No Victors, No Vanquished & Work Together!

I remember like it was yesterday: flicking through the NY Times issue of August 8, 2014, when an interview by the three-time Pulitzer Prize winning op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman with President Obama caught my eye. The entire thing was classic, but one particular phrase stayed in my memory for good: ‘Societies don’t work if political factions take maximalist positions’. At the moment of that intellectual refreshment, my imagination waxed wistful with the desire to emboss those excessively precious words for us Georgians in golden letters on imaginary gates which would hypothetically lead into the realm of current Georgian politics. I had always known that our society, trying to present itself as free and democratic, would never make it if our politicians, and their respective political groupings, continue operating from a standpoint propped by extreme opinion.

I captured another determinative turn of phrase in the same piece, ‘No victors, no vanquished, and work together’. We do not need to see each other defeated in the political battlefield and then celebrate the victory in rhapsodic exultation: what we truly need is to coexist and cooperate. And the suggested sample of truism tends to corroborate that the enigma of Georgia’s political survival is laid in these sedative epochal quotes. Pushing my thoughts toward fathoming the recently suggested and currently discussed amendments to our Constitution, I tend to believe that we have never before needed national consensus about the text of the main law of the country as much as we need it now.

We have made up our minds to go along with wealthy and seasoned, strong and confident, aged and traditional Europe, having tethered our survival strings to her. As such, we can no longer afford a mere provisional blue print for national behavior, a document of transitory content to configure our future. This Constitution must survive not only a couple of generations but centuries of political battles that are still in store for this nation to endure.

Having perceived and taken for granted the rationality of this statement, how can we make it work in reality? Nobody is asking for obedient, mechanical consent to what is being suggested in the context of the new Constitution. The writers, editors, amenders and observers of the Constitution are qualified enough to handle the text of the document so skillfully that its more or less important details be not omitted or muddied during the writing or amending. Of course, plenty of things matter in the creative process of writing and editing the Constitution, asking for manifold considerations and reconsiderations, but we have in our hands a certain number strengths in our political arsenal for this purpose. For instance, we are strongly aware of our main national idea of freedom and independence, which seems to be outdated, trodden down and devalued but still standing; we know what we aspire to; we are very much conscious of what the West wants from us; and we feel, although we do not fully and openly recognize, what Russia might go for in case of our ‘misbehavior’.

On top of all that, the public discussion of the project of incipient amendments is triggering reasonable and lawful doubts. How can a regular public, without any specific education and qualification, make relevant judgment about the text of the Constitution? Why is our public expected to know what the Constitution should sound like? The rank-and-file has no way to help here. Take me as one of the members of said public: I am not an eighteenth century European genius who is able to write a constitution which will survive hundreds of years as a plan for the nation’s march towards a better life. A good Constitution needs good care in good professional hands and talented political minds who want to stay away from a maximalist position in every decision they make in the process of casting together the most important paper of the land. Do we have such? We might! Only if we look for them then and let them do their job.

Nugzar B. Ruhadze

27 April 2017 18:51