not a poor one. His dad was loaded, seriously loaded — but he was a serial philanderer. He’d left Chris’s mom for a woman half her age — a story that would repeat itself every five years or so like clockwork. That had driven poor Chris’s mom around the bend a little — he’d left her with three kids, and even though he was loaded, he refused to pay child support. Deadbeat dad, emotionally battered mom. What do you think happened to Chris? Well, he turned into an awesome person.
He got straight A’s, studied like a genius, worked out and got a twelve-pack, and drove us all to the nightclubs we escaped to until 4AM because we were the rejects and freaks. And then he got an MD and a PhD.
Along the way, Chris tried to, well, reform his dad. Because Chris had done all this on his own. Only when the situation had been truly desperate had his dad finally chipped in. Dad — I got accepted to med school, but could I just have a couple of hundred bucks for a moving van? I kid you not. We met him at the Canadian border and drove that damned van into Montreal. It was a night I’ll never forget, because, my friends, we were free.
Why am I telling you this story? What the hell…has Grandpa Umair finally lost his…he’s senile, guys, someone revoke his internet…quick, doesn’t Texas have a tip line for this kind of thing yet? Before you send me to the old folks’ home…I have a point.
Why is nobody listening to Volodymyr Zelensky?
We live in a time when history is being made. And one way in which history is being made is that the name Zelensky will go down in it. This dude, this man, turned into an awesome, confoundingly amazing leader. Two months ago, nobody outside Ukraine had ever heard of him, and now, he’s more popular than Taylor Swift, because he’s cooler. How did that happen? Well, have you ever heard of someone literally telling the entire Russian Army to go to hell…and then winning a war against them? Zelensky did that. He achieved the impossible.
Nobody much thought when this war broke out that by today Ukraine would be winning it. Nobody except Zelensky — who believed it so much that he led his fellow Ukrainians to believe in themselves too, and so here we are. David kicked Goliath’s ass, even when Goliath sent in the Nazis to rape women and violate kids and rob grandmas. Incredible. The world hasn’t seen such bravery since — I can’t even remember. Since… Aragorn. The West is addicted to dumb superhero movies, but Zelensky is a godddamned real life hero. Captain America — LOL. Spider Man? Thor? Aqua Man? They’re plumbing the depths of what they’ve got, they’re down to the dregs. Who’s next to get a movie — Chlorophyll Boy (yes, he was a real thing)?
They’ve all got nothing on Zelensky.
You think this is a hagiography? An homage…go ahead, say it in a French accent, Derrida. I’ve barely gotten started, and I mean it. That’s right, Grandpa Umair’s grabbing you by the lapels, and he’s rambling, and you’re like, “Ah, Jesus, now what do I do? Give an old guy a Will Smith slap? Help me!!”
The world needs more Zelenskys. Can you imagine? I mean think of it. What if we had a Zelensky for climate change? The planet might actually not melt down into the Devil’s vacation home. What if we had a Zelensky for inequality? The average person might have, I don’t know, a shot at a decent life again, instead of having a heart attack while working for Jeff Bezos…and being told to keep working.
If only we had a Zelensky for every Big Issue…we’d have a lot less Issues. The future might not be this…insane, horrid, creepy thing. You know? It’s like a dumpster…and smoke is billowing out…it reeks…you’re like what the hell is in there…and so you walk over, in trepidation, and crack it open to take a peek…and you jump back, shouting, “What the hell!!?”…because in there was a Baby Hitler and the Devil, and they were having a barbecue, dancing around and partying, setting fire to little effigies of democracy and the planet…and then they fire a thumb-sized missile at you. Ow! What the hell! What just exploded in my face? Was that a pimple? Did Baby Hitler and the Devil really just fire a missile at me…from the dumpster fire that’s called the future? Jesus!
Or maybe that’s not the case.
Because, well, nobody’s listening to Zelensky. They’re pretending to, and using him for photo-ops, and yes, even sending him guns and money…but that’s not the same thing.
