Monday, August 20, 2012

POLITICAL CHARADE


Diary: August 13 - 19, 2012

Monday, August 13
Signatories of OFA, 2001
The Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) which ended the war in Macedonia in 2001 was signed on this day, 11 years ago. The OFA has been a tool for political bargaining and outsmarting since. Back then, at Civil, we were running a peace and reconciliation campaign (from day one of the war), after signing the OFA, we launched a leaflet/poster campaign (electronic media were either too expensive or too militant for our campaign): What Now? [Што сега? / Çka tash?] We were convinced that this Agreement will save the country only if it is implemented properly. I still believe that the implementation of the OFA is a unit of measurement of the political will and sincerity of political stakeholders and decision makers.
Let me give a “small” example on how OFA is rather misused. According to the Agreement and laws that derived from it, ethnic minorities have the right to proportional participation to the administration. What’s the situation on the ground?
This government became notorious for many things, including the fact that it won the race in becoming a number one employer in the country. So, instead of decreasing the number of employees in the administration and balancing the number of its employees which will reflect the ethnic composition of the country – the government opened a tremendous number of new jobs. Ethnic Macedonians got jobs first. When the Albanian coalition partner objected that, they opened even more jobs. But, there were no more work posts for Albanians. So, many Albanians are employed in the administration now, but they stay at home, receiving 70-80% of the salary. What do we get from this absurd governmental practice?
People get pissed off at those who don’t work and get paid from the taxpayers’ money. Ethnic Macedonians develop even more prejudices against ethnic Albanians, taking them for “parasites that eat their bred”. Additionally, the Macedonian part of the government somehow managed to present this as an obligation they have to fulfill because of the OFA which was “imposed by the damn terrorist Albanians backed by the NATO criminals”. If you ask a common ethnic Macedonian you will get that answer, more or less.
The process of decentralization, one of the obligations prescribed by the OFA, started in 2004, but was stopped and even reversed in some segments since 2006. The main issues of the decentralization processes now are linked to symbols (flag, language, traffic signs, streets and schools names). Nothing essential, nothing linked to essential democratic benefits of a decentralized state. It is not a decentralized state at all. To the contrary, Republic of Macedonia is (re)centralized.
The discriminatory politics and practices at institutional level continue. Interethnic relations are getting from bad to worse by the day. I find the responsibility for this situation within the government and the institutions, nowhere else. It’s them who shape the everyday life of the citizens, raising expensive and intimidating monuments and buildings, in(directly) sponsoring nationalism at all levels, starting with hooligans ending with culture, arts and education policies.
That’s the OFA sad destiny, originally aiming and democratization and regulation of essential issues in the country. Many politicians opposed it in the past years. Even more of them misused it while serving narrow party or personal interests.
Still, OFA remains to be one of the best documents produced in and for this country in its 20 year-long history. It takes courage and wisdom to implement it. Neither of those two could be found now.
President Gorge Ivanov, Prime Minister Gruevski, the leader of the coalition partner DUI Ali Ahmeti, the leaders of the opposition Branko Crvenkovski and Ljubco Georgievski, the leader of DPA Menduh Thaci and the leader of PDP Imer Imeri did not take part in traditional celebration of the OFA, though it is expected and logical.
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The head of the Soros foundation in Macedonia Vladimir Milcin who was accused by the Lustration Commission for being a collaborator with secret services in the times of communism, spoke out at a press conference today.
Vladimir Milcin
Milcin, known as a dissident in the communist times, permanently under surveillance and pressure from the secret services of the past regime, was bitter and sharp, striking back at the Lustration Commission, arguing that the chairman Tome Adjiev (whose mandate has expired for a year or so now) and those who stand behind him operate with “a bunch of stinking lies”.
He said that Adjiev is a kodosh [snitch] himself who illegally runs the Commission and “shamelessly and unscrupulously executes the demands from his superiors” [meaning the ruling party] and by doing so put pressure “on those who oppose them”. He called Adjiev “a tumor of our everyday life” among other things.
The current Security and Counterintelligence Administration has, according to Milcin, informed the Lustration Commission that “Milcin has not been a collaborator of secret services”. Adjiev has concealed that document. Otherwise, Milcin has been marked by the communist authorities in the previous system as “dangerous for the system”, “anarchist-liberal”, “liberal”, etc.  
The Lustration Commission nowadays publicizes the dossiers of the people who are “lustrated” on their website, before they get the chance to defend and prove innocent through the institutions of justice.
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Today is quite a day. The news are packed with scandals and events that are marked as scandals. It’s going to be a long Monday note…
*
Respect
The Minister of Defense Fatmir Besimi, accompanied by the Minister of Justice Blerim Bexheti, Vice-Prime Minister Musa Xhafer, deputy Minister of Interior Xhelal Bajrami, and five army officers formed a delegation of the Defense Ministry that laid wreaths of flowers and bowed before the UCK monument in the village of Slupcane. This village of Slupcane is known from the 2001 conflict in Macedonia for a fierce battleground where several UCK fighters got killed.
The first reactions to this event was that Minister Besimi committed an unprecedented violation of his position. President Ivanov, who is also the Chief Commander of the Army demanded urgent investigation for this act of “misuse of the Army” as he called it.
This is going to shake the public in the following days, I bet.
*
The daily newspaper Den was sold to an ex-employee of the state security service, daily Fokus reported today. The editor in chief, Kole Chashule is sacked.
Casule is the ex- editor in chief of Vreme, one of the daily newspapers that was shut down by the government along with the A1 TV and another two dailies in a highly disputed action last year (see Civil’s special edition of the Dialogue newsletter, August 2011). The daily Den was considered as one of the very few independent media projects in the country. It started in March this year.


