A Shuashist’s Manifesto
25 September, 2014
In Georgian, “shuashi” means in-between. Shuashists is a derisive terms for somebody who is somehow between the National Movement and the Georgian Dream.

I. In-between is the best political location. I have been called biased by both sides. Those who are the loudest supporters of whoever has power tend to be quiet when things go the other way, as they always do. If I place myself in-between I am forced to see both sides of the issues. The only time
not to be in-between is if both sides of the political spectrum are so aggressive or corrupt that the only solution is a completely new view. That is not the case in Georgia and can itself lead to serious problems. There must be powerful reasons not to be in between.

II. I believe in tolerance and respect for all. I don’t see Georgian politics or the world as a battle between good and evil. I don’t think people are good or bad and avoid judgement in general. Judgement is usually a lazy shortcut when confronted with an unfamiliar or confusing new idea or way of doing things. What matters is actions and how they affect people, the economy and nature. Being too quick to judge what people say or believe is a pointless waste of time and prevents a learning experience.

III. I take the long view. For the first three years after Shevardnadze resigned the new government constantly talked about what a rush they were in, how they had a short mandate. It was the excuse for many of their worst decisions. In an electoral democracy, a party takes power, is popular and becomes less popular until another party or leader wins over most of the population. It always happens. And the party in power doesn’t get to choose its opposition. Ever. If they do, it isn’t the opposition. Leadership that thinks voters are stupid will not last. Leadership has to have a vision not just for the rest of the leadership but for the population and it takes time for the population to change its views.

IV. I believe in institutions over individuals. Individuals change, particularly those who have been in power for some time, usually not for the better. A great individual leader will build and strengthen institutions and live with the constraints they bring. A poor leader will destroy institutions when they get in the way. The instinct to trust individual politicians rather than institutions is the sign of an immature democracy. Playing with the constitution and destroying the criminal justice system ended up destroying the national movement. The way the leadership is pretending that Georgia doesn’t have a president may illustrate poor instincts.

V. I respect people’s opinions. I would rather discuss an idea, or a plan or a proposal than who had the idea. The instinct to attack the messenger illustrates weakness. I understand that I don’t know everything and other people have different experiences than mine. I mistrust those who insult or are quick to anger, even if they are good speakers or are funny. Listening to those we don’t agree with with an open mind is an important skill, particularly for the powerful.

VI. I respect those who apologize and admit mistakes. I do not see this as weakness. Introspection and self-awareness is a fundamental part of good leadership. Stubbornness is weakness.

VII. I believe in connections. Georgia is a part of a bigger world, always has been and always should be. Georgia is not the center of the world it is a small country surrounded by empires emerging from Soviet isolation. It needs clear understanding of the rest of the word, particularly its neighbors. Its success will be in finding things in common rather than seeking differences.

VIII. I believe in diversity. Different opinions, religions, national groups are all a source of strength. A country made up of different groups that can live in peace is stronger than a country where everybody is the same. Knowledge can come from anywhere and often surprising sources. Nobody and no nation is superior to another, those that think that, develop more slowly.