Lithuania and Tolerance



O P I N I O N

by Geoff Vasil

2010 was an astonishing year for human rights in Lithuania. Toward the beginning of 2010 there were public demonstrations in the capital by self-designated patriotic youth, decked out in various paramilitary costumes, in plain clothes bearing variations on swastikas and wearing white arm bands. These Lithuanian neo-Nazis marched across the main streets and squares in Vilnius on independence day (March 11th), made a showing to protest against a silent march of people from the main square to a cemetery to honor the dead on Soviet Victory Day (May 9th), and most spectacularly managed to outnumber 10 to 1 Lithuania’s first gay pride march (May 8th) with a violent mob throwing objects, hurtling insults and proudly waving flags with pseudo-swastikas behind police lines. The gay pride march almost didn’t happen, as it hadn’t many years in a row, because of bureaucratic impedance from the Vilnius municipality over issuing a permit and from law enforcement and the parliament. The neo-Nazi marches, on the other hand, had support from within parliament, MPs who personally asked for, and got, permits from the city for a march. Several MPs also came to the anti-gay pride protest with bullhorns, stormed police barriers and generally foamed at the mouth, caught on camera.

In the first half of 2010, neo-Nazis in Lithuania came out of the closet and proclaimed themselves the mainstream, and no one protested that assertion. Indeed, Conservative/Homeland Union prime minister Andrius Kubilius brushed aside apprehensions expressed by Norwegian ambassador to Lithuania Steinar Gil, over the xenophobic slogan chanted by the “patriotic youth” on the main streets of the capital on independence day. “Lithuania for Lithuanians” with the unspoken — it hardly needs be spoken in Europe — refrain, Auslander raus. Kubilius tried to play off the resurgent fascism in Lithuania as proof of the country’s diversity of thought and even tolerance, and said Lithuania was as tolerant as any Scandinavian country.

Tolerance probably isn’t measurable by any set of external indicators, so Kubilius’s words aren’t technically wrong in that respect, even if his logic is seriously flawed in holding up a neo-Nazi march sponsored by MPs in his own party as an example of how Lithuania tolerates a plurality of political opinion. At best, Kubilius could claim his party — and by extension his government — tolerates neo-Nazi elements and constituents, and he would be right.

Tolerance is probably also one of those things where the more it is nominally declared, the less it actually exists. Nominally tolerant Lithuania has a system of “tolerance centers” set up at schools around the country, according to the Education Ministry. These are supposedly educational outreach operations set up by the ministry, not branches of the Tolerance Center in Vilnius, which is a branch of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, the only museum in Lithuania which actually tells something of the brutal truth of the Holocaust in Lithuania, despite state-sponsored institutions such as the Genocide Victims Museum, which excludes the Holocaust, and the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents (the overblown title of that one is susceptible to multiple translations), the International Commission to the Prime Minister of Lithuania on the Assessment of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes and others.

“Tolerance” became sort of a buzz-word in Lithuania academia and elite society several years ago. Historians such as Bumblauskas and Gudevicius sought to trace the legacy of tolerance to the Lithuanian Grand Duchy inherited in the Middle Ages, when Jews and other Europeans were invited to the Lithuanian state to help construct a new society. The Vilna Gaon Museum’s Tolerance Center was established in a building that once housed a Jewish theater and became a sort of half-way house where people on all sides could attend public functions, seminars, screenings and so on. Inevitably the “public” almost always turned out to be foreign ambassadors and members of the Lithuanian elite, but also students and intellectuals. It’s a big idea, and it’s a big building, and most of the time it’s empty, although two floors are given over to museum exhibitions.

While tolerance got talked up quite a bit over the last decade in Lithuania as a generally positive thing, there was a backlash among the neo-fascists. They coined the term “tolerastas,” apparently a compound made of the words “tolerant” plus “pederast,” as a term for those afflicted by decadent Western ideas of multiculturalism, human rights and the protection of minorities — in other words, republicanism in the Modern sense.

In 2010 in the Republic of Lithuania the word “tolerastas” began appearing in the mainstream media.

Near the end of 2010, as if to make up for all that had gone before, including what is mentioned above but also a series of draconian laws against expressing opinions about the Holocaust and the “Soviet genocide against Lithuanians” and a court decision which found another new law banning the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols in public only applied to Soviet symbols, Lithuania offered up a scapegoat. His name is Petras Stankeras.