Tuesday, August 14
There is an avalanche of reactions against Minister Besimi’s delegation who paid respect to the fallen UCK monument in the village of Slupcane yesterday. 
The VMRO-DPMNE came out with a fierce accusations against this act, as if it’s not their government’s officials who did it. Opposition parties accused the government of parallelism and dualism in performing politics. Stevo Pendarovski of SDSM demanded answers from the government, wondering if the security forces in the country have two ethnic commands.
The US Embassy in Skopje released a strong statement calling Besimi a leader and a patriot.
Indirectly, the Prime Ministers’s team responded that there is nothing patriotic in paying respect to those who were shooting at the Macedonian Army in 2001.
Several pro-government figures called US Embassy’s statement interference in the interior affairs of a sovereign country. Well, they forget that USA, along with NATO and EU were the international brokers who led the country to peace and have every right to comment on an event and process that they have guaranteed for.
Besimi expressed his regrets that he wasn’t understood and that his intentions were clearly in support of the OFA and fostering interethnic confidence.
The MoD has imposed fines to its employees who attended the disputed event in Slupcane.
This isn’t over yet, I’m sure.


Wednesday, August 15
One of the most important politicians of the Albanians ever Arben Xhaferi died today. He suffered from a severe brain stroke a week ago. 
I remember, back in mid-nineties in the days of inauguration of the then illegal Tetovo University, I had an interview with him. At the beginning of the interview, he told me: “All I ask from journalists is not to add words that I haven’t said in my statements. They can to feel free to cut as much as they wish. Not to add”.
As a person he was calm and warm, with a great sense of humor. His opinions and visions were often controversial and harshly disputed, but in many cases he proved to be ahead of his time.
Xhaferi was an advocate for human and civil rights of the Albanians. As a leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), he was one of the signatories of the OFA in 2001, but withdrew his signature in 2007, calling the OFA dead. He is the author of the frequently quoted statement that ethnic Macedonians and Albanians need to reach “a historic agreement” based on equality of the two communities.

Thursday, August 16
South Africa rocks the headlines! Police have killed 34 miners in a massacre that brought back the memories of the horrid times of apartheid in this country. This time, police was defending the interests of a mining company which ruthlessly exploits its miners.
*
Members of the female punk band Pussy Riot found guilty. They will be jailed despite the heavy criticism and appeals from all around the world.
Putin does not forgive. But… Putin stinks. 

Friday, August 17
Published today in the dailies Dnevnik and Vest (Aug. 17, 2012):
The ad says:
25 YEARS
RUDOLF HESS
25 years since the death of the man who has spent 46 years in prison just because he believed and stayed true to his idea and acted brave in pursuit of peace. Therefore, he will be forever remembered the prisoner of peace. He dared…

By his Macedonian admirers

My office (Civil) issued a strong public statement right after we learned about this idiotic ad.

Later on, I wrote the following note: 
After the first shock and disgust from publishing of the reminder on 25th year from the death of the Nazi ideologue Rudolf Hess (published in dailies Dnevnik and Vest, Aug 17, 2012), I concluded that this is actually not that unexpected and surprising. Darkest ideologies of human history are not an incident anymore; they rather developed into widely accepted values within today’s society. The downfall of democracy and systematic violation of human rights and freedoms in the country encourages the sickest in society to respect and promote terrifying ideas, figures and ideologies.
It is rather strange that this act of open advocacy of fascism in public -- be by an anonymous group of extremists and lunatics – didn’t trigger an immediate reaction and uncompromising condemnation from state officials. Extremism, racism and ultra-nationalism became part of the Macedonian daily life. They reach the institutional framework of the system in various ways. Various forms of encouragement of nationalism by institutions in all sorts of ways, under dubious excuses, create an atmosphere in which people impregnated with fascism may think they can finally emerge from the shadow of anonymity and start with activities on the open. We can’t afford to depend on hopes that this will end here. This weed in the society tend to spread quickly in all directions and takes all sorts of shapes.
What should be done? Serious measures in the education system and cultural policy in the country must be taken into account, especially when it comes to children and youth. Acts of support for fascism must be sanctioned immediately and decisively.
Criminal law should be upgraded and sanction anti-Semitism and fascism, as is the case with most of the civilized world. More importantly, it is time to finally start implementing existing provisions in the law, in particular Articles 319 and 417 of the Criminal Code that sanction national, racial and religious hatred. Although, to be honest, if these provisions are implemented consistently, many arrested should be exactly among those who hold positions in the institutions.
(part of this is published on the website of Deutsche Welle (Macedonian language section).
*
Haha, the daily Fokus continues to make me smile.
This morning’s edition of the newspaper brings an intriguing picture of the PM’s wife and Olympia (Alexander the Great’s mother), one of the hundred (plus) monuments of the governments Skopje 2014 project.
It raises the question of resemblance of the statue with lady Gruevska. The author (who is, otherwise, a complete anonymous) said that she lacked literature, so she shaped Olympia according to her own fantasy.
Bravo!

