SKOPJE STRIKES BACK - do I have permission to speak?
by Sasha Uzunov
She has this shtick of being feisty in her writing, whether it be a newspaper column in Macedonian, or offering an opinion on politics, social issues or whatever. All the Western media call her when they need a rent-a-quote on some recent development in Macedonia.
Now the term "public intellectual" here in Australia sets off alarm bells. And being a charter member of Macedonia's "Capital City of Skopje" elite sets off more alarm bells.
What do I mean by Capital City of Skopje elite? It is a milieu, or a tiny group of people, ethnic Macedonians, marinated in a way of life oblivious to ordinary Macedonians. You do not have to be born in Skopje, as long as you adopt the behaviour and you have the "street cred" then you are in. You know you say: U'Skopje instead of V'Skopje. Bingo, you are a member of the in-club.
They are either on the left or right in politics, whether they be members of SDSM or VMRO-DPMNE Parties. They are highly educated, some say over-credentialed, and who are obsessed with their own cultural superiority.
They engage in Western style debates about gender, feminism, the environment, freedom and so on. But it is not a real feminism they seek where truly liberated women determine their own fate and break through male dominated professions such as say motor mechanics-- for that would involve physical labour and that's a big no-no. Nothing beats a state or government job in a comfortable office. For that matter, not many of the City of Skopje males would go for the motor mechanic thing either! They are probably busy playing video games.
They usually hold high positions in academia or public service, funded by the Macedonian taxpayer or by some European Union grant or international organisation.
Many of them have never worked in a real job: either in a factory or run their own business and so on. They go to university till they are in their 30s. This born to rule mentality was fostered by the old Communist Yugoslavia until 1991 when Macedonia broke away and in essence has not changed. Some have replaced the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) with the Socialist Federal Republics of the European Union (SFREU)!
But the cold hard reality is that their country may or may not survive within the next 25 years because of enormous demographic changes sweeping all of Europe. From time to time to show their radical chic they complain about a police state--even though they are the ruling elite within in it.
They expect to be the leaders of their country. Some advocate a soft warm fuzzy naive pacifism which appeals to soft warm and fuzzy Danes and Swedes and earns them visits to seminars and scholarships to foreign universities. The irony is that the old Yugoslav Communists realised that national service (conscription) was the last mechanism left to snap people out of the Nanny State torpor. But with the abolition of national service in Macedonia in 2008, it raises the question who will defend the country?
In 2001 many of the illusions and complacent attitudes held by the Capital City of Skopje elite were rocked when a guy on a disability pension in Switzerland and only holding a Philosophy degree from Pristina University, Ali Ahmeti, launched an ethnic Albanian uprising with the intention of grabbing Macedonian territory. He sold the idea to the EU as a desperate cry for "human rights!" Now this guy, an ex-terrorist or freedom fighter (if you are from the EU) is playing kingmaker in the Macedonian Parliament and will determine the fate of the country.
So if you some poor slob from Bitola driving a taxi, or some girl picking tobacco on a farm in Prilep or a Macedonian deep Southern "redneck" from down under in Australia and you question the Capital City of Skopje elite then the default setting is abuse. You are the one who is "uncultured" or glup (dumb).
For many years I've been engaging in debates on Facebook with the good Professor Vankovska and I have to admit I have been guilty of provoking her over the Macedonian language and making a political statement. Sometimes as a journalist and writer you have to rub the Capital City of Skopje elite the wrong way to get an understanding of their true weltanshauung (world view)… pardon the big German word.
I deliberately write in English in her Facebook posts and she complains why I do so. When I genuinely explain to her that it is because "I don't have permission from the Skopje elite" to write in traditional Macedonian without the trendy Serbian or Russian or incorrectly translated English words in modern Macedonian as practiced by the elite, she gets upset and hurls the default setting insults and it just confirms what I have been saying about the Capital City of Skopje elite all along.
For someone who is highly credentialed she can't see that language, how it is used, and who has permission to use it, is connected to say the issue of abortion or freedom of the press in Macedonia. She argues that Macedonians living aboard in the diaspora have no right to meddle in issues relating to the Republic of Macedonia. In Communist times the Yugoslav secret police (UDBa) was ferociously meddling in Australia and since independence in 1991, the Capital City of Skopje elite has deliberately divided the Macedonian community here in Australia along party political lines and provoked a great schism within the Australian-Macedonian Orthodox Church. But hey you "uncultured" redneck, you don't have permission to speak. If you do then it has to be framed within the Capital City of Skopje elite speak!
Paradoxically Professor Vankovska has complained about the nasty West when it was rude to her and offended her Capital City of Skopje elite sensibilities. She writes:
"Yet at second thought, I would believe that some of us have been too naive when fully trusting the basic principles of democracy, human rights and the normative power of the united Europe. Once one gets too devoted to the original normative foundations of the Western civilization, i.e. s/he accepts them at their face value and takes them too seriously, one risks to be labeled a radical.
