A few months ago, a Belarusian girl I am no longer in touch with asked me to tell her about the best day of my life.
I had to think for a while, as I searched my mind and sifted through my memories. Eventually I came up with an afternoon from my childhood that I spent with two boys, play fighting on a big grassy hill next to the place where I went to school.
We must have all been about eleven or twelve at the time. We spent the day there on this hill, as the sun beat down and we played and shouted and tumbled, covering our jeans in grass stains, before climbing to the top to do the same thing all over again.
That afternoon probably took up less than five hours of my life. Yet at the time, that day seemed to go on forever, as our lives stretched out before us and tomorrow seemed like a lifetime away. That single day became a metaphor for the childhood that I wished I could have had.
Those boys never made it out of their twenties: both were killed in road traffic accidents before they hit 25. I'm the only one left to tell the story of that wonderful afternoon of grass stains, sunshine and laughter.
We all have lives made up of good and bad days. There are those days that we recall with great fondness: days of wonder and beauty, which are always with us. And then there are those days that we try to forget, but which are simply too painful for us to ever truly put out of our minds.
The past ten years of my life I have spent travelling, I have been searching for happiness. I travel much less now than I did (the next few months are, however, an exception) because I can no longer find the energy to spend hours on trains, planes and automobiles. I guess it's a sign of growing older. I will, after all, turn 40 in five years time...!
I have also been searching (albeit unsuccessfully) for those most mundane and yet seemingly elusive of things: a wife, a child, a place to rest my hat and call home. There is, however, a little bit more travelling left in these tired bones, and so a few days ago I got my bones in motion and set off to visit Ireland's capital city.
A Man From Mogilev in Dublin
I did not visit Dublin to see Ireland or meet the Irish. I didn't like the Irish before I travelled to Ireland, and I like them even less now. My grandfather came from Ireland (my Mum always tells me that I am 25% Irish) and so I have wanted for a long time to visit the place that helped give me life. But that was not the reason I went.
I visited Dublin to meet a Belarusian friend of mine, Serosha (that's Sergei to you) who studies in Limerick. When the people of Mogilev were stealing from me, Serosha (along with two other boys) was there for me. The least I could do was go and visit him for the kindness he showed me during those two terrible months in Mogilev.
I don't have many real friends. In fact, I can count the number of real friends I have on the fingers of one hand (and still have my thumb left over). But Serosha has been a true friend to me, and when my book is published later this year, I will finally be able to repay him.
I hate to say it, but the young people of Belarus have become real beggars. They are always playing "let's see how much money we can take from the foreigner." They can't help it; they can't stop themselves.
When I first visited Belarus ten years ago, nobody took my money. Now everybody takes my money. The only reason I can see for this is the influence of capitalism. If generation after generation grew up kind, warm and generous in the Soviet Union, but then one generation has become scheming and deceptive in ten years, I put it down to capitalism.
It pains me to say it, but Belarus has started embracing capitalism in earnest. As we nationalise in the West, Belarus privatises. There are two reasons why the President, Alexander Lukashenko, is converting to a free market system: disputes with Russia and the financial crisis.
In late 2006, the Russian government began charging Belarusian consumers more for gas than it charges its own people. This offended Belarus a great deal; a relationship based on friendship and a shared history suddenly became one based on economics.
Russia uses gas as a political tool, but not only gas: angry at Belarus's westward drift, Russia recently banned Belarusian milk products. (Russia has in the past banned Moldovian wine, Polish meat and Georgian mineral water). It's a catch-22 situation: the more Putin gets angry and the more he punishes Lukashenko for looking West, the closer Lukashenko moves to the European Union, which makes Putin angrier.
The other reason why Lukashenko is encouraging investment, selling 500 state controlled enterprises to the highest bidder and putting in place plans to privatise the Belarusian rail network, is because the financial crisis has seen Belarusian exports drop by around 40%.
So, almost 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the finest people in Europe are changing and changing quickly. It won't be long until the country is crammed full of McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and the like, and those good people living in the last Soviet republic become more and more like the spoiled bastards in the West.
Back Out of the USSR
For me, the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy.
I'm not talking about repression or Stalin or gulags - I'm talking about the end of socialism. In South America, socialism is making a comeback thanks to Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa (the latter was sworn in as the President of Ecuador when I was in the country two years ago. His Vice President is called Lenin, ironically enough). But while socialists can be turned into capitalists in, oh, about ten years, it takes generations for a capitalist society to become a socialist one.
Weapons Of Mass Deception
The West, especially the USA, is so hypocritical. Condoleezza Rice once branded Lukashenko 'the last dictator in Europe', but there is a fine line between a dictatorship and a so-called democracy.
In my own country, Tony Blair, that mass murdering democratically elected former Prime Minister, who was re-elected by the British people even after he invaded Iraq and murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, used the terrorist threat (which he created) to bring in a series of curbs on personal freedom.
This means that if you read out the names of dead soldiers near the cenotaph, or you heckle a Labour minister at a party conference, or you protest against climate change, you can be arrested under anti-terror laws and released at an unknown location without phone or money.
This is a country where police officers recently attacked anti-globalisation protesters in London, in one case actually killing a man. This is a country where the same police force shot dead an innocent Brazilian student on the metro. This is a country where, a few days ago, police in Nottingham used a taser gun to electrocute a man lying in the street. This is a country where Metropolitan police officers are currently being investigated for 'water boarding', a form of torture where the victim thinks that he is drowning.
