In October 1851 the book The Whale written by Herman Melville was published in London. In November of that year, it was published in New York under the title Moby-Dick. It is considered by many as one of the greatest American novels. It may also be the best metaphor for Putin’s fate.
At the heart of the book’s narrative is the obsessive quest for revenge of Ahab, captain of the whaling ship Pequod; Moby Dick, a giant white sperm whale bit off Ahab’s leg at the knee during one voyage. He was left with a prosthesis fashioned from a whale’s jawbone.
Like captain Ahab, Putin is also thirsty for revenge. He cannot accept that Ukraine wants to leave his sphere of influence and remain a proud and independent nation. Putin claims that Ukraine is part of the Russian family and is not a sovereign country. These actions make one wonder if this is a caring way of treating a member of the family.
When Ukraine tried to forge its own course of development and political alliances, Putin unleashed a brutal invasion that has already resulted in thousands of deaths and the greatest forced civilian migration since WWII. Over a hundred children have already died, after indiscriminate attacks. Thousands of terrorized citizens remain hidden in basements in several Ukrainian cities, deprived of sun and with scant food and water to survive.
Many among the hundreds of thousands of children who left in a rush to escape the indiscriminate bombing of their homes will likely develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms that, if untreated, will seriously affect their lives.
As the events in Ukraine unfold, Putin has staged the most comprehensive blockage of news in Russia in recent times, made even stricter by the withdrawal of American news organizations. The few people who know what is happening in Ukraine and are able to voice their opinion are clear on their opinion about Russia’s actions on Ukraine. “I am ashamed for what Russia is doing in Ukraine,” said Yevgenia Albats, Editor-in-Chief of The New Times, an independent Russian weekly news magazine, during a recent TV interview on CNN.
In Ahab’s final chase of the whale, he plants his harpoon on Moby Dick’s flank. The whale reacts by destroying the whaleboat and tossing its men into the sea before returning to Ahab, who stabs Moby Dick again. A line gets tangled, and loops around Ahab’s neck. Moby Dick pulls Ahab along and swims away.
There is a marked resemblance between captain Ahab’s blind thirst for revenge and Putin’s actions on Ukraine. The Russian despot continues his destructive behavior despite the global clamor to stop his merciless behavior. His actions don’t represent Russians’ peaceful nature and is an affront to peace-loving people from all over the world.
Nobody can predict how Putin’s ill-fated adventure will end. The Ukrainian people have reacted with uncommon valor, willing to sacrifice their lives to see their country remain free and independent. Putin, on the other hand, has shown that he is a brutal and sadistic leader who is willing to ravage a country and to risk world peace for his need for power and revenge. He has only succeeded in showing that man’s inhumanity to man has no limit.
César Chelala is an award-winning writer on human rights issues.