Big and small thinking
06 December, 2014
The fundamental difference between Misha's United National Movement and and Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream or Otsneba movement has to do with thinking big and thinking small. The Nationals could only think big, they couldn't think small and that lead to their downfall. Otsneba can only think small, they don't seem to be able to think big.

Shevardnadze was famous for balancing. He brought stability to Georgia by handing out chunks of Georgia's economy and geography to different competing individuals. It worked
but ultimately doomed the country to corruption. And there was no vision, no portrayal of the country in any way anybody cared much about. A little silk road and transit corridor here and there, but nobody really cared about or believed that. Then Misha came along with a new vision. Georgia without Shevardnadze and all the corruption that was synonymous with him. When Shevardnadze was out of the way, Misha began portraying Georgia the way he saw himself: young, fast moving, attractive, Western oriented, dynamic, strong and in control of its own destiny. His job was the vision and the symbolism to go along with it. He was the communicator. The implementation was for others.

At first almost everybody was excited for any change. And many liked all or part of this vision. But there were others, silent at first but less so later on who actively disagreed with parts of the vision, or with the methods used to pursue it. And the vision changed along the way. With Shevardnadze out of the way and international support there were early successes. A feeling of invincibility took over. It seemed to bring with it contempt for the population. The Nationals have never had a great talent for listening but it got even worse. They polled public opinion and paid attention to how political consultants interpreted those polls, but they didn't listen to individuals. They conveniently decided that those who disagreed with them were Russian agents, grant eaters, corrupt, stupid or irrelevant. Anybody who wasn't working for their vision, was part of the problem.

And some people suffered. Many older people felt their views or interests were not being considered. The system of justice was effective at fighting crime but was not fair and many people were cruelly ground in its gears for no reason they could understand and with no recourse. Petty corruption ended but at the top the financial system was closed and corrupt. There was a great vision of national transformation, a vision that many people shared and still share, but the Nationals just didn't worry enough about individuals or listen to them, they didn't care about the details, or consider consequences. And this led to their downfall.

Otsneba is very preoccupied with individuals. The well funded leadership has transferred lots of stipends to individuals. There have been a large number of individual charity projects. These have been very important for many many families throughout Georgia. This is all good work. But where does it lead? What Georgia is it designed to encourage? What is the logic to who has been given help and who has not? What's the plan?

The leadership is expending a great deal of time, attention, political capital, and international credibility in punishing members of the former leadership. The mysterious sacking of Alasania was made no sense. The corruption charges against the ministry were simply an excuse to remove him. But why? Simply jealousy because he was popular? The campaign against the President is so childish, why do they spend so much effort on that micro-battle? There seems to be so much drama among the leadership team, who has access to the top, who is sabotaging who and why. There is always plenty of gossip about that in any government. But in this case it seems to be what they are mostly composed of. Among the leadership, doing a good job seems to be less important than the strength of personal alliances within the senior leadership.

Most of Georgia is relieved that Nationals are no longer in power. And one day the Nationals may even confront their own mistakes and shortcomings. But most people at least understand vision, although they may or may not like it. But now is the time for some big picture thinking from Otsneba. They need to be something other than the party that got rid of the Nationals and doesn't like them. Nobody I know in Georgia has a clear idea of Otsneba's vision for the country. It is time for us to know.