Let me give you a few examples. Today, Zelensky warned that Putin’s target is the European project. All of it. You don’t have to look very hard to see it. At this very moment, millions of erstwhile sane Frenchies, who used to be reliable and stalwart friends of social democracy, backers of human civilization — this is a nation that has a ministry that keeps a list of which baby names are allowed, and yes, I think that’s a good thing — are voting for the scion of a neo Nazi dynasty who’s an open backer of Putin. Look, I get it. Emanuel Macron has all the charm of an overzealous traffic cop. Imagine being stuck in an elevator with him. Jesus, you’d pretend to stare at your phone until you died of starvation. But still…Marine Le Pen?
Vive la revolution, I guess. You really showed us.
Meanwhile, Europe still hasn’t understood that it’s Putin’s target on any serious level whatsoever. Yes, NATO’s mobilised some troops and whatnot — but this front isn’t military, yet, it’s political and informational. It’s about using puppets to destabilise Europe — like Le Pen — the same way such puppets, like Trump, or Brexit, already tore apart the West’s leaders, America and Britain, and reduced them to mere shadows of the power they once used to wield.
Do you see what I mean a little bit? Boris Johnson flew into Kyiv yesterday, oh how convenient. It wasn’t for Zelensky’s sake, it was for Boris’s. His political fortunes are flagging, beset by endless scandals, and his own chancellor is making a play for being PM — so in Boris flew for a photo op.
This is the Playboy Centerfold theory of Zelensky. In this, he’s arm candy. And this is the perspective too many of our Western leaders are subscribing to. They aren’t listening to him. Treating him as the ferociously intelligent and courageous man he actually is. Instead, they’re treating him the way Kid Rock does a starlet. Hey, baby! You look good. You fine! Come on over here. Be all mine!
It’s gross, people. Zelensky is not a Playboy Centerfold. Ah, hell, I just realized that Zoomers don’t even know what that is. OK kids, listen up, once we lived in a world so weird and misogynistc men printed magazines with foldouts of naked women posing wearing nothing but come-hither expressions. Or maybe that was less misogynistic than porn pouring out of every smartphone like humanity’s drowning in its own hormonal juices, but..I…God, do I digress.
There’s a thing people used to say to me all the time. Way back when I was a terrible person. A lot like Chris’s dad. Maybe not a serial philanderer…but a self-obsessed egoiste nonetheless. My kid sis would throw her hands up in exasperation and shout it. My wives and girlfriends would — after throwing a plate, pillow, handbag, lipstick at me — scream it. My readers would slap me like Will Smith and bellow it. “You’re not listening to me! Jesus!” My entire universe was a chorus saying this line, over and over again to me. And then would come the next one, the conclusion. “You’re just patronising me!”
And that, dear friends, is what the West is really doing to Zelensky. It’s patronising him.
Have you ever been patronized? You know the feeling. Someone’s telling you what you want to hear. Maybe they’re even supporting you, and “on your side.” But they’re not really listening. They’re just pretending to. They’re not really treating you as an equal, with respect, taking in your perspective, doing the harder work of understanding, seeing through your eyes, witnessing, knowing your world, truth, reality.
They’re kind of just pandering to you, because it’s easier. You want something more than that. You don’t want a patron. You want — in my case — a brother, friend, husband, boyfriend. You want a real relationship.
That’s where Zelensky is, too. He wants a real relationship with the West. One formalised by membership in its institutions, like the EU — but also one where Ukrainians are seen as equals, heard, respected, listened to. And instead, what he’s got is being treated as a Playboy Centerfold. Hugh Hefner jets in, takes a pic — hey, smile Volodymyr, and shake dat azz — and then, wham bam thank you Volodymyr…he’s back on the plane.
I’m not saying Ukraine’s getting screwed by the West. Or am I? What I am saying is something’s unfair here. We should all know by now that Ukraine is fighting this war for all of us. Because if Putin isn’t stopped there, he won’t stop there. So of course we should support the Ukrainians with weapons and aid and all the rest of it. But there’s this attitude in the West that it’s OK for them to die for us…but for us not to really listen to them. That they’re expendable — phew, glad it’s not us, guys, here are a lot of guns, go fight a war, and let us know how it goes. Do you see what I mean a little bit?
