Thursday, August 25, 2005


Just read your Lukashenko article (I missed it the first time around). Very impressive…

Aside from some trivial points (again, were these really elections? (Can you say this) …even after being denounced by all the international monitoring agencies?), I'm struck by one question: How do you feel about Belarus?

You seem to dip your toe into that in your essay, and it seems many of
the redeeming points you award Lukashenko are actually awarded to the
People of Belarus. Stripped of those merits, he still comes off an

I've only been reading for a few weeks now, and certainly not as
regularly as I'd wish. But it sounds like you're a man who loves his
nation and people even if it's run by a bunch of monkeys…

I got this letter in response to my Lukashenka essay (See and I thought I would take a stab at answering it here.

Yes, I do believe that 70 percent of Belarus voted in agreement than Lukashenka has the right to be the president for a third term. I am sorry of this goes against the grain, and I would be the first to admit humiliation if I am wrong in this, but I simply do believe that 70 percent of the people who went to the poles did agree with the man. And what is more, rather than bitching and moaning about whether or not the issue was decided fairly, I think a bigger question that really should be asked is why? Let me take a shot at explaining how things went the way that they did.

First of all, you need to understand that the entire business of that referendum was pretty scary to the citizens of Belarus. People were told, or rather it was obliquely inferred by their managers that they absolutely needed to come out to the poles and vote and that there would be some serious repercussions if they did not. Now, imagine yourself in a similar situation; you are struggling to get by on your $100 month or so, you live in mortal fear of losing what little income you have, your bosses have almost complete power over your hours and ability to work and you have almost zero legal recourse for harassment or dismissal. What is the first thing that comes into your mind? Having your name show up on a list of non-conformists might be one. Losing your job might be another. A Stalinesque disappearance might also come to mind but whatever that first thought may have been, I really don’t think that most people would choose a non-permanent, opinion only vote to make their oppositionist political stance known now would they?

Another way to describe this is to tell an anecdote about old mayor Daily of Chicago. He was having a sit down with John Lindsay one day and the two of them tried to decode who was more powerful. Lindsy talked about his connections and how his image was that he was both good with the people and tough on opposition. Daily just laughed. “How many jobs do you control?” he asked. Lindsay thought for a moment and answered that the number was probably something like seven to eight thousand. “I control over 40,000. Wanna talk about this some more, or do you wanna get some lunch?” How many jobs does Lukashenka control? Well, the real number is actually pretty high because of the amount of businesses still controlled by the state. Again, Lukashenka not only curtailed foreign investment, he also crimped local small business as well, especially when it was in competition to state run enterprises. I think the real percentage of state to independent here is something like 75-25. But, if you have been living here over the last year you might start to think that the number is something like… all of it.

And this is the beginning and end of the truth about Lukashenka and Belarus: He is everywhere these days. He is all you see. It is not just like he has an opinion abut things, he starts the argument, asks the questions, answers them and all of the minor subjects and then changes the subject. And what I more, he is changing everything all the time. He is even renaming streets, changing the affiliations of the universities and altering the power structure of all state run businesses. And people are both getting a little weirded out by how easily he seems to be able to get things done and have become even more intimidated as well. And he is doing a great job of making people understand exactly how much power and influence the man has. And of course Lukashenka knows what he is doing and is playing his part to the hilt. But what is the worst thing about this game is, that n a country where there is so little movement possible due to the financial limitations, that Lukashenka can and does make things happen have given him the appearance of some kind of god. The man knows exactly how to make things go and this, along with his complete cloaking of any possible opposition seems to be his platform for re-election. I mean, he is simply beyond comparison to normal men. And as all of this is happening late in his career, I would say that the best comparison to make would be to say that the guy, as the leader of a country, is Barry Bonds; huge, overwhelming, but without him, his country is nothing. Think about that one a minute and tell me you can’t understand how it is. I mean, how are the Giants doing this year?

But at the same time, he can in fact have a very human touch when he needs to as represented by the phrasing of the question asked in the referendum itself, which went something like: Do you agree that the president has the right to run for a third term if he wants to? “If he wants to…”. Great phrase. Knocks you right off balance doesn’t it? People were expecting a yes or no, do or die dictum but got this little subtlety instead. And the answer, if you speak the local language has to be yes. Of course the answer is that he does because any man has the right to do as he likes. Do you see my point? The man was speaking Belarusian! This is the way it is here. How could people say no to this? It simply isn’t the way. Do you follow my point? At that moment, he was simply a man going about his job. Men are flawed, men have bad habits, but he is a man first and last and therefore has the right to do as he can. So this, mixed in with that little shot of paranoia everybody got treated to and blended with the necessity to be communal and to agree with each other, you can see that things turned out the way that they did.

