Opinion | No, We Won’t Play that Game

Decent people won't put their head down any more

Learn well but keep a low profile; be useful to your country but try not to get noticed. Our parents’ advice won’t serve us anymore.

By Nato Alhazishvili, Publisher

All of Georgia’s international partners unequivocally stated that the “foreign agent law” is incompatible with Georgia’s development and its European perspective.

I do not know about you, but these days I often think of my parents – good, decent people who spent their whole lives in the Soviet Union and had to adapt to the rules of the game. My mom made two contradictory observations, albeit at different times. One was about studying well because our family did not pay (or accept) bribes: “You should aim for a [grade] ten to get a five[1],” meaning that if I did not want to cheat, I should be twice as good to get what I deserved. The other went like this: “Anyone who was educated or exceptional in this country was killed.”

My dad did not believe in giving advice – he thought the personal example was more effective. And he did give us an example of a life decently lived. However, even as a professor and briefly as a faculty chair, he managed to fade into the background and not participate in public life. Perhaps he realized that participation in public life would require compromises that he was not prepared to make.

Still, their life and their advice gave a whiff of contradiction: learn but keep a low profile; be useful to your country but try not to get noticed.

These decent people – our parents – were born and brought up in the Soviet system. They did not know any other, did not know how to fight it, and did not have the tools for the fight. They tried to make personal adjustments. Some managed to retain their humanity in the process, others failed to do so.

We, their children, were also born into the Soviet system (we are now middle-aged) that was already rotten and on its last legs. We have had incomparable opportunities and seen much more of the world – who would have thought even in 1991 that I would go on to study in the U.S. and would work for the UN in five different countries? From this vantage point, the suffocating hypocrisy of the Soviet system looks especially disgusting.

And now, the time has come when our children are in danger, and this danger is real – a return of a Soviet clone, but even more suffocating, even more hypocritical system. And all of this after we have lived through civil wars, 2008 war, destitution, darkness, and hopelessness and have now finally opened the door to civilization and set foot on the uphill road to development. It is now that they want to close this door for our children and for us.

These will be the new rules of the game: a small, powerful group will have control over all resources and will use them for their own benefit. The country’s European and democratic future will come to an end. For those of us who don’t like it, they will (probably) give us a few years to leave the country – slowly closing the door on our ability to breathe freely and raise our children. Those who do not manage to leave will go to prison on trumped-up charges or will be subjected to violence. Sounds too dramatic? Look around and see what is happening in the countries around us.

As long as there is still a chance, as long as the Berlin Wall has not gone up again – let’s not follow the path of our decent and unfortunate parents, let’s not obey, and let’s not adapt to the new rules of the game.

[1] The Soviet education system was grading on a scale of five, one being the lowest and five the best grade.

The Georgian version of this article was published by publika.ge


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