Opinion

Intellectual Dilemma or Political Hoax?

by | Mar 3, 2013
george_khutsishvili

George Khutsishvili is director of the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation in Tbilisi, Georgia.

“Georgia? What kind of place is that?”

“Well, this is a post-Soviet country where a pro-Russian billionaire won the elections over a pro-Western reformer president…”

That is a tag line that has already appeared in many foreign publications on Georgia, including Russian, but mostly US and EU based. It threatens to turn into a fairytale and an easily digestible media pill for the international layman.

But it is actually wrong, as it turns out. For someone who commits him-/herself to a longer reading, it becomes clear that the new leader’s so-called ‘pro-Russian policies’ are in fact just the first steps to climb out of a frozen gap between the two neighboring states, and that the ‘pro-Western reforms’ of the outgoing leader did not necessarily lead the country to a more democratic state of things.

Thus, the situation in Georgia is not so easily labeled the way the busy international mass media would normally prefer. But not all readers commit themselves to a longer reading. And tags, once they have clung, are very difficult to remove. Especially if they are constantly and purposefully fueled, like mantras that gain meaning by frequent repetition.

Still, the question arises of why some tags are so difficult to disprove or even modify? Usually, the reason lies in the deceptive self-evidence of some underlying ‘universal’ assumptions. E.g. that an oligarch cannot by definition be a democratic leader. The opposition United National Movement’s actions dwell on some ‘state of nature’ postulates about power, sovereignty and international relations. The first tacit assumption is that the Cold War is not over yet. The second and riskier one is that a small country can turn into a big actor by adding fuel to the struggle between the Poles. The third is that Russia is incommunicable and non-negotiable by definition, so you may comfortably forget about diplomacy, and only cry for protection.

Who could doubt such a convincing chain of thought? A corollary is drawn from the postulates above that it can only be a bluff to say that relations with Russia can be normalized while staying a strategic ally with the West. And The Daily Beast would easily believe it.

It has been clear that leaders having an incompatibly different psychological make-up would not possibly cohabitate. The new government of Georgia has declared in many ways it was not going to enter in a PR race with a more skillful opponent – to the extent of not making disclaimers or clarifications on wrongly interpreted facts – and would rather leave the judgment to an observer of tomorrow who will witness and register who was right and who was wrong.

As it happens, in the same time frame, mantras turn into labels, and labels may finally turn into Wikipedia entries, if they are not timely attended to.



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