March 21, 2014

CSW 58: Belarus After the Experiment

“I am sorry I cannot answer your question because the image of my father and my mother is so single in my mind…I perceive it as a single whole. My mother and my father have celebrated last year 50 years of their marriage. For all the difficulties they went through within the family, influences around the family in the country, they managed to achieve this feat. I as a son was not as successful. But I recognize my faults and I see this, the example set by my parents, as an example which to follow.” –  Mr. Andrei Dapkiunas, Ambassador to the UN from Belarus

I had asked Mr. Dapkiunas about how his mother and his father distinctly contributed to his upbringing, that is as two individuals with unique gifts. In the Library of the United Nations, in the very same room where the Executive Director of UNFPA had praised “diverse forms of family,” Mr. Dapkiunas reminded the representative of the world of that peculiar mystery of marriage. He couldn’t accept my premise of two separate persons who work well together. The image of his mother and father is single in his mind. We were told that “the two shall become one flesh.”

Belarus, along with Qatar, Indonesia and the Holy See had come together to demand a renewed focus on the family at the United Nations. Belarus, being in the heart of Europe and only a hop, skip and a jump from the family-hostile Nordic region, is in a unique position to comment on the relevance of the family. Rather than summarize, as I usually do. Allow me to share an excerpt from the transcript of the Q&A in which Mr. Dapkiunas makes the case for a pro-family European country. The question is put to him by a young European lawyer.

Question: I’d like to ask a question, First I like to say some statistics. The Department of Economic and Social affairs, predict that the population in Belarus will decrease in 2015 to 9 million, 8 million in 2016 and 7 million (after that). So my question is how the Russian communities would like to support the families and women in Belarus and how United Nations can support countries with the current population problem. Thank You very much.

Mr. Dapkiunas: The lady who asked a question about population…it is not a unique problem in terms of countries with a decreasing population. But you are right to point out the case of Belarus because my country holds the dubious honor of being in the top three countries who have the highest rate of divorce in the world. And, that along with the other issues really explains the strain, the situation in which families have to not just exist but survive. So, it’s really a challenge especially for countries that have went through a fair amount of social experimentation.

My country is one of those… experimentation with creating new social entities that would do away with differences of race, ethnicity, culture, whatever. It sounds nice. We were, in Belarus, one of the most successful nations coming up to that doorway. We’re lucky enough that we have now breached it. But on the way, we have uprooted a whole lot of essential; critical links…the things that matter most. Our’s, our families, our parentage, our heritage, our culture, our language; things that come natural for many of you present in this room. For my country this is a challenge. And it partly explains why we’re still struggling with that trend.

For now, the trend of the current population (decline) is reversing and has started growing. It is one of the priorities for the government. We know that there are a whole lot of clever means of how to… how families can be helped, how they can be assisted in this work. So, it’s up to the determination of the government in every particular country to do something practical for the benefit of families.

The Ambassador’s comments about “race, culture (and) ethnicity” are perhaps the most telling in the whole of his remarks, because he strikes on that peculiar paradox that pluralism and culture are often mutually exclusive. Here at the UN, those delegates who trumpet pluralism are almost indistinguishable from each other. Typically Caucasian, typically speaking English, typically wearing a tailored (but not bespoke) suit and typically sporting a short, parted hairstyle; these apostles of diversity more closely resemble the army of Agent Smith’s from the Matrix. Contrast this with the spectacle of the delegates from the countries who trumpet culture. Their clothes swirl and burn with the colors of their native land. The faces are creased by their native climates. Their throats carry a sound at once confusing and beautiful. They carry themselves the way their ancestors did. Whether at a brisk walk or at a dignified saunter, their heritage is made manifest in every step they take. They care nothing for diversity and in this way they have brought it about.

But so-called pluralism is the experiment of the day. The lines are being blurred between nations, between ideas, between men and women, between the family and everything else. We know what Belarus looks like after the experiment and their testimony ought to serve as a warning. What lies ahead in the brave new world? What will America look like after the experiment?

God knows. But I can imagine what he will say. “Male and female I created you. Be fruitful, and multiply.”


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