Learning from Belarus

The CBC had a student on this evening talking about the Belarus election where President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected with about 82% of the vote. She spoke passionately about the need for Lukashenko to be defeated to bring democracy and freedom to the country. The astute As-It-Happens interviewer, however; suggested that even without any supposed shenanigans, Lukashenko still would have between 50% and 60% popular support. The student reacted indignantly to this by saying that was because Lukashenko controlled the TV, radio and newspapers watched, listened to and read by the country’s older and rural population.

Now, I have been rebuked for drawing parallels in this manner but I can’t resist. In New Brunswick, we have the lowest rates of literacy, education, health, Internet access, job creation, etc. and we are in population decline. However, when I raise these issue among folks in general conversation they are either unaware or vaguely aware or they shrug their shoulders and say that’s always been the case in New Brunswick. Occasionally, particularly in the urban areas, I’ll get someone that will rant on and on about what needs to be done (like some fellow bloggers).

So, back to my constant refrain. I think the local media – particularly the Moncton English language paper – does very little to raise awareness of these issues among the general public. Hence, we get lethargy (figuratively, and it seems literally). Other than the occasional Alec Bruce piece, there is almost nothing in the T&T about the challenges facing this province.

So Belarus is the backwater of Eastern Europe. It is among the least developed countries among the former Soviet Union. And the leader pumps out messaging through the media about how great things are – and the public, by in large, acquiesces.

Backwater, least developed, ultra positive messaging out of government (prosperity for all, et. al) and complacent media.

I can’t help but draw parallels.

But, on a strangely positive note, that wild man Charles Leblanc is a one man wrecking crew. He must write a half dozen blogs a day specifically focused on bringing down the Conservatives. I wonder if there is such a character in any other province?