This article originally appeared on 10 June in BalkanInsight
It is difficult these days to resist the temptation of misusing what is happening in Turkey for comparisons, which don’t work.
It is also difficult not to be inspired by what is happening in Turkey. Still unclear in its turnout, the Taksim protest has invigorated the part of Turkish society that I feel in sync with, where I feel among friends. Friends I often disagree with, but friends nonetheless.
It is the strong bond with liberty that connects us, freedom not as an abstract concept, to which immediately “nation” is added, but freedom as a way of life, or rather as savoir vivre.
And it is exactly this refusal to let anyone take away that way of life that makes the people on Taksim square winners. Not heroes, just winners. And this is why Erdogan and his middle age dogmatic construct already lost, regardless of how long his reign will last. He lost to a bunch of capulcular. Well deserved. He might try and physically eradicate them in an act of revenge, but the capulcu is a resistant species, it will prevail.
Inspiring, isn’t it?
Until I raise my head from the screen and look around, onto the everyday of a battered and beaten society. People suffering from deprivation of liberty, a liberty that they never fought to earn and thus never learned to cherish. I look at people, who let themselves be played and played with, be misused for the profit of their self-styled leaders, I see apathy and resignation.
Macedonia seems to be giving up on itself. The mob is the instrument, which the group in power uses more and more often, an amorphous mass of uneducated and aggressive people, who are given the legitimacy to trample down the feeble pillars of Macedonia’s democracy in the name of religion, of values, of tradition, etc. And with them receiving the blessing of the church and the government, who would dare saying they are wrong?
Not their opinions are wrong, those can be debated. It is their sheer existence, the occurrence of this phenomenon, which is strangling liberty in its core. How can anyone feel free to express their opinion and live according to their own concepts, when a combined machinery of repressive legislation, police force and street mob is standing ready to interfere at any time?
The combination of power and mob reminds every German of a past, without which the world would be a better place. The combination of power and mob reminds me of today’s Hungary, where you have to fear for your life if you have the wrong pigmentation. It reminds me of course of Putin’s Russia, where the GULAG system comes back as a zombie to swallow all that is not conform with the leader’s ambitions, and sometimes even all that is conform.
If you add football hooligans and special police to the equation, you get a cocktail, which already does and will continue to cause Macedonia’s democracy chronic and painful hangovers, to be cured neither by Bloody Marys nor by Hail Marys.
It has been a while since I have been truly inspired by anything happening in Macedonia.There is this all-leveling pressure of mediocrity, with Skopje 2014 being its prime manifestation, the peer pressure downwards, the participatory opportunism, the cloning of hollow political robots, who are appointed high-responsibility positions as soon as they left the cloning facility.
But that is only one side of the medal. The uninspiring part is that there is little else. An opposition caught in finding itself will not present a real alternative for some time to come. And the rest is a strange mixture of nostalgic longing for a past that never will be and compliance in daily life.
There are creative niches, even niches of liberty, but they become more and more cornered. The mainstream discourse seems to be overwhelming in its simplicity and compelling in its offer to join the herd. The big problem with freedom is that it is a complex concept, one that demands debate, dialogue or at least exchange of ideas every moment; it is a process of constant negotiation, sometimes tiring and very often frustrating.
A civil society caught in its self-imposed dependence on donor funding and donor logic seems not to be able to find answers. It has become a machinery anyway, one that tunes and adjusts itself to the speed and direction dictated by the power structures. Even in its moves to counter these structures, it has remained reactive and frustrating in its lack of creativity.
What I am missing in today’s Macedonia is the will to be different, to create alternatives, to live alternatives to a mainstream that is becoming more and more repressive. For that one does not need the job security offered by the state administration or by donor-driven projects. One does not need the state or any other instance to grant that freedom.
It is something that you live or you don’t. If you do, it can have a price. And Taksim square shows us that. If you don’t, the price is a different one. And I’m afraid Macedonia has just begun to pay it.