A bureaucrat who worked in the Republic of Lithuania’s Interior Ministry, Stankeras also had a passion — perhaps fascination is a more appropriate word — for World War II history. He has a degree in history from Vilnius University and has written a long book about Lithuanian police during the war period. He also enjoyed submitting short pieces for publication to different Lithuanian periodicals. Although the story isn’t entirely clear, he seems to have been asked by one of those publications, the weekly magazine Veidas, to write about the Nuremberg trials. What Veidas published was a condensed, Reader’s Digest version of the writings of known Holocaust denier Butz of Chicago, translated into Lithuanian. The short piece managed to defame Nuremberg, call the Holocaust a legend and misrepresent the facts of the execution of Nazi war criminals all in a few paragraphs.

It seemed as if the process of mainstreaming neo-fascism in Lithuania was complete: a government worker from the chief law enforcement agency had been published in print and on the internet by a mainstream magazine repeating all the Holocaust denial canards that would fit in the space allotted. What then happened has been written about elsewhere, but it turned out the minister of the interior was not amused and is something of a supporter of Israel himself, because after Stankeras resigned his post, the news section on the ministry’s webpage suddenly filled up with stories about the minister’s visit to Israel and meetings with Israelis, with lots of Israeli flags in the accompanying photographs.

Shapers of Lithuanian public opinion quickly poised the Stankeras Affair as a collision between historical memory and freedom of speech and the press. Little mention was made of the fact that in 2010 Lithuanian lawmakers had adopted laws making it illegal to deny the Holocaust and the “Soviet genocide against Lithuanians” publicly. Less mention was made of the real issue: government, media, elite and public support for resurgent fascism.

At the end of 2010, the Lithuanian Human Rights Association published an issue of their newsletter, Pozicija, which covered the second half of the year. This contained a collection of letters to the European Commission, in Lithuanian and English, and descriptions of official events held in parliament nominally connected with human rights in Lithuania. The main letter was a rebuttal of charges of Lithuanian antisemitism and Holocaust denial, but was seemingly misaddressed, because the authors claimed the charges had been made by Efraim Zuroff of Israel and aired by CNN. And rather than expressing concern over attempts by prosecutors to interrogate two female Lithuanian Jewish partisans and one male who is an Israeli national — Yitzhak Arad, first director of Yad Vashem and former member of the Lithuanian International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes — rather than expressing concern over possible violations of their human rights by selective law enforcement, the Lithuanian Human Rights Association dismissed the issue by claiming they were guilty of murdering an entire village of civilians during World War II.

Other articles in their newsletter revealed an anti-gay rights position and a pro-Double Genocide proclivity, at least in terms of the official events they covered at parliament.

So it was with some interest I stumbled upon an article about an essay contest announced by the European Commission representative in Lithuania and the website Delfi.lt on the theme “What sort of tolerance is most lacking in Lithuania?” whose winners were announced in December, 2010. According to delfi, the winners were selected “aided by” the Human Rights Watch Institute (a search on hrw.org revealed no mention of anything of the sort, although the article goes on to quote a Lithuanian woman there, so it is perhaps a local organization; the purported facebook account of the EC representative in Lithuania, en-gb.facebook.com/Europos , did mention at least the deadline for the contest, EC representative in Lithuania Natalija Kazlauskiene apparently didn’t announce the contest when it began on the EC representation’s webpage; she did publish some contestants’ entries there , and oddly enough the URL is called “Articles of the Museum of Tolerance” if translated but there is no indication either the Tolerance Center or any other part of Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum were involved in the contest in any way). Delfi apparently announced the contest to Delfi readers on November 18 and published some submissions on December 4, 2010, before the deadline on December 8. A Lithuanian gay webpage, gayline.lt, only got news of the contest in time to publish an item about it on December 5, and on December 8 published one of the entries already published by Delfi. Delfi’s initial announcement said, again rather strangely:

“2010 was declared the year of fighting poverty and social differentiation in Europe.

As the year of tolerance comes to an end [huh?], DELFI and the European Commission representative in Lithuania invite you, dear DELFI readers, to participate in a contest and share your opinion on what sort of tolerance Lithuanians most lack.”

from: Delfi.lt, 8 December 2010 (in the Entertainment section)

So, with that kind of auspicious start, offering a grand prize of a small ebook reader device, a small group of contestants, almost all young women according to what was finally published, set to work detailing the deficiency in Lithuanians’ sense of tolerance in what had been a spectacular year of abuses, draconian laws and public controversies.

