This may be the nastiest question one might have asked in the last 30 years! The question is unsavory because it reverberates in our collective national mind so painfully that it inhibits all of us to the point of intellectual impotence, and this is because we don’t know precisely where we stand or where we’re headed for.
It all started in the late 1980s, when the Soviet Union was shattered with the weird Gorbachovesque Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (reconstruction), masterfully imposed on the Kremlin policy-makers of that time by the Western powers, in hopes that the West was enthusiastically ready to help Russia out of its abrupt socioeconomic degradation if it would only allow the peaceful disintegration of the USSR. And so it happened, although Russia received zero assistance from the West, being left to its own criminal devices to grow into one of the most corrupt and abandoned nations in the world.
The other 14 republics of the Union, including Georgia, automatically became quasi independent nations, torn apart by civil unrest and wars. As a result, Sakartvelo went through excruciating changes of power and territorial configuration: Nothing was the same; the shrunk country was on the verge of collapse; most of the people were at a complete loss; the standard of living went down to its nadir; the red-hot political struggle reached its acme; families were torn between the erstwhile habitual soviet way of life and the incipient puzzling new model of public and private behavior; and the national currency could not buy a thing. The impression was that we had been left in a jungle, with no way out, and the inability to at least climb a tree if a beast approached to dine on our trembling body. Back then, even if you were an educated genius, it was almost impossible to translate your knowledge into bread.
And then came an existential moment when, without governmental help or instruction, as oft happened in the bizarre soviet era, decisions were made on how to continue living independently. Georgia needed to know with the accuracy of a rifle scope what new direction to take to get to the safer and prettier side of the murky watershed to survive. It also needed to be conscious of where it was stranded, and where to go from that shaky and unfamiliar place. Instead, we were all plunged into perpetual vicious bickering among hysterical and unqualified political forces, each pulling the country in a blurry, unfounded direction, each inevitably leading to an abyss.
There was an uncanny lack of healthy national intellectual energy, one that should have been capable of determining in the most correct way where the country stood in the motley global geopolitical pattern, and the most rational vector to follow, tailored to our history, nature, experience, capability, talent and creative potential, to somehow fit into the then-international model of global order.
The newly chosen leaders, as popular and perhaps trustworthy as they were, simply could not manage it. The people were ready to follow a good leader, but the brainwashing so overflowed that the public became lost in the multitude of options, making disastrous errors in choosing their leaders, feeling like a herd, cantankerously but still obediently nodding to those who had enough acumen, cunning and political energy to slip into a leader’s skin and head the nation into the unknown.
Finally, cherished peace and calm were achieved, but this intermingled with a bad premonition that the long-sought for heavenly nirvana was not to last. Something ominous has recently started reminding us of those bygone days of strife and discord, when the subversive calls and thoughtless battle-cries propel us once again to destruction. The sense of inevitable repetition of what we have already lived through is becoming real. Following the conventional logic, we should have learned something from the numerous historical lessons life has tried to teach us, but it seems Georgia will not be allowed to independently discern between good and evil, because the definers of our fate in this tightly intertwined world are those who are so eagerly poised to make decisions for us without even asking us how we feel. There is so little in fact at our own discretion. Surely it’s time to live and learn?!
Op-Ed by Nugzar B. Ruhadze