This is a country that invented the concentration camp (the Germans simply 'perfected' these camps) during the Boer War, when more than 26,000 women and children died in South Africa between 1900 and 1902. Similar camps had existed before (in the USA, the Cherokee and other Native Americans were interned in camps during the 1830s) but it was during the Boer War that the term 'concentration camp' was first used.
Having learned nothing, this country recently took capitalism to its limit when it helped the USA invade Iraq and take control of its oil supply. This is a country where every adult has the blood on his hands of thousands of Iraqis. This is a country where the hapless current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced a few days ago that an inquiry would be held into the war, but "it will not seek to apportion blame."
Another whitewash. An inquiry by Gordon Brown's chums. And when Brown announced in Parliament that the inquiry would be held in private, in an unbelievably cynical move, he quickly went on to pay tribute to all the dead soldiers (killed by Bush and Blair), knowing that the shouts and protests of the Liberal MPs would fall silent out of respect.
The UK and the USA can never redeem themselves for Iraq. I remember when the bombing began, George W. Bush talked about "saving the world from grave danger" and "the fight against tyranny", echoing the words that Lyndon Johnson used when he ordered soldiers into Vietnam forty years earlier. When the first missiles began to rain down on Baghdad, Bush took time off and went to his ranch in Texas. The guy didn't give a damn.
The rape of Iraq could never have happened without the support of the American people. As the Germans were held responsible for the crimes of the Third Reich, so the Americans and the British should pay a heavy price for the crimes committed by their democratically elected leaders.
As Iraqis were being blown to pieces, the Americans were watching the Oscars. The war was presented as an infomercial; 'shock and awe' was the name given to the opening campaign. The same term was later used to market a video game. With the Republican foot soldiers at Fox News in the USA and Murdoch's ragmag The Sun in the UK leading the way, there was a call for war, a demand for war, a lust for war. The Americans and British could smell blood and they were revelling in it.
The UK is on the road to hell and there is no turning back. This is a country where, a few weeks ago, I went out for the first time at night in a long time, because I was sick of having problems with the British. In one hour, I interfered when an old woman told a homeless man that he should 'FUCK OFF' and got a mouthful of abuse. Minutes later, a man I had never met before tried to pick a fight with me.
When I caught a taxi to Dublin airport on Sunday, I was ripped off by the driver. The same day, I was walking through the streets of Bristol to catch a train back to Exeter and watched as a middle aged white woman shouted to a Middle Eastern woman that she and her young son should "get back to their own country". Within minutes of arriving in Exeter, I walked past a man who was threatening passers-by and talking to his friend about how he was going to "knife somebody in the kidneys."
A few days ago, I watched a film called Slumdog Millionaire. The stars of the film are a couple of Indian kids. The British director, Danny Boyle, wanted the film to have an authentic feel, and so rather than employing professional child actors, he went to the slums of India and found a few kids who knew how to act well enough to appear in a feature film.
The film cost $15 million to make. It has grossed over $360 million to date. Yet, the stars of this film still live in their slum. Worse still, they were taken on a worldwide promotional tour, and then dropped off in a silver mercedes back in their slum. It completely beggars belief.
Recently, the kids lost their home and were living on the streets. More than a year after the film was completed, and only after criticism in the press for doing sod all to help them, Boyle finally stepped in to give the kids and their family a flat (by which time it was too late as the Indian Government had already given them a new home). He said about these children a few weeks ago: "It's natural they want their lives to change, but these things take time."
This film has made a profit in excess of $340 million. This British bastard, who sums up just about the entire British population, couldn't even take a few thousand dollars out of that $340 million and get three children out of poverty. It reminds me of when I was in Ecuador and surrounded by Western lowlifes who were completely oblivious to the poverty surrounding them.
Dreaming of Destruction
I think that the British, along with Westerners as a whole, are a people who have lost their way. I no longer even see them as being human as they lack the qualities that make up warm, good hearted human beings.
The West does so much harm, both to the planet and to people's souls. The countries of Western Europe are built on the backs of colonisation, slavery and suffering. And forms of slavery still exist.
The clothes on our backs are put together by people working in sweat shops from Asia to South America. Fat, repulsive British females, with rolls of flesh hanging from underneath their t-shirts, gulp down litres of designer lattes and cappuccinos in Starbucks, while Ethopian coffee farmers get paid a pittance to fund our indulgent lifestyles.
Western corporations outsource and so when you call your local bank, you get diverted to a call centre in Mumbai where young people get paid pennies for listening to whingeing bastards all day.
It is these Western 'values' that are corrupting - no, contaminating - the good people of Belarus. It is a European parliament made up mainly of centre-right and far right MEPs that Lukashenko wants to get closer to.
I began this blog entry writing about dreams and happiness, good days and bad days. I dream of a better world, a world where countries and peoples that do harm to the world no longer exist. I am, however, a realist. And so it is my dream to get out of this country, out of this part of the world, and to a place where the people are warm, where I do not have to live in shame of my country's foreign policy.
Soon it will be time to go, time to leave these people to their fiery fate, never look back, as the time for dreaming will be over.