Saturday, August 18
The Day of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia brought more delicacy to the day. Artillery detonations could be heard in the morning. Military parade took place exposing the power of the Macedonian army forces. A family member of the soldiers that got killed in a helicopter crash incident last year begged for employment of their children. The PM Gruevski didn’t shake hands with MoD Besimi. All speeches made somehow referred or reminded of the Monday’s visit of Besimi to the UCK monument in Slupcane.
Another day of political charade in Macedonia…  

Sunday, August 19
The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, made a statement from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London today. he thanked “those who are still fighting for justice”. “Your day will come!” – he said. He asked the President Obama to do the right thing and dissolve his witch-hunt against WikiLeaks. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

All quiet on the southern front


Diary: August 6 - 12, 2012

Monday, August 6
Minister of Defense Besimi and Gen. Koteski visited the Army exhibition today. This wouldn’t be a big deal for this diary if this exhibition is not scandalously exposing weapons to minors. As high government officials they are expected to be bearers of consciousness that letting kids to handle weapons is nothing but direct endorsement of gun culture amongst children and youth.

It’s a busy day at the office today for many reasons, but we find time to meet and discuss this issue. This is not the first time that the armed forces in the country make a show of this kind for the general population, placing no restrictions for children and youth. We all agree to strongly condemn this scandalous behavior and call upon parents to restrain from visiting this and such events in future. The press release is ready by the end of the day and will be issued in Macedonian, Albanian and English language on our web and blog.
We also had a recap on the Macedonian contribution to the UN Conference on Arms Trade Treaty (July 2-27). We were concerned about the passive participation of the state delegation to the UN at this conference, which was a subject to several media appearances on our side, calling upon the government to endorse a strong Arms Trade Treaty at the UN. Macedonia, in the end, was one of the 90+ countries that endorsed this process, which was only partly successful. Still, the behavior at home (making weapons available to children) needs serious corrections, to say the least.
*
The Macedonian economy is going down; recession is knocking at our doors. This is a consequence of the wrong policies of this government – accused once again the SDSM. The statistics are worrying: unemployment is rising and it is 31.6% now, whilst the employment rate is going down and is 38.6% now. In only one year, the number of blocked bank accounts of companies rose to 33,000. Now, the number of companies that have blocked accounts is 133,000. I’m not an expert, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that these numbers are rather alarming.

Tuesday, August 7
Leaflets, handwritten, containing messages such as “Death to the Kaurs [pejorative calling for Slavs]” appeared in Taftalidje, a Skopje settlements, mainly inhabited with ethnic Macedonians. This is the second case in that settlement this month. Police is investigating – it is reported.
*
Shooting incidents became a daily event. Armed violence is more and more frequent. Guns are not only used as a tool for criminal activities, but also to solve inter-personal disputes. When it comes to celebratory firing – it’s become the usual décor of the daily life in the country.
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All quiet on the southern front … The Greek MFA Dimitris Avramopoulos said that the solution of the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece requires political will, and that the Greek side is strongly committed to a solution of the problem, whilst, according to him, Skopje is on the same positions for twenty years now.
Diametrically opposite standpoints can be expressed only by having identical vocabulary on both sides.

Wednesday, August 8
According to the Eurobarometer, 67% of the Macedonian citizens don’t trust the government against 30% who do. The Parliament is trusted by 31% and 69% do not. The trust in these two institutions is decreasing, and 49% of the citizens believe that the situation in Macedonia will only get worse. Not surprising at all.
*
The heat wave goes on. The government keeps on issuing warnings, recommendations and other measures to prevent workers working under the sun in the warmest periods of the day. As far as I can see, many workers of the construction companies working for the government (what else?), carry on working under the blazing sun.
Workers’ rights of the construction workers in Macedonia nowadays: poorly paid - no more than € 200 per month, often not paid in time or not at all; awfully treated; jobs are constantly insecure; working in almost entirely unsafe conditions; injuries and death are common.
*
The Minister of Labor and Social Policy announced a new program for social inclusion, some national coordinative mechanism… “We want to terminate passing poverty from generation to generation” said the Minister. More empty words every day…

Thursday, August 9
Macedonia is winning again (see my previous post). Analyzing world’s worst economies, CNN (CNN Money) reports that Macedonia is at the very top of these economies. The report:
“The IMF does not publish unemployment statistics for every country -- but of those listed, Macedonia has the highest rate. In 2012, unemployment is projected to top 31.2%.
The rate has been stubbornly high for years despite solid if not spectacular economic growth, suggesting that structural problems are to blame.
Observers frequently note that official unemployment statistics do not include the country's so-called gray market, which is thought to make up a significant portion of Macedonia's total economic activity.”
Don’t worry, I wrote once, it will only get worse. Actually, everyone knows that already.
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More monuments are being set almost every day in Skopje and across the country.

Friday, August 10
Preparations for the 11th anniversary of the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) are in a full speed. This year, according to the daily Fokus, the leader of the Democratic Union for Integration, Ali Ahmeti (formerly, the leader of UCK in Macedonia, 2001, now - coalition partner) is expecting the PM and the leader of VMRO-DPMNE Gruevski to take part in the celebration of the OFA day. He never did before.

