Among the top 10 most popular people in Lithuania and Estonia, seven
on each list are politicians. In Latvia there are five (if you don't
count composer Raimonds Pauls who has also been involved in politics).
Very few athletes, showbiz personalities or writers were able to
compete with the politicians. In most other Western countries
politicians are not so important for ordinary people.
Optimists might say it shows that the Baltics are active civic
societies. However, the domination of politicians' names also
indicates a sadder and better-known reality. The Baltics are still
not welfare states. In wealthy countries people care much less about
Former Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas is a real phenomenon.
He has won his fifth "Person of the Year" title in 10 years. Of
course, this is mostly due to the fact that he looks like a dream man
for many middle-aged ladies in provincial towns who adore him no
matter what he does.
It's time for Balts to understand that only the personal initiative
of every ordinary person can bring success for that person at the
current stage of the free market society in Central Europe.
Politicians, whatever their color, can do little to improve the life
of an impoverished population. Politicians are not gods. Brazauskas,
George W. Bush, Santa Claus - none of them would be able to buy candy
for everybody in the Baltics. Life can be brutal during these times
Welfare states will be a reality in the Baltics sooner or later. NATO
and European Union membership will be tools for achieving it. A
Finnish student recently caught stealing chocolate in a supermarket
near Vilnius' central bus station is actually the first good sign. If
Finns are coming to steal in Vilnius,ª it means that the economic
levels of the Baltics and Nordic countries are drawing ever closer.
So everything will be fine, Balts. But right now rely more on
yourselves. Don't wait for miracles from politicians.