After arriving in Georgia, one of the first words a foreigner tends to learn is ‘Tamada’ – referring to the toastmaster at a traditional Georgian supra (feast). Incidentally, Wikipedia kindly gives us an exhaustive definition of the term. This agreeable fact should mean that, finally, the world is amply and adequately informed about one of the most treasured details of our culture. The widely internationalized French word ‘Fourchette’ is also abundantly interpreted in the Internet reference facilities. Putting these two notions together, and drawing certain curious parallels between them, is the aim of this particular piece: Tamada, symbolizing tradition, and Fourchette, denoting the modernity of our everyday life, each have their own numerous adherents in Sakartvelo.
The older generation is poised to adamantly stick to the traditional ways of our everyday life, keeping up all cultural and spiritual values that have long been the bedrock of their upbringing, including the Tamada institution. Most Georgian families and groups would hardly imagine a feast or any other traditional get-together, accompanied by some kind of repast, without a Tamada. Even if there are only two men sitting at the table, one of them should necessarily function as a master of ceremonies – the Tamada.
There is nothing wrong with traditionalism, if it is contained within the framework of human normalcy and ethics, not oppressing or depressing others in extensively using the power of tradition. Yet, the younger generation today does not very tolerantly accept the Tamada phenomenon, thinking it unreasonable to be coerced into listening for hours on end to long speeches made by some perhaps trivially thinking and behaving man who, by some accidental circumstance, was promoted to the position of toastmaster to pronounce those traditional, million times reiterated toasts, and most regrettably, for all the rest of the folks at the table expected to feel obligated to second the Tamada, even if they disagree with what he has proposed.
While there is some logic to that opinion, this could also be an exaggeration on the part of our youth, although any opinion has the right to exist and be heeded. The younger they are, the more they like the Fourchette-style quickies, within which there are no obligations to be observed except being nice to each other, eating and drinking your lot, using as many smiles as you can, putting a word or two into somebody’s conversation, and then making a French exit from the venue. No doubt there is a lot of rationale in this style of public behavior, but a traditional way of doing a tuck-out is not bad either. How to reconcile the generations to both have fun and not offend each other?
As a matter of fact, the world has already started loud and audible talk about reinstating traditionalism after several decades of liberal interpretations of human public behavior. For instance, it was recently said that the EU and US’s vested rival BRICS is aiming to create its own alternative global internet services against the US-dominated sphere, in hopes to persuade the world that theirs will be a safe space to uphold traditional values, and not to let the worldwide tendency of Westernization be the only ideological process influencing hearts and minds around the planet.
This typically oriental intention might well be reckoned as a signal that it is time to find the golden median between the Tamada-led Feast and the Déjeuner à la Fourchette; in other words between what traditionalism means to Mankind and what modernism has in store for our current civilization. There is a very clearly felt public attitude in Sakartvelo that the traditional way of life is valuable and has to be preserved to a certain reasonable extent, but that modernism in public life has to be embraced too, because it is a rationally participable model of interaction between the folks engaged in business and for the youth who don’t have enough patience to keep to the inherited-from-ancestor norms, rules and precepts. This kind of golden median might not only be the best solution to regulate cooperation and coexistence between the generations, but also to keep up the so-called contractual structure in morals, so that the wolves are fed and the sheep are kept safe, as the great Leo Tolstoy would put it.