Regards from Amsterdam and New York

The restored OLF strives to become, inter alia, a space for the self-expression, professional creativity, and progressive activities of young Lithuanian intellectuals.

Consequently, at the official opening of the OLF on April 18th, 2017, “video greetings” were screened, created specially and submitted by doctoral candidates studying abroad: the poet and philosopher Aušra Kaziliūnaitė and the cinema critic Lukas Brašiškis.

Olf.lt recommends that you both read and watch their commentary-greetings.

 

Aušra Kaziliūnaitė:

“I have been studying in Amsterdam for eight months, which awarded me the extraordinary opportunity to observe the preparations for elections in the Netherlands.

One essential difference I noticed: while Lithuanian voters are reluctant to speak of their preference for a certain party and often refrain from sharing their intended vote even with their close ones, the Dutch gladly reveal who they are going to vote for. And not only in conversation: walking the streets of Amsterdam before the election, one could observe in the windows both of cottages and apartments many a poster encouraging to vote for one or the other political party.

It is difficult to imagine such a situation in Lithuania.

Although our country has been a free state for over a quarter of a century, yet the Soviet heritage is still relatively strong. During Soviet times, as we know, there was one unwritten truth, and opposing it could lead to a variety of repressions or even destruction.

Despite the fact that this reality is long past, the strange baton of fear has been passed on to our country and exists still. In a sense, modern Lithuania still displays signs of Soviet-era political fears. A distinct example of such signs is the fear of standing out, the fear of not adhering to the one truth. Yet there is no one truth any longer, nor can there be, for this is the era of pluralism of opinions.

Therefore, the situation is even odder: if in Soviet times the one publicly unopposable truth was quite strictly defined, then today, undefined and sensed only as a hunch, it becomes a secret. Inertia leads people to fear opposing the one truth or standing out; yet as the one truth is only imaginary and has become secret, any political statement or form of expression could be opposing it, since it is not even known what the truth currently is.

I believe this is one of the central reasons why Lithuania today is predominantly apolitical: the secrecy of the “one truth” guarantees its totality and its threat, so that it is frightening to vocally express any political opinion – if only because by so doing one would stand out from the silent rest.”

 

Lukas Brašiškis:

“I have been studying and teaching at the PhD program in Cinema Studies at New York University for over two years. At the time of this recording I am in Washington Square Park, unofficially known as the New York University’s student park. Most of the park’s visitors belong to the academic community: students, teachers, University employees; of course, it is beloved also by artists and citizens coming here to relax.

The university community in New York comprises, as one would expect, the broadest possible range of identities, nationalities, and interests. This diversity, its very existence, is, as we know, the defining feature of the open society of the United States.

The question “what is an open society” can be answered in a variety of ways. This time I will refer to my experience of living in New York City.

What happens when an open society is threatened? What happens when an attempt is made to suppress it?

Instead of discussing who pays how much and how for expressing opinions, New Yorkers act like artists by simply creating their protest, singularly expressing their views, and thereby taking part in the democratic process.

I can say from experience that the academic community of my university is highly resistant to such threats. Be it police misconduct against black students, or breaches of LGBT rights, or simply the removal of travel rights for students from Muslim countries, or even disregard for climate change problems – in all such cases the students and the teachers and employees express their civic and political positions. Instead of discussing who pays how much and how for expressing opinions, New Yorkers act like artists by simply creating their protest, singularly expressing their views, and thereby taking part in the democratic process.

It is this free expression of views and political stands that I associate with an open and critical society.

My wish for my country is that there, too, should form a strong society that knows its rights and understands the need to defend them.

In this complex geopolitical period, as political powers bordering on xenophobia rise in many European countries, I trust that the work of the restored OLF will increase the activism and resilience of Lithuanian society.”