Monday, July 30, 2012

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.

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