Lithuanian basketball fan Petras Leščinskas, who made Nazi salutes and monkey chants during the Olympics and was therefore fined £2,500 in court, is a fool, Andrius Užkalnis wrote in Lrytas.lt.
He is a double fool for he tried to explain in court that such behaviour is common practice in Lithuania and that he has been doing it for quite some time. Not because Nazi salutes never happen in Lithuania (or elsewhere, for that matter). But because assuring the judge that the offence you are tried for is really nothing wrong is the surest way to get sentenced more severely.
‘You don’t understand, things are different in our country’ is the dumbest argument and a shot in one’s own leg. This has been an excuse of hundreds and hundreds of Lithuanian drivers caught in Britain without the compulsory car insurance, with technically unsafe cars, or a little drunk. ‘In Lithuania no insurance is o.k. One glass beer is o.k. No problem.’ They seem to think of it as the mitigating circumstances. They cannot be more wrong. It is a red cape in front of the judiciary.
An automatic response from a police officer, prosecutor or judge is always the same. ‘This is our country, this is our law and our public order, and you are about to see it for yourself.’ They will not point this out – but you will definitely be shown who sets the rules and maintains order in their country. The aforementioned Mr Leščinskas had a first-hand experience of it.
You may call England the land of homos, their order – nonsense, application of law – absurd, you can argue till the cows come home about different interpretations of saluting from the times of the Roman Empire to the first Olympics of the new era, when there were no traces of Nazis whatsoever.
It’s all irrelevant, since 11,000 litas are not coming from the English jerks to your pocket but from you to theirs. You think you paid ‘for nothing’? For a nonsense? For a misunderstanding? This makes you a double jerk.
When you borrow money from some sly crooks and it turns out that over the course of the year you paid 15,000 litas in interest for a 1,000 loan, you shouldn’t call them stupid. They now have fourteen grand they earned from you, and it is you who paid them. Who is the stupid one here?
At the end of the Olympics’ story it is not those Brits who will suffer. It is you – because of your behaviour, which was stupid, with consequences which had been clear and completely avoidable. Because you always have to think what you’re doing. This is all the more relevant in a foreign country.
Any arguments as to the prevalence of such behaviour elsewhere, its justifiability, historical or traditional interpretation are meaningless.
Great Britain has its own rules: from driving on the right-hand side of the road (try turning into oncoming traffic, crashing into someone’s car and then making an excuse that it is different in Lithuania, that this is nonsense, that the rules are horrid), to their notion of political correctness and an extremely broad understanding of what counts as ‘racial offense’.
Moreover, all circumstances in this case were not in Lithuanians’ favour. Olympic security guards were also involved in the story. In Britain, security guards from private companies are not the people you’d want to argue with. In contrast to police officers, rarely do they have any real-life experience or understanding of the context, hardly ever are they educated. Oftentimes they are themselves foreigners, with complexes resulting from their low social status or insignificant role in the society. In many instances they belong to the lowest strata of society – just now given a uniform, power and authority.
Anyone who has lived in Britain for a few or more years could write a book on the absurd ways of maintaining order there. I saw with my own eyes a train station security guard demanding a girl to take off her earphones. And for what reason? ‘Should there be a security warning, you may not hear it’. He looked stupidly satisfied with his power and his being a little chief of the station platform. Luckily, the girl was wise enough not to argue with him.
In some public areas, similarly, these folks try to show they should be reckoned with by telling people not to take pictures, that it is forbidden to do so here. Sometimes they can be shown their place by replying that there is no such rule here and by suggesting calling the police if there is a problem. Then they usually leave, with their tails tucked.
The sporting fans, however, have no understanding of how to behave in particular circumstances and in whose hands the preponderance of power is in each case. Rights without power amount to little. Driving the main road, you may have priority over the asphalt roller coming from the side road. But should you crash into it, it will be you and not the roller who will suffer more.
Lithuanian fans don’t seem to understand that once caught on cameras of the yellow press and following the headlines such as ‘Lithuanians make Nazi salutes and remain ignored by the police’, they are in the game which they cannot but lose.
The yellow press does not particularly like the redneck workhorses, just as it doesn’t like other Eastern Europeans. Whether rationally or not, is of no importance here. It doesn’t. But they cannot say it (‘the country is full of them!’) until they have a good reason.
But when there is a reason, and even a picture, you can hit those gastarbeiters from the Eastern Europe with twice as much force. Then it doesn’t matter that among the English fans themselves you are likely to find folks next to which Lithuanian fans are innocent as lambs. Doesn’t matter at all. The tone is set by a newspaper, and the police will of course not want to be blamed for irresponsible leniency – ‘Nazis are on the loose, and you are not doing anything about it!’
Then it is of no importance whether those involved really are Nazis, or whether they actually share any racist intent.
Yes, Great Britain is particularly – sometimes even comically, absurdly – sensitive towards anything that resembles offense against other person on racial or religious grounds. Examples range from banning Christmas in hospitals so as to avoid offending the Muslims, to official warning for the schoolboy’s parents because he asked his teacher whether the reason for her dark skin is her African origins (‘no, dear kid, I only sunbathed a lot’).
The country, which is often haunted by its centuries-long colonial past, ill at ease with its diminished role in the world as well as powerlessness against the hardworking, aggressive and zealous foreigners, many a time is childish and irrational. A book such as Kazys Binkis’ Jonas at the Gypsies (‘Jonas pas čigonus’), were it translated into English, would cause rage and require a lot of explaining if shown to England’s militant defenders of equality of rights.
At the time of event so important as the long-anticipated Olympic games with participants from all over the world (moreover, the event in which security is a serious issue due to negligence of the organisers and where everything related to it is therefore a considerable sore), all the reactions become but more impulsive.
In a case as questionable as this one, no one pays much regard: the judiciary is automatically on the side of the other skin colour. If something might be considered a racial offence, considered it will be; we have seen an example in point. Furthermore, even the law says that offence may be considered racial if the victim thinks it was committed on racial grounds. The validity of such claims is to be decided in court.
Lithuanian fans have two sensible options: either to behave themselves and avoid trouble, or not go to the Olympics at all. There is no other option.
Just as in the airport: if you want to fly, don’t joke about bombs in the luggage. Otherwise you will be made an example and spend a few days in the dungeon. It will be you who’s guilty, not the airport staff – despite your better sense of humour.
There is no right to do as your habits and understanding tell you and go unpunished – neither in England, nor anywhere else.
If you want to avoid trouble and spending thousands on fines, you should know and understand this much.
Understanding can be improved by some research. Before going to London, ask not the bearded clowns from the crowd of fans or the fat-bellied co-drinkers at the pub; ask those who know better. But of course it would be naïve, at the very least, to expect such effort from persons who are now shrugging their shoulders and feel having stood for truth in an unequal battle with the darned judiciary of the darned England.
One can only hope that at least the fear of losing some dough on fines will help other fans realise that it is the owner who sets the rules in the yard which isn’t yours. They may thank Petras Leščinskas for this useful – albeit expensive – life lesson.