Defence of Lithuania

We Accuse!
DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

How many would step forward to defend Lithuania? What sort of aggression would urge people to sacrifice themselves for their homeland? How do you best identify and not yield to foreign enemies and threats? These are the most frequently posed questions. It is important, as is learning to fight. However, it is no less important to defend Lithuania’s internal freedom, which makes Lithuania so important and grants a sense of belonging, Tomas Daugirdas writes on

There is ever less freedom in Lithuania and many have observed this. It would appear that the number of regulations and prohibitions is rising. It is almost impossible to expect that any prohibition or ban may be softened. One is left worried they might instead become even stricter. And they do. This causes outrage that there are increasingly many rules, increasing prevalence of the “system” and ever less human freedom. But when you look more carefully, you see that the number of rules is increasing not because of some hostile and strong will, but instead a lack of will and principles. Strict rules are less there to counter abuse (or corruption) and more to create conditions for them to appear.

Are rules necessary? No sane person would say that there is no need to rules, which apply to everyone. If they suddenly vanished, as a society we would soon enter a wild state where the strong (physically, psychologically or in wealth) oppress the weak. No one can be safe in such a state and thus are forced to gather into a group. The goodness or badness of rules can be measured based on how they defend the interests of a certain group. For example if the alcohol excise is increased so that a wine bottle costs the same as a bottle of vodka, one can suspect that the rule benefits vodka distillers.

Rules are necessary not only as a guarantee of safety, but also as a tool to change and form or juts maintain a society’s culture and habits. When a society consumes much alcohol, families suffer from it, losing much money, violence and suicide rates climb, thus is justifiable to set limiting rules. American philosopher John Rawls wondered, how and in what way society can come to terms on rules, which may be personally unacceptable and urge changes in lifestyles or expectations for some, if not all. His, as a number of other philosophers’ practical optimism regarding society was based on people being capable of rationally discerning, what is good and what is bad even if they uphold different rules in actual life.

For example, you may understand that smoking is a health hazard and agree to the limiting of smoking locales even if you smoke intensively and are inclined to smoke when and where you wish. The greater good and the rational understanding of every one of us would allow creating other rules, which encourage us to change our lives, even if it would appear to be personally inconvenient or would even spark internal or outward outrage.

Based on the principle of the greater good, people could realise and agree to the improvement of welfare for the poor even if it were done at their expense. In Lithuania, the middle class agreed (or at least did not oppose) to state increases of the minimum wage. Even if much misleading information was released into the public, based on common sense it was not hard to guess that this will lead to a quick increase in service and later – goods prices, that inflation will rise. The middle class pays for this, thus nearing those earning the least in terms of welfare. However, it can be expected that from this time, at least for a while, social solidarity rises in society, it becomes a friendlier and less antagonistic community. By accepting certain rules, the public sets a certain lifestyle, even a sort of exchange programme.

The question whether and to what extent an individual can agree with the laws, which limit their freedom, when they should rise up in opposition, where and how the line is to be drawn even considering the positions of the greater good, has been relevant since the very first ideas of democracy. It would be overly naïve to propose simple solutions. Especially when this problem is especially relevant in Lithuania.

This is because what is notable here is that there are too many rules and they are overly strict, they are understood as penalising, rather than educating, they are not upheld and their large number encourages abuse.

We remember the saying “give the man and we will find the article” from Soviet times. The totalitarian system was notable for its strong regulation of people’s activities. Furthermore, legislation was not very specific. It was impossible to adhere to all rules under those conditions. It formed an atmosphere of fear and a certain worry. Everyone, who did not suit the boss, offended some officer, neared a housing or car allocation could have been “punished”. Which person was punished was based not on the infraction, for which the punishment was assigned, but for completely different matters: a freer act, happier life, favour not done and such.

The vast number of rules in Lithuania is now leading to the same effect. The question, which one unwittingly begins to ask is not whether you are really upholding the common rules because there are so many rules that it is hard to know and uphold all of them, beyond just exceptional circumstances. The question is whether you will not catch attention. Especially when disregarding the rules is penalised strictly, for example the smoking of marihuana. The strictness of the rules and their number creates conditions for abuse. They do not nurture, but instead demoralise the public. Officers cannot control everything and everyone.