Saturday, August 11
The “universal minister” Nikola Todorov (ex-education, presently health, probably interior minister next) has a new project per day. He is proud of his achievements and projects.
Seems he is the only one with that opinion.
The education system in Macedonia is in disarray. The health system is in a worse shape.
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The Saturday-Sunday issue of the daily Fokus reports that PM Gruevski is on vacations until Tuesday, August 14, so he is not going to be able to attend the celebration of the Ohrid Framework Agreement 11th anniversary. Nice excuse.
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The Lustration process continues to be a scandalous witch-hunting-like reckoning with those that are not in the line with the current government. The head of Soros foundation in Macedonia Vladimir Milcin remains the most prominent person so far accused of collaboration with the secret police in the communist past of the country. His press conference is expected on Monday.
The Graganski weekly brings a cover story on this process titled “Dirty Purification”. Well-chosen title.
*
My dear friend Ruud Borgers and I are on our way to Struga today. An ethnically mixed band established there in 2009, as part of Civil’s project Rock for Peace and Friendship and later became part of Skopje Summer School led by the Musicians without Borders and the Fontys Rock Academy. The Skopje Summer School exists since 2008. I will write more on this unavoidably as it will approach (end of August).

Sunday, August 12
We meet the young rockers of Struga at the Art Café at the river of Drim. We discuss rock & roll and stuff. It’s a great atmosphere. They are young and full of positive energy. These young people give me hope for the future.

We are listening to loud music all the way back to Skopje. Ruud is a great company. We discuss mostly music and love. I don’t give a damn about politics today. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Macedonia keeps winning

Diary: July 30 – August 5, 2012
Monday, July 30
Wildfire continues in Strumica, days after the arrest of the 24-year-old woman who allegedly is responsible for the fire which claimed three lives last week. Who is responsible now? 
Temperatures are still high, becoming part of the everyday life, making the country part of the world suffering from climate changes. Should this be a comforting thought?
*
The Albanian coalition partner, Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) in the government seems to believe very strongly in the EU integration agenda of the government. Probably, the only one... While the opposition carries on with accusations of anti-EU policy of the government, DUI continues to make positive statements. According to Artan Grubi, Chief of Ali Ahmeti’s cabinet, Macedonia will get the date for the start of accession negotiations with the EU by the end of the year.
I can’t count the number of delays on this matter in the last decade. After the 2001 war in Macedonia, it was too early to speak about it, but it was “on the agenda”. In 2005, the then PM Vlado Buchkovski (Social Democratic Union of Macedonia) said that “we are almost there”. Ever since, the leaders of this country are more “realistic” by saying “we are making progress” and “by the end of the year” (if it’s in the beginning of the year) or “next year” (if it’s at the end of the year), “for sure” and “we are committed” (if it’s during pre-electoral campaigning). And, so it goes for six years now.
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Ha-ha, there was a good article about PM Gruevski’s “highway politics” in today’s daily Fokus, referring to the government’s Otchet (report) on its achievements in the first year after the pre-term parliamentary elections in 2011.
The PM said that the government didn’t invest in highways because people rarely use them. On the other hand, says the PM, 99 percent of the people use local roads at least twice a day (tour-retour) or more. That is why the government invested a lot in repairing or building local roads and streets. And monuments. Plenty of them. 
Obviously, governments in the neighboring countries don’t care about people’s needs. So, Bulgaria invested in 123.5 km of new highways in 2012, Serbia – 94.4 km, Albania – 95.2 km, Kosovo – 21 km, and Greece – 262.5 km. Macedonia is the winner again. It invested in 0 (zero!) kilometers of highway in 2012.
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At the end of the day, I've got time to read the “The zombie that haunts the Balkans” written by Daniel Sever. “The Macedonia “name” issue is unique.  I can’t think of another situation, current or historical, in which a country wants a neighbor to change its name. It is also a zero sum problem:  if Athens gains, Skopje loses, and vice versa”, Professor Serwer writes in his article and concludes: “Killing the ethnic partition zombie that haunts the Balkans seems to me far more important than finding a name Athens and Skopje can agree on.”
Right he is. Oh, how right he is!

Tuesday, July 31
“Macedonia is not a name of a brand for it to be given to others… The government is employing a firm policy supported by the majority of the country’s political forces. We have clearly defined the solution framework – a name with a geographic qualifier to be used in all instances,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras in the Greek Parliament. Looks clear, though unfair…
The Macedonian MFA says the key of the solution of the name issue is in Athens.
Politics of stubbornness, hide and seek, and stupidity goes on.  
*
Various organizations and agencies carry on fueling the political contest. The ruling coalition partners, according to the survey of IDSCS and MCIC lead in popularity with 25.5% for VMRO-DPMNE against 19% for SDSM. Undefined voters make over one third of the population, according to this survey.
War of percentages continues.

Wednesday, August 1
The Parliament is on vacations from today until August 21. Will anyone see the difference?

Thursday, August 2
Today is the national holiday of the Ilinden uprising that praises the fight against the Turkish domination (it’s called slavery in Macedonia). Ethnic and (ruling) party signatures are everywhere.
This is usually the date when I feel unwelcomed in my own country.
*
President Ivanov warned that he is not going to accept any international document or report in which Macedonia is not fully respected. I’m sure that the whole world trembled.

Friday, August 3
Skopje is empty. Most of the people fled the heat to an extended weekend. Construction workers are in place, though, diligently working on government’s projects.
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Taken by the “revolutionary spirit” of the Ilinden uprising, I initiated the latest appeal of Civil, calling upon the civil society in the country to connect and raise its voice in the country:
“It is time for civil society organizations to raise their voice and show they are not to be bypassed, but to be respected as one of the greatest resources that this country has in these times. It is time for civil society organizations to give up the formal seats in phony commissions and connect with the people. It is time for civil society organizations to claim what they have achieved and make our work worth mentioning and remembering. It is time to connect and work together on common issues for the benefit of all citizens of the Republic of Macedonia. Let us overcome doubts and constraints, let us join forces and await for the coming period of even greater turmoil -- ready and as credible carriers of the interests and expectations of our fellow citizens.” It’s on the web, and on the Macedonian, Albanian and English language blog.
I hope there will be many responses to this appeal. Once the summer vacations season is over… I need to keep my optimism. I need to keep my optimism. I need to keep my optimism…
*
The Ministry of Interior won’t need a court warrant to secretly follow individuals through the surveillance cameras that are installed in a high number of spots in Skopje and other cities in the country, according to the changes in the legislation that regulates this matter. Are human rights standards followed? Hello! Anybody?
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A Facebook hit of the day is the photograph in which the design of the government’s logo “We achieve” was altered in “We raise the prices”. Good one!

