To all those people who have commented and messaged me over the last few days, I have to say, I am really surprised. All the comments on here and the messages on my Twitter from Georgians have all been very positive, which I found very shocking; usually as soon as I say that Georgians respond to criticism, they start screaming and shouting, I typically get a lot of messages from Georgians screaming and shouting (thereby proving my point completely). It seems there are many more liberal and forward-thinking Georgians than I’d thought, and thanks to all of you, my faith in Georgian people has been slightly restored. It’s just a damn shame that none of you are in the government; I’ve no doubt you could turn things around.
Today I’m writing an extension of the two posts which have attracted so much attention over the past few days, but veering away from politics and more into the Georgian mentality itself. I was prompted after speaking to a young man, Zevzua, from my boxing club on Facebook. He wanted to know why I haven’t been turning up to training lately.
I find this with many Georgian people I know. They suffer from what people in Britain call ‘One-track mind syndrome’, only its on a nation-wide scale and I’ve christened it ‘One-Track Georgianism’. In layman’s terms, they only have one interest, and Zevzua is a perfect example of this. He never talks to me about anything except boxing. He never does anything at home apart from watch boxing on YouTube and look forward to training the next day. As much as I love the sport, there are times (like this week) when I simply can’t be bothered with it, and because I love reading, studying history, seeing my friends, video games and learning foreign languages just as much I don’t always have time for it. Never mind the fact I was a semi-professional musician in my school years and completed three years in the military.
Zevzua isn’t alone. I know Georgian people who are only interested in military things, computers, computer games or football. I’ve found it rare that they have a balance. I know one particularly sad case called Ako.
Ako loves university and his academic studies, and from meeting him the first time I took that to mean he was an intellectual, and offered him a selection from my personal collection of books, which deal with the nature of politics, philosophy and a smattering of political commentaries. However, he wasn’t interested.
He does things like go to meetings of NGOs I’ve never even heard of and comes away from it thinking he’s had an injection of life experience, and isn’t interested in reading books unless its ones his university has told him to study. He’s a sad character, but his persistence in inviting me to do these activities with him becomes very annoying, because I believe One-Track Georgianism leads to a substantial arrogance.
Zevzua, for example, has only been boxing for four months, but talks to me as though I am a complete beginner, even though I have told him I’ve been boxing for seven years and was a multiple champion in the military. Hell, he’s even seen me pummel his friends in the gym, but it doesn’t stop him from thinking he knows a lot of stuff that I don’t. After all, he thinks about boxing all the time, and I obviously don’t, because if I did, I’d be in the gym more often, wouldn’t I? Ako is no different. He actually has the gall to tell me I should be doing more to improve my CV, as though the fact that my private education in Britain at one of our nation’s oldest and best schools counts for nothing, alongside my military service, the fact that I’ve travelled the world from Mexico to Japan and everywhere in between, and also that I am now an official language teacher.
The thing is, there’s plenty to do in Tbilisi. I used to be proficient in fencing (I was in the national championships in ’08), so I found a club in the city and went along, simple as that. There’s as much to do in Tbilisi as anywhere else in the world, more or less, but I just don’t think Georgians are pushed to find something to do as much as their Western counterparts. My parents certainly pushed me. Before I was 13, I’d been behind a piano for years, I’d sang in a cathedral choir for two years, then I was behind a drumkit, then I bought myself a guitar, I started fencing, boxing and tae kwon do just to try it all out. I wasn’t even sure I’d enjoy half of it, I just wanted to see what it was like; most of it I did enjoy, so drums, fencing and boxing stayed, and the rest went. While I personally never had a part-time job, I know plenty of people who did when they were young, and see no reason why young Georgians couldn’t do the same.
I’m really thinking now about the hordes of young men who sit around on building steps smoking, drinking and muttering ‘Bicho’ to each other a thousand times a day while they stare at anything with legs that happens to walk past. Couldn’t they find something better to do with their time? I find it very hard to believe they couldn’t, and some of them are of an age wherein getting a job is becoming borderline essential.
Of course, not all of them are like that. I know a chap called Guram, who is currently learning Japanese and is an avid snowboarder. His mother recently told my wife she was worried about him doing that, but Natia pointed out would she rather have him sitting around with a bunch of boys doing fuck all? Then there’s my old friends Lasha and Eduard. Lasha is an artist, but also goes kickboxing and has a whole stack of books in three different languages on military history. Eduard plays the guitar and speaks six languages, and is currently trying to learn a seventh and eighth.
Perhaps you people who’ve been so supportive on this blog are like them; the kind of Georgians this country needs to hold up as examples. I’d like to hope so. The more people like that, the better it will be for everyone.