Thursday, 29 May 2014

“Rome was not built in a day”

“Rome was not built in a day”

7 February 2014 at 15:17
I feel that sometimes certain sensitive though very important issues are overly propagated in Georgia which, I believe, undermine the very purpose of the intension to modernize the society.

I mostly refer to the issues and concepts related to the contemporary understanding and acceptance of the modern Western and liberal values (well captured and summarized in the UDHR, EU Charter and ინ the related conventions), some of which, by the way, might not necessarily be of the western origin per se. Nevertheless, the West was able to pick up, develop and evolve these traditional and conventional values, revise and broaden them i.e. upgrade and modernize the principles, so that they work for and match the increased standards (material and moral), aspirations and intellect of the society that is far more educated and aware than it was few centuries ago. Perhaps this is the most important merit of the Western civilization to the mankind that it was able to make the values, morals and principles work for the people, rather than the other way round. Laws, constitution and parliament are the perfect manifestation of this – the moral and behavioral standards and frameworks are dynamic and have to be modified based on the needs of a particular society.  That is to say that the Western cultures recognized that with human development, belief systems, values and morals will have to evolve as well in order to keep up with the human’s deepening intelligence and increasingly complex requirements. More importantly, the revisions are essential for the purpose of ensuring that the belief and value systems, moral framework and principles remain relevant, applicable and meaningful so that thet continue to be a credible reference for the societies to manage and regulate essential aspects of the human collaboration, relationships, etc.  Otherwise and if the systems are not upgraded, sooner or later they will become fully outdated and absolutely irrelevant and people will begin ignoring them all i.e. society with no moral framework and with no values.

Unfortunately and for various objective and subjective reasons, not all the nations and cultures were able to do the same as the Western civilization did. Therefore, in the context of those nations and societies that would like to join the Elite Western Club (only those who want, mean and intend), but did not “upgrade” their mediaeval values as yet, it is extremely difficult and sensitive to try and introduce, explain and promote such new ideals.

With the rapid infiltration, dissemination, understanding and acceptance of some of the essential contemporary Western principles by certain but limited parts of the society, the Georgians will probably need to be more careful and more patient instead of being radical and aggressive in advancing the idea of challenging the aged, well-established and deeply engraved medieval values.

Overdoing it, pitching the ultra-liberal or libertarian public rhetoric and highlighting the backwardness of the glorious Georgian customs and traditions may just backfire and have dramatic consequences. It is widely known that people react most aggressively and become extremely defensive when their belief systems and moral values are challenged. Either they react aggressively and go on offensive or they shut themselves down, withdraw from public life and switch to the stiff defense mode. Either of these scenarios are bad news for the “Western values” as penetration rate in the minds and hearts will be low or none, while the entire process will not yield the desired impact.

Moreover, I think that forcing liberal values on to the societies contradicts the very essence and meaning of these values. It’s all about the informed choice and decision. It’s all about managing the changes through education and awareness raising as opposed to managing them through the top-down forceful coercion. The latter can be very quick but I doubt that it is sustainable without the continued pressure from the top. On the other hand the first option requires more time, patience, discipline and persistency – regrettably though, these traits seem to be quite alien to the general Georgian character.

To illustrate my point, it’s like trying to convince a Jehovah pregnant woman that she needs to undergo cesarean or else she and her baby may die.
  1. The doctor does not explain anything to her. They just tell her that she will undergo the operation because it’s best for her. Then they strap her to the stretcher in haste, then off to the theatre and baby is born in few hours. All the woman knew about the cesarean before coming to the clinic was that it is a sin, taboo in her society, condemned disgraceful act of interfering in to the God’s will, etc. As a result and after the delivery, the woman is furious, devastated and depressed. Her husband and her community are accusing her of breaking the community rules and traditions. She feels that she has betrayed her faith, the God himself. Of course she is going to hate the doctor, the clinic, the whole science of cesarean and possibly even her own child. She will most probably develop resentment and pass it on to the others, as she will play a role of a victim, or a survivor, or an oppressed Jehovah witness, which was forced in to a sin and now she has legitimacy and credibility to talk about the cesarean, doctors and clinics.  Such method fosters mobilization and radicalization of the adversaries to the changes.
  2. Or, the other option is that the doctor and the clinic work with her throughout her pregnancy, explaining the science of fetus growth and development, biology, gynecology and the related risk to gradually prepare her for the acceptance of the concept that saving her and her baby’s life is more important than the delivery method. In this case you may have pretty good chances of convincing her and obtaining her voluntary consent (of course, there are chances that you may fail as well).  The final outcome may not be so clear and straightforward as with the above option, but if it works then it is sustainable as then later she will pass the message on to other women as well. This method, unlike the first one, nurtures the critical thinking, questions and doubts in the minds of the targeted population.
Persuasion may be a long and hard process, but it is sustainable and helps building the alliances. Persuasion can only work if the other party is willing, pre-disposed and ready to listen. They won’t listen if from the onset we tell them that whatever they believe in is rubbish. They will listen only if we pay and demonstrate due and genuine respect to their belief systems, values and moral. Only if a persuader is empathetic he or she will have a chance of disposing the object of the persuasion (“persuadee”) to openness, listening and critical thinking. Some may call it “manipulation”, or “conversion”… they can call it whatever they want, but I think this is the only reasonable and respectful way to try and trigger the changes in a country such as Georgia.  

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