Dumpster diving for pensioners, market stands for MPs

Ilo Trajkovski

The educational profession is a noble one. It enriches the students, as well as the educators. When one is committed to their work, works with quality and in a professional manner, it adds a new value to the most important development resource – human knowledge. As explained in the neo-capitalism vocabulary: the educational profession breeds human capital. I repeat this thought whenever I face an obstacle that hinders my mission as a university professor. I am sure that the rest of my colleagues act similarly, either they are colleagues from universities or from the secondary or primary schools, who despite their numerous working and status frustrations persistently and diligently perform their profession. According to one of France’s most prominent sociologists, Pierre Bourdieu, the educational system or educational field is the social space in which contemporary societies produce their institutionalized cultural and human capital.

Educational workers are creators of the cultural and human capital that modern societies have and their survival and development depends on. Each educator is aware of this social mission of the profession. But how can we valorize it in conditions where the various forms of financial and political capital have a main word in the public sphere, but also in the educational space itself. Money and politics are extruding the knowledge and humanity from classrooms too? To describe this process, I will pass on a recent classroom experience, and which I remembered these days following the latest events, reading about the announced expulsion of pensioners from the food markets, on the one hand, as well as for the efforts of several MPs from the Macedonian Parliament to provide significant privileges after the completion of their terms.
At one of my classes we discussed the political goals of the previous government’s measures to improve the well-being of pensioners. The free public transport for pensioners on certain days was taken as an example. I was stunned by the statements of some students, describing pensioners as filthy, disgusting, aggressive and mutually opposed to young people! They described their immediate experiences with this category of population in city buses as if they were saving themselves from gas chambers, but without feeling sorry for those who remained inside! It was even more baffling that other students just cynically smirked as a reaction of such statements. By smirking at their statements, it was as if they provoked their colleagues to describe their contempt for pensioners and elderly people in city buses even more fiercely.

In order to point out that such assessments are not only inhumane, but also sociologically unreasonable, socially unsustainable and that there is no place in the minds of students for such thoughts, I reminded them that they too are grandsons and granddaughters to their grandfathers or grandmothers, that their parents one day will be pensioners too, and that, one day, they too will retire and acquire the status of pensioners.

I am aware that this phenomenon has much wider dimensions. The phenomenon of stigmatization of old age and aging in advanced countries is well-known. But there is something else here. Such statements revealed an elementary conflict between two age categories over which one to survive, and which should die! Our society is in a state of a wolf pack. Take from others all you can and as much as you can – money, reputation, their wife or husband and their life, why not!

I have recognized this predatory philosophy in two current legal projects – one in the form of a law in the implementation procedure, and the other in the form of a proposal for passing a law. The first is the Law on Trade in Food Markets, and the second is a proposal by some Members of Parliament to pass a law on the status of MPs after the end of their terms.

According to the first law, if implemented, starting January 1, 2019 natural persons who earn income on the basis of employment, contract work, pension, social assistance and unemployment compensation during unemployment will not be able to sell in the food markets as traders. Therefore, employees, pensioners, social workers and unemployed people will not be allowed to work on market stands. On this occasion, statements given by people working on market stands, who in this legal solution see an opportunity for themselves, reminded me of my students’ statements about pensioners in city buses – the worse for them, the better for me, and vice versa! According to them, this legal solution is better because pensioners bother them, they are stealing away some of their earnings!

The second announced law would provide employment in the state administration for MPs after the end of their term – at the appropriate level, of course. This one or similar project was in the previous parliamentary composition of the Macedonian Assembly. One even ended up before the Constitutional Court. The current proposal is initiated by the same lawmakers who voted and passed the law by the end of 2017, by which pensioners and social workers are being thrown out of the market stands and are directed to the dumpsters.

Probably, knowing that the dumpsters in the future will be too occupied with pensioners as their new users, the Parliament Speaker defended the right of the lawmakers to fight for their own benefits. He made it clear that MPs cannot go through dumpsters after their term has ended, and should therefore be provided with jobs in the state administration by law. We wonder why the initiators of this bill did not offer the vacant stands of the food markets to the lawmakers after they kick out all pensioners and welfare users from there. Therefore, they will not go through dumpsters, but will work for something they have both knowledge and experience. Our MPs, with some exceptions, if any, have proven many times so far that they are skillful bargainers. We see their skills in action every day. Especially these past few days.

In the battle to secure a parliamentary majority for constitutional amendments, and thus its own existence, the government has offered opposition MPs to buy out their vote. The real price is a publicly known secret. The nominal price is generally known – amnesty for some of their crimes. Thus, the amnestied lawmakers voted for their own amnesty! Instead of being representatives and advocates of the interests and needs of the citizens, they have stood up for themselves! They do the same with the latest draft law. It seems that in our parliament parliamentary status is only a legal and political fiction. Dumpsters and market stands remain the harsh realities for the citizens!

Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik