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Not the final countdown

by Jaba Devdariani.

For decades now, socially and politically active Georgians have been waiting – even hoping – for the apocalypse.

For the country to go forward, its morbid addiction to the final showdown must end.

Ever since the Soviet troops have massacred and gassed pro-independence supporters here on 9 April 1989, every political generation takes it as its ritual obligation to step on to the stage of Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue, against the backdrop of the Stalinist pillars of the Old Parliament. They re-enact the spectacle of the demand for liberty, ending in martyrdom and a hope for resurrection, which has become the founding tragedy of the new Georgian Republic. Its formal proclamation on 9 April 1991 has sealed the arcane link with 1989.

And true to the form, the “Bassiani generation” has stepped up on the stage on 12 May. Outraged with the police crackdown on their space of respite in Tbilisi’s eponymous night-club, they came to express their protest.

A music-and-dance exaltation on the night of 12 May has echoed that of 1989 in form, although not necessarily in style – rave rhythms resonated this time, rather than national dances and patriotic songs of 1989. Police cordons, water cannons and seemingly recalcitrant government have provided a familiar backdrop. The true villain was, however, missing.

Not for long. It has materialized in the form of home-grown, yet all-too-authentic, self-appointed “fascists”, throwing Nazi salutes and pledging to annihilate proponents of the decadent lifestyle and degenerate art. The stage was set for the tragedy, the final showdown between the Good and the Evil.

Yet, it was not to come. The police have struggled, but held the ultra-nationalists back, bloodying a couple of noses and making few arrests. The ravers have satisfied themselves with the Interior Ministers’ formal apology and a promise to work on drug policy together.

The twittering masses, the veterans of the blue-screen adrenaline, are now imbued with an acute sense of anti-climax. The buildup gave them no “closure”, the tragedy had no final act.

Their frustration notwithstanding, perhaps they miss the rays of hope. Perhaps, this generation has chosen (despite their best judgement) to trust and engage, rather than reject and confront, to forego a narrow factional triumph for the wider societal victory.

It may come, that the hopes would wilt and the onlookers would rivet themselves to TV and computer screens once again.

But it may also happen, that those who are obliged to uphold the law and curb the violence, would do so – under citizens’ watchful eye. It may come, that those who protested yesterday will find ways to engage in a discussion, draft laws and push for solutions that would save lives in the clubs and on the dance floors, but also advance the way their country works as a democratic community.

These are not the times for flower power, but of the combative strands of grass that push through the concrete walls of Tbilisi’s central stadium, whose dark entrails house Bassiani club.

For them to flower, the country must abandon its fascination with martyrdom, and let itself live. Free.


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