Saturday, August 4
Late last night, the Commission forVerification of the Facts AKA Lustration Commission published the names of the collaborators with the secret police. This commission continues working according to the law that was rejected by the Constitutional Court.
On top of it, it publicly marks people before legal proceedings are over, harshly violating the presumption of innocence. The head of the Soros foundation in the country, Vladimir Milcin is under renewed attack by the commission.
The lustration process which was meant to shed light to the dark past of the communist regime became a tool for reckoning with political opponents. The witch-hunt style follows this body since the beginning.

Sunday, August 5
Graffiti with nationalistic slogans such as “Death for FYROM”, “Ilirida 2012”, “Prizren 1878” appeared in Gostivar during the last week.
I wish to see officials, NGOs, politicians of all colors, parents and youth make a statement against all nationalist gangs on both sides of ethnic barriers. As long as only one side finds itself offended by the other side upon incidents like this, the filthy war of words will go on.
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The army exhibits its weapons and equipment at the military stadium in the Skopje City Park. We could see children handling weapons. So far from building a peaceful nation… Outrageous!

Monday, July 30, 2012

I DON’T BELONG TO YOUR RACE, BOY

I don’t belong to your race, boy
I don’t worship your idols and leaders and
Your silly anthems and slogans and
Don’t give a damn about your flags and other toys

I’m proud to be different
Call me a traitor or a newcomer
I know where I come from, boy
I know where I belong
I know where I go, boy

I’m the one who is free, boy, not you
I’m beautiful and unique
You are just an ugly number, boy
A meat for your greedy leaders

I’m proud to be who I am
You are the one who is confused
You are the frustrated one
You are the sick one, sick forever

Come down from the terrace, boy
Go home, boy, take care of your family
Find your peace, before trouble finds you
Stop acting stupid, boy, before it’s too late




***
I wrote this poem less than two weeks ago (on July 19), although I carry it in my thoughts for some time now. This poem is dedicated to all thugs and racist-nationalist idiots in my country and worldwide. I got particularly inspired by a song of local hooligans, but certainly think of all other shitheads around the world. I have quite a few more lyrics for and about them in my poetry book "Apocalypse" (published 2011), but even more in my new book of poetry and short stories, which is almost finished. I say almost because it's never finished unless it's printed. I wrote this poem in English, as most of my other works, but translated it in Macedonian language and posted it on my Monkeydonkeya Today blog

Time is an illusion

Diary: July 23-29, 2012

Occupy Wall Street photo
Monday, July 23
The government plans to move Macedonia to another time zone, speculated media end of last week and today. Woody Allen comes to my mind: “I’m going to kill myself. I should go to Paris and jump off the Eiffel Tower. I’ll be dead. You know, in fact, if I get the Concorde, I could be dead three hours earlier, which would be perfect. Or wait a minute. It -- with the time change, I could be alive for six hours in New York but dead three hours in Paris. I could get things done, and I could also be dead.”
Actually, according to speculations, the government might push Macedonia to the same time zone as Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey -- one hour ahead. Sounds smart… Maybe then the Prime Minister will become more punctual, since he’s got a worldwide reputation of being late over 45 minutes, regularly. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel also had a taste of the PM’s Prima Donna manners in Berlin last winter. If Macedonia moves to another zone, he might start coming to meetings 15 minutes earlier minimum. Is that so?
In fact, if we consider that the PM’s team moved Macedonia 2300 years back in many ways, the Macedonian PM might proudly state that he is 2300 years late, but minus 15 minutes, in case we move to the new time zone. Now, he is late 2300 years and 45 minutes. See? There is progress in every move of this government: back in time, far into future, never now. Yet, always keeping in mind what Albert Einstein told us some time ago: “Time is an illusion”.
*
The meeting of the EU Commissioner Štefan Füle and the Macedonian officials is over. Earlier, in an interview for the Radio Free Europe, the Commissioner said that "This year we [EU] have launched a high-level accession dialogue and I am impressed by the authorities, in particular the commitment of Prime Minister Gruevski, to enabling the reforms in key spheres. I have hopes for this high-level dialogue, we already have had two rounds, and in September I will travel to Skopje for the third one".
Gordan Georgiev of the opposition’s SDSM made an ironic statement “hoping” that the progress seen by Mr. Füle really exists, because his party doesn’t see it. Well, ophthalmologists should have a say here. Or?
Mr. Füle is actually using mild vocabulary characteristic for most diplomats. In the same interview, he says: “I see some changes. I see that part of the nationalist rhetoric has been once again replaced with the EU agenda, which is good.”
Part of the nationalist rhetoric… That means not all? And, which part? More importantly, does anybody know when the Macedonian PM will feel nauseated by the West again, as he did in May?
These questions are supposed to be answered here, at home, set aside the diplomatic vocabulary and manners. That doesn’t happen, simply because statements and reports made by EU and other foreign officials are mostly used as a propaganda tool, rather than as a roadmap. When a statement is mild, the government raises it to a level of maximal praise for its (mostly nonexistent) achievements; when they get more direct and tough criticisms, the PM gets sickens.
*
End of October last year, I suggested to the members of my team at Civil to put the possibility of early parliamentarian elections by the end of 2012 in the annual program. C’mon, they said, you can’t be serious. I insisted. Eventually, they accepted this rather brave statement in the program. I repeated my speculations when campaigning for the 2013’s local elections started too early, in March. Impossible, was the response.
Today, this speculation becomes reality in some of the independent media in the country. Did I say independent media? Well, there are a few of them, indeed. Small sparkles in the dark. My colleagues are still very suspicious. I still believe there is a serious possibility of early elections this year.

Tuesday, July 24
Ethnic issues are everywhere. I read an article in the daily Dnevnik about the fact that Ali Ahmeti’s Democratic Union for Integration (partner in the ruling coalition) might win the local elections in Kichevo, because of the rivalry between the Macedonian parties (ruling VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM). Meaning, Macedonians will (as the author writes) “lose the unique chance” to have a Macedonian continue running this municipality, so an Albanian might win this position. Hello, Baikonur! It’s not about which ethnic groups will give the mayor, it’s about managing people’s needs in the town.
*
I meet many people every day. The International cocktail bar is my regular daily hangout, where I discuss zillions of issues with various people. With no exception, everyone speaks about how corrupt are politicians.
Many people have arguments to put on table against the ways and deeds of power holders and institutions in the country. Some are based on facts, many on speculations, but it all draws a picture of an awkward country.
Every day, I agree with my associates and friends that verbally, around a coffee table, people are enraged. As soon as they leave the table, rarely anyone takes an action, anything… The farthest most of the people get is to click Like on a Facebook status or a link, and not always. Or, they click Like on Occupy Wall Street movement’s photo, but keep their mouse away from opinions on the problems in their yard. Ah! This is becoming an old story, I need new ones.
*
That Putin is a thug and a peasant I don’t need to elaborate a lot. The latest crap which comes from his cabinet is the unjust and cruel prosecution of the three members of the female punk band Pussy Riot. They produced a “punk-prayer” called “Mother of God, chase Putin out” filmed in a cathedral in Moscow. Their attempt to perform it lasted about 30 seconds before they were arrested. They are in pretrial detention since March, technically accused of hooliganism. The New Yorker’s Masha Lipman observes: “The prosecution of the Pussy Riot women is more than an act of absurd injustice and cruelty; it is a sign that the Russian state is increasingly lashing out against those citizens it sees as overly modernized. Vladimir Putin has often said that modernization is the goal of his regime, but its policy is increasingly slipping toward something egregiously anti-modern, obscurantist, even medieval. The Pussy Riot case is a telling illustration of Putin’s political crackdown—and of his increasing reliance on the Russian Orthodox Church as a resort of the most conservative societal forces.”
Sharp and truthful observation, no doubt about it. I join Pussy Riot's prayers from the atheist temple of my desires.

Wednesday, July 25
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived to Macedonia yesterday evening on his Balkans tour (skipping a couple of Balkan countries, though). I read his schedule in the press. He’s meeting high officials of the state, he will eat. The Head of the World’s agenda also includes a few other meetings, including the President George Ivanov’s political school’s students and a yellow cat. He addressed the Parliament in an almost romantic statement, and saw a few churches. That’s about it.
*
The town of Strumica which suffered from a raging fire in its suburbs in the last few days mourns its dead. Several other intense fires took place in the country in the last few weeks. High temperatures, as well as human negligence and irresponsibility caused them.
*
While wildfires pop-up across the country, the political stage is continuously on fire. The campaigning continues over the local elections set for March 2013. The government came out with an annual report of its achievements, claiming 400 successful projects in only 365 days since it’s in power. The opposition carries on with it tour throughout the country, building its battered grassroot base at over 40°C.
Calculations and political spikes and arrows fly around. The census was unsuccessful last year (due to ethnic politics), the voters lists are not cleared (despite urges by the domestic and international urges), so many non-existent (including dead) people might “vote” again. Seems, no one really cares about this; political scores are the ultimate objective.

Thursday, July 26
It’s 49 years since the Skopje earthquake in 1963. My mother who lived in the center of Skopje then remembers the catastrophe quite well. She speaks of it reluctantly, obviously deeply traumatized by the horror that shook the city at 05:17am, lasted 20 long seconds, and claimed over 1000 lives. She was on the first floor of their family house, asleep, when her bed started moving like a boat. She was 17; escaped death within seconds, while her home’s walls were collapsing behind her back. “Many people died when they tried to re-enter their homes to rescue their family members who were crying for help under the ruins,” she says and changes the subject. I think of the countless construction investments in Skopje, which often don’t meet basic architectural requirements. Set aside the aesthetics.
*
Ban Ki-moon is in Srebrenica. Standing in the midst of eight thousand graves of the victims of the worst massacre since World War II -- as they call it -- he sends a message to Syria: "The international community must be united not to see any further bloodshed in Syria because I do not want to see any of my successors in 20 years visiting Syria and apologizing for what we could have done to protect the civilians which we are not doing now”.  
It’s rather awkward. Syria and many other places in the world are already mass graves. Wars and famine are ongoing. UN could do more, indeed. Apologies for failing to do more to protect civilians are lining up; failures that will be acknowledged and those unlisted mount.

