I have already talked about why PR is necessary in Lithuania for the promotion of tolerance. With the majority of our society finding it hard to accept various manifestations of diversity, “piar” activities in themselves are much more difficult to develop. So how is work performed in such an environment and what problems we as communication specialists face?
First of all it is worth mentioning that when we live in an environment where it is impossible to hear many opinions or only one of them can be heard (as it was in the Soviet Union, in which we used to live), thus it is not even worth talking about PR. In such a case, a propaganda society, where everything is based on one approach, is dominating. Currently, when the Lithuanian mentality is developing from the Soviet thinking towards normal and right society, i.e. open society determined to accept a different perspective as well, “piar” services are becoming more diverse. In such an environment we can find for our activities much more colours, words and sounds, actions and attractions and whatever one may think of, while such activities in a closed society would be much more difficult. However, manifestations of intolerance still very prevalent in our society make the actual possibilities of PR activities more difficult.
When wiling to tell to the public something new, give them new ideas that are good, well-used in other countries and develop a discussion on that, we are often faced with a problem, which can be identified as a “total rejection”. People are not ready to listen to what’s new, because this fact alone sounds like something scary, bad, incomprehensible, thus, no normal discussion is possible here. It could start only once a person acquires certain education, reads some number of books, gets to know and sees the wider world. A discussion is simply not possible with a person who is not ready for it. The truth is that usually the discussion cannot evolve when people who are educated, have seen a lot and are open to the world try to engage in it with those who are reserved, poorly educated and have little comprehension of the world. This can also be observed between countries, when so-called high-trust societies cannot find a common language with low-trust societies. This is the reason why Lithuania is often struggling when communicating with the Scandinavian countries or Russia – each of them is talking from the stance of their societies, where tolerance is perceived quite differently.
And different attitudes form very easily. Let’s say, if a kid who acts in school somewhat differently than usual is constantly mocked, he is likely to be scared to stand out from his peers in the future and will have a complex for his entire life. Same goes for the society – if it is constantly instilled with an idea that only customary and traditional things are good, any deviations from these standards will be rejected. Thus, in such a case PR activities become very complicated, because you have to choose to either develop it as it is acceptable to that society, or you will immediately face a counter reaction. In Lithuania we are constantly observing this: Chevron coming to Lithuania, nuclear power plant, sexual minorities and many different ideas that are new in principle are quickly rejected. What’s worst is that it is very easy to slip a thought to a society viewing things from such a perspective that all this must be resisted. We won’t name out loud those slipping such a thought, but it probably goes without saying that we have some unfriendly-minded neighbours, who, living in such environment themselves, are well-aware of principles of the intolerant society. It is enough to threaten these people with atom, Chernobyl, Fukushima, show a picture of burning water running from a tap, and they stop thinking, close up and start resisting it all. It is enough to show a family consisting of two women instead of a father and a mother, and a person blocks up, all this is terrifying him, seems unusual and he starts to immediately protest, there is no room for discussion and no PR evolves in such a case. However, besides all this the same person can absolutely calmly pass a garbage dump, calmly react to the fact that his neighbours drink, and lose control of himself when his child does not have anything to eat – these are the views that aren’t that uncommon, thus resistance to them is very sluggish.
I still am trying to look at the bright side of this matter seeing that Lithuania is gradually moving towards a tolerant society. I hope that in the future with people looking into the world from a broader perspective and becoming more open to discussion, not only will the work of representatives of my profession be more interesting, but also it will be easier for them to contribute to spreading the ideas useful to society. And this is really motivating!