Thursday, 21 February 2008

An Open Letter to Mr. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the Party of European Socialists (PES)

An Open Letter to Mr. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the Party of European Socialists (PES)

Dear Mr. Rasmussen,

At the very beginning I would like to express my genuine appreciation personally to you and to the Party of European Socialists which you lead currently. I believe that PES is one of the most important intellectual and political players in promotion of human rights, democracy and social justice in Europe.

I decided to write you this letter, firstly as a citizen of Georgia and then as young political scientist who is extremely worried about political and social identity of Georgian country. This letter is just sincere expression of my thoughts and reflections on current political and social processes in Georgia and I decided to send this letter exactly to you as I consider you and your organization as a strong voice for freedom, democracy and social solidarity across Europe.

This letter is also modest attempt from my side to push PES to be critical about contemporary Georgia and to be critical not only towards political authority, but also towards political opposition and towards some basic stereotypes and social values which affects democratic transformation of Georgia.

On Political Authority in Georgia

In 1991 Georgia gained independence. Oppressive soviet regime which lasted approximately 70 years left hard legacy for Georgia. However, people tired with oppression and humiliation by Soviet nomenclature had deep hope for brilliant democratic future of Georgia. But this hope was destroyed by the nationalist regime led by Nazi president Zviad Gamsakhurdia who brought only brutality and disrespect of human dignity in Georgia. Then Gamsakhurdia’s regime failed and Eduard Shevardnadze took political power in Georgia. High level of conformism, large roots of corruption, terrible types of state bureaucracy and many other things became basic political and social values in Georgia under president Shevardnadze. And in November of 2003, through the Rose Revolution, citizens of Georgia brought down Shevardnadze’s hybrid political regime. In 2003 new hope was born into the hearts of Georgian citizens and this was a hope for being European country, hope for building European democratic country.

Today, Georgia is gradually losing this hope and it even started to lose this hope one year later after the Rose Revolution, while it became clear for everyone in Georgia that Mikheil Saakashvili and his political team is not an example of democratic government. Lack of intellectual resources and embittered young political officials turned out to be the most important problem in Georgia. Embittered faces of Georgian ministers and political figures and their hate speech towards different view remind citizens of Georgia brutal political regime and state repressions in Georgia during 1930s. However, I totally disagree that current political regime in Georgia is relevant with Bolshevik political system just because of that Bolsheviks carried fundamentally different ideological identity than Saakashvili’s government, but mention should be made that the forms of hate and discriminative approach towards different political opinions in contemporary Georgia is very relevant to Soviet Georgia during 1930s.

Saakashvili claims to be a patriot of Georgia and in the name of patriotic spirit he regularly violates the most important value of each individual on our planet – a dignity. Human rights and human dignity became unserious discourse in Georgian under Saakashvili, for his political regime the most important thing is statehood and not democracy, but he forgets that statehood without human rights protection and democratic values is a monster that has much in common with tyranny and nothing common with humanism. Saakashvili claims that national security and national interest of Georgian nation is more valuable principle than a human and his dignity. And this is a terrible mistake of Saakashvili. This is a mistake which definitely shall lead Saakashvili to his political apocalypses.
In his brilliant work The Republic Plato said “I am the wisest man in Athens because I know I don't know. I am only singularly ignorant. The rest of the citizens are twice ignorant. They think they know, but they still don't know”. The idea to know something or the idea of knowledge is also sensitive issue around Saakashvili and his political authority; they think that they own objective truth and everybody should admit to this truth discovered by Saakashvili. But point is that there is no hegemony over objective truth in our humankind, because objective truth itself is a phenomenon that could not be hold by human. But still, despite this, Saakashvili thinks that this is exactly he and his government who knows what objective truth is and even not only knows but they hold and maintain such objective truth. So, Saakashvili decided to be a god, a real god who knows everything. And this is another great mistake of Saakashvili, particularly to identify himself with god and therefore to be known as Misha Almighty!

Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili believed that a state without citizen is a monstrosity. He talked about necessity of civic life during Soviet era where relationship between the state and citizen merely did not exist just because of that Soviet Union saw a citizen not as an actor in state building but as an animal who should be feed by country. Mamardashvili pointed out that the result of October Revolution of 1917 in Russia was that state stepped in and tried to mediate everything, and according to Mamardashvili this was the death of civil society. Unfortunately, same happened in Georgia after the Rose Revolution of 2003, state decided what is good for society and what is bad for society, state started to rule the country without citizens, political authority did not consider citizens as source of any power and consequently Georgian state started to be formed as a state without citizen. Political authority neglected to accept citizen as a foundation of state, instead of this they accepted foundation of state their principles and doctrines because as noted above they think that they know everything and they dominate over the truth. Therefore, Georgian country is under great threat, I do not see this country with its citizens but I see this country as a country without citizen.

The great shadow of conformism is still visible in Georgia. Young people, encouraged with their aspirations to become influential officials agree to do everything with neglecting of moral values and honesty in order to achieve their holy aim – dominate over employees at their public offices. The sense of naughty makes young state officials unmerciful towards other people who do not share their opinions or simply criticize them. Strong desire of young people employed at various public agencies to became promoted officials stimulates them to peach against their colleagues and even against their friends within their agencies. Impregnated with envy and grief, young people at public offices try to humiliate others who are honest and intellectuals and unfortunately number of such intellectuals at Georgian public offices is extremely low. There is a significant gap in Georgian young generation and this gap frequently divide them into numerous parts which definitely does not constitute any foundations for consolidation of young people in Georgia to obtain freedom, dignity and democracy in this country.

The universities are most important institutions on our planet whose key purpose is to provide team of young intellectuals for country who should contribute to development of democracy, civil society and social justice together with all parts of society. This is very clear that in Georgia the idea of university and academic freedom is very neglected and disregarded by state authority. For example, Tbilisi State University which is a first university not only in Georgia but in South Caucasus does not realize real functions of higher educational institution. Unfortunately, critical and creative thinking among the students of university suddenly disappeared and university administration together with governmental structures successful try to offer the only dominant discourse for students and teachers and like during 1930s, university administration argues students and teachers that their task is only to study and teach and not to be involved in civic and political life. The rector of Tbilisi State University directly calls to all students and teachers not to join any actions and manifestations against state authority, because he thinks that such engagement will be relevant with high treason and everybody should be faithful before Georgian government. This is also cynical that current officials of Tbilisi State University who unmercifully attack different views in Georgia are persons who follow political conceptions of Georgia’s former Nazi president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. This is a tragedy of Georgian educational system that nationalistic discourse and nationalistic doctrines are pretty respected at Tbilisi State University which definitely will lead this educational institution to ignorance. In fact, in contemporary Georgia, there is not even the only higher educational institution that is not managed and controlled by state authority and so Georgian universities became not a place of creative and critical discourses but they became outlets of Georgian government. This is extremely bad fact that student self-government of Tbilisi State University is a key player in abusing academic freedom and student rights at the university and with this action, conformist students prove their loyalty to president Saakashvili.

Many intellectuals of our era and also previous centuries develop and agree the idea that revolution should take place in the minds of individuals and that revolution just for institutional changes will not bring any well-being for the country. I totally agree with this idea that this is important to have revolution in the minds of individuals and therefore to revise some social and political values. We expected revision of social and political values after the Rose Revolution of 2003, and we had a hope that old traditions and negative values would be finally broken down but, now we are disappointed, because we clearly see that nothing has changed. After the Rose Revolution we have received just new political authority with the same old taste.

On Political Opposition in Georgia

Speaking about political opposition in Georgia is doubly emotional thing for me than speaking about weaknesses of Georgian authority. Currently, in Georgia there are several opposition parties who criticize president Saakashvili and his team. However, I believe that these opposition parties, including their political doctrines or conceptions are much more dangerous for Georgian country and generally for Georgian society than Saakashvili and his government. Here, I mean below, I shall try to urge my opinion.

