Belarusians are like hobbits, a friend of mine said. They come of age at 33, like their hobbit-holes and gardens, and don’t like adventures.
I chuckled. And then I thought: sadly, he has a point.
I am a Belarusian hobbit, too; I know that feeling. I am in my comfort zone, I have a nice life, a job, I am relatively happy – why do I need to get out of it for more?
In Belarus, we prefer to move in small steps, and we don’t like bold ideas. As soon as we start thinking of the new, the ‘what ifs’ step in, and quite often they would outweigh our desire to change.
One might say our Belarusian inertia is determined by the course of history. All that we would create, would be swept away by tumultuous events, so at some point, we stopped going out of our way.
If something is good enough the way it is, why do anything about it at all?
Let’s use a few examples from daily life. The opening of a supermarket is somehow a piece of news in Belarus. One slightly-more-creative PR idea gets into all the media. A brand presents a more or less untrivial design – and boom, it is a sellout.
The thing is, an idea that is just slightly better or above the average instantly becomes a hit. It gets all the hype. Even though it is just OK.
Belarusians are like hobbits. They come of age at 33, like their hobbit-holes and gardens, and don’t like adventures.
I am not denying the positive development that’s been going on in the Belarusian capital and other cities over the past 5 years or so. The creative spaces in Kastrycnickaja, TEDx in Mahilyow, Viva Braslav in Vitsebsk region, business forums like Hi-Tech Nation and Emerge, even the birth of Zybickaya… But it is still a drop in the ocean if one compares Minsk to the neighboring Kiev or Vilnius.
Seems like we are hungry for movement and buzz, but the comfort zone is just too wide and comfortable. Seems like there is an invisible border in our heads that we are afraid to cross. Seems like we are not self-confident enough.
Another problem is, we are always waiting for progress to come from elsewhere. We make travel to Belarus visa-free – and wait for millions of tourists to come. We adopt crypto – and start counting our hypothetical billion revenues. One local step is good to start the change; progress requires consistent walking in certain a direction.
Maybe it is high time for us to stop waiting for that buzz – but create and spread it. The borders on the map should not be the borders inside our heads.
Remember Bilbo Baggins?
Yuliana Kornyushko is an editor at BelarusFeed since 2014. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial staff.
Original photo by flybelarus.