Thursday, March 01, 2007

Listen, have I got a deal for you...

Yours truly with Alexander Milinkevich in Pinsk before the last elections
I just got a terrific letter from one Henry J of Washington DC.

To see the original letter, just head over to and click on the commentary tab at left.

What I really liked about the letter is that Mr. Henry has been having second thoughts about following the current American "abuse and use" course of action against the Belarusians. Now, he doesn't go so far as to say he is a fan of the Lukashenka, but he does take the step of doubting the collective push against all things Belarus. These are exactly his words:

"I'm no particular fan of Lukashenka, and I do think the Belarusian people deserve a lot more than they are receiving, but not just from him, but from many others. I agree, from personal experience, though, that the opposition as it stands now is useless, and so long as they are what they are presently, no one in the West can truly, in my opinion, claim that Lukashenka did not indeed get 83% of a vote."

To me, I think this is exactly the point. Why has it been so necessary for everyone to believe automatically, in their soul and with no logical and empirical evidence to back them up that there was simply no truth to the Belarusian elections? And this was true even after Ukraine basically decided the same thing only a year later.

What is more I believe there are several extremely natural and understandable arguments backing up why Belarus might have chosen to stay with Lukashenka and to do so even (or perhaps especially) in the face of constant pressure from the US and the EU not to do so.

But before I go on, I think I should say that I actually don't mind Lukashenka. I mean, no leader can do all right for all people, this is mathematically impossible. And I didn't like all of his choices for the little guy or how some of the government people were over the last few years when there was finally a little bit of money floating around. But as a philosopher, in his rhetoric, he is actually kind of cool to listen to and I really don't think he has been stealing the money. Not at all.

Conversely, I saw Milinkevich in Pinsk. I heard his speech and his "populist platform. He didn't move me much. I remember the situation quite well. We all sent our questions up and mine got picked first. Basically, they were just sensible variations of "who's going to pay for this?" Milinkevich was polished and confident in his answer. He appealed to Pinsk to listen to him and understand that there needed to be a different future away from the "dictator". But in the end, the entire proposition only amounted to that we should trust in the benevolence of Europe. And this is where he lost us and literally, people just stood up and left here. I am sorry, but I think the phrase "European Benevolence" is an oxymoron and so did everyone else in the theatre.

So, you live with your choices.

But over the last year, while the sharks and vultures were circling, while the EU was bombarding Belarus with propaganda, while the entirety of the western press was busy taking potshots at him- and while the US wasn't even acknowledging that he was elected president by a popular vote, Lukashenka, and this was knowing that there was a chance to be screwed by Russia, all this year has been seriously working, trying to cut as many deals for Belarus as he could. I am speaking here about trade agreements and opening doors to selling Belarusian goods and services. I don't like some of his partners, like Iraq for example, but what can we do? If the US wouldn't be so… well you know; Belarus could at least have had a chance to try and make it in the western markets, to try and make it on their own; to scratch out a living with our own hands, pull themselves up by the old bootstraps and other such fundamentally American ideals.

But Belarus never gets this chance. Why? Because Belarus wanted to stay together; for this reason and only this. And because of this choice and the voracity of the unnecessary pressure against, apparently the whole of civilization is now starting to shake a little at the thought of potential nuclear war.


Just let them work! Why, despite an overwhelming 83% democratic popular vote in favor of sharing the wealth across the board rather than just for the individual wealth of a few, has Belarus been shut out of the western markets? Why can't they define their own future? Why can't consumers decide the fate of their products and the quality of their work rather than the governments? Where is this freedom? Where is this democracy?

Belarus is not to blame, nor is its president. Belarus is simply being forced to suffer at the hands of the west because she would not kneel before them and accept having foreigners without a vested interest in her future dictate policy on her soil.

And while Lukashenka was sweating it out, just like all of the workers were here, what did Belarus even get from the opposition but noise and scandal? What was Milinkevich doing all this time? All that hobnobbing in Europe, all those awards and the money and not one single contract from the head of the "unified coalition". This is what I say and I am not alone. He was the toast of Europe, he got money, he got press, but in the end he didn't sell a single Belarus tractor to Germany or anywhere else. He didn't create a better atmosphere for more reasonable social interaction, for better chances of integration- all he did was to contribute to the pressure against the country. All he did was work for the other side.

And I'll tell you: This is exactly why there is dissent in the ranks of the opposition. Belarus is extremely realist in their thinking; extremely realist and extremely socialist. Milinkevich was offering blue sky, and no one was buying it except for those who wished to delude themselves.

But don't believe me. Believe yourself: Listen, I have a deal for you. I know that you don't like your job as much as you could; there is not as much satisfaction as there could be. You wish you had more money and that you are tired of how hard life is for you to get by. You just don't get enough for yourself. Listen, all you have to do is get behind me and my new GOLDEN ACRES/BLUE SKY project. I have these financers, they are all good, church going people, you can trust them and everything will be so much better then it is now. You don't have to worry about a thing. There'll be more money, more happiness and I'll pay you for your children twice or three times as much!

Now here's the money question: Do you sign straight away or do you ask him…uh… maybe a couple of questions like… uh…Where's the money coming from? What do I have to do for this? Are there any side effects? Is there any danger? Or maybe even the single, most obvious question any normal, thinking human being could ever ask at such a situation: Why are they doing this/what's in it for them?

Is it possible now to see why the vote turned out to be 83% against?

Watch for a couple of things to happen over the next few months. Watch for Lebedko to start coming to the front again. Watch for a lot more squabbling in the opposition ranks. And watch how the president of Belarus, the guy who is actually doing the job of trying to hold the country together, goes about trying to find ways to get some money into this tiny, little controversial yet oddly appealing and beautiful country. Not a bad country really, not a rogue country, just a peaceful little country who wanted only to stay together, keep its culture and work together for common goals. I say G-d bless 'em and let them live in peace.

More soon...