The Dispatch

Dispatch – March 7: Windmills of his mind

In a country with hundreds of problems, it takes some courage, and INITIATIVE, to find the one that does not exist and to rant about it at an international party of insecure men. But our leader has got what it takes to be forever tilting at the windmills of his mind.

Here is Dispatch, and Nini, saying hello from the other side of those windmills of evil.

House by the lake

There is a big lake near my house. The lake has grown so big lately that it might have brought much fun and joy to local life on hot summer days if it weren’t located right on the only road to the bus stop. At first, there was a small puddle. Then the reckless construction boom that has long plagued the ever-sprawling capital finally reached its most remote parts. I remember that day well, heading to the yard after finally deciding to use the famously blue (ruling party colors, la loyauté oblige) and largely dilapidated municipal workout equipment. Only to find them being removed to set up another construction site. Two little kids happened to walk by and, startled by the process, were quick to describe the allegedly popular city mayor in words the kids aren’t supposed to use or know. 

Soon, the construction of four residential buildings kicked off, and more heavy trucks started ravaging the nearby roads.

This is how the puddle turned into an impassable lake, staying there for days after each rain (past weeks have seen lots of rainfalls), giving mild heart attacks to drivers and forcing locals to step through the nearby dirt to make it to the other shore. 

But that lake is only the first of many obstacles locals face on their daily trips to the city and back. 

The next challenge is picking the right bus. Choose the green ones – they are the fastest to get you to the closest subway station (this district, Didi Dighomi, does not have a subway connection). The alternative is the navy-blue minibus (so-called Marshutka), better described as claustrophobia-on-wheels that only super-desperate or super-resilient are brave enough to take. The blue busses, once the most in-demand, now are only recommended for short distances. They may never reach their final destinations, with both main roads to the city center under reconstruction. 

So if you are lucky and cram yourself into one of those popular green buses, be ready to hold your breath because you won’t find much oxygen in there. The joy of newly painted bus lanes is easily overshadowed by the pain of longer traffic jams whenever that bus lane ends (they do end quite often), followed by the struggle of squeezing your way into the subway station, and the final relief of emerging into existence from underground somewhere in the city. For suburban folks, the process of reaching the destination can take up to an hour and a half these days. And for hundreds of thousands, it is only the beginning of a stressful day that may also include underpaid heavy work, a painful trip back, unpaid home labor, unprovoked aggression here and there, and so forth. 

Sometimes, it can be easier to head in the opposite direction, to the west. There, too, the only viable destination would be to travel all the way to Kutaisi (if a landslide doesn’t kill you midway) and take a cheap one-way flight to Europe, never to return. Many have taken that road before, splitting from their families, and many are pondering it. Those who can still somehow afford to stay duly continue their hustle, encountering thousands of others with thousands of problems of their own day in, day out.

What are we driving at, you may ask?! Well, these are thousands of tiny and daily problems, reflections of larger concerns, and – oh, the surprise! – none of them seem to be caused specifically by gays, or lesbians, or trans people. Yet, if you ask Georgia’s prime minister, they are the biggest threat Georgia and Georgian families are now facing. PM Garibashvili was not afraid to say so loud and clear while hobnobbing with second-rate fascists in Hungary. The equally second-rate pro-government performer gathered (or rather, the government gathered FOR him) thousands in Tbilisi last week in his own annual tilting-at-windmills party to complain about gender killing Georgia’s future – while flaunting his 1000 EUR Ralph Lauren raincoat

It is widely believed that politicians turn to ultra-conservative populism to distract from everyday discontent, which they are unable – or unwilling – to handle. But is the strategy ever successful? We suggest the ruling party runs a daring experiment and pipes their leaders’ speeches onto big screens in those tightly packed buses where the passengers try hard not to faint. Would the citizens re-direct their ire at gender studies, wokeism, and sexual minorities?! That would be a proof-positive of the potential impact of government propaganda. But probably, that would be too much of an ordeal for a simple man to endure, possibly amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. And Georgia has enough of that these days.

Free Stuff

The week when PM Irakli Garibashvili was chasing a dream of an alternative Europe in Budapest – the nightmare of liberals, Orban said – the more familiar face of Europe was on display in Tbilisi. The exhibition space of the Didube district turned blue and yellow on May 6 as annual Europe Day festivities returned to the capital. The event fell on a sunny day and attracted many families with children. The program featured, among others, “Why Europe” speeches by prominent Georgians, a display of EU-supported local initiatives, a local agrarian market, and EU member states setting up national counters.

Overall, the day provided excellent opportunities for an entertaining weekend, a possibility to stalk both the ruling party and opposition politicians in the same space without them reaching for each others’ throats (well done, EU! The U.S. embassy was less lucky a while ago). It also offered an eery occasion of witnessing government officials posing under EU banners, as if they’ve never questioned ALL OF THIS. And to observe families from various social backgrounds enjoy their day as if they don’t consume doomsday TV every day, claiming Europeans freeze in their homes and insisting “father is not called father and mother is not called mother anymore.”

And there was lots of free stuff. You could fish for all those pretty little trinkets – flags, souvenirs, stickers, coffee – and FOOD! Because free Europe is apparently better enjoyed with free food.

Really, you can never get too rich to stop loving and appreciating free stuff. Everyone, everywhere, from Georgia to Germany, loves free stuff, no matter how much of it they can afford. You can grow self-conscious or arrogant about it. Still, then you can always have kids, take them with you and lie that the kid has asked for that free shiny tote bag and one extra piece of cake.

Seeing people feeding each other instead of eating each other has been satisfying. As the summer approaches, one is longing for more of the commonly accessible spaces where people from various milieus could meet and mingle instead of observing each other – from the windows of the packed bus to the windows of a lone black four-wheel-drive. No, we do not mean the vote-buying concerts; thank you very much!

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