Religious nationalism is the most important characteristic sign of any opposition party in Georgia. Almost all opposition parties absolutely agree to the idea that state should derive its political legitimacy from adherence of Eastern Christian Orthodox values and consequently opposition strives to form theocracy in Georgia which is a central value of religious nationalism. Almost all opposition parties agree that they should listen to the advices given by Georgian patriarch, leader of Georgian Orthodox Church. And almost all opposition parties declare in their political conceptions that they recognize Eastern Christian Orthodoxy as the only doctrine who should rule the country and frequently representatives of these parties deliver their hate speech in manifestations and within Georgian media against ethnic and religious minorities in Georgia. Especially, such opposition parties as are: Political Movement “Freedom”, Political Party “Conservators” and Political Party “New Rightists” are famous with their hate speech and with their adherence for religious nationalism in Georgia. For example, recent statement of Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of “New Rightists” where he considers possibility for Georgian patriarch to be a regent of the country and to establish monarchy as a crucial political order clearly reflects nationalistic nature of his political party, mention should be made that part of old intelligentsia and part of new generation support Gamkrelidze because they consider them as a “Truly Georgian” and obedient before Georgian Orthodox Church. But the most important dangerous opposition party which I consider in Georgia is Political Movement “Freedom” who is chaired by Konstantine (Koko) Gamsakhurdia, a son of Georgia’s ex-Nazi president Zviad Gamnsakhurdia. Mr. Gamsakhurdia is the most dedicated protector of the nationalistic regime led by his father in early 1990s, he actively promote same nationalistic discourse like his father and if you take a look to the mission statement of his political party, you shall easily discover that this is a neo-Nazis political party in Georgia which will overflow everybody and everything who do not share “Georgian” values if they could take the power in Georgia.

Brutality against different view, embittered faces and dark political past are another characterizing sings for Georgian opposition like for Georgian state authority. Almost all politicians currently engaged in opposition activities has non-democratic and uncivil individual nature and they criticize Georgian government not for the reason that they would like to build democratic Georgian state but they criticize them because they wish to take power in country and just to satisfy their personal ambitions. I do not believe that Georgian opposition can save the country; in contrast, I believe that Georgian opposition, due to its ineffectiveness and numerous weaknesses can bring much more injustice and brutality in Georgia. I strongly believe that that nationalism and xenophobia which are their ideological identity will destroy not only democratic transformation of country and but in case of their coming in state power, Georgia will face serious isolation and marginalization from international community which could have fatal consequence for Georgian country.

This is a real tragedy of Georgian opposition that some of the parties who declare that their ideological identity is linked with liberalism are not faithful before their values. Republican Party, for example, which is considered as a political party based on liberal values and principles decided to join United Opposition due to their hate towards Saakashvili and therefore started to cooperate closely with Nazi and neo-fascist politicians such are Gachechiladze, Gamsakhurdia, Gamkrelidze and many others. This decision made by Republican Party deeply disappointed me, because I saw how this party betrayed their values and principles just in order to gain some political popularity and political dividends and therefore to take power in Georgia after Saakashvili. Actually, I strongly disagree with disseminated idea that political pragmatism is relatively nice thing. I think that political pragmatism makes any political movements vulnerable to betray their values and principles and to neglect idealism, in such case they frequently forget faithfulness towards their political principles and thus they loose their independent and different thinking towards various topics and problems. I am very sorry that Republican Party became real victim of such political pragmatism in Georgia and as a result of such approach we can easily see how Republican Party successfully managed friendship and collaboration with nationalist opposition parties in Georgia.

