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South Caucasus
Seymur Baijan


Of course, to seek an answer to the question “whether it is the people who are to blame or the system?” would lead us to an endless discussion. About ten years ago I was ruthlessly blaming Azerbaijani people with wickedness and flattery due to my youthful energy, maximalist thinking and revolutionary spirit. Then I suddenly suffered a great emotional disturbance. I was attending a mourning ceremony of a friend’s mother in countryside when I met an old man. Apparently, he knew me from my writings and we had to talk a while in a corner. He objected my accusing of people, telling me that, if a person is unable defend himself, if he is helpless, does it then give one the right to accuse him? What of the consciousness? What of mercy? He was a rather wise man. He was able to undermine my thoughts in a not very long lasting conversation. Later, when I was writing, his words were constantly ringing on my ears: If a man is helpless, unable to defend himself, does it give us the right to accuse him?

Recently I started reading memoirs of many great people who could be regarded as the consciousness of humanity. I, more and more realized that the genuine mercy is refusing to crash when one is able to. It is refraining to kill when one can or refraining exploiting when one has the means to exploit. Mercy is about attempting to live a life where your happiness is not built upon the unhappiness, sufferings and tears of others. Happiness is not to tear apart the lives of others’ children in order to feed yours. It is not to “drink” blood. Mercy is, when you can do all these things, while you don’t. I also understood that “people” is a rather abstract concept, while the rulers are obliged to rule well. That, most of the problems we face are not the responsibility of ordinary people, it is of the rulers. I also understood that there are people who are exploiting the opportunity to benefit from my accusations of ordinary people. My intentions were good while they were using my arguments to justify their wicked actions. Many are only constantly blaming ordinary people in order to rid themselves of their duties as citizens. “Oh, well, these people are never going to mature anyway” is the phrase they often use.

They – corrupted police officers, doctors and teachers who participate at election frauds, and many other bureaucrats sometimes go so far as to quote our classic educators and reformers. After murmuring for some time, they praise the “stability”, evaluate it as the highest gift and submit themselves to the current situation. They are, of course, worried. They understand well that they are not doing righteous things or living a virtuous life. But they are also helpless. They have become the servants of the rulers.

On the other hand, “stability” is often the argument used by you, Europeans. To justify your double standards, forgery and ill manners you often argue the people are not ready for democracy yet. I would like to jump over the past twenty years and visit history a little. We are the only eastern nation where our history of thought starts with a Eurocentric thinker, a universal scholar. A wise Armenian once told me: We should read our classics, but no need to talk of it to foreigners. True, to talk of M. F. Akhundov as if equal to Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, or Kant might seem a little unjust. Though, for the sake of justice I would like to mention some of his characteristic. I believe, a person of future is the person who brings the future closer to us. M. F. Akhundov foresaw the future and he summoned all his willpower to bring the future closer to us. He was reading his contemporaries with highest degree of attention. We can clearly sense this from his writings. With complete assurance, we may say today that he is the greatest thinker of the east. Prophecy in art is an important matter and he sensed future with high certainty. Without a doubt, it is reasonable that a nation, whose history of thought started with a Eurocentric author, chose secularism as a pathway. Secularism was our greatest value.

Today, twenty years after the the independence, our small nation is holding off with dignity in the face of ignorance and fanaticism. Perhaps we are the only Muslim and eastern nation where a dress code revolution took place. If you visit the remotest villages of Azerbaijan, you will see people wearing suites. Perhaps, they’d be a bit dirty, but this does not change the overall situation. Even Ataturk, a ruthless and strict reformer could not completely achieve a dress code revolution. If we’re to believe rumors, he executed people who refused to wear a cap and ordered to put caps on their heads after they’re executed. In our case, it was much easier. People were shown some movies, they were lectured a bit and perhaps were a little threatened and they easily started wearing suits and caps.

At the beginning of the previous century we granted suffrage to women. True, we copied the form. We did not have the conditions to implement the content. Freedom of women was not a matter of discussion back then. Due to the eastern mentality, ignorance and fanaticism, women were living as equal to a slave. Women were being purchased and sold as a commodity. Brides were not allowed to see their husbands until the evening of the marriage. Mothers were visiting public bathhouses to choose wives for their sons. Underage girls were forced to marry old men. There were very few literate women. When one of our intellectuals wanted to marry, he had to place an advertisement in a newspaper to find a literate woman. Under such conditions it may seem comical to grant suffrage to women. But such a move at least shows we did desire their freedom. A lot of successes start with imitation of good examples. When the direction is righteous, it will sooner or later result in development. Many nations founded their literature and cultural traditions through mimicking others.

