I have heard one accurate thought that the real PR is a profession of a democratic and open society. The more the society is democratic, the more efficient, open, professional, etc., can public relations be. Otherwise, the more the society is autocratic, the more communication tends to turn towards propaganda. Thus it would be fair to say that movement from autocracy towards democracy is also the movement from propaganda to PR. What is the situation in Lithuania?
Unfortunately I have to admit that our society still isn’t tolerant. On the contrary, there are many inexplicable manifestations when domestic violence is tolerated, however a vast majority opposes sexual minorities, black people, etc. Thus it is obvious that a majority of people have distorted values. And this is not surprising: the truth is that when a person is locked no matter where – in prison, in a country, in depths of a countryside or somewhere else – he automatically develops a rejection reaction to everything that seems unusual to his environment. Because of those 50 years of occupation all this is so strongly rooted in the Lithuanian society that even when engaged in the PR practice this problem is encountered very often.
I constantly get to see intolerance to any different opinion. In such a case a person has his own conviction, which very rarely is based on something objective. However, this conviction cannot practically be changed, as a person perceives any alternative as a bad one. This means that the more open the society is, the more our work as communication specialists is valuable, useful, and the easier it can be developed. While when working in an intolerant environment it is really hard to provide our services to such society. And in general even though tolerance is widely discussed in Lithuania, in reality a person accepting the world as diverse as it really is and living among like-minded people can often be unpleasantly surprised seeing that the majority of the society is absolutely intolerant and, seemingly, perceives same things contrarily. Various manifestations of such intolerance look very painful and tasteless, thus one starts thinking that it might be worth engaging in public relations for promoting tolerance itself in Lithuania.
Last time such a thought crossed my mind during the European Basketball Championship, when I accidentally took a glance at Facebook, where I did not expect to see and hear that much. The page was bursting with comments about black French and explanations that the European champions already are the champions of Africa, and all other nonsense. Taking a step deeper this can be seen in almost all areas: domestic violence, hatred to people of different nationalities, blacks, gays – all these are birds of a feather emerged since ancient times. After all, witches were burnt on fires in the past just like eggs or other items are thrown at gays nowadays. The reason for that is a foreign body, something that looks unusual, emerged in the society. And where did the democracy go? The fact is that the previously existent societies cannot be called democratic, as some king, duke, etc. ruled back then. And no PR existed there – just propaganda dominated back then: catholic, royal, Soviet, etc., when holding a different opinion meant bane. Thus, a question arises how should our society of today be called? Unfortunately, what we are currently observing and are faced with can be named as manifestations of underdeveloped “old-school” society.
I believe that we, Lithuanians, were very close to European values, but later on, in Soviet times, took a large step back. And now we are in “in transition” state trying to pump out of ourselves all that nonsense that we had been instilled for all those 50 years of Soviet occupation, and trying to break free from all of eastern culture. Yes, the good news is that we are moving towards a tolerant society. Meanwhile, while we are on the move, we have to talk and engage in discussions about that as much as possible.