Sarcastic freedom

Marija Pavleska

When one writes just before the end of the year, the written usually refers to two things. First, to summarize the most important events that have occurred in the past twelve months, and then to wish for greater success and health; while the dreamers may wish clean air in the year ahead.
Considering how many things are happening here, maybe there’s no need to recapitulate (we know what’s happening to us). However, thinking of year 2018, we can notice an extremely interesting phenomenon.

Last September, Macedonia was the host of a record number of politicians from around the world. We chose the wrong flag of some of the politicians’ countries, and the right one to some. We even introduced some of them with our skills of sweeping the red carpet with a wooden broom. During their visits, they had meetings with our Government, our opposition, and some of them even visited the President.

But what began as a trend as early as mid-October seems endless even in the last days of December. So, on October 17, Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias resigned from his post. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited us in September on Independence Day, and thus made her first official visit of a German Chancellor in the history of Macedonia, with the exception of Schroeder’s short stay in 1999; only ten days after Kotzias’s statement on October 29, she announced that this was her last term as Chancellor of Germany and as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

The latest resignation on December 21 is the one of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who was Macedonia’s guest in September. Although the three politicians have cited their own reasons for their decision of resignation, I still like to believe that this decision was made after the stepping onto our land, and later came their complications or disagreements with the politicians in their countries.
When one sees the political situation in Macedonia, it becomes embarrassing to want to be (or to call yourself) a politician, or even an intellectual.

What is most defeating is that you do not want to be a young person in Macedonia. According to the latest research by the Center for Research and Policy Making (CRPM), 76.7 percent of young people living in the Republic of Macedonia are considering moving away. Research as the key reason for evicting young people indicates the poor quality of life. Hence, they point out that although the poor quality of life is associated with poor material conditions, the social atmosphere of political and economic insecurity plays an important role, as is the perception of a poor educational system and the existence of discrimination. Under bad materials conditions, they stress that unemployment is not so much a factor, as the inadequate or insufficiently paid work, as well as poor working conditions.

And young people are right, because doctors and educators will receive barely five percent increase in wages in September 2019, while members of the Judicial Council can grant wage allowances to themselves in the amount of 21,000 denars or 35 percent.

William Zinsser, a former New York Herald Tribune journalist, said: “It’s a fitting irony that under Richard Nixon “launder” became a dirty word.” We used to say that “justice” has become a dirty word, under the rule of the previous government. Unfortunately, even today in Macedonia, only justice is dirtier than the air we breathe.

While we are at the topic of clean air or at least a somewhat purified air, it is interesting as the first people of the Ministry of Environment, before kicking off emergency measures against extreme pollution, they would rather wait for some wind to blow. When money to fight pollution is limited (1.6 or possibly two million euros), it must be spared. It’s defeating when instead of strategies to cope with extreme pollution, the authorities are determined to wait for the wind to clean the air.
Such statements by politicians must be archived in special folders that will be immediately within reach, when they try to convince us that new buildings should pop up instead of planting trees in and endemic parks across cities; when they sign the opening mines with both hands, and when they allow digging and destroying of Vodno – as the only place in Skopje where you can see sunlight during winter.

But you do not have to search through the archives. It is quite enough to read the latest news that will ensure you that the protection of the environment is far from the priorities of any government. On Thursday (December 24th) the news was echoed that a forest engineer was replaced with a lawyer as the head of one of the three national parks in our country.

I often refer to the Czech Republic’s history while speaking of Macedonia’s present.

In its history, we have a lot of examples of professionals, who for many years had to work in professions far from their education. Philosophers who were allowed to work as night guards (Jiří Němec); radio reporters employed as workers in the hot water plant (Jiří Dienstbier); journalists and writers, who lost their right to publish articles and books, became librarians, and members of the Academy of Sciences became proofreaders in the printing press.

In his ‘Animal Farm’, Orwell wrote – “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” If we need to assess today’s freedom, is it not best to call it “sarcastic freedom” or a translation of freedom that wants to tease, mock, haunt everything that we think freedom is. Freedom in which all are equal, but some “activists”, daughters, sons, spouses are more equal than others.

Finding a bit of enthusiasm after all that we’ve been through in the past year is really hard. With what’s left of our energy, despite the increase in wages higher than five percent for our doctors, teachers and defenders, as well as favorable winds that will disperse heavy clouds, in 2019 we also want a little culture that will spread awareness. In order for culture to keep us aware, we first must invest in education. But that should be definitely done after January 11. This recommended break from work of teachers and other employees in the primary and secondary schools is in order to reduce the costs of heating the school buildings. We have to cut costs, because instead of clearing the air, air purifiers are installed that also use electricity. Only in some classrooms, of course.

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