– What were you doing standing there at the crossroads?
– We were thinking fog, – answered Irma.
– About fog, – Victor corrected. – Or of fog.
– Why about fog? – said Irma.
– Think is an intransitive verb, – Victor explained. – It takes a preposition. Didn’t you have intransitive verbs in school?
– It all depends, – said Irma. – Thinking fog is one thing and thinking about fog is completely different… And I can’t see who would want to think about fog…
A. and B. Strugatskys “The Ugly Swans”
The question asked by the Strugatskys in the passage, taken as an epigraph to this text, is directly related to the topic under discussion. If Tyutchev asserts, “one cannot understand Russia with the mind,” then the main idea of this text is that one cannot see Belarus with the eyes. Belarus is indiscernible for an unequipped eye.
What should the eye be equipped with for Belarus to “be”? What can you oppose to the evidence? The answer given by the whole history of European thought is that the opposite of evidence is speculation. The eye must be equipped with the mind. Only reason can create Belarus. This country, unlike Russia, should be intelligible to the mind. You can also believe in Belarus, the faith helps retain the memory about Belarus for a couple of centuries of the country’s absence within the space of the evident and to keep European identity in times of Asian rule of barbarity. The transition from faith to reason, from dream to realization is difficult and one should carry out such a transition carefully, cautiously and meticulously.
Reality and actuality do not coincide; they are not the same. Everything that is actual is rational; everything that is rational is actual. Yet, everything real is practical, everything practical is real.
The path from dreams and fantasies to realization lies through actuality and reason. To realize something, one must not only want it, but also know “what it is” and “how it is done”.
If we translate the content of this table into simple statements, then we can word it as follows:
Belarus is sung, glorified, scolded or extolled, painted or booed.
Belarus is not built, protected, nourished or cultivated.
Why? Because they do not think. They do not think Belarus.
A literary pedant will say, to think is an intransitive verb, you cannot think Belarus, you can think about Belarus. At the same time, one cannot agree with this competent statement. Many people think about Belarus. They think how to take what is cheap here out of the country and sell it where it is expensive. They think how to hide the money earned in Belarus, because there is nowhere to invest it here, and it is dangerous to keep it here. They think how to pretend to be an unhappy Belarusian and go abroad free, because you can live well in Belarus with the money saved from such trips. There are many other thoughts about Belarus. They even think how to become the president of a country that they do not see as a country, but only as part of another country. They think how to get rid of sovereignty and responsibility associated with it.
Instead, one should think Belarus, which exists. One should think how it is, how and what it should be like.
In Belarus, anyone can tell you without any reflection: “We are Russians, we are Soviet”. Speaking about Moscow and St. Petersburg, about Siberia or the Volga region, they say without hesitation, “here in our place, our, us”. Everywhere in Belarus, you will be greeted according to the Russian custom with “bread and salt”. Not just served on a Belarusian traditional towel, but also accompanied with a joke: “According to the Russian custom.”
We say Belarus – we mean Rus, we say Russia – we mean that Russia is unthinkable without Belarus. In Russia, they do not say that anymore. Saying A does not mean thinking A. We say A, but on our mind we have B.
My tongue is my enemy. A Belarusian can speak Russian, Belarusian, Polish or English, but when pronouncing the word “Belarus” in any of these languages, he can think Russia behind this word.
You can say “Belarus”, but think at the same time something else, i.e. the BSSR, a province, a victim of sovereignty, White Russia, etc. Such thinking (if it is thinking) is abstract, erroneous and pathetic. If you say “Belarus” and think Belarus, then the verb “think” becomes transitive. Such thinking is concrete, intentional, and you can build realizations on its basis. Creative thinking uses transitive verbs.
Confucius was asked: What should the reforms begin with? – With the correction of names, – was his answer.
How can Belarus begin to “be”? It can begin with the fact that one will start think it. With the correction of the name. First, of one name, the main proper name in this country, then the rest of the proper and common names. This is the only way to get rid of destructive doublethink.
