The Cities of Great Virtue - Part One

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – General Sun Tzu

Good Friday (April 15, 2022) – Sun Tzu is one general that Vladimir Putin evidently didn’t consult.

Luck has hit the Russians like a dry sponge the past six weeks. That is, they have been struck lightly by it and seem oblivious to the nails driven into the hands and feet of their soulmates across the border. But in the wake of this war on cities – this crucifixion of cities like Mariupol, Kharkiv and Volnovakha – those of us who smugly thought we knew anything about the dark side of human nature have also found ourselves on the wrong end of our intelligence. We need to now reconsider much about our own “security” and what it really means. “War will surprise you,” another general, Dwight Eisenhower, said. He was wise to note it with such Zen precision. Because it will try your soul if you even are watching it through social media combat.

There is much to grieve over the past 30 days. For me the site of Mariupol, 95% destroyed and turned to dust with its citizens trapped, is the worst. But for Mayor Vadym Boichenko of Mariupol, the worst gets worse by the hour. One day it’s a neighborhood, the next the city’s beautiful theatre with 300 people killed inside. He tries desperately to get his citizens out to other places, which is like bleeding yourself, as the beautiful city’s talent runs away.

And yet, he still tries to run his city.

IF conquest without resistance or a shot fired was the intention of the leader of Russian Federation government in Moscow he is, as we baseball fans say, 0 for 1.

IF the intention was to forge a better future for a kindred Slavic nation, which at one point was claimed to be the rationale for sending an army of armor with the letter “Z” painted on it, Russia is 0 for 2. The idea that Ukraine needed to “develop” may have been true. But one thing it did not need to develop was its courage or, as we now see, its ability to innovate.

IF turning cities to fine powder, directing women and children into the path of bombs, threatening nuclear attack and arresting mayors as you lose 20,000 of your own youth and military leaders is considered a way to build collaboration and “purge” a culture into obedience, then Russia has totally whiffed. Three strikes and you are OUT at the old ballgame!

This is spring in the northeastern parts of America. Time for tulips in Central Park, Easter meals and, yes, the start of baseball. But this is not a baseball. Russia and Belarus have struck at the heart of cities and our human purpose and beliefs in ways barely imaginable to those of us comfortably alive in Toronto, New York, Florida and elsewhere.

Our sense of mission seems almost mocked by this violent darkness and fear in Europe. And yet cities and the people who make them “home,” even as they flee, are essential to any sense of sanity. Any sense of the resurrection of stability in daily life. It is where the focus must remain.

Ukrainians have a clear view of what all of this is. Their deep sense of culture and spirit reveals itself in their ingenious digital battle for our emotions. The “gift” given to the Belarussian Ambassador reveals the starkness of this battle. (

It is Lent and one famous treason and sacrifice of goodness is living again through the centuries. That treason has betrayed us all.

We will continue to see how this Passion goes and will be there for any Ukranian city now and in the future. After all, we know how that story ended.

Image courtesy of Reuters, Alexander Ermochenko

Louis Zacharilla
Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Louis Zacharilla helped found the Intelligent Community movement. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Awards program. He is a frequent keynote speaker and a moderator at conferences and events.
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