"Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide."
Friedrich von Hayek
Matter matters, existence exists. Yes, but...
Sometimes some people appear and start to challenge the reality or what is widely believed to be a reality in a given society. They may look inconsistent and misguided. What they do, may seem to have no practical effect. They do strange things and may look strange themselves. In fact, they are very ordinary people, just as so many others. They see the same reality that is seen to all others. They just do not accept it. Not because they do not fit in, but because they are fed-up. Their imagination goes far beyond the knowledge which the reality could provide them with. They are driven by their internal energy of curiosity and courage. Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade are such people. But what does this mean?
Some say that Emin and Adnan are youth activists. Yes, they are young and active. But they are more than just youth activists. They are youth activators. The have been able to drive others almost effortlessly. However, they are neither leaders, nor managers; neither politicians, nor campaigners; neither journalists, nor dissidents. It is hard to pigeonhole them and that is not a problem of their image. It is rather a problem of extremely limited social and political opportunities in Azerbaijan. There is not much room for self-identification, as many believe that things are ready-made and pre-determined. But Emin and Adnan do not believe that.
Others say that they are bloggers. Well, to an extent this is true. They were writing a lot, shooting videos, making speeches, etc. But even here they do not entirely belong to. Emin and Adnan have been in constant search. Not for places, but for opportunities. That search has never been pragmatic. They did not seek career. They were trying to find themselves, the truest search one has to be engaged in. But how one can find oneself in a society which denies opportunities? Emin and Adnan did not waste their time for conceptualising this problem. They intuitively came up with a solution – in order to get an opportunity for oneself, one has to create opportunity for others. This egocentric motto eventually boosted them into political discourse.
Emin and Adnan have managed to create networks, both locally and globally. Interestingly, their international relations appear to be more diverse and strong than domestic ones. That is so not so much because they got their education abroad and had worked in or with international organizations or companies, as because social relations in Azerbaijan are dominated by authoritarian patterns. Those patterns can hardly be changed from the top, as the government in Azerbaijan is getting more and more oppressive. So, no hope for good will of the rulers. What to do, then?
Surely, Emin and Adnan are not the first, or the brightest, or the bravest or the strongest in Azerbaijan to enter into the fight for liberalization of social relations. Ironically, they have never pretended that. But somehow, they became to be regarded this way by many young people who ever met them and had an opportunity to talk to them or read them. What makes them different? The idea they believe in and follow – the idea of networking.
Network, itself being a matter of principle for them, deconstructs certain deeply rooted perceptions. Emin and Adnan believe that it helps to empower personality by entrenching self-confidence, stimulating critical thinking, motivating initiatives, providing space for opposing views, etc. Network cannot lead and for that reason, they believe, it won't be able to mislead. Choices make the network and network enhances the choice-making. Network is not something to be joined. It is rather something to be enjoyed. Network cannot have goals, but it does have cumulative effects.
Network is a marketplace of ideas. It does not belong to anyone, and there are no founders or leaders, properly speaking. There is no deviation here, as there is no mainstream. So many different young people have been engaged in whatever they have chosen to do. In a society, every segment and structure of which discourage choosing, that means a lot. Network reaches the wider audience of those, who are originally from rural regions, who don't speak any foreign language, who don't have enough understanding of what's going on in the world. They are limited within the narrow discourse that Azerbaijani language can provide. They had long felt depressed and oppressed not only by political situation, but also by family rules, gender and age discrimination, lack of adequate social conditions, etc. Network helps them to get individualised. Isolation and loneliness kills any motivation. It can only be cured by the culture of participation. But in order to feel participation, i.e. to be a participant, one needs to feel self-confidence and not to be afraid of making mistakes.
Goals are important, but goals cannot do much, if one does not keep in touch. Network lacks any goal-setting or dispute-solving mechanism. But it does provide for very wide communicating opportunities. Instead of immediately uniting around a leader or a goal, network stimulates critical re-assessment of previously held ideas and beliefs. Most importantly, it does so without coercion or indoctrination. Students simply have been getting used to challenging others and being challenged by others. Unfortunately, but families, schools, universities do not provide for such a format. Network does. It does it slowly, but surely.
Emin and Adnan not only believed in the idea of network, they were at the very foundation of the two most famous youth networks – “AN” and “OL”. Those networks may seem to be full of day-dreamers, utopians, or even losers (depends on who assesses and how). But it does have immediate touch with the wider public, as students spread the ideas in a geometric progression. It is certainly not an avalanche yet, but nor is it a snowball already. It is a slippery-slope towards weakening the authoritarian structures of our society.
Emin and Adnan are information brokers. Many young people pay attention to what Emin and Adnan has been writing or saying. Sometimes they were controversial, because reflected their search of themselves. Emin and Adnan were searching for opportunities to be benefited from by many others. Their search had a multiplying effect. When that effect extended the threshold of government’s ignorance, it became an irritating factor for the system.
Continuing irritation at some point may be perceived as a threat, provided that political freedoms are denied. Emin and Adnan have always been talking and writing about dialogue, culture of participation. How do you do that in an authoritarian system? Partly, by criticising the government. Emin has become particularly very outspoken. Yes, he, as well as Adnan, has always been politically neutral. Neither Emin, nor Adnan has ever taken sides in power politics. But they have never been ignorant. They have had a devotion to their country and a vision for its future. They publicly expressed disagreements on many things the government did or does. But there are many people in Azerbaijan who do the same. Why, again, Emin and Adnan are different?
The answer lies in information technology, sense of time, personal curiosity and wider connections. Emin and Adnan have been targeted by the government, because the government could not comprehend what they were doing. The fact that Emin and Adnan had been arrested clearly showed that the preference of many young people to be engaged in networks, rather than old-styled organizations, became a visible trend.
Emin and Adnan have become icons of networking. Their arrest, as the government may think, could possibly be aimed at destroying the niche for such a format. Not being able to identify the process, the government personalized it and criminalized the persons ahead of it. The fabricated accusation of hooliganism is typical response in such cases. No need for legal arguments here, as everything is evident.
Network is invisible, though not hidden.
Network is inclusive, though not given.
Network is neutral, though is driven.
Network is free and cannot be forbidden.