George Orwell described a special language, Newspeak. This language served a special way of thinking called doublethink. On the level of vocabulary, doublethink is achieved by simple inversions of meanings: peace is war, freedom is slavery, etc. But there is another, more complex layer of semantics, where the procedure of driving away true meaning of words affects not the vocabulary, but what is thought behind the words … One does not simply attribute certain meanings to words; one sets patterns and trajectories of the use of words. For example, the word “freedom” should be torn away in use from the meanings that it takes, acting as an adjective to nouns: spirit, personality, conscience, man. In Newspeak, one can say “free shoes” (they are not tight), “the toilet is free” (not busy), “I am free” (I have time) – these expressions have sense and meanings. However, one cannot say in the Orwellian language “free press”, “free will”, civil liberties (freedoms) – these expressions have neither sense nor meaning, or should be understood as follows: press lacking materials, therefore there are free (unfilled) pages in newspapers (absurd, but with acceptable meaning). Free will is something like the depths of heights.
Orwell introduced Doublethink in Oceania as something transitional from thinking to non-thinking, passed off as thinking. When non-thinking is achieved, doublethink is forgotten. When a generation grows up that will use the adjective “free” only for shoes and toilets, it will, with no jokes or doubts, take such situations for the true reality:
– Tell me, do I have the right..? – Yes, you do. – So can I..? – No, you cannot.
At the same time, it is impossible to allow complete non-thinking, because all practical activity will stop then. Thinking is dangerous, because it exposes all the stupidity and inability of the authorities; non-thinking is dangerous, because it brings about a collapse of life and any activity. Doublethink is comfortable, calm, and compliant. Just like Belarus.
– Are we free and sovereign?
– Why do we have such poverty and chaos in the country?
– Russia is to blame.
– How are we going to solve our problems?
– By uniting with Russia.
To think Belarus means to have the concept of an exemplified sovereign self-sufficient object when pronouncing its name. Belarus is something different from others. Tyutchev and others like him cannot understand Russia with their minds because they are constantly trying to think it as they think France, Germany or the Third Rome. It turns out nonsense; Russia is not Rome, either the third or the first. Instead of thinking Russia as Russia (in order just to think), they say, “Russia cannot be understood with the mind.” It serves them right. Russia will forever remain in Asia, will be an eastern country, that is, a country without thinking. A country without thinking is very simple: the function of thinking (thinking is only insofar thinking as it is always timely, that is, timely and appropriate) is given to a narrow layer of people called “intelligentsia” and is alienated from all other people.
Therefore, “intelligentsia” people are always foreigners in Russia, dissidents and outcasts, irrelevant and untimely heroes of “not our” time, or “unnecessary people.”
The situation in Belarus is much worse. Russian “intelligentsia” are foreigners in Russia, Belarusian “intelligentsia” are Russians. As Leskov put it: a foreigner is always a foreigner, in his homeland too. Belarusian “intelligentsia” people are foreigners squared.
In a European country, every citizen thinks their own country; there is no intelligentsia in the Russian sense.
There is such an idea: maybe the Belarusians for the first time in the last few centuries began to think Belarus, therefore they voted “for one of them”, for Lukashenka. They did not vote for the collaborationist Kebich, for the “foreign intelligentsia” Paznyak and Shushkevich. Belarusians think as best they can. Don’t shoot the pianist, he plays as best he can. Who can think better? Everyone can think Belarus as best they can. Yet you need to think aloud. Otherwise, doublethink will continue and may turn into complete non-thinking.
It is very difficult to accept the statement that not every person thinks. Man is reasonable and that is an axiom. However, the rationality of a person does not mean that he is actually reasonable at every moment of time. A man is potentially reasonable. Anyone can think and act rationally, can, but not everyone acts like that. You cannot reproach a car or a horse for being unreasonable, because they are unreasonable in general. It is only a reasonable person who can be unreasonable or insane. A lunatic can call black white, but a horse will not think of it, it simply has no such words. It is reasonable to call a spade a spade: black is black, white is white; Belarus is Belarus, not Russia, White Russia or the North-West Territory.
