Saluting dictators

For the past week everyone has been asking me: How come you got banned in Belarus?

This was a propos of my name appearing on a blacklist along with those of other writers and members of bands.

What surprised me was the tone of the journalists’’ questions: So you really don’t mind that your name cannot be mentioned in the Belarusian media?

Of course I do mind, I’’m devastated, I’’m all tears! Mind you, it’’s not really something to be proud of. I don’’t like Lukashenka’’s regime. It’’s a horrible regime. He has put a lid on an entire country of forests and lakes and started choking it. So it’’s not surprising I’’m not liked there either.

Obviously, banning writers is a sign of impotence. For example, I wasn’’t too keen on Bush Junior either. But it would have been ridiculous if America had banned me.

What I don’’t understand is this: not very many writers and musicians have been banned. Only a few people have protested against the plight of our neighbours, against state terrorism, torture and lawlessness, against the Lukashenka plague, this contagion that is spreading all the way to Russia. It’’s got us coughing and sneezing. By the way, thanks for that, dear Minsk. But why do so many remain indifferent?

In this country we don’’t empathize with others. Europe, America, the Arab world – everyone is upset about the terrorist Ghaddafi but in this country you hardly hear a peep. Everyone keeps mum. All that Moscow does on an official level is dampen down global protests, citing the scare of Islamization and suspecting that the revolution is turning orange. This is where the watershed is. Ghaddafi is blameless. The West did prevaricate – after all, who knows what a terrorist might do – but once the Libyan nation rose up, everyone immediately rushed to help and support the Libyan people.

But who in Russia needs Libyan rebels who are fighting in some godforsaken desert? Who has a good word to say for them? Who cares about them?

We have been afflicted by a lethal indifference. It would take no special effort to chop us into pieces. Our intelligentsia, which in the past has written letters on behalf of our dissidents, has turned into a historic fossil. Our cultural elites – as a certain number of renowned cultural figures tend to be referred to these days – are depraved and divided. One or two of their number might shed a tear for our own prisoners but they don’’t give a damn about foreign ones.

Forgetfulness is a scourge. And so is moral decrepitude. Go ahead and rule, Ghaddafi! Keep oppressing everyone, Lukashenka! We’’re not entirely in favour but we’re not particularly against either. Life has taught us a lesson. Hands off! Hands off all of you who really need to! Let’’s salute the dictators from our couch! Let Ghaddafi and Lukashenka bask in the glory of our infamy.


Translation: Julia Sherwood