The grand-prize PocketBook 360 winner was Egle Baliutavičiūtė with her essay “The Baby Needs to Grow Up”. Her essay follows a child’s development from a sort of warm/cold, hungry/satiated binary understanding of the environment through discipline by the parents to conflicts when he or she understands on the one hand that violence is bad but that his or her parents spanked him or her. This graduation from a binary to a complex environment is then passed on by the now-mature child to his or her children. Baliutavičiūtė then goes on to say that the sort of tolerance Lithuanians most lack is understanding. She puts spaces between the words to make it stand out: u n d e r s t a n d i n g. The understanding that although we are different, we all live under one sky and have to find a way to get along. The child grows up when he can countenance differing opinions without anger or fear of being overwhelmed, fear of being “infected” by the Other. Baliutavičiūtė says we must put aside childish things, then ends by saying that the tolerance Lithuanians really lack is courage, the courage to open their eyes, listen to others and to accept the stranger (or “foreigner”  — it’s the same word in Lithuanian) as a person.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with what she wrote, except perhaps her metaphor that children see in black and white and adults view the world in color. It’s a fine synthesis of Freudian-ish speculation and the “putting aside childish things” also recalls a phrase from St. Paul’s letters. But is it relevant? Does it say anything about 2010? Well, Baliutavičiūtė does mention some things in the middle of her piece, a list of things she personally tolerates:

“I understand, accept and tolerate many things: conservatives, gays, those who like reptiles, Jews, Germans, Arabs, Lithuanians, Japanese, and so on and so on, the opinion that Lithuanian literature is worthless, that God exists, that one needs to go to church, that skateboarding shouldn’t be allowed on Cathedral Square in Vilnius, that abortion is evil, that it’s best to study abroad, that traditional holidays have lost their significance, and so on — it would take more than a day to name them all, but I myself am not a conservative, or a Japanese, or an Arab, neither do I think Lithuanian literature is worthless, and I study in Lithuania….”

So the problem isn’t neo-Nazis marching on Cathedral Square, it’s controversy over skateboarders gathering there. What about antisemitism in Lithuania? Jews—and gays—are mentioned exactly twice, in seriatim with people who keep reptiles as pets, Japanese people and Arabs.

What about the runners-up, those who received books, calendars and postcards as prizes? Delfi names them: Evaldas Damanauskas, Gabriele Gailiutė, Gryte Grigalaviciene, Mykolas Kleckas, Neringa Morkunė, Renatas Motuzas, Ugne Pavlovaite, Agne Patackaite, Regina Račkauskiene, Adelė Samuoliene. Of these ten, 3 are male. Of the seven females, three have the “unmarried” form of their surname, three have the “married” form and one is indeterminant. The EC representative published all ten essays on their website, at http://ec.europa.eu/lietuva/news_hp/news/22122010_tolerancijos_muziejaus_straipsniai_lt.htm while Gabriele Gailiute, an accomplished translator of English literature who has lived in the West, also put her essay up on her blog, http://darbaiirdienos.blogspot.com/2011/01/kokios-tolerancijos-truksta-lietuviams.html.

Gailiutė’s essay begins by saying that if she had to sum up in one sentence an answer to the question posed by the contest, it would be that Lithuanians lack an understanding of what the concept of tolerance means. She then goes on briefly to four points of what tolerance is not: 1) it’s not sympathy, 2) it’s not necessarily an expression of extremist liberal views, 3) it doesn’t mean renouncing one’s own views and 4) it doesn’t mean making a list of taboo topics. So what is it, Gailiutė? She says her points lead her to conclude tolerance is not an absolute but a movement toward the aspiration of accord. She says that aspiration is unattainable because the world isn’t absolute and is imperfect, but that striving for the goal is nonetheless worthwhile. She says we hurt others most often not intentionally but because of insensitivity or because we lack insight into the circumstances of their lives. (I have a friend who puts it as, “There are two types of creeps in the world: intentional creeps and those who are creeps out of insensitivity.”) Gailiutė notes two paradoxes:

“It’s paradoxical that sometimes in Lithuania speech supposedly seeking tolerance is so angry. It is paradoxical how many bans and limitations we attempt to bring in, in seeking to guarantee freedom.”

She goes on, concluding:

“Those who call themselves tolerant people usually tolerate everything except a differing opinion. What sort of tolerance do Lithuanians most lack? Tolerance arising from love of people and humanity, and governed by good sense and deep understanding of what truly is best for us.”