Ludwig Wittgenstein once analyzed the phrase: “It is raining, but I do not agree with that.” The phrase is grammatically correct, but unreasonable. If it really rains, then my consent is not required and it will not reckon with my disagreement. If it is raining, it is wise to open the umbrella rather than fuss around with your own agreement or disagreement.
Some Belarusians say: “The Soviet Union collapsed, but I don’t agree with that.”
I understand that the collapse of the Soviet Union is not rain. This fact depends on whether people agree or not. I understand well those who say that the collapse of the USSR was a wrong action, therefore the USSR or its analogue needs to be restored. Not being a supporter of the restoration of the USSR, I admit the existence of my opponents and am ready to argue with them, listen to and analyze the arguments “for” and “against”. However, the fact of disintegration must be accepted, otherwise discussion is impossible. But how about those who do not recognize this fact? I had to talk to an intelligentsia man who is living in the Soviet Union in 1994. He does not recognize the existence of the Republic of Belarus as real, for him it is a mirage, a phantom. I can talk to a citizen of another country, I can talk to a person who believes that my country should cease to exist. However, how can I talk to a person who considers my country to be a figment of my imagination, when I see that his country is a fiction? How to talk to people for whom the CIS is the new name for the USSR?
The CIS exists as a treaty of several states, like the NATO, the Warsaw Pact or the CMEA. The supreme decision-making body in any country is its legislative and executive state structures, and interstate treaties act only as conditions for making these decisions. However, not in Belarus, here many state structures consider the documents of the CIS as a guide for themselves. The CIS is viewed as a large amorphous state, Belarus is seen in it as a “union republic” with slightly more powers than the BSSR within the USSR.
Let’s call a spade a spade. A government oriented towards the CIS in making its decisions is a puppet government, criminal in relation to its people (or a parasite in relation to the Russian people). Such a government does not think Belarus as Belarus, which means it does not think like a government, which means it does not think at all. The Kebich government was just like that, non-thinking. Yet who thinks in a country that has tolerated such a government for three years? Who can guarantee that this will not happen with the new government?
Who thinks in this country?
It was clearly explained to us that the collapse of the Belarusian economy was brought about by the fact that the collapse of the USSR deprived Belarus of its resources. Such statement is the result of sheer non-thinking. Belarus is deprived of oil and gas, but it had never had them. Oil and gas are supplied to Belarus in exchange for products produced here using Belarus’ own resources. Belarus’ own resources (land, intellect, geographic location, labor of people) are poorly used or squandered.
Paraphrasing a popular character of a Soviet cartoon, Kot Matroskin (Matroskin Cat), we can say: we have the resources, what we don’t have is mind.
Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs groaned in the twenties about the loss of resources of Silezia, Bosnia, Transylvania and the loss of access to the sea. They began to use their resources. They stopped thinking the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and began to think Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and they all found their own resources. More intelligence means more resources. Arab oil is a resource of Western Europe, Siberian metals are a resource of Estonia, Belarusian high technologies are a resource of the Russian military-industrial complex, intellectuals trained in universities and schools of Belarus are a resource of Israel and the United States. The resources of Belarus will go to those who will think Belarus in Tel Aviv, Washington, Moscow or Minsk.
If Belarus did not exist, it would have to be invented. In order to invent, you need to think, think what you intend to invent. This is the only way Belarus can begin to “be”, that is, to become a noun, not an adjective describing a certain territory. To do this, it is crucial for all the sentences coming from Belarus to have Belarus as a subject, and not as an object or an adverbial modifier of place, as the principle and not a secondary element of the sentence.
The neo-Kantian Lotze enunciated a peculiar result of European thought of the 19th century: what ought to be is the basis of what is. Anyone who thinks and does Belarus should rely not on the legends of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, statistics of 1913 or myths about Masherau, but on what Belarus should be. Since the ideas about what Belarus should be are different (a sovereign and prosperous state or an orphaned, resource-deprived province of the empire), those will see their idea come into life who think Belarus more correctly, more realistically and more actually. That is, in the competition to determine the future of Belarus, the winner is not the one who sings it more loudly and more melodically, who speaks a purer language, but the one who is smarter, who thinks more and better.
Journal «Cultural Policy» No. 0, 1994