Let me give you another example. Zelensky recently called for Nuremberg Trials for Russia’s horrific crimes. These crimes are so…so far beyond…that I can’t even…I don’t even know how to talk about them. I wrote about them yesterday, and then my lovely wife the doctor told me there was a video going viral on Twitter in which a Russian soldier rapes an infant.
I spoke before I could even stop myself. “But how do you even…what?” She’s a doctor, and she’s worked with traumatised and abused people. “Just don’t even ask,” she said. I don’t even know how I felt. I still don’t. Angry, disgusted, sickened? Yes, but they don’t really do the feeling justice. I felt physically ill. My stomach turned. My blood ran cold. How do you even? Questions of everything from theodicy to childhood innocence flashed through my mind. And then my lip twisted all by itself in contempt, and I thought, with a kind of ice-cold fury: Nuremberg Trials.
And you know what? If America, Britain, France, and Germany wanted such trials to happen…they’d already be building the court. Studding it with TV cameras. Making it a very public affair that when we captured these bastards, and we were going to capture these bastards, we were going to put them on trial before the whole world.
Listen, we’re countries that can build entire neighbourhoods, even temporary cities, in days. Anybody see a court for Nuremberg Trials being built somewhere? Wait, what’s that? Oh, another billionaire bought another mansion the size of Los Angeles, replete with car elevators and playroom and fifty seven guest houses with their own Maseratis? How nice, maybe we could hold them there.
You see my point a little bit.
We’re not listening to Zelensky. About what Russia wants. What it will do next. How we should be preparing. Instead, we run him guns, send him aid, and then someone — who’s it going to be tomorrow? — some grinning politicians flies in for a photo-op. Hey, can someone call hair and makeup? Zelensky needs more blush! No, no, we need yellow lingerie, not pink! Hey — Volodymyr? Could you just smile a little more coyly? We need less “angry” and more cute, mmmmmk?
Zelensky is not our pet. He’s not a Centerfold, and God help us all when Boris Johnson starts acting like Hugh Hefner. He is something that is almost unknown in this dismal age: a truly great leader. Go ahead and ask yourself a question. Putin invades — but Boris Johnson was Ukraine’s President. Can you even imagine? He’d probably have been the first to desperately try to escape…on the nearest bike…but he’d have made it about four feet…before falling on his hairdo. Imagine if Trump was Ukraine’s President when Putin invaded. Trump would be on a bed somewhere in Kyiv, and Putin would be smiling and peeing on — never mind.
You see my point.
Our leaders are helping Ukraine, yes. But there is a greasy, sleazy feeling about it. This isn’t N’Sync’s latest comeback single, this is a goddamned war of existence. I get the feeling that, now, they are exploiting Zelensky for their own political capital and gain, precisely because he is great in a way they aren’t. Intelligent, courageous, inspirational. Who doesn’t want some of that halo to rub off on them? Hey, guys, look, I found an archangel over here, weeping in pain — quick, everyone grab some of this incredibly rare and precious and impossible to find golden halo!!
I told you the story of my friend Chris because his dad did all this to him. Chris would try to intervene, and say, Dad, just stop, please stop, being this guy, this deadbeat dad, this serial philanderer. I need a Dad. And his dad would go right on…at his best…patronizing him. Otherwise, he’d just ignore him. Yeah, he gave him a couple of hundred bucks for the moving van — after leaving him poor his whole teenage years, despite being loaded…thanks, Dad. And a few years later, when Chris graduated? He swooped in for the photo-op, too. To show what a good dad he was. He never had been.
Sound familiar? It should. Chris didn’t just deserve better. He became better. Zelensky is like that. He doesn’t just deserve better. He is better. Than most of our leaders. And we would be wise to listen to him.