media punk

This text was posted on Facebook by Boris Ginzburg today. The problem which he points out is indeed serious. A significant part of Latvian society seems to be both unable and unwilling to engage in any meaningful discussion if it concerns members from another societal group. This is applicable to many more or less artificial dichotomous pairs of groups: Latvians and Russians, students and retired people, straight people and gays, rich and poor, etc etc. It is very hard to work for any genuine solidarity in a setting like this. And I start to suspect that without some kind of explosive moment, where people would be simply forced to see each other as equal human beings of flesh and blood, Latvian society will not be able to overcome this unfortunate condition.

So, here goes the text from Boris.

A few days ago I mentioned a story here on Facebook on how Latvian state language watchdog prevented a public health agency from distributing information about breast and cervical cancer screening in languages other that Latvian. Since a substantial number of people in Latvia do not speak Latvian, I noted that this decision is statistically likely to cause extra deaths from cancer (one can roughly put the expected value in the region of 5 to 15).

This comment triggered a sort of a Facebook destruction derby. The two main lines of argumentation could be summarised as follows:

1. “All statistics are lies. If you cannot point to specific instances of women dying, you cannot claim that deaths are likely. I think nobody will die, because this is what I think.”

2. “If these women do not speak the language, their cancer is their problem. Why should we care about their health? Learn Latvian or die!”

I have to say the discussion has been quite illuminating about ways of thinking common in Latvia.

Didzis Melbiksis

Multilingual citizen. Europe, Sweden, media, politics.

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