In our parliament, functioning under immensely difficult conditions at the beginning of the 20th century, many fractions of the society were represented. It was a great success, considering that the population of the people did not even have surnames. Only three per cent of people were able to read and write. The unsatisfactory functioning of the independent parliamentary republic, which was created under unfavorable conditions and could not have the opportunity to run an independent foreign policy, nonetheless shows we at least knew the direction we’re heading to almost hundred years ago. We were on the side of freedom, democracy and secularism. Just before the establishment of the republic, a handful of educators supported our illiterate and ignorant forefathers. It is a rather valuable example. This is an example particularly for us, that we also should support our ignorant and illiterate fellow countrymen today. This way we may pay the due of our forefathers. Transferring good examples to future generations can only be regarded a good habit.

In this sense, speaking abstractly, the literate and educated part of the humanity must assist the illiterate and uneducated part of it. We have proven to deserve democracy already a hundred years ago. But today, in our society, those who can be set as an excellence example to others with their behavior and thinking are imprisoned. They could as well refuse to see the truth in order to receive their small share of benefits from the inventory of evil. How, then, you Europeans dare to claim we are not yet ready for democracy? Why, then, these people are spending all their years behind prison cells? Have they gone mad? Yes, perhaps we are a minority. But then, when the idea as shameful as fascism was haunting Europe, those amongst you who were screaming to the world “no, it is a crime! It should not be allowed!” were much fewer in numbers than those who were wrongfully supporting it. Despite this, some did to say “No!” and it was them who saved the honor of Europe. Those who screamed “Not all of us participated in this crime! There were many of us who dared to say “no!”” saved the honor of many nations. What was the number of people screaming “NO!” to the racism in US, when racism was disgracefully spreading throughout all the states? When Russians soaked Poland in a bloodbath, even the writers whose works we read with passion remained silent. Some even were openly happy about it. Only Alexander Herzen was able to protest this inhumanity. Later they would call him “the savior of the honor of Russian democracy.”

We are ready and attempting to forget the dark pages of history, while your wicked actions, irrelevant excuses nonetheless remind us of them. Perhaps, people do not get some things right as they should have. But then, is it true that all nations have instantaneously understood and valued the ideas of their intellectuals? How many thinkers and artists have lived and died in misery? People were destined for eternal ignorance! Every age has its own type of ignorance. People prefer to value the things they can see and touch. Many live with daily problems, not thinking of the future generations or of future at all. It is one of the reasons that evil tends to defeat good most of the time. It is easier for evil to find supporters. Hence the educated must help the uneducated, support their development, just like the greatest intellectuals were trying to enlighten the ignorant masses. But you, Europeans, instead of explaining people the benefits of environmentally friendly living you sold them cars as big as tanks.

You’re constructing safe highway passages for animals in your countries while massacring various types of animals in other countries. You are the ones to create the conditions for exploitation of labor elsewhere. You could have promoted democracy and freedom to every corner of the world, instead of promoting consumerism, cars, clothes, alcohol and cigarettes. Suffering and feelings of every civil person must be universal. Instead of spreading freedom and democracy, you have had the people desiring freedom and democracy lost hopes because of your forgery and double standards. The people protesting in Azerbaijan in 1998, 2003 and 2005, rallying and screaming “freedom and democracy!” in the streets, have already fallen off. Nobody can explain anything to them anymore. Some later replaced “freedom and democracy!” with “Allahu Akbar!”. There is nothing to be done. When one loses hope on the ground, one attaches his hopes to the skies. We are not the French to take up flags and invade the streets every day. People in my country are fed up with your double standards. Everything has become so clear that to see the wickedness of your actions one need not be a politician anymore.

True, with these double standards you nonetheless achieve to have your parks, churches and museums being renovated by our leaders. But then you should also know that many pharmacies in Baku have already started hanging up “we do not sell medicines on loan” slogans on their doors.

Let me clarify it for you. You are attending the most glamorous receptions, holding a glass of expensive wine and discussing art and life with those organizers who are ruthlessly exploiting their own people, denying them their very basic human rights and freedom, the dearest thing in this world. There was a time, when those who were exterminating people in concentration camps also preferred to spend their spare time watching theatre and music. In Auschwitz, where nine thousand people were gassed every day, a theatre and cinema was functioning alongside. What you are doing today is not much different from these examples. It is possible to forgive a man for unconsciously committing an crime. It is much harder to forgive the one who commits the crime consciously. You are currently committing a crime consciously and to forgive, in this case, is a rather difficult task. Yes, through the double standards you are making money and trying to solve your own problems. But then you must not forget that you are building your happiness upon the unhappiness of others. Through granting political asylum to couple of people or spending some euros for democracy you are attempting to wash off your guilt. While you should not forget, it was not only democracy that you’re spiting upon because of money. You have insulted the spirit of your forefathers who became martyrs for Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

Seymur Baijan