Conversations No One Hears
There are conversations going on across this country that the people in power will never hear. They are the conversations that happen in the tea houses and, for me, in the taxis. They aren’t about the standard fare, cars, cellphones, salaries, and other mediocre topics. Instead, I’m often confronted a few opinions that I’ve come to expect any time I get in a taxi.
Opinion 1: America is a democracy. Azerbaijan is not a democracy. Azerbaijan is corrupt, has been ruined by the Soviet Union, and continues to be run by corrupt power. America is a great country because it is not run by such corrupt powers, people are free, and democracy reins in true form.
Opinion 2: Life is poor here, but it was much better during Soviet times. The current state of things in Azerbaijan is terrible. People are corrupt, roads are terrible, there are no jobs. Young people have nothing to do and everyone’s father either drives a taxi or goes to Russia. During the Soviet times, life was better, people had jobs, cities were cleaner, corruption was lesser.
Listening to people talk about their country like this is a bit bizarre. One of the things that bothers me about living here is that it seems as though people have very little pride in the fact that they come from Azerbaijan. Instead, feelings of national unity center around tragedy and conflict. The ethnic minorities here don’t share in what it means to be Azerbaijani. In both of the above cases, Azerbaijan is the pitied country. Everywhere else is better than here. But there are things here to be proud of, like the food, the history, the music and poetry, and more. Yet, somehow, being proud of where you come from, seeking to make it better yourself, doesn’t seem like a characteristic many people have here.