Any society has its own way of convincing its next generations that something is good, something is bad and there is something, you cannot even talk about. A taboo. Latvia is not an exception; so much shit is told to you in an immature age over and over again that you actually start to repeat it.
If you look weird, let’s say, have dreadlocks or blue hair, then you are considered to be a provocative and “attention wanting” person. Craving for attention is one of the worst things you can want, because then you probably come from a bad family and will end up being a criminal. If you are gay, then it is also because you need attention and come from a bad family.
Although, there is no such thing as same sex love. They tried to change this thing in schoolbooks, but it only ended in a bigger mess. As it was a huge drudgery and no one really wanted or couldn`t put some effort in this topic, now the law says that Latvian schools are “family and marriage oriented”. Sounds beneficial, except that there is no gay marriage in Latvia. The Economist has done a research of gay rights in Europe`s states. Latvia has an equality rate of 10-19%.
It`s also said to us, that smoking weed is bad, because weed is a drug (in Latvia weed is considered pretty much the same thing as heroin), it kills your brain and you will for sure end up being a junkie. By “saying” I mean that they actually teach this shit at schools. When I was in seventh grade or so, a policeman came to my school to talk about addictions. He said nothing about alcohol, but made a nice drawing on our blackboard: there was a line going up and then down. Way, way down. He said something like this: “So children, someone will offer you weed, for free for the first time. You will smoke it and feel good, but when it passes, you will feel very bad and have a huge hangover. Then you will want to buy more and smoke it all the time.” He was so convincing that for a few years I actually believed him. It is hard to understand, how can something like this be actually real in a modern society, after a lot of scientific and respectable experiments have proved, that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis. “Our MOE results confirm previous drug rankings based on other approaches. Specifically, the results confirm that the risk of cannabis may have been overestimated in the past. At least for the endpoint of mortality, the MOE for THC/cannabis in both individual and population-based assessments would be above safety thresholds (e.g. 100 for data based on animal experiments). In contrast, the risk of alcohol may have been commonly underestimated.”
Before a few days I was looking through a recent Latvian TV talk show where a lady asked her husband if he has ever walked around the home naked. He answered yes, and the woman went furious. How can he walk around naked? What if the neighbors will see him through the window? What will they think?! And yes, worrying about what other people will think about you is a little too common. When you answer wrong in class, you have to feel guilty not because you haven’t studied, but because now everyone will know that you are stupid and have no future.
The low self-esteem of the Latvian nation is often explained as the consequences of our not-so-cool history. In my opinion, it is bullshit as well. Beautifully written by Dr. hist. Kaspars Klavins “it is not possible to do it (stop thinking about us – Latvians and them – Europeans) through the stereotypical prism – the reason why Latvians isolate themselves from the historical heritage of the past, announcing themselves as a less-worthy and isolated nation. This is what makes (Latvians) center on only short term goals).
Speaking of short term goals, the indiscriminate government`s spending (like, for example, distribution of state budget during one night) would be a whole new topic. There is no point of trying to change something in Latvian politics right now; it is crowded with ex-soviet grandpas without political education or ambition to move away from Russia`s influence. I attended a short course of Politics and Diplomacy. After a lesson I went to ask something to the professor. He looked me in the eyes and said “The only way it would be possible to change something here now, would be to smash it all and build from the beginning“.
Based on national press analysis (Kantar TNS) of 2017 spring, there are three most read Latvian magazines: two of them are yellow press and the other one is womens` lifestyle magazine. Wonder why. This slut has a cheating husband and not me. Lucky me. This actress got robbed, not me. The reason why this is happening isn`t really a global gratification of seeing someone failing – it is because everyone wants to find a reason to not feel bad about themselves. And, of course, to read something that does not require actual thinking; some gossip is always welcome.
It is not hard to understand, why almost thirty years after Soviet era the empathy level in Latvia and other post-soviet states is the lowest in western world. Being afraid of everything that is new, being afraid of losing control, fighting an old and ugly stigma but not talking about it. Talking about problems in society has a funny feature of not being popular. One philosopher writes an article, about a year later – a historian writes an article. But they are all unpopular and forgotten a week later. Why? Because no one really cares. No one wants to solve these problems. In my personal opinion, the biggest problem in Latvian society is not giving a shit. Not giving a shit about how other person feels, because it is easier to walk away. Not solving serious crimes, but giving fines for drinking a beer at the seaside and putting people in prison for two years, if they have a 1g of weed in their pocket. Not talking about what we can do to change this situation, but quietly suffering and writing angry comments in internet. Not teaching their children to accept themselves and others, but scolding them for trying to find their own path.
By this article I am kindly inviting people to start thinking. Start thinking with your own head. Accept that gay kid. Don`t call the girl with steel boots a junkie. Don`t call the weedsmoker a drug addict. Don`t stay at home during elections. Be kinder and less judgmental. Open your eyes in a new world. Better world.
Please keep in mind that this article is based on my personal experience and opinion.
Photo by Elīna Vendija Rībena