Georgia Buckled Up
02 June, 2011
Georgia Buckled Up

A couple of days ago I had guests from the United States of America. The visit was of a pleasure category and not terribly obligating in any way. While enjoying a cup of coffee on the terrace under pleasantly warming late spring sunshine, I was unexpectedly showered with friendly but keenly political questions.

Being very far from what we call a political expert, I still managed to provide my good company with certain answers, trying to sound as reasonable as I

possibly could. While I don’t generally take myself seriously as either politically charged or philosophically qualified animal, I am usually trying to be honest enough to stay away from disputes, or at least remain fair and nice if I ever have to absolutely get involved into a political or philosophical discussion. I swear on my beloved parents’ grave that I had not deviated from my habitual style in this particular case either. One of those impassioned questions resonated in my ears as deserving my attention more than the rest of them. Frankly, I wanted to take the entire conversation easy and play it by the ear if push came to shove, but that particular question stirred a polemicist in me: ‘Nug, what is most special thing that the President of Georgia has done?’ Wow! There was no way that I could answer that question right on top of my head because there must be tons of things that might be put on the list, but neither did I want to lose face. After all, my American friends knew that I was a functioning journalist here, and they had a copy of ‘Georgian Journal’ in front of them with my article and picture shining on the front page. They certainly expected an educated answer from pressman Nugzar Ruhadze. Not thinking too much, I blurted out that this President and his team have made an attempt and managed to change this nation’s mentality, which used to be a result of grafting the Soviet mindset on indigenous brainwork. ‘This is so loudly said! How can you prove that?’- followed the next question. Again, the list of examples corroborating my statement is so long that I really needed to quickly shuffle through it for the best answer. Then I decided to joke it off: ‘My friends, you are Americans and you might not be able to understand what I am going to tell you right now. Driving a car with your seatbelts fastened is a routine in the United States, and you have been taking it for granted in the last fifty or more years (Who knows the exact figure for God’s sake!). You go ahead and try to keep Georgians buckled up! Most of us here are driving cars not for business, but for pleasure, and seatbelts are huge ‘party poopers’ here. And still, you cannot find even one driver in Georgia today without that choker across their breasts and necks. It was terribly hard to imagine Georgia fettered in seatbelts. It was simply unperceivable. That is not our national image. And the stereotype was hard to crack. But you see . . . it happened. It was done. The typecast was shattered and the law was enforced. I am giving you this little funny example as an answer, but this funny little sample of changing the nation’s mindset is speaking volumes’. I finished declaiming and the mouths around remained open. In the silence that reigned for a while around the table, I heard the muted soft applause, which expressed not simply a trivial surprise of a bunch of curious American tourists, traveling in another developing country somewhere in a remote part of the world, but a sincere appreciation of what they had just heard.

 

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