Again, her thoughts are interesting and worth considering, but do they apply to Lithuania in 2010? She mentions gay marriage in passing, saying that someone who doesn’t care about gay marriage isn’t being tolerant, they just don’t care. She also mentions Jews — Jewish philosophers — once, saying that taking an interest in them isn’t being tolerant, it’s simply being curious. Long descriptions of negatives might be a path to understanding God, and certainly tolerance is such an intangible thing that it could be approached in this way, but Gailiutė at best skirts rather than approaches the topic, and her conclusion sounds like she’s been reading a lot of G K Chesterton and Oskar Milosz rather than looking at the press and media reports in Lithuania in 2010. Her phrase “extremist liberal views” also calls to mind the sort of phrase people who use the pejorative “tolerastas” like to employ, so perhaps she has been reading the press and is supporting what one Portuguese writer in the English edition of Pravda called Lithuania’s descent into hell.

Runner-up Renatas Motuzas’s essay was composed of just seven sentences. Well, they are long sentences. He says the atomization of society and the isolation of the individual leads to speculations and hallucinations about others. The lack of communication between individuals means there is no way for these myths to break down under contact and scrutiny. He says the question is how to make people communicate or at least say hello to one another, which will reduce intolerance.

Evaldas Damanauskas’s essay was titled “Overabundance of Tolerance” and starts out with a strange tirade about international organizations and “the genes of tolerance” of “my Lithuanian brothers”. He says many of his friends and colleagues are too tolerant: tolerant of corruption and tolerant of harassment of gays, but that won’t hesitate to seek legal advice from a homosexual, and although they deride a foreign-speaking neighbor, they dream of establishing a business abroad. He says Lithuanians are too tolerant of very negative things, including violence, and goes on:

“To my simple thinking, we (including me) learned this tolerance of intolerable things at home, preschool, on the playground and at school and university when we were still children and young people. How can we expect a fine and tolerant personality to mature if from the first days the growing little person [child] is surrounded by parents and teachers who usually teach not by their example but by their status? If I can agree that every family is different and the fruit of humanity is in every family — the little person, growing under different conditions — then we beyond its [the family’s] limits come into a structured system where standard processes thrive and which is full of leaders trained in the standard way in charge of raising the little person. I’m not denying the system or the standards, I’m saying that till now we have employed bad ones. The system is constructed in such a way that it forces its participants to fear and obey power, while the participants (parents, educators) pass on this fear (job loss, condemnation, criticism) to their wards.

“What’s the solution? I don’t have and I don’t know the solution for everyone, I only know the one I want and which I myself strive to be. I strive every day to communicate with many people, not to judge them for [holding] a different opinion and to show by example how things should be done, to demonstrate my admission, if I understand it, that I have made a mistake, to help those whom I can (even if that’s only helping an old woman get on the bus), to not make my gay friend publicly ashamed, not to walk away when I see someone beaten or lying on the ground (even if it’s only a drunk at a bus stop, at least I can call for an ambulance). I dream that my daughter will see how I relate with her mother and everyone else and will find a man similar to her father…”

Instead of Gailiutė’s theoretical “deep love of humanity” Damanauskas is talking about tangible things and concrete examples of tolerance as he perceives it. His essay is also heads and shoulders above of the winner’s theories and metaphors about childhood development.

A contestant only identified as Reda V. on the EC representative’s website submitted an essay concerning Christmas and neighbors.

Gryte Grigalaviciene’s essay is another short one, just ten short sentences long. She says we need to show tolerance to receive it.

Agne Patackaitė’s essay, also printed in the run-up to the deadline on Delfi, has subtitles in bold and even two footnotes (to webpages). She at least comes close to talking about something that actually happened in the second paragraph:

“Among us, the word tolerance ([Latin ‘patience’] 1. respect or patience for an opposite opinion or belief) after certain events in May came to be associated by many with toleration of people of non-heterosexual orientation. But I will attempt to prove that there is a lack of tolerance in almost every area of our life…”

She goes on to talk about childbirth and abortion, and says that bullying of children at school in Lithuania is the highest in the EU. Single parents are discriminated against. The elderly have nowhere to go. Women are underpaid, but men are also oppressed because they aren’t allowed to show weakness or to work in certain professions without becoming a laughing-stock, and this is demonstrated by Lithuania taking first place in the number of male suicides for many years in a row. Fourth paragraph to last she comes back to the gay pride march:

Not Heterosexual? Did God Make a Mistake?