Even if they could, the state would have to have a more extensive monitoring and control apparatus than is acceptable for a democracy. However, officials seeking to show that they are working may pick out single individuals for a demonstrative penalising or deterring display. We are almost incapable of imagining our lives anymore without demonstrational scandals, when it suddenly turns out that someone breached the rules. The response is overwhelming. Those, who are not impacted by the act, if they do not wish to be hypocrites, cower in fear from shock and hope that the wave of penalty will pass them by without causing harm. The numerous rules form a frightened society, which measures all new ideas and initiatives compared to the potential sanctions for them.

When there are many rules, those who suffer first are those, who the rules should defend. People learn to not value the rules as important and significant to them as a means to ensure goodness and justice. For example, even if agreements are formed between the representatives of employers and employees, there is no guarantee that those agreements will be upheld. During a conflict, the dispute will likely be resolved formally, demanding justification matching legislation to the point and such. The abundance of rules erases the understanding that the greater good is or should be the basis of any regulation. The more and the more minute the rules, the more people making decisions based on them become as if irresponsible for the decisions made and acting as if blind tools of the system. Goodwill and compassion would inevitably breach one of the rules.

Why are so many rules and prohibitions made? The rules create an illusion of order. They create the expectation of great order. When some are unable to uphold them and others employ them for their own benefit, they are adjusted and made stricter. The rule machine manufactures ever more rules, they match human reality and practice ever less. One may be incarcerated for life for the consumption of light narcotics. Common sense would suggest that the goal of trying to push such things out of people’s lives has poor prospects and the punishments are already inadequate. Instead, the punishments should be reduced and the focus set on educating those caught, other education. Nevertheless, the rule-making machine has its own logic. It is possible where the public is understood as a group of individuals unable to answer for their behaviour or criminals. Individuals, who need to be treated or harshly disciplined.

When raising the question on this celebratory this year of what could be the basis of practical, daily patriotism, there are not many answers. The celebrations will pass, as will the emotional high. Will a great deal of disappointment not arise after turning back to the routine of daily life? We are proud of Lithuania, its past. We feel a duty to our ancestors to better Lithuania. We do not wish for the Lithuanian language to vanish. We value our symbols, ones such as the rider on his horse, riding to battle, Gediminas Hill and others. However, Lithuania is precious in not just traditions. If it had to be defended, we would inevitably ask ourselves, why it is personally such a precious place to live in for me so that it would be worth to physically sacrifice myself. It is not simple to live with Lithuania. However, it would be hard to bear if it became a faceless penalising and regulating system where the rules are intended not for the common good, but to establish fear. Back in the Sąjūdis times it was announced that Lithuania will be what we will make of it. The most precious is the Lithuania, which we can create and change every day together. The love of Lithuania cannot be separated from personal feeling, goodwill, space for free action and creation, which is not overwhelmed by the rule system mechanism.

One of the most patriotic recently seen movies is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Mildred Hayes declared a personal struggle against the anonymous system, which would not complete the investigation of her daughter’s murder. She places billboards, which cause antagonism between her and the disapproving residents of the town. She also does terrible things by setting a police bulding on fire and almost murdering a person. The Lithuanian intuition would say that the “system” should have responded equally, striking back even harder, penalising crimes with strictness. However, the system turns to Mildred and her pain with a human face. She meets people, who do more than limited capacities permit, even sacrifice, so that the investigation of her murdered daughter is not snuffed out. The system is portrayed as made by the people for the people. Mildred changes it, however at the same time she changes as well. People’s goodness and ability to change influences the system and the rules.

Looking from the Lithuanian bell tower, the film tells a seemingly utopian story. Perhaps it is a utopia in for the United States as well. This is why movies are made. However, such a utopia about individuals and the system, about a single fighter and the state is what we should pursue in Lithuania. We can do this individually, each and every one of us, not yielding our will to the anonymity of rules and our freedom to a prison-like system. That would be the best defence of Lithuania.

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