The Obliteration Of Perspective: Trying To Understand The War In Ukraine

The very technology which promised a unification of our collective understanding has become the villain responsible for completely shattering it, writes Opinions Editor Ian Ezinga./AP Photo

By Ian Ezinga


   Regardless of whichever cocktail of spiritual, cultural, political, or economic temperaments dominates your perspective of the world, I must insist that we are all but spectators to the accelerated obliteration of our collective understanding of the world around us. Put more simply, the unstoppable growth of the digital world and our freely given contributions to it do more harm than good. Using the invasion of Ukraine and the infinite spawn of opinions it has borne, I am arguing that the very technology which promised a unification of our collective understanding has become the villain responsible for completely shattering it. 

   As spacey as this may seem initially, I would urge you to consider how many different perspectives your mind is exposed to on a daily basis. Between tweets, YouTube videos, Instagram posts, Twitch streams, or older mediums like vinyl records, books, and Facebook posts, we are all being constantly exposed to not just content but different understandings of the world. 

   An artist is just a person, but their art is an object which is endowed with their perspective. Tabling any meta about participation trophies, I would earnestly argue that everyone’s an artist and has a unique perspective. We are not to be condemned on this point, as the heart of the issue lies instead in the amount of art that is being produced. News media, video essays, social media infographics, satirical or sincere posts are all being churned out at an incomprehensible speed, the rate of which continues to accelerate with each passing hour. 

   One hour of YouTube videos are uploaded every second. Humans post about twenty million tweets per hour. Each second and every character belonging to the sprawling virtual megalopolis contains some sort of perspective behind it. 

   This state of affairs offers different brands of optimism which might suggest that by logging on, we can harness the power of the world’s infinite perspectives for good. Humans will be able to solve more complicated problems, answer deeper questions, and see clearer reflections of ourselves when staring through our virtual binoculars into the universe around us. 

   Not wishing to be charged with peddling the inverse, I would still go so far as to suggest that instead of a pair of binoculars when thinking of the optics which grant access to a virtual reality, one should imagine a kaleidoscope. Proverbially chasing the light, our perspectives drop into a digitized refracting mirror maze. Instead of enriching our own perspective, we are so often overwhelmed with a nearly incomprehensible scatter of expression. Seeing the world through this unfolding and repeating series of shapes and colors can certainly be beautiful, but the spectacle can quickly distract us from whatever clarifying purpose we once had.

   Gazing into my kaleidoscope, I am exposed to countless different takes and angles as to what should be done in Ukraine. “Getting involved would only be perpetuating a centuries-old pattern of needless foreign intervention,” “The US and NATO are responsible for this mess, it should be their war instead of the Ukrainians,” “It’s actually not woke to be ‘anti-imperialist’ when you don’t know the implications of a Russian invasion.” 

   Why I even attempted a list, I have no idea, but these represent some of the more tame takes I have numbly read. And these can be read alongside a pile of more sobering takes about how some of Ukraine’s officials are white supremacists, their soldiers are Islamophobic, and their president voiced the animated Paddington Bear for the Ukrainian release. 

   There is no shortage and no end to the barrage of different ways to interpret the ongoing events. Our collective bewilderment will continue to grow whether the Ukrainians successfully defend their land or Russia expands its borders. In the way that you can understand the growth of a plant almost entirely through the logic of the sun, so too can you understand our fascination with posting into the media abyss by the logic of humans being forever in search of meaning. 

   For some time, wealthy states have been starved of a resounding state of crisis. The pandemic certainly eased some people’s sense that they were on their way to being entirely alienated from the drama of our species. But with dramatic effect waning, which happens much more quickly these days, we will continue to hastily post and consume media in an effort to ascribe meaning to our lives and try to obtain a better understanding of events like the war in Ukraine. 

   Unfortunately for many of us, all we are doing is separating ourselves from the possibility of actually understanding the world around us.