Where I Was During Those Nine Years

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Emotion is a weird thing. It may arise unexpectedly because of one clear, subjectively perceived experience and can remain in the subconscious for a long time. Changing emotions, however, requires time and, often, irrational processes.

The Georgian opposition used to be a collection of resentful and/or unsuccessful people – those who failed to keep up with the times, irrationally opposed reform and sought solutions in the isolationism and stagnation familiar to them. Those people are now in power. As time passes it becomes increasingly difficult to explain, let alone justify, their activity or inactivity. Nevertheless, supporters of this government have so far failed to replace their emotions with a rational perception of reality. When faced with criticism, the defense offered by the Dreamers is thus mainly limited to two infantile retorts: the first being "was it better before?" (seemingly this is only meant to be a rhetorical question as they do not care about any rational response to this) and the second, "where were you during those nine years?" (meaning, "yes, things are bad, but things were just as bad before" – as if it does not matter that the Georgian Dream was elected in the expectation of changing those things for the better!).

I have long developed an automatic reflex upon hearing the phrase "nine years" – I instantly diagnose any person articulating that phrase with amnesia and/or an acute lack of critical reasoning. Nevertheless, I decided to recall what I was doing over that so denigrated period of nine years between 2004 and 2012:

Where was I when we were regaining Adjara and eliminating the need to pass through a triple-tier system of roadblocks just to arrive in Kobuleti? Or when, in the recent past, a provincial Batumi run by a Russia-backed feudal lord, Aslan Abashidze, was transformed into a cosmopolitan regional hub?

Where was I when those once routine discussions about the acute shortage of electricity or about the poor quality of roads were forgotten for good?

Where was I when the universally hated traffic police were all laid off at once; when the police reforms were implemented and people stopped pejoratively referring to them as "pigs"?

Where was I when we were being transformed from one of the most crime-ridden countries in the world into one of the safest?

Where was I when being a crime boss lost its luster and education became respected? Or when doing business through political assassinations and abductions (with the direct involvement of law enforcement officers) turned from daily routine into an exotic memory?

Where was I when corruption in the country was, for the first time ever, fought not by setting up numerous ineffectual commissions and councils, but was actually eradicated in reality; turning Georgia from one of the most corrupt countries in the world into one of the least corrupt?

Where was I when the united national examinations were introduced and admission to universities by bribery was eliminated? Or when knowledge and hard work became valuable qualities whereas cronyism and nepotism lost significance?

Where was I when this convivial, heedless nation, which reached modernity because of the efforts of individual heroes and not a common, conscious rule of life, was being transformed into a meritocratic society?

Where was I when the country moved from the 136th to the ninth place in the Ease of Doing Business ranking? Or when Georgia was rated as the number one reformer over a period of five years? Or when 21 out of 27 taxes were abolished and the rates of the remaining taxes were cut? Or when those lowered taxes breathed new life into a business sector choked by shadow accounting, bribery and protection rackets?

Where was I when those redundant institutions and entities were abolished or when the number of licenses were reduced from several thousand to less than one hundred?
Where was I when those people who so easily became accustomed to the new realities forgot that, just a short time ago, even pensions worth 14 GEL a month were not paid on time because of the illegal actions of certain individuals?

Where was I when the economy grew, for several years in row, at a double-digit rate? Or when farmers from Kojori, Tsavkisi, Digomi, Saguramo and Kiziqi sold their newly-registered unused lands for hundreds of thousands of US dollars; land on which investors were then able to build vineyards, hotels, villas and factories?

Where was I when Signagi, Mestia, Batumi, Telavi, Akhaltsikhe, Old Tbilisi and Agmashenebeli Avenue were being built? Or when Ushguli residents, who previously lived in isolation from the rest of world and engaged in vendettas as their only form of occupation, were able to receive 80 GEL per foreign tourist?

Where was I when the houses of justice were being built or when Georgia, traditionally lagging behind and used to being on the periphery of the developed world, began moving up to embrace avant-garde innovations? Or when citizens were able to clear their cargos at customs, get ID cards, passports and driver licenses, or register property or businesses in a matter of minutes?

Where was I when the fugitive Russian oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili was masterminding a coup or when Nino Burjanadze was getting ready to welcome Russia's special intelligence forces? Or when Rustaveli Avenue reeked of urine for three months whilst a long queue of intelligentsia lined up to appear on the Cell No. 5 TV show?

Where was I when Russia, for the second time in 20 years, started playing their game of "dignity," using almost the same undignified figures? Or when the leader seeking such dignity was fighting, in his own words, against the geopolitical interests of the United States?

Where was I when corrupt public servants were forced to give back their ill-gotten gains and illegally misappropriated property (doing so in favor of the state, albeit often with procedural violations) and in return were absolutely undeservedly released from criminal liability?

Where was I when judges no longer ruled in favor of the party in a dispute that paid the most money? (I must admit, however, that back then no one had the feeling of injustice as each party had equal opportunities to pay bribes. Consequently, the sense of self-realization among bribers was high).

Where was I when people got so used to public order, peaceful developments and a corruption-free life that they forgot their most recent past and, with it, the creators of systemic violence and corruption?

Where was I when ignorant and incapable public servants were replaced by young, motivated, and competent cadres? Or when the country's statehood was virtually being built from scratch?
Where was I when Georgia was being transformed from a failed territorial entity into an exemplary state for its region? Or when, for the first time in the past 600 years, Georgians were not merely concerned with the present, only pinning hopes on a future, but were instead making the future in the present?

Where was I when (perhaps for the first time ever in the documented history of Georgia) bad was called bad and good was called good?

The answer is concise and perhaps more prosaic than expected, comrades:

I was in Georgia, doing my job – because I had the luxury of that.

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