Now what?

Petar Arsovski

I think the conclusion that we do not know what to do with freedom is absolutely correct. But I would add, we are a little afraid of freedom. The authoritarian system creates both servants and rebels, but at the same time provides stability, an easy excuse that someone else thinks about you, that your destiny is not entirely your own responsibility. Hence, liberation as a symbolic act is significant, but in its essence, for a very significant part of the population (even a revolutionary one), it can be a daunting concept. After a while, we are facing a period in which there is no repression, but that also means there are no excuses. Liberation, by its very nature, is at the same time a process of initiation, becoming an adult, and accepting responsibility for our own actions. We have not completed this process completely, so now, as if we were looking for a new culprit, someone who would save us from our own responsibility.

Tough, unpopular and complicated steps are following. These are tied to democracy, the way of criticism and the attitude towards power in general, but at the same time accepting the consequences of maturing. I’m not just thinking about the mental catharsis that is necessary for solving the name dispute, I think of the reform processes, the changing of the mindset in which the state will not be in charge of our success or guilty of our failure, the spirit of entrepreneurship vs. the ideal of employment in the public administration, the aspiration towards their own home instead of capturing connections for “buy a house, buy an apartment”, in general the process of maturation that is necessary for the full and proper enjoyment of “liberation”.

It looks like we got stuck in this process half way. It is true that there is a freer ambience after the change of power, but it does not mean anything if it is left only to the initiative of the government which, on my opinion, we expect on our behalf to fulfill the left vacuum with instant well-being. The change of the authoritarian system is the beginning, not the end of the process of transformation of society. There is an endless amount of work ahead, if we want to create a regulated state, and most of that path leads to painful economic and social reforms, repaying old debts, painful recovery of the pension system, reducing employment in the state administration, increased taxes, reduced opportunities for getting connections, painful national compromises, but most, through a new knowledge of democratic criticism and accountability, of social dialogue, through a new redefinition of the public sphere. Perhaps the critical public at the moment is perceived as a brigade of “dogs of war”, which now, under conditions of truce, does not know what to do with its combat readiness, so there is a serious danger of being transformed into a paramilitary formation. So I’m afraid that we really do not know what to do with freedom.

But at the same time, I do not think that the government knows what to do with the government. After the storms of criticism, some justified, some hysterical, I have the impression that Zaev seems to come to know what the real problem in this discourse is. There is a disproportionate discrepancy between the nervousness, impatience, and the consequent pessimism of the critical public, and the optimism of Zen and the endless patience and optimism that radiates from Zaev. If such discrepancy continues, the gap will increase. Therefore, I think that it is necessary that the new government (it is no longer so new) to cut off its own narrative, to abandon the unrealistic promises necessary in their campaign, and to start realizing it and communicating the challenges. Zaev’s last addresses, especially those related to the pension system, as if imply that the messages that reach the government are moving in that direction. The sooner that relationship changes, the sooner it becomes real and sober, the sooner SDSM will begin to finally emerge with the image of a real-won power, and not on temporary revolutionary nomads. Not that I reduce the value of the delivery, because in the end, the government needs to deliver reforms, but I think the ambience in which this delivery will follow is also significant and will define the political capital that Zaev will exit from this process.
The second important aspect is the inclusion of the critical public in public challenges and policies. Left on their own, after the changes, the protagonists of the previous revolution now have no reason to exist. Their social role for a decade was tied to criticism, the fight against the regime, and defiance. I think that for their, and of course, social mental hygiene, it is extremely important to be as involved as possible in the reforms and policies of the new government, each in its field. It will help them find their new role in society, be useful to the new government, and certainly contribute to more quality reforms. Without tasks, there is a risk of becoming destructive looking for their own role in the new order. Alone, left without a target, they are like Spiderman: “And now what?”