Friday, July 27
My office got an anonymous call from Struga today. The caller complained about the drums banging around 3am calling for Suhoor every day. “It’s not that I’m against my Muslim neighbors, it’s because of the kids. They wake up and cry. It’s too loud” – the caller explained.
Indeed, I believe that this practice is annoying for non-Muslims. And, not only. I’m sure that there are people who silently practice their faith, following their intimate relation with god or whatever, without making a loud statement whenever they eat or else.
It’s like peeing to mark the territory. It’s also putting pressure on Muslims who don’t feel like fasting. Altogether, everyone’s child is being distressed in the midst of the night. Marking territories in this tiny country is an Olympic discipline, yet not recognized by the Intl. Olympic Committee. It’s like the Macedonians who have put a huge cross on so many hills across the country making it look like a graveyard. A Christian, but still a graveyard... Not to speak about the countless minarets and even more churches growing every day.
Back to banging drums in the middle of the night… What is it? A tradition? What tradition? To wake everyone up because it’s time to eat before fasting? Well, maybe in the past it was even necessary, because there were no alarm clocks, mobile phones and watches on almost every wrist. Or, is it an idea picked up from TV soap operas that occupy the air in the Macedonian media? Whatever it is, doesn’t correspond with good neighborly behavior, disrespects everyone and harasses children.
I think of a shortlist of people who is responsible to fix this: mayor, police, imams, NGO – categories mount. Well, they are all busy with “more important” things.
*
People seem to forget that hate and divisions are growing little by little, from the daily life of different people living in one place. Moreover, they all seem to avoid talking to each other, frankly and immediately after issues occur. Today is the drum, tomorrow it will be the cross, and the other day something else, until looting and shooting starts.
*
I was invited to speak about celebratory firing and gun culture on the morning program of TV Alfa. The celebratory firing is a tradition that brings lots of incidents and we need to overcome it – was more or less the entry in the conversation. That is true. In a way…
I have a slightly different standpoint. People tend to explain their peasantry and brute behavior with tradition.
What tradition?!
Shooting at weddings belongs to the past as, among other things, a way to announce something. Moreover, we are talking about one or just a few shots fired to alert people on various occasions. Seems, people were more rational with ammunition back then. Now, we have weddings with hundreds of shots fired. The risk to wound or kill rises. Meanwhile, humans invented post offices, Internet, and phones. And fireworks, if we need noise and attention... So, shooting at weddings is not a tradition. It’s a mark for a peasant and a thug. Or a wannabe…

Saturday, July 28
The Liberal-Democrat Party’s head Andrej Zhernovski asked if Prime Minister Gruevski and the citizens live in the same country and time. Good question, indeed. But, remember? Time is an illusion, everything is relative. Only relatives of the PM are real.

Sunday, July 29
We’re not disturbing the peace, we’re disturbing the war” (Occupy Wall Street slogan). Good one! Hopefully, some protesters will really disturb a war someday, somewhere. This might be a good start, but the road is long, very long. 
*
The Arms Trade Treaty negotiations at the UN failed. Partly. Over 90 countries supported a strong Arms Trade Treaty, so, half way. Ten years of efforts of so many human rights and peace activists. The battle against weapons and tyrants continues.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Fabricated history and awful kitsch


Diary: July 16-22, 2012

Monday, July 16
What a blow! The Turkish investor Ibrahim Cevahir, in presence of the Prime Minister Gruevski, made strong public complaints on the business conditions imposed by the government, about the legislation mazes and slow administration. Ibrahim Cevahir is the head of Cevahir Holding which is going to build a massive residence and trade center in Skopje (over 1300 apartments, among others). He reminded the PM that he is not going to last forever, and his days in opposition are coming. This was a speech that rarely anyone (if any) dares to give so directly, to the face of the Macedonia’s strongman.
An opinion text by Ivor Mickovski (Plus Info news portal) called upon the business community in the country, strongly criticizing their cowardice to speak out about the unscrupulous ways of the government in the commercial sector. He's got a point there.
Namely, the internal debt of the government is kept as a top secret. For years, the government is not paying for the services provided by the commercial sector, the VAT is not being returned to the companies, and the business community is under constant threat of closure and prosecution by the financial police. Whether you own a kiosk or a coffee bar, or a factory – the Draconian fines are hanging in the air day in, day out. Business people talk about this all in coffee bars and sometimes in the chambers of commerce, but obviously not loud and not directly enough. Meanwhile, to become a service provider to the government – which is probably number one employer and user of commercial services in the country – one needs to be as close to the ruling party as possible. Conclusions are clear. 
This is a hangover Monday for many who attended the Prilep Beer Festival. The tiny Prilep has sold fantastic 289 tons of beers during the weekend. Another 124 tons of meet were grilled. A full plate of grilled meet was sold for as low as two euro. This country’s men and women have real good appetite. The quality of meet is not being discussed. The local government says that 400.000 tourists visited the town during the festival.
Nevertheless, not many believe the official numbers nowadays.

