Like the vast majority of readers of this column, I very strongly condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing atrocities. War is never an answer to international controversies. And I would like to add: I am in favor of all sanctions that financially hit the aggressor, including cutting Russia from use of international banking circuits and similar impactful actions.
That said, I will say here what I think about this ongoing rush to find ways to hurt a country whose citizens are largely innocent of their leader's crimes. I think most of these creative initiatives are counter-productive, reaching the nonsensical, the irrational, and the plain nuts.
Take the hunt for Russian orchestra directors in western countries. What reason can there be for firing an artist based on his or her nationality? By doing that we are hurting ourselves more than we are hurting Russia. Of course, if the director is a well-known supporter of Putin, the situation is a bit different -you start to have a right to dislike the person, and it becomes legitimate to ask them to say whether they support the war actions of their government or what. But then again - given the presently ongoing prosecution of opposers of the Russian regime, who are we to blame anybody who refuses to publicly proclaim they disagree with their country's actions?
Musicians, athletes, para-olympiad atlethes - there seems to have been an escalation, a competition for the most absurd ban. But we have reached the top with the recent suggestions, now circulating in the world of fundamental research, that scientists should stop collaborating with Russian colleagues, stop publishing papers with them, etcetera. What nonsense! Science unites countries - are we now going to take that attitude back, and create a divide? Who do we think we are hurting if we stop collaborating with our Russian colleagues, if not the whole world?
CERN has taken a resolution which suspends the creation of new collaborations with Russian institutions and scientists. That is fair enough - I may even agree to this kind of going in a stand-by state. But what is ongoing cannot be undone without serious damage to all involved parties. There are hundreds of Russian colleagues who are just as sorry as we are for the recent events in Ukraine, if not more. Many of those colleagues have even signed a letter that condemns the actions of their government, and in so doing they have exposed themselves to the risk of being fired, or even inprisoned. And what is our attitude now - do we stop working with them? What do we think we are going to achieve by cutting ties with people who, exactly like us, consider the progress of human knowledge their mission in life?
It was not Churchill who once said "what are we going to fight for then?" refusing to cut funding for arts in favour of military spending - that is a false attribution that has unfortunately gone viral in the internet. But the sentence retains its value regardless of its lack of an illustrious father. If we consider ourselves above the idea of countries having the right of invading other countries, if we believe that women and men are equal on both sides of the border, if we believe that what unites us (humanity, and love for knowledge and art) is more than what divides us (language, habits); if the feeling of wasting lives of Ukranians as well as of Russians makes us weep the same tears, we have to stop this. If we are against war we cannot be in favor of cutting collaboration and positive interaction among peoples, which can and should exist regardless of the decision of a warmonger that happens to rule one of these peoples.
I am talking to you, who administer, or direct, or govern, you who have some limited decision power. Please don't lose it. Keep calm and try to consider that what really matters is not how others will judge you, based on how proactive you have been in severing ties with Russia. What matters is what you can do to stop the war. If you can't do anything of that sort, then sit down and stop taking decisions that have nothing to do with that, and all to do with petty revenge.
Cancel Culture In Science?
By Tommaso Dorigo | March 11th 2022 10:48 AM | Print | E-mail
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