Living in an age when the memory is stunningly short

  • 2020-07-02
  • Linas Jegelevicius, The Baltic Times editor-in-chief

Has there recently been a world pandemic of COVID-19? 

When eyeing the Palanga beach, full of people these days – in fact, they lay like herrings in a barrel, I cannot resist the feeling that the health crisis occurred centuries ago, certainly not earlier this year.

I remember talking to Jonas, the veteran chief of Palanga beach-guards, in May, when the summer season had just kicked off. He sounded anxious when asked about how he and his lifesavers were going to ensure social distancing on the beach. There were flouting various ideas in the regard, even slicing it into 2x2 meters slots, so the beach-goers can enjoy the sun laying safely in their “own” beach “compartments.”

But the enviously good epidemic situation that Lithuania has had with COVID-19 throughout and, I’d like to bring it up, the nearing general elections in October, stopped the national health authorities from implementing stringent measures during the summer after the virus tapered off relatively quickly.

Speaking of the elections, it remains to be seen if the public will pay back the ruling bloc, orchestrated by the Farmers and Greens Union, with the generosity that it has seen from it amid the crisis. 

As the director of a Palanga-based newspaper (oh, yes, I am a busy bee!), I was cheered up by the government’s decision to pay our newspaper a four-digit unreturnable subsidy and a compensation for the distribution of the newspaper to its subscribers. Both measures were meant to alleviate the dire consequences of the pandemic. It is estimated every second Lithuanian received the government’s support in one way or another.

Although the opposition Conservatives, TS-LKD, are vociferously clamouring against the Government’s decision to allocate subsidies to the COVID-19-affected population or businesses, arguing that the support is political bribery and the splurging will hit everyone hard when the state coffers get empty later, the public appreciates the kindness.

In a new poll, conducted by “Vilmorus”, the “farmers” upped their support from 12.4 percent in March to 13.4 percent in June. In a sinister omen for TS-LKD, its approval has shrunken from 17 percent to 14.3 percent.

It remains to be seen where the parties will be after October 11, which is Election Day.

What to make of the poll results and the other political developments domestically and internationally? The Baltic Times asked Kestutis Girnius, a prominent Lithuanian political scientist of American descent.

I myself had the pleasure of reading the interview with the Ukrainian ambassador in Vilnius, in which he honestly addressed many issues. However, the hottest topic in Lithuania perhaps was opening of an Open Beach in Lukiskiu square in Vilnius – with beach loungers, changing booths and even a warning sign: “Beware of sharks!”

Traditionalists argue that it is a spit into the face of the 1863-1864 insurgents hung by the tsarist general Muravjov here and the deportees – the Museum of Genocide Victims is a stone’s throw from the square.

Where do you stand on the issue?