I read somewhere that when Louis XIV was in power, he was woken by an attendant at a very civilised hour, who would then whisper into the royal ears, ‘It is my humble honour to inform His Majesty that it is now eight of the clock’, after which His Royal Frenchness was more or less lifted out of bed and dressed, washed and shaved without having to stir so much as a finger.
When I was a young soldier during Basic Training, I learned never to underestimate the sadism of the training staff (of whom I became one years later) very early on. We were told that reveille was at 0500 (this after only being sent back to our blocks at 2300, and then having to iron, clean and polish our kit), so the cunning ones amongst us decided that we would outsmart the staff by getting up at 0430, thereby preventing the blitzkrieg of the platoon sergeant’s wakeup call.
Of course it didn’t work. Somehow they got wind of this, so crashed into our room at 0400, banging a metal poker against a coal bucket and screaming, ‘Har-har! Wake-eye, wake-eye! Gerrup, gerrup, gerrup! Put ya cold feet on the nice waaarrrrm floor, lads! Wake-eye, wake-eye, Ah kin see yer!’. We never found out how they knew. Soldiers’ intuition, my arse; it’s just first-class espionage, that’s all.
But then that also begged the question of how the platoon sergeant and his corporals managed to look so fresh-faced, since they didn’t finish the day until the same time as we did, and got up even earlier, looking immaculate on parade without a hair out of place as they berated us over the state of our uniforms or groggy appearance. It filled us with a slight awe, as it was meant to. Leading by example, they call it.
I will be haunted by memories of my Basic Training experience until the day I die, and enjoyed putting my experience to use when I became an instructor myself (when asked why I wanted to be an instructor by my company commander, I tried to look earnest and felt that my youth of eighteen years would help me connect with the younger men, sir, and I felt that teaching was what I was born for, sir, and felt that this was the capacity in which the Army could best use me. Sir. Never mind the truth, that I was sick and tired of being treated like bloodthirsty cattle and wanted to lord it over my fellow man for a change, but true speech never won over fair officer yet). But when I think back to the Army’s practice of leading by example, I’ve applied it to almost every other aspect of life.
If Tbilisi was populated by British people, things would be pretty different. The sexual frustration that hangs over this city like a bad fog would be gone in a matter of hours, though the police would be kept even busier due to all the violence…and Bidzina Ivanishvili would never have had a look-in.
I mentioned in my last post that Georgians are hypocrites. They are. As I mentioned, people hit up on Salome Zurabishvili’s French upbringing and claim she isn’t a true Georgian while ignoring the fact that Bidzina’s command of the Georgian language is sketchy at best and hasn’t lived here full-time until very recently. As a more relevant example, a lad I know called Giorgi (ha, what else, right?) was once ranting and raving about the comfort that Saakashvili enjoys in the palace he built for himself, and how he travels the word living a life of luxury…without acknowledging Bidzina’s monstrosity of a house on the hillside, or the fact that he owns luxury apartments more or less everywhere.
My friend Rob visited last year, and asked what the big green and metal building on the hillside was. I told him it was Bidzina’s home, and like the Oriental sage musing on human vanity, observed ‘stupid big bastard’. That, in a nutshell, is the reaction common not just to British people but Europeans as a whole; the new Italian ambassador put something on her Twitter to that effect…something about ‘ruling over’, but I can’t quite recall her exact words and am far too lazy to look it up.
Every European and American friend I have who has seen Bidzina’s house has more or less said the same thing, so it profoundly shocked me that no Georgian ever seemed able to come to the same conclusion. Does that mean that Georgians aren’t as clever as British people? Well, no, not really; British people are just inherently angrier and more aggressive. The Georgian pattern of politics is to worship the new leader before and just after election time; the British habit is to hate the bastard before, during and after his reign, and dismiss the opposition as ‘useless cunts’ (which, to be fair, they usually are. But then again, I’m British too). Georgians are able to ignore what they don’t want to see, and put hope in politicians where it isn’t warranted, which has never been more true than over the last twelve months.
Bidzina does not lead by example, and his giant horrible palace is only a part of that. Personally, I think he would benefit from having having my old platoon sergeant run and organise his life for a month or two, that’d set him straight. I can see it now; ‘Gerrup, gerrup, ya skunk-headed bastarrrd! Put ya tsivi pekhebi on the warm floor, har-har!’. Saakashvili might be like a teenager kicking and thrashing around the world while the adult American, European and Russian powers patronise him and send him up to his room (with good reason, the little upstart), but for all his fiery rhetoric and knee-jerk reaction rants, you can’t deny that he came from more or less the same place as most other Georgian people, nor that he doesn’t lead by example. In that sense, I do have time for the man, and despite that a lot of his anger towards Russia is counter-productive, I’ll not say he’s wrong when he claims Putin wants to reestablish control over the former USSR. When people say Bidzina ‘is one of us’, I feel the need to laugh. He surely doesn’t see himself that way. After all, he won’t feel the effect of his release of 3000 criminals who’ve upped the crime rate significantly over the last year.
Due to the constitutional changes made within the Georgian government, the soon-to-be-vacant Presidential office really won’t matter a damn. It’s only important now because Saakashvili is still in it. Georgian people don’t seem to know what the point of the President will be after this next election, and small blame to them; I read somewhere that apparently the job of the President will be to travel the world and ‘secure international relations for Georgia’. I thought that came under the remit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Georgian ambassadors (but I’m just a foreigner, what do I know?). The constitutional change was only made so that Saakashvili could have another bash at power, for all the world like his arch-enemies, Putin and Medvedev.
To my mind, the only thing the next election will be good for is to show just how much Georgian Dream’s popularity has fallen during their year in power. I’m sure you know many people who were infected with Bidzina Fever and have now admitted that they made a mistake, which for me was staggering; Georgians aren’t good at admitting they made a mistake, and while not many of them actually did, the ones who were ranting and raving about Bidzina have been rather quiet since he took office and did absolutely nothing.
I think it’s just something that younger democracies go through. Even the Americans still put faith in their politicians; just look at the enthusiasm when Obama was elected. The older hands know that politicians are all bastards, and that nothing is really going to change whoever gets in.
Nevertheless, election time in Georgia is always fun, so I anticipate a good laugh, a lot of angry shouting from sexually frustrated men, and absolutely no changes. Enjoy.