Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Here's a thought…

DeCaprio and Winslet Running from Billy Zane in "Titanic'
During the crash time around New Years, when all of Belarus was enjoying a thrill-ride of abuse from their ex-tovareshee from the East, there was an undercurrent of commie-talk that said that Russia and Belarus were in cahoots and that all of this was simply a scam to get money from the west; I myself being one of them. Or at least I had hopes. But is anyone thinking this today? Seems to me that the current rhetoric is not so much about any remaining brotherhood ties between White Russia and Just-Plain-old Russia, as it is about how awful the Russians are and how obviously nefarious Putin is.

Certainly a lot of this has to do with the understanding that it was Russia who was taking the energy money all along, and that blaming Belarus for grabbing some an occasional crumbs from the table was a waste of word processor time. Does anybody really think that Belarus is the bad-guy anymore?

Since New Years, and with the most obvious business end of the pistol leaned up against his temple, President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko has been extending his hand westward. Now, before I start sounding as if this is a new idea, let me assure you that it was not. Mr. Lukashenka has never, and I repeat never said that he wouldn't do business with Europeans: He only said that the business had to be fair and that the Europeans were not welcome to make policy or cause disruptions of the peace inside Belarus. This is also true of his willingness to work with America. Of course Lukashenka has wanted to do business with America. Of course he has wanted to do business with Europe. Where else can we sell our potash fertilizers, potatoes and tractors? Where else can we have the potential for business expansion, new jobs and taxes collected from foreign factories operating on Belarusian soil? This has never been the issue.

The issue has been though that Europe and America have never allowed for any sorts of business deals in which they were NOT allowed to dictate policy. And this is where most of the "Evil Dictator" stuff came from in the first place. Europe and America wanted the sort of economic and political chaos that would allow for them to come in with their inflated and overvalued money and strip clean anything they could find without allowing a broken kopek for the general good, which, in case you haven't been listening, is all Belarus ever cares about. Or, put another way, they didn't want a relationship with the East, they just wanted what they wanted, when they wanted it and how they wanted it and without any lasting strings attached to slow them down. Or in still other words, bitches, not wives; employees and not partners.

Perhaps this is the difference in general between the consciousness of Belarus vs the consciousness of the West. I have several American friends who think this way ad nausium. Any thoughts about how trying to work from the point of view of community rather than solely for one's self might actually lead to some peace and clear thinking for a change just leads to smiles and a click on the delete button. "I want my MTV," they cry "and I KNOW that communism DOESN'T WORK because I heard this on the television!"

Ok, fair enough.

But at the moment the opposition people are dancing a jig thinking about how their time is coming. They are seeing that Lukashenka is giving interviews to reporters, which to me is simply an obvious public relations stunt to prove he does not suppress the media (and he is getting his ass handed to him because of it). They are listening to how Lukashenka wants to do business with the West, which to me is basically the same things being said that have always been said. But because of the accentuated "Christians vs Lions" media exposure, at least publicly, they are viewing that as a sign that the world of the dictator is coming to an end.

Well, I don't see it this way. Mohamar Ahmadinejad is coming to Belarus for a pork shashlik BBQ roasted over uranium ore, Belarus is trading police training techniques with North AND South Korea and Lukashenka is doing more business with China than simply allowing for laundries and chop suey houses- I know that most of you might thing that this last had been ordained by G-d as being the way it ought to be, but just take this as fact that China is for real.

But is all of this part of a master plan between Putin and Lukashenka? Well, it could have been: You create a situation that seems to be like the chance the West has been looking for to sneak in the back door and rob the house; let them in and then steal from them everything you can find while they're crawling around in the dark on their knees. That's how that theory works. But I don't really believe in this because everything and I mean everything has become 10% more expensive here in Belarus since New Years, which in itself is funny because we haven't even paid more the gas yet! Maybe we'll pay another 10% when that real bill comes due, who knows.

Billy Zane, a proper villain wasn't he?
If anything the real "master plan" was executed on the part of the Europeans. I think that what you are seeing is exactly the situation that the West wanted to create and from not just these last few Belarusian elections, and not from 1989 or 1991 either (when there were promises of bank loans from the West which never came), but from maybe the times of the McCarthy hearings. The west simply wanted to win and has never wanted to hear any ideas of the rich not getting richer. Darwin's book was financed by a group millionaires and Marx was lucky to have one guy buy into his noise. The west likes hysteria because it means that those who have the money to buy some isolation from that noise get to figure out a way to line their own pockets even more. "Let the masses drown in the sea," they say, "I personally have enough money for a boat of my own!" (image from Titanic- but you liked DiCaprio and hated Billy Zane in that one, didn't you?)

Do you remember how they used to say that it would take 50 years to overcome the last of the communist ideology? The East took that as a compliment as to the resiliency and righteousness of the idea, probably though it was just a threat from the West.

So if there is a great show going on here, it was simply that Russia played the part of the uncle who gains a lot of money and straight away decides to lose his poor, loudmouthed nephew on the way to the disco party. Lesson understood by Europe here in that this is the way it is. Lesson learned by Belarus; we were right: you can't trust the rich to think of anybody but themselves. Or perhaps it is a part of a great cloak and dagger (hammer and sickle?) scheme and Lukashenka is actually getting back his money under the table. Or perhaps this is simply a great game of "sink or swim" played with the West laughing like a group of Nazi's watching Jews club themselves to death in a pit for their own amusement. Only the money guys know for sure.

Perhaps neither Milinkevich nor Belarusian weight-loss guru Al Kazulin care anymore about this concept of needing to have respect for one's fellow man. Or perhaps they didn't understand that this sort of thing isn't even in the evolutionary DNA of the money folks they were playing to. Or maybe they just wanted the $100 an hour trick. But in any case, the Belarusian opposition did not invent Euro dollars; they simply said that they would be happy to take them if the West preferred not to play Hockey with the big guy.

But I think Lukashenka does know this real lesson in life, and to my mind he was the only one who offered to hold on to the thought about how the world might be better if they did. The Last Dictator never said he didn't want to see Belarus tractors working on foreign soil, he just said he wanted them to be treated with a little respect.

More soon...