This article originally appeared on 2 July in BalkanInsight
It comes with the ideology, or better with its exclusivism. You are one of us, or you are against us.
No shades of grey, no alternative scenarios, reality is reduced to a dualist, tribal absurdity, which has to be underlined and enforced during every step in the process.
Demonising the other, denying his or her humanity is a primitive reflex, stemming from a period in our development as human beings, in which conflicts were about survival of the individual and the tribe.
The reflex was needed to justify the physical killing of members of the same species, a specific behaviour that very few other mammals practice. One would think that a few good centuries of development may have left behind a few cultural layers, diversifying this approach.
But when it comes to messianic ideologies and more so to their followers, these layers of cultural sediment seem to have been blown away by the winds of righteousness, leaving the barebones of human primitivism and brutality out in the sun, where they can marinate in hatred, the primordial elixir of stupidity.
Once hatred becomes the primary engine that drives a political machinery, this very machinery is doomed. It is a natural thing – the world is not as simple, as mono-minded ideologists keep on painting it. And hate is just not enough to run a system. You need a few more answers.
Besides, hatred often comes alone. It usually is the loud companion of envy-born bitterness, the other primordial instinct that made us killers and traders.
Hatred and envy, wrath and bitterness – the main ingredients, together with ignorance and lack of restraint, that make up the cocktail of the culture of the palanka, the anti-urban “hood” that has bred so many recent leaders in this region, as well as their cronies.
Macedonia is currently experiencing a wave of anti-urban rage from the top, unseen in its intensity so far to the living, because most people are too young to recall the excesses of Bulgarian fascism and early Titoist Stalinism. Hence it hits hard and surprising to most.
And it does what a shockwave does: it destroys indiscriminately, leaving festering wounds behind, wounds that society will need decades to heal from.
This weekend, a journalist and vehement critic of this government Roberto Belicanec died of a heart attack. I was not surprised, but nevertheless deeply disgusted to read the statements of a member of the leading party, in which he expresses almost unconcealed happiness at the news, as well as dozens of comments by his “friends” on social media. Human beings can get lower than that, for sure. But not much.
One of the instruments of this unleashed hatred against anything urban is the lustration commission, hidden behind the hypocritical, almost Orwellian name of “commission for the verification of facts”.
A commission acting in a legal vacuum, as there is no final ruling by the constitutional court on the legality of the law it bases its activities upon, it has specialised on lustrating dead people.
No, it is neither an act from a theatre play by Eugène Ionesco, nor is it a sketch by the Monty Pythons. Lustrating the dead is political practice in today’s Macedonia.
Sanctioned by a power group, whose main aim seems to be to shatter and destroy anything intellectual in past, present and future that is not conform to their ideology. The word for that? Go figure…
Aside the witch-hunt against people, who held functions after 1991, that is in democratic, post-totalitarian, independent Macedonia, and the legality and legitimacy of which is more than questionable. Aside the cheap party quarrels that would normally have no place in such an institution. Aside the questionable methodology and quality of its decisions.
All those affect the living , who in a state claiming to be based upon the rule of law can and do defend themselves. But the obsessive need to destroy the status of dead people is driven by deep hatred, nothing else.
The latest victim of this morbid process is a writer, Slavko Janevski, who also held a number of functions in Yugoslav Macedonia, and was one of the founders of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Regardless of the weight of the accusations against him, this is not a case for a lustration committee. It is a case for researchers or for the people he may have harmed. Don’t get me wrong, if the man was an informer, I do think that it is important for the public to hear that.
But what this needs to be is a detailed report, stating both context and circumstances of the deeds he is accused of and the facts about his failures. It is a story for a book, not for public ostracism. The latter is a despicable expression of hatred, nothing more.
Some apologists in Macedonia have compared the case to those of Günther Grass in Germany, whose Waffen-SS membership has been revealed and of Milan Kundera in the Czech Republic, who is accused of having been a police informer. This is less than nonsense.
For one, both accused are alive and can defend themselves. Secondly, neither have been subjected to lustration, but much rather research revealed the facts. This is a major difference, in as such as the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has primarily a research function.
Research, this is something that the Macedonian fact finders don’t have in their job descriptions, probably for good reasons, since a critical research of their work would reveal the real hatred-based mission they have: spill fear and loathing onto a society already contaminated by lots of other poisons. By the way, neither did Grass have to return his Nobel prize, nor was the asteroid named after Kundera renamed.
The good thing in all this is that after decades of righteous sleep, both the PEN centre Macedonia and the Academy of Sciences and Arts woke up and expressed their deep concern about the lustration, asking the commission to reconsider its verdict. Since the commission refused, both organisations instantly fell asleep again.
Here’s an idea to those driving this process. I am sure that the name John Wycliffe means nothing to them. But in the days of Wikipedia it should be easy even for a Macedonian fact verifier to look him up. Our man Wycliffe was a philosopher, theologian and so much more.
A rebel, in a word. No, not at St. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, but at Oxford. England, that is. Yes, it was before 1991, even before 1903. Well yes, a bit after Alexander of Macedon, I give you that, but still, 14th century is good enough for historic credibility, isn’t it? It is also pre-baroque, in case you didn’t realise. Anyway, John Wycliffe was exhumed and burned, and his ashes scattered, 43 years after his death. Isn’t that something to ponder upon?
While you ponder, I leave you in the hands of Slavko Janevski:
“You can ask yourself and still you won’t know: Does time die with man?”
Vision? Your file is safe with me…