03 June, 2008

Soviet Comfort the easy option

I have just completed a 2800 km drive through Ukraine that seemed to be a time machine experience taking me back to 1970's Latvia. It was not what you knew but who you knew that was most important as is the residual thinking in Latvia now. There is a hell of a lot of comfort in having the phone number of someone that can clear up troubles in an instant. It makes you feel privledged and part of the exclusive club and difficult to ignore for those that like to lord it over others. But the goal in life surely is not to contribute to a fuedal society that excludes people. That causes the disenfranchised to protest in their own un democratic manner through crime and violence let alone the long term cost of an inefficient use of resources and lost opportunity for the country.

The traffic police in Ukraine are notoriously corrupt so having a well connected contact was most comforting when in the middle of nowhere. But I did take the opportunity to explore what the police had to say on the many occassions they stopped me for a random check. They would go so far as to have fake breath analysers that gave false readings, they would suggest I had taken drugs and needed to go with them for a drug test, they would show false readings on my speed, and that was just what I understood.
Needless to say that there are no self drive tourists in Ukraine attested by the fact that there is no infrustructure for them like Motels or tourist signs. Ukraine could not possibly be part of the EU whilst this treatment of westerners exists. This is what Latvia is moving away from but very slowly. There are many people in Latvia that think the progress from a Ukraine styled past has been the largest part of the journey for Latvia but almost certainly just the start point has been achieved. Only once people have stopped fighting can the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing be achieved.

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