Welcome to 2016. Let’s not waste too much time and energy looking back at 2015 because some pretty sad stuff happened. For example, there was this raccoon found dead somewhere in Canada all of the sudden. But luckily we’ve all moved on to the new year and a new start means new opportunities. If you believe in these kinds of cycles, that is. For all we know it could also be a case of ‘same shit, different year’, and in the same way we are aware of the fact that some people might be following a different calendar such as the ISO 8601 ordinal date system, but let’s pretend we are all on the same page here.
Okay, you as a No-Yolo reader probably already wholeheartedly agree, but if you haven’t already broadened your European outlook by looking east, then this year will be the perfect time to start doing so. The East is the new West. The East is the new black. The new new Star Wars movie. Dare we even say the new avocado?
As the people of the United States are getting ready for the bound-to-be-mental presidential elections later this year, Eastern Europe is preparing to continue dealing with streams of refugees, as well as safeguarding its position at the top of the world’s cabbage producers and nailing the Eurovision song contest. Being the kid in the classroom suffering from an exceptionally short attention span and compulsive kleptomania, No-Yolo got bored of conventional, sensible, predictable new year’s resolutions that show a complete lack of imagination. Therefore, we present to you: Probable New Year’s Resolutions of Eastern European Leaders for making this year a success. Or a failure, possibly in disguise, because the beauty of this part of the world is: you never know. Let’s talk more next year.
Hungary: “Pissing off the Romanians by proceeding to build a border fence.”
Building a wall to separate your territory from that of your neighbours, especially within an EU context which is supposed to have freedom of movement and all, is quite an aggressive statement. But of course Viktor Orbán is not exactly known for his sense of grace and subtlety. And as he is not very fond of refugees from the Middle East entering ‘his’ green Hungarian pastures, or whatever landscape it is they have over there, through neighbouring countries, and since building a fence apparently is his answer to everything, he decided to erect a barb-wired barrier along the Romanian border. After all, the one separating Hungary from Serbia has already been completed and the wall on the Croatian side is in progress. Sounds like Iron Curtain 2.0? Yep. But Orbán is also Iron Man 2.0, Hungarian style. On your next visit to Budapest, make sure to bring your sunglasses to shield your eyes from the ever so bright ignorance and intolerance which is radiating from the Prime Ministerial office.
Estonia: “Having a kick-ass gay-themed honeymoon with my new wife.”
Hey Estonia, congratulation on the facts that, as from this year, same-sex couples living together will be recognized officially and get -almost- the same legal protection as heterosexual couples! We also find your president Toomas Hendrik Ilves quite fascinating. The bow tie wearing former journalist/psychologist/diplomat and noted Twitter enthusiast got married for the third time on the 2nd of January, just one day after the new law for gay couples went into effect. Not that he marryied a dude, as same-sex marriage is still non-existent in Estonia, but to be the husband of the head of the cybersecurity division of the Latvian Defense Ministry is also pretty pretty cool. Even though the ceremony itself was said to be low-key and family-only, we imagine that during their honeymoon, they will dance to bad Dutch techno with the coolest of Baltic gay couples and celebrate Estonia’s status of being the most diversity-tolerant state of the former USSR.
Poland: “Getting rid of democracy and installing an authoritarian regime.”
Since president Andrzej Duda signed a law just before the new year which is meant to basically curb the whole idea of the rule of law, a substantial part of the country and indeed the whole of Europe is worried shitless about the future of democracy in Poland. Not only did the government install one-third of the judges serving the highest legislative court, now they proceed to interfere with the way rulings are made as well. Imagine all the fun prospects for this year! Orbánisation (see above) is also happening in Poland and before you know it, we will all be spitting on liberal democracy and becoming fiercely nationalistic and those kinds of situations have never made anyone’s life any better, y’all.
Russia: “Creating another perfume with my name on it. Or a range of beach towels. Maybe both, why not. Either way: expand my personality cult emporium.”
Did you know Vladimir Putin has a perfume inspired by him available in Moscow’s most luxurious department store? Neither did we, but, probably like you, we are not surprised. A shirtless Putin action doll riding a bear? Of course it exists. Vlad-tryoshka dolls, knitting patterns featuring Vladimir’s face, submarine toys featuring him as steersman to replace your rubber duck whilst taking a bath: yes.
As a free service to Putin (and perhaps also a subtle attempt to make obtaining a Russian visa slightly easier for us), we would like to suggest the following merchandise for Mr President this year: the Putin home antibiotics kit, as a strong, healthy nation is in everybody’s interest; the Putin ‘Learn German At Home’ app where he showcases his fluent German and teaches you every phrase you need to know to be able to defeat Angela Merkel during a martial arts class in Berlin; and last but not least the Putin canine cuddly toy, because even strong masculine leaders have a soft spot for cute dogs.
Belarus: “Improving Gérard Depardieu’s scything skills because last time he was rubbish.”
Gotta love Gérard Depardieu. The human incarnation of Obelix knows how to ruffle some feathers. By accepting Russian citizenship and starting a bromance with the world’s most popular bare-chested bear wrestler; by bragging he drinks 14 bottles of wine a day (what do you expect from a Russian Frenchman?); by insulting his birth soil, threatening to hand back his French passport whilst taking up residence in the Siberian Republic of Mordovia, and subsequently being offered the seat of Minister of Culture there. But, mind you, Mr Depardieu also has a very down-to-earth, simple, rural side to him: during his surprise visit to the Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko last year, the two amigos obviously had a gay old time during their hours of planned outdoor activities. Aleksandr and Gérard were drinking homemade vodka together, hand-scything grass together and discussed organic farm produce together. However, judging from the lovely images the world saw following the informal meeting, Gérard could do with some extra practice scything the tough Belarusian grass. Luckily his close friend Aleksandr has a lot of time on his hands this year, after securing his fifth term in office last October and not having to worry about a thing until 2020.
What we are trying to tell you is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up over gaining weight, turning into an alcoholic, or becoming even lazier this year. Do not bother sorting yourself out, taking up a torturous type of yoga or pretending to enjoy integrating foodstuffs into your cooking routine no sensible being has ever even heard of, but hey, you saw them on Instagram so they must exist. As long as you are kind to your inner Slav, 2016 will turn out all right.
May the East be with you. Happy 2016!