Another key problem to which opposition faces currently is ineffectiveness to maintain their proposals and initiatives on various social issues in Georgia. Problem is that Georgian opposition does not stand on progressive path and it simply generates dark and regressive ideas and therefore it is not able to propose any successful and attractive proposals before the society. Georgian opposition, similarly with Georgian state authority regularly reflects their hate towards different view and critical opinion expressed towards them. Opposition discriminates all critical opinions dedicated to their activities and they consider all the persons who criticize their mission and political outlook as supporters of government. Therefore, we can easily conclude that both opposition and political authority are talking in same context towards different view and critical evaluations of their activities and political vision.

On Myths and Stereotypes within Georgian Society

I do not think that current crisis in Georgia is caused only by political authority or political opposition. I do not see only political and social crisis in my country but also I see huge crisis in the minds of Georgian society, in the minds of individuals who has shared old stereotypes and myths on various topics and which of course damages progressive development of Georgian state and society. Georgian film director Tato Kotetishvili, in his excellent film Anemia which was released in 1988 reflects its sorrow that even after Perestroyka, part of Georgian society still stayed in old communist stereotypes and they assess our life with non-existing myths and stereotypes created by Soviet dictator Stalin. Unfortunately, Tato Kotetishvili died several years ago and he could not see contemporary Georgian society who still remains in same system of social values created by Soviet order. Furthermore, now Georgian society mixed it Soviet values into nationalistic values and we have got hybrid which totally destroys possibilities to create tolerant and open society in Georgia.

Popular Georgian stereotype or tradition to assess human in terms of his or her work career is still characterizing and damaging for country. Especially young people in Georgia are extremely motivated to take high positions in governmental structures and with this action to increase their authority within society and so they are surrounded with high sense of naughty and consider themselves as individuals who own monopoly on wisdom. Such people are always concentrated to humiliate others who are subordinated upon them due to job conditions. And scared with the possibility to lose the job, the people who are supervised by such young nomenclatures frequently experience degrading treatment form such young bureaucrats. Even, within Georgian young generation there are clans and cycles who try to establish their own order and make everybody to follow their demands. Unfortunately, such clans of young people can be found in Georgia in many governmental and even non-governmental institutions.

Lack of critical and creative thinking within Georgian society and especially among the young people is especially sensitive for Georgia. This is a Georgian stereotype that people are pro-governmental or ant-governmental; there is almost no sense in society to be critical against both political authority and political opposition. People who live in this country with great wealthy are pro-governmental and loyal with every steps taken by political authority, while people who live with extremely poor conditions in Georgia hate government and embittered by their poverty they passionately support opposition and therefore people lost ability of thinking as they assesses the things according to their social well-being. And this is a tragedy of Georgian country while we have here extremely rich and extremely poor people. And so, today we have got broken bridge, two divided parts of Georgian society: reach and poor and this is a problem which was noted and discussed yet in the second half of 19th century by Georgian writer and publicist Ilia Chavchavdze in his works. Unfortunately, such broken bridge on which Ilia Chavhavadze talked about exists in contemporary Georgia as well.

Recently, brilliant Georgian public intellectual and writer Naira Gelashvili talked about problems of modern Georgia. She absolutely truly noted that this country is not developing through free thinking and that people still carry some myths and stereotypes which definitely do not bring free and creative thinking in the country. I agree with her opinion that like in Soviet Union, in modern Georgia political authority does not appreciate free thinking. And the greatest problem of Georgia is that neither government and nor society is committed to have free thinking, creative and critical thinking which is a crucial source for formation of open and tolerant society. I think the snobbish character of Georgian society mixed with its nationalistic nature will bring only extremely negative results for Georgia. We should recognize and we should always keep in mind that only free and critical thinking can bring Georgia on the way of eternal peace, universal prosperity and real democracy.

Despite the fact that one could assess my opinions and reflections as very pessimistic, I still have a hope, and I hope that once Georgian country will stand on a proper path which should bring peace, democracy and social justice in the county.

Sincerely yours,
Bakar Berekashvili

21 February 2008
Tbilisi, Georgia