terça-feira, 22 de outubro de 2013

Protest free society of Lithuania

During entire period of independence of Lithuania, there always was a lack of citizens expressing their opinion through protesting. Usually, the only way the nation express complaints is in comments in the internet or just talking about the problems with friends, colleagues, family members but never in public surroundings. This topic was discussed in a journal called „IQ“which consists mainly of articles from „The Economist“. The particular article which will be discussed in this essay is „Silent nation“ 2013, 08 (41).
In general lithuanians tend not to go to streets with banners and protest. Which is quite odd because there are many complaints about the government and its actions. According to „Eurobarameter“ data, 82 percent of population do not trust political parties, 73 percent do not trust the government. Overall, there is a very pessimistic opinion about the economy of Lithuania: 64 percent of the nation think that economic situation is quite poor; also, the same portion of Lithuanians consider situation in labor market to be bad. Even with such pessimistic views, there are not many protests and public demonstrations of society‘s wishes and complaints. Only a few protests can be mentioned. For example, farmers‘ blockade of roads in 1998, protest for and against the newly elected President Rolandas Paksas, in 2004.
In a way, this kind of behavior may seem as a positive thing because instead of going to the street and spending their time there, people stay at work. There are no unexpected bus drivers‘ strikes or highschool teachers boycotting classes. There are no sudden intentional events which may affect daily activities and jobs of others. On the other hand, this kind of silence means that people is hiding their true opinions and in a long-term period it may develop into movements hazardous to the stable political and economic environment. Moreover, to politicians it is hard to understand what the nation supports and what do not so much because it does not express itself. Only through elections of political parties there is a tendency to elect some radical parties which usually are not approved by the current government. This way, society tries to say that the nation is not happy with the way the government is making decisions but it is not telling which changes and which decisions exactly they disapprove of. Staying silent and never protesting, sometimes makes it hard to understand how strong the nation feels about particular subjects.
It is common to think that the main reason for not actively participating in political and economic life of the country is because of history with the Soviet Union. Lithuania has only been independent from the Soviet Union for two decades, so the older generation still remembers the life before independence. There was no freedom to express your opinion, no opportunity to organize any public events which could in any way criticize the government. This taught Lithuanians not to go anywhere with their problems and just solve them themselves. This means people were forced to be a bit closed up, search for opportunities to get something they need through friends or give bribes, and everything had to stay underground. Also participation in political events was corrupted. The appearances in military parades and political elections were mandatory. Therefore, people are not used to go public and be open about their opinions as well as trust the government.
Another reason is more economical: protests take time and money to organize and attend. There is a tendency that in more developed Western Europe countries protests are more common. Moreover, spending time and money for communal needs is not profitable and even if time and money is spent the wanted results are not guaranteed. So, from an economical point of view, protesting is not always the best choice.
Another reason for being passive may be that the nation lacks sociality. Because of that, it may be hard to even understand why one person should support others‘ protests. When one social group protests, another‘s rights may be touched too and not always in a good way. So, usually people choose not to get in other social group‘s way and they stay out of protesting at all. According to a survey, people are afraid that, if they would participate in social political events, they would even loose their jobs (45 percent of respondents think that), would be considered weird by others (42 percent of respondents) or would even receive threats about their wellbeing (49,3 percent of respondents). Another important thing is to know what you are they standing for, what is the main demand of the protest, because sometimes it seems that some people only go protesting just to try and see how it works. There should be a clear idea behind every protest, every banner and everyone participant should be sincerely concerned about the problem.
Also in Lithuania, there is one very common thought that one person cannot change anything. So, people just stay passive and do not do anything. People do not think they can make a difference so they do not get involved in social events. This way is the easiest because a person does not have to do a thing but later on he/she is developing complaints and anger which stay hidden. What people do not understand is that it does not always have to be big protests with many people and banners everywhere. Sometimes, it takes just a little effort to attract much needed attention. For example, recently, Lithuanians are protesting against reconstruction of one of the main squares of the capital because the citizens do not like how it would be changed. The protest form is making small banners and sticking them into ground. These little notes have caught the government‘s attention but it was announced that in this case the opinion of the society will not be considered. This example shows that sometimes when the nation finally does something the government easily stops it. This is also one of the reasons Lithuanians are a silent nation, because even if they protest they are still not heard and feel that their opinion does not matter.
Recently there have been many unhappy nations and many protest concerning governments‘ actions (Bosnia and Herzogovina, Brasil, Turkey, Egypt). But, it seems that Lithuania is being a very silent nation and do not demand its government for attention to certain subjects. Reasons to that can be historical, economical and mentality of Lithuanians. It is an issue which from the first glance may seem not that important in comparison with other problems, such as recent economic crisis, but if it will stay ignored in the end it may grow into a very serious social outrage.

Laura Trubilaite

[artigo de opinião produzido no âmbito da unidade curricular “Economia Portuguesa e Europeia” do 3º ano do curso de Economia (1º ciclo) da EEG/UMinho]

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