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Łukasz Grajewski

Belarus Takes a Shower Instead of a Bath

The year 2013 has been declared the year of frugality. Where? In Belarus. National media urge citizens to use natural resources wisely. Critics of post-capitalism certainly would welcome the educational mission undertaken by Belarusian authorities. During the crisis it’s difficult not to agree with this green advice. Why, then, are the ambitious plans doomed to go adrift?

Czy Białorusini zaczną oszczędzać wodę? Autor: Thanos Lazopoulos, źródło: anotherblog.net

Will Belarusians start economizing? author: Thanos Lazopoulos, source: anotherblog.net

Andrzej Poczobut on the pages of Polish Gazeta Wyborcza cited governmental media: “You should take a shower instead of bath”, “You need to collect 5 kg of dirty clothes and only then turn on a washing machine”, “If you decide to have a cup of tea, boil only as much water as it’s needed, and not a full kettle – don’t waste electricity!” The correspondent mentioned that the vogue for frugality is promoted even at schools. Teachers should remind students to keep their textbooks in a good condition. Employees of state enterprises also should tighten their belts. How? It can be double sided printing or reading emails on the computer when there is no need in printing them out.

But we should have no illusions about the intentions behind this seemingly reasonable campaign of Belarusian authorities. Alexander Lukashenko and his team realize that the domestic economy is in a hopeless situation. Centrally managed enterprises are inferior to more efficient foreign competition. State-owned companies do not export and produce too many products – all that to maintain artificial level of employment. The whole system would have already collapsed but for Russian raw materials. Belarus willingly accepts the presents from the Kremlin, convert them and sells at a profit. All this propaganda sold as a social campaign is a political deception with the only purpose being to prolong the life of the authoritarian regime, headed by Alexander Lukashenko.

That’s a pity. The sad fact is that we really consume too much water and do not appreciate what the nature gives us. We don’t try to fix things because it is easier and cheaper to buy a new product. As for me, my life style could just go along with the Belarusian propaganda: saving natural resources and avoiding unnecessary consumption should be practised by all of us. The current crisis helps us to contemplate the way we live.

Nevertheless, it should be done without any coercion. A state, of course, should play a role here: a proper system of education, infrastructure and creation of positive examples of the desired lifestyle, which – in the long run – will pay its way. Unfortunately, rescuing the satrapy of Alexander Lukashenko does not fall under any ecological activities. So I don’t expect that Belarus will soon become a new Sweden. More likely, history will just repeat itself. Let’s take for example the distinctive feature of the capital of Belarus: its tidiness. Minsk is really squeaky clean every day. “Clean” is the first adjective that you hear from travelers describing the city. But it’s not the effect achieved by an organized and educated society. The point is that the capital is being constantly cleaned by a large number of hired caretakers. Without their work, cigarette butts, bits of paper and plastic beer bottles would simply flood the streets of Minsk…

Translated by MA

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Łukasz Grajewski

Socjolog, absolwent Studium Europy Wschodniej UW. Pracował w administracji publicznej, aktywny w trzecim sektorze (Fundacja Wspólna Europa, Polska Fundacja im. Roberta Schumana, Inicjatywa Wolna Białoruś). Autor licznych publikacji o Europie Wschodniej w polskich mediach.

Contact: l.grajewski@eastbook.eu

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