“Yes, how tolerant we are of those with an unusual orientation became clear even before the march which took place in May. There have been heaps of articles on this topic and it’s difficult to find something new to say about it. Again, I think it is absurd to identify oneself and others by genital organs, […] even presenting them the opportunity to say whom to love [?]. Born a person and look, because of the pettiness of others and their distrust in themselves, you have to hide and pretend. […]”

She goes on to talk about the obvious discrimination against the disabled and mentally ill in Lithuania, and says it suffices to take a look around and see how public places and transport are set up for disabled access. She sums up racial and ethnic in just a few sentences and notes that if one has a different skin color or even speaks a foreign language in Lithuania, one has a good chance of being physically attacked. In ending her essay she claims that she has proved that every reader falls into one of her categories and thus is potentially a target of discrimination, and repeats the question, “What sort of tolerance do Lithuanians most lack?”

Mykolas Kleckas comes right out in his title with the issue of gay rights: “The Silence and Indifference of Tolerant People Strengthens Homophobia”. His well-measured essay discusses homophobia in Lithuania, circumstances surrounding preparations for the gay pride march, the level of discrimination against gays in Lithuania and children thrown out by their parents for being gay. He presents logical arguments against homophobia and quotes from a person involved in an actual, international human rights organization: John Dalhuisen, a representative of Amnesty International who reportedly said “The silence and indifference of tolerant people strengthens homophobia.” Clearly, Kleckas’s essay should have been selected the winner from among the apparently limited number of contributions, unless there were even better essays that were rejected and not awarded runner-up prizes.

The essay by the person the EU represenative’s webpage only identified as Mykolas was called “Your Pizza is Italian and Your Numbers Arabic”. Here’s a random selection from the text:

“I hate homosexuals, but I always watch intently a pair of girls kissing at a club. I hate taxi drivers who listen to Russian music, but at home I listen to techno music at full volume. I hate drivers who try to cut in during a traffic jam, but I hate those who won’t let anyone by when I’m passing traffic in another lane. I hate the fascists who started the awful war, but I shake the hands of nationalists saluting the swastika. I hate sexists, but I tell my son not to cry ‘like a girl’.”

Mykolas ends on a more prescriptive note:

“There is no universal course for learning tolerance. There is no way to change a friend or spouse into a tolerant person all at once. Therefore, in order to show people the justice of tolerance, we have to demonstrate the utility of tolerance through argument and facts. We must discuss it. And also, every person should try to imagine himself in the skin of another whom he denigrates. Then, having understood how difficult it might be for that person, the first signs of tolerance can arise.”

Ugne Pavlovaitė’s essay of just six sentences (of mixed length). She says nonconformists are marginalized in Lithuania and that everyone has the right to be themselves.

Regina Racauskiene’s essay was a personal one about her experience of intolerance in Lithuania. She recalls child birth and how one neighbor asked her her children’s names. When she said “Simonas ir Dovydas” the neighbor exclaimed “Oh Jesus! Both names are Jewish!” One of her children was afflicted by mental disability and hyperactivity (later on she says autism) and she was often told by others to remove him from other children on the playground. She eventually started staying home with him and found a special, tolerant school for him. Having “barricaded” herself and son in their apartment, she found a new social life on the internet and began submitting essays to all sorts of writing contests, and won several. She noted many angry comments under one essay where she mentioned raising a son with autism. She was accused of trying to sway the contest in her favor by exploiting her disabled son. She says this is an example of intolerance, and that she was only describing her own life which is much different from others’ lives in Lithuania.

Did the “Human Rights Watch Institute” commission of judges who “aided” Delfi, and/or EC representative Natalija Kazlauskiene, receive any better essays than these eleven? Probably not. But then they didn’t announce the contest very widely, apparently. Why did the judges, whoever they were, decide to pick out of those eleven essays a winner which said little or nothing about the real human rights situation in Lithuania? Is this just another example of the same sort of simulated human rights work done by the Lithuanian Human Rights Association, based on nationalist and pseudo-patriotic considerations and aimed at obfuscating the facts of the Holocaust in Lithuania, and current political projects to rewrite history by legally persecuting Jewish partisans? Is it of a piece with parliamentarians of the Republic of Lithuania requesting a license from the city of Vilnius for a resurgent fascist march on independence day, and the weak attempt by fellow party member and prime minister Andrius Kubilius to brush off the issue as a consequence of democracy and tolerance of all political views?

