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Single-Handed Delusion

Alexander Lukashenko is the self-described “last and only dictator in Europe.”

He has had a strong 27-year run as the authoritarian President of Belarus. Though the nation does, technically, have an election every five years, Lukashenko has remarkably never lost.

When he was re-elected in 2010 (under suspicious voting conditions), thousands took to the streets of Minsk in protest. More than 700 people were arrested and many were sentenced to fifteen-years in prison.

So, the protesters changed tact. They would appear in the streets every Wednesday. They held no signs. They didn’t chant. In fact, they didn’t say a word.

They clapped.

Surely, no one could be arrested for clapping, right?


Lukashenko sent his law enforcement cronies to arrest those guilty of applause.

One such “criminal” was Konstantin Kaplin.

He asserted his innocence – as had many others – claiming he was only there to take pictures of the protest. The difference, though, was that Kaplin had proof of his innocence.

He only has one arm.

He literally can’t clap.

The police, though, were in a difficult position. Lukashenko didn’t take kindly to insubordination, so they arrested Kaplin anyways and testified in court that Kaplin was, indeed, clapping – despite lacking a second hand (an indisputable requirement for clapping).

To further the irony of the situation, Kaplin’s fine was more than double what he received from the government each month for being unable to work due to his disability.

Lukashenko (and his subordinates) weren’t driven by truth – they were driven by an ideology.

And when the truth inconveniently conflicted with their ideology, they chose their ideology. They convicted a one-armed man for clapping because it served their cause.

I know this is a crazy story.

But I’m not sure we don’t do this.

We have our biases, our pre-commitments, our ideologies, and we get uncomfortable when we encounter a truth that doesn’t align with or support what we’ve already decided we believe.

We often conveniently ignore what’s right in front of us if it doesn’t serve our cause.

Where is your ideology bumping up against reality? What truth are you ignoring?

We all do it. But when we hold fast to our biases, pre-commitments, and ideologies at the expense of the truth we will inevitably hurt ourselves and others.

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