symbol of prosperity

We officially have a symbol of prosperity, it's a four hundred year old olive tree.

A 400 year-old olive tree planted on Rustaveli Avenue

A 400 year-old olive tree has replaced a young plane tree in the center of Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi. The tree has a long history and it is a present which Georgia's Catholicos Patriarch has recieved from Italy. ''This tree is a symbol of Georgia's prosperity,'' Catholicos-Patriarch, Ilia II announced today. His Holiness blessed the olive tree and attended the process of planting today.

Winston called me a cynic when I said that the tree does not have much left to live. There are many ways that may happen, and that is not the point of the post. Just to make things clear, I have no intention of taking any part of assisting the tree's demise.

Point I am trying to make here is about the symbol itself. It is un-Georgian. We have to stop clinging to other nations' core values and making them ours. We should develop our own instead. Georgian language has a word for olive, and it's a very interesting word ზეთისხილი (zetiskhili). Literally, it means fruit of oil. But ზეთი (zeti) itself is a borrowed word and source of the borrowing is olive in Turkish. It is probably because we are not Mediterranean, and probably because preferred grease of Georgia has been ერბო (erbo), same thing that Indians call ghee, and is known in the West as clarified butter.

Why would one establish a tree that is clearly non-Georgian as a symbol of anything? Is that because we already sold every forest that bears traditionally Georgian trees, and we are forced to import symbolism? Or is it because the only way we see ourselves as a part of the European family is to have same symbols?

First we favor word ტოლერანტობა (tolerantoba) instead of already existing Georgian word შემწყნარებლობა (shemtsknarebloba), then we overlook Amirani in favor of Prometheus, now we adopt Olive tree as the symbol of prosperity. What is next?


Anonymous said...

First, glad to see you've enabled comments.

Second Zet is certainly not Turkish in origin. My first feeling was that it was Armenian (it's the same word in Armenian too) but Google searches seem to put it as Semitic. Given the early contact between Georgians, Jews Mongols and Arabs zet probably didn't enter Georgian from Turkish either.

I also want to make a comment about your idea of that importation of ideas, words, etc from abroad is not good for Georgia. Actually, I have two comments.

What I find disturbing about this is the one-sidedness of the exchange. If foreigners were as interested in Georgia (just to use an example, I could just as easily say Armenia or Russia and so on) as Georgians are in other America, Russia, Europe and so on, I would be quite happy. As it stands though, I can't say that I'm pleased, but the blame has to fall on the non-Georgians. Just exactly WHY aren't others interested in Georgia? How come everybody at work in Ottawa just doesn't care?

The second point is about something that you didn't directly address: will the assimilation that you speak of lead to "the death of Georgian culture".

Maybe, but it really does depend on how you define cultural death. By means of assimilation, Georgian culture may well (is) developing at a tremendous pace right now, and it may well be unrecognizable in a century or so. This is one form of death. Arguably though, as long as Georgians are a distinct group, then this isn't death but development. A different situation is when Georgians give up their own culture adopt another one seeing themselves as full members of that culture. In this scenario Georgians do not survive as a distinct group.

The first scenario (for the reasons you give) seems likely, the second very unlikely.

GL - GL@Mimino.Org, GL.Mimino.Org

Vladimer Shioshvili said...

Well, I am glad I have enabled comments :)

Knowing you Greg, I expect this discussion to drag on, so maybe I should encourage it.

My fault, I should have done simple google search to get the origin of Zet, but I was too lazy...

I don't think you understood me correctly, I was not and never will be against importing ideas, words or anything else from abroad in order to enhance one's culture. I am not suggesting that people should be only eating ghee, and refuse olive oil because it's un-Georgian.

I am against importing something when there is already have a fully functional alternative. That's why I mention Amirani vs Prometheus. Amirani was a demi-God who decided to challenge gods and was punished for it. Neither Amirani nor Prometheus are part of the Christian doctrine, and both are pagan. So, why Prometheus? Also, I have nothing against olive trees. However, if you one is trying to evoke symbolism, Oak tree would be more acceptable in my opinion.

To me it seems like they go through so much effort to please the West that they will eventually manage to kill Georgian culture.

Anonymous said...

I think actually I did understand you correctly.

The point is that imported things are different and hence "better". Georgians don't like their own versions because they're home grown. This doesn't bother me, like it bothers you.

I wish my co-workers had the same appreciation of foreign stuff that Georgians do. Nobody is interested here.

What bothers me is the lack of symmetry.

And how to deal with the lack of symmetry is the question. Georgia can't re-educate the whole world can it? To stop the one way exchange because it's not two way seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I don't know what the right answer is.

And this discussion reminds about a Russian friend of mine who pretty much 100% agrees with you. For him a word is just plain better if it's Slavonic. He particularly hates it when a perfectly valid slavonic word is replaced with a imported word. (подробтости/детали, забронировать/резервировать). Him and his friends had a band for a while and ALL their songs were written without ANY borrowed words. He says it sounded great.

GL - GL@Mimino.Org, GL.Mimino.Org

Marda said...

Maybe you look the world in too much of complicated manner. Though i agree that planting the olive tree there was rather symbolic. I think it was done by the government that they do "holy" stuff and the church supports them. Anyway, i will be missing "chadari" there, the olive tree looks so helpless compared to the old "chadari".

I enjoy reading your blog a lot

Anonymous said...

Since I have been reading this blog for a while, I feel like involving myself in this discussion. As a foreigner working time after time in Georgia, and above all, loving this country a lot, I am sometimes awfully struck by how positively Georgians view foreigners and their ideas. That's a very positive quality but it should not come in combination with a sort of inferiority complex. I believe that culture, at least nowadays, is so much of a mix of all different things that what we may reject today will seem all obvious to our children, or so I hope. My conviction is that there is nothing like a purely "Georgian" natural identity, just as in my own country there is nothing like an Austrian identity, because we are such a mix of all kind of ethnicities. And that's good. I feel it makes us richer, if we accept it. But I also think no one should take over symbols because they seem more "valid" than our own ones, or what we have come to believe are our own ones. It's all a matter of perception. But main thing is we see ourselves as part of that bigger entity, humanity, than with a national stamp