And so yea, I do think that what you saw was the truth. The man is in charge here and ironically enough, despite all of the outward dislike, I think people here in some perverse way actually like what they have made. I think he gives Belarus some feeling of strength. And I think that this, more than anything really ought to be appreciated rather than antagonized by the US who, if I am not mistake, RESPECT AND ADMIRE GANGSTERS AND ANTI SOCIATAL TYPES AS MUCH AS ANYONE IN THE WORLD. Sorry folks, we love tough guys. Look at our culture: Who are our heroes? Just think of all of those HBO movies? How many shootings do you see on TV in the course of a day? How may films come out depicting violence and crime? And let’s not forget about Rap music, that’s too easy. What about that both Hannibal and the terminator turned into good guys and that Ahhnold is running California!! Even Tom Hanks, as angelic and likable face as we have, before he toted a Tommy Gun with Paul Newman, told us an a Nora Efron film that everything you need to know in life was from the movie The Godfather. Think about it…

Or perhaps the simplest way to say it is this: No matter whether or not you like him, Lukashenka is and has been the absolute leader of his country. And in order to be a leader of a country the one thing that you absolutely need is a country to be the leader of. And when you are speaking of Belarus, a place whose very existence is so fragile, perhaps you can appreciate why people here might actually like him, regardless of how over the top he is. Or even because of it. I mean, Belarusians are such small people. You have to be to get along in a world where there are such small recourses. Belarusians know that they are crushed and haven’t a prayer in the world. All you can do here is to agree to do what needs to be done: You must live. And so even if the guy is to blame, and that is the biggest chicken and egg argument, can’t you see how he might be to these folks?

And again, and the opposition parties hate when I say this, but it is simply the truth that in the beginning, in the early 90’s when the wall came down and the USSR quit and the inflation killed the banks and everyone lost their money there was still 80% (!) who wanted to continue on as before with the ways of the former USSR. And this was the absolute demographic at the time Lukashenka first ran for president and he was seen as exactly the sort of man for the job. Now perhaps, over the course of the last 14 years the demographic has indeed changed. Many of the old timers have died off and with them, the hard-core belief in communism as the definitive idea. But of those that are younger, how many have managed to fight their way through to being independent? Not so many. And those are the guys who really want their freedom. They and those who dream to be like them. And unfortunately, because this minority does not speak for the average wage slave, and because they are fighting King Kong, there simply will not be the sort of support needed to change the status quo. Or to say it yet another way, to fight Lukashenka is to ask for yet another bout of anarchy, nuclear bomb-like inflation, riots and general misery. And these people have lived through all of this over the last rose thorn-painful years and do not want it again. Yes, it is a chicken and egg theory here, but in the end, people are too chicken to buck the system.

So no, there simply is no division between Belarus and the president. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. And what is more, calling the man an asshole doesn’t really even begin to deal with the situation. But as to whether or not I love Belarus, well… I think that the best way to put it is this: I fell in love with the place years ago when I saw an earlier face of hers and was charmed into another world. It became the greatest source of pride in my life that I was connected to her by blood, that my line comes from here and that this place made such beautiful and giving people gave me something that I felt I was missing in my life. And then, when the world turned in such a way that there seemed to be a chance to give something back, I took it and came here to help and be a part of things. But to be honest, after having spent the last several years hearing nothing but people trying to convince me how bad it is I think that my basic attitude has changed. I mean, really, all I wanted to do was to do right by someone with whom I now have a daughter. I did not run from the states, I simply wanted to have something here so I could be around. But at the moment, my life is so miserable that it has become exactly the sort of joke that Belarusians love to make abut themselves, which is kind of ironic in a way: All I wanted was to be accepted here and now I find that things are so hopeless and have been for such a long time, that I fact Belarusian is exactly what I have become.

Hope that answered your questions.

Anyway, just a bit more about being listed on Yahoo. Though simply typing Adam Goodman or Being Had doesn’t get you far, typing my name and Being Had gets you right here. As does my name plus Pod Kablukom and/or Ownership, though this second play only rates a #19 spot. And apparently I am also findable on and the MSN Dogpile search engines too. And for this I am thrilled and grateful and all I can say is that it is great to be here.

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