Tuesday, July 17
Thirty houses of the village of Patetino near Sveti Nikole (east part of the country) burned in a fire planted by an angry man in the neighboring village. He often threatened his neighbors with fire, complaining of their cattle.
Oil prices went up again. Despite the calls from the opposition to keep the price of the oil by a governmental intervention (giving up from part of the profit - let’s call it the way it is), the prices went up. New strike for the weak economy and family budgets...
The temperature in the Parliament is rising. Names of streets and institutions are being discussed, again, in a manner of mutual accusations and calling each other a traitor. Government is rewriting history and declining from reality – is the main argument of the opposition for quite some time now. they can’t be more right. The Skopje 2014 project is going to be discussed tomorrow.
I think it’s a rather smart game of the ruling majority in the Parliament. While Macedonia is sinking into poverty and isolationism, street names are being discussed in a pre-electoral manner. The opposition took the bait. Useless debates that only prove the lack of democracy in as small things as changing street names, make real big and damaging practices go on. When people see that even street names are under total control, they just feel powerless to change anything when it comes to real serious stuff.
Lustration (law on verification of facts on perpetrators of crimes committed under an earlier regime)… It’s done, the has been passed. It will include the whole period of communism all the way to 2006, when VMRO-DPMNE came to power. What is there to say? The facts speak for themselves.

Wednesday, July 18
The debate in the Parliament continues with the Skopje 2014. Fierce and unscrupulous, the MPs on both sides attack each other, visibly taking a good care to gain political scores with the voters. The opposition SDSM is well prepared and obviously in a good shape, due to its “working summer” campaign. The ruling party’s majority is rather arrogant, though nervous at times.
I remember a conversation with a self-proclaimed peace activist few months ago, before the debatable March for Peace. I could recognize his pro-ruling-party stand already from other subjects, but it became quite clear when he chanted “Imagine Skopje 2014 in 100 years! It’s going to be really beautiful, you have to admit!” Um, in 100 years it’s going to be another 100 years of shame, my friend. That’s what I’m repeatedly telling everyone for some time now, mostly getting the echoes of my voice back.
Meanwhile, the millions of euros are being poured into this expensive grotesque of fabricated history and awful kitsch. It will mark a whole generation of people and politicians who did not manage to stop this madness. Shame on all of us!
The court didn’t produce credible evidence for over two months after the arrest of suspects on the killing of five near Skopje in April, a huge case of the so-called fight of the government against Islamic terrorism. Back then the Ministry of Interior stated that they came to possession of unbeatable evidence on the involvement of the arrestees.
The opposition leader Branko Crvenkovski and the leader of the Democratic Party of the Albanians Menduh Thaci, another fierce political opponent of Crvenkovski from the past, shook hands today. Set aside all other aspects of this agreement, this is the first time in 20 years of the country’s independence that a Macedonian and an Albanian political party in the country enter a pre-electoral collaboration.

Thursday, July 19
The opposition VMRO-NP (VMRO-People’s Party) leader Ljubco Georgievski wrote to the Macedonian Orthodox Church. He called the projects of the government and the Church’s defense of it, restoration of paganism.
The Church came out with a highly political statement on the name issue, sending curses against the opposition, and defending the ruling party’s politics. By doing so, the Church violated (again) the principles and legislation that guarantee the secular character of the country, serving as a propaganda tool for the rulers.
The former PM Georgievski, known for his strong ties to the Church at the time, angrily attacked the latest public appearance of the Church, and called them to ask for forgiveness for their sins from St. Clement. 

Friday, July 20
In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, the supporters of Levsky in the match against the Bosnian Sarajevo made a grim reminder of extreme nationalism. The hooligans came out with posters and slogans that celebrate the ethnic cleansing in Srebrenica and Bosnia. “Ratko Mladic and Arkan f****d you, it our turn now” was one of the slogans waving at the stadium in Sofia yesterday.
Incidents occurred on the streets of Sarajevo today, echoing the ugly incident in Sofia. Militant messages continue coming from ultra-nationalists and hooligans, containing the slogan Nozh, zhica, Srebrenica [Knife, wire, Srebrenica] and other bloody and idiotic bullshit. I hope Bulgarian authorities will remember that their country is a member of EU and that this is the 21st century.
I don’t need to mention the thugs here. They anyhow live 2000 years ago.

Saturday, July 21
I have a story about worms today.
There was a family of worms living happily in the sewerage. One day, one of the kid-worms found a book on worms floating in the dirt of the sewerage and read it with a high interest. In the evening, when the father-worm came home from work, the kid had many questions for him.
“Father” - the kid asked - “is it true that there are worms living in an apple?”
“Yes” - the father responded.
“Also, there are worms living in the meat” - continued the child-worm.
“Right it is, my son” – the father was content by his son’s knowledge.
“Aha… And, is it true that there are many worms living in a plum, a cherry, and other sweet and beautiful fruits” – insisted the kid-worm.
“That’s all true, my son, there are many worms living in all those fruits” – said the father.
“Uh, father, why then we have to live in this stinking sewerage?” – the son was disappointed.
“Fatherland, my son, fatherland…” – said the father-worm.

Sunday, July 22
America mourns its 12 victims from the movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado on Friday. Grief and anger fill the news reports and social networks. Yet, the American politicians don’t dare to fight the Second Amendment in fears that the strong NRA lobby will diminish their votes. It takes courage, and strong political will and determination to tackle the gun culture in USA. And, the Second Amendment needs to be considered in its essence (I mentioned this in the previous diary) – it needs to be understood in its historical context and overcome it, once and for all.
Norway remembers the 77 victims from the lunatic and bloodthirsty attack of Breivik last year.
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations continue at the UN. The Macedonian delegation is still silent.
Back at home, several wounded last week only from celebratory firing.
“Stop, before you kill someone!” we wrote in the press release the other day.
Thugs and idiots are thugs and idiots everywhere, at weddings, as well.