One of the most senior members and chairmen of the parliament’s Human Rights Commission was and is Emanuelis Zingeris, a Lithuanian Jew whose brother Markas heads the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum from the Tolerance Center, financed from the Ministry of Culture. Emanuelis Zingeris recently traveled with prime minister Andrius Kubilius on an official visit to Israel. He is a member of the same party as Kubilius. The infamous letter in the Lithuanian Human Rights Association newsletter Pozicija contained names of politicians who formerly were MPs involved in the work of the parliament’s Human Rights Commission. Emanuelis Zingeris also chaired work on an earlier prime minister’s International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes, where Yitzhak Arad sat as the token Israeli Jew to lend legitimacy to the operation until prosecutors sought him for questioning over war crimes allegations (Israel re/fused to honor the Lithuanian prosecutor’s request that Arad be interrogated in Israel and Arad resigned from the Lithuanian “International” Commission). Another signatory to the letter in the newsletter (I know this is getting complicated, this is the letter in which the Lithuanian Human Rights Association told the European Commission’s section on racism and xenophobia that Lithuania was being unfairly attacked for obfuscating the Holocaust, that Arad and the other two Jewish partisans were guilty of war crimes, etc.) was Romualdas Ozolas. He was formerly an MP whose party faded into oblivion several years ago. More recently he has sent letters of congratulation to the “patriotic youth,” i.e., the neo-fascists, on the occasion of their march on independence day on March 11, 2010 (a Lithuanian neo-fascist website carries his warm wishes along with other writings by him at http://www.lndp.lt/diskusijos/viewtopic.php?t=4659 and says he was one of the founders of the Lithuanian Patriotic Center, presumably the parent organization of the Lithuanian Patriotic Youth Center behind the marches).

Back in early spring, 2010, when only Norwegian ambassador Gil Steinar and a few other ambassadors had said anything about the resurgence of fascism in Lithuania, and prime minister Andrius Kubilius was using a weekly address on Lithuanian National Radio to poo-poo their concerns, the National Patriotic Youth Center felt emboldened enough to call for the resignation or recall of Ambassador Gil on the basis of the notion that he had somehow overstepped the bounds consistent with diplomacy and was interfering in internal Lithuanian politics. The neo-fascist youth picked this up from an editorial in the mass media quoting a Conservative/Homeland Union MP. Presumably drunk on the dizzying achievements they had made in insinuating themselves as part of the mainstream, the Lithuanian neo-Nazi youth picketed the Norwegian embassy on Tauro Hill in Vilnius and presented Ambassador Gil with a demand for an apology. Steinar Gil personally exited the embassy to receive their grievances. According to sources close to the event, he refused to apologize and asked them how they would feel if they lived in Norway and Norwegians marched through the streets screaming “Norway for Norwegians.” Of course they didn’t have an answer. They made some weak responses, either there or on one of their web forums, that “patriotism isn’t always bad. There’s positive patriotism, not directed against foreigners” but the march and the slogan-chanting had already taken place and this kind of justification was what Lithuanians call “a teaspoon after lunch,” or too little, too late.

Every time the Conservative Party comes to power in Lithuania, there is red-baiting that tends to serve to obscure what is inevitably later recognized as a financial crisis. Real democracy doesn’t operate in Lithuania anymore, and hasn’t since 2003 when one side managed to push another side off the political stage. It’s been literally a fixed game since then. But it is also clear that Conservative tactics haven’t changed to meet the new realities, they’re still engaged in whipping up a red scare in order to paint their opponents as the lackeys of the Kremlin and in manipulating antisemitic tendencies for political gain. And this time — and the conservatives are extraordinarily unable to deal with it — the financial crisis is not of their own making. One of the more humorous items in the news lately was the ruling party considering whether to follow the rulings of Lithuania’s Constitutional Court. The suggestion was to try to follow their rulings/suggestions on everything but financial matters. This was a week or so after prime minister Kubilius claimed the state was forced to steal retirement pensions in order to stave off a currency collapse. In other words, to deliver them to the bankers.

The fake simulation called the Lithuanian Human Rights Association in their newsletter Pozicija did carry a compelling headline: “If Human Rights are So Great in Lithuania, Why is Everyone Leaving?”

And just yesterday one of the main Lithuanian newspapers carried a story detailing how, because of the world financial crisis, the ever-accelerating tide of Lithuanians fleeing the country and seeking their luck elsewhere had begun to shift toward a relatively well-off country located only a car-trip away: Norway.

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