"For many years I also believed in the so-called responsible scholarship that combines critical/creative thinking on issues of high societal and global significance with engaged citizenship. As long as I had a self-critical position towards the developments in my own society, I was very welcome and respected in Western academic and intellectual circles. I could be (and was) invited on any conference, seminar, project etc. that dealt with the conflicts and demokraturas in the Balkan region.
"But the moment I got more self-confidence and became aware of the democratic deficit in the Western power structures, the attitude changed – more than once I had to suffer overt offences, like the one I heard at a conference in Berlin, of being “ungrateful local who dares criticise internationals who invest so much in my bloody region”!
"As soon as my fascination with the Western academic and intellectual community faded away and I positioned myself together the minority of critical Western intellectuals and peace researchers, the situation changed dramatically. But this is a position I would not exchange for anything else."
However to Professor Vankovska's credit she has stood up to the West in defence of Macedonian interests:
"Political correctness is in high esteem in the academic and public circles: it includes not questioning anything that comes from the so-called international community. In societies that suffered violent and inter-ethnic conflicts, inter-ethnic tolerance and pro-NATO/EU stands qualify as the best recommendation for ‘membership’ in the (allegedly) progressive and democratic forces.
"Instead of a culture of dialogue there is the dominance of a culture of hypocrisy; dealing with the past is being replaced with working on an agenda of capacity building and accession to NATO/EU (politics without democracy in states without sovereignty)."
"The new generations are educated in a spirit of another type of nationalism - euro-nationalism. To paraphrase Bill Blum: if love (for one’s country) is blind, then love for EU/NATO has lost all five senses. Our internal dilemma of recognizing different kinds of nationalists is therefore very complex - it’s hard to distinguish between those who adore the EU/NATO with eyes wide closed and those who are ready to say “enough is enough”.
But just to make sure she still has a pipeline to the West and remains friendly with those warm and fuzzy peace loving Danes, Swedes and other Westerners who sponsor the international seminars and scholarships she complained about the official welcoming given to Macedonian Police Special Unit General Johan Tarculovski after spending time in a Hague jail for war crimes committed in the 2001 war.
"In that sense, I understand the attacks that ensued after I voiced my stance on Tarculovski’s welcoming party, but I was unpleasantly surprised by the viciousness and sheer number of attacks coming from politicians, media and people that I don’t even know. But it won’t have any effect on my job."
On 2 August 1903---known as St Elijah's Day (Ilinden) - Macedonians and their Vlach(Aromanian) allies in the town of Krusevo launched an uprising against the might of the Ottoman Empire. Many knew it was doomed from the start. These people were villagers, peasants who could not read or write; did not understand science. But they were willing to try something and not wait for a future European Union to solve their artillery problems!. Out of desperation they came up with a Cherry Wood Cannon-- though not effective--it demonstrated a wilingness to try something and not wait for Brussels a hundred and ten years later. In 2013 members of The City of Skopje elite, who hold Masters and PHDs, are afraid of promaja (draught/wind) and of catching nastinka (body cold) and have to wait for the state or government to give them a job...and to run their lives....
PRISTINA POWER RANGERS VERSUS SKOPJE SPACE CADETS – the value of education in the Balkans.
Education or the number of university degrees a person holds is used as a weapon by the City of Skopje elite to hit the average Macedonian--both in the Republic of Macedonia and abroad--over the the head with. But how smart are these people really?
Ali Ahmeti, just to reiterate again, rocked many of the illusions and complacent attitudes held by the Capital City of Skopje elite when on a disability pension in Switzerland and only holding a Philosophy degree from Pristina University, he aunched an ethnic Albanian uprising with the intention of grabbing Macedonian territory. He sold the idea to the EU as a desperate cry for "human rights!" Now this guy, an ex-terrorist or freedom fighter (if you are from the EU) is playing kingmaker in the Macedonian Parliament and will determine the fate of the country.
Journalist Timothy Garton Ash wrote gushingly of Ahmeti's clever shtick, of getting the West on side, and swallowing Ahmeti's take on “civil rights.” Garton Ash also bags unfairly Macedonians during the 2001 conflict:
"Summarising what he told me, I would say that the now forty-two-year-old Ahmeti drew two main conclusions from the Kosovo war. First, you could win more by a few months of armed struggle than Albanian politicians had achieved in nearly a decade of peaceful politics. As in Kosovo, so in Macedonia. Second, that you could do this only if you got the West involved. That was the great tactical goal—and the great unknown. He told me that when the insurgency took off in February, “I knew that without the help of the West we couldn’t win. But we didn’t know how much they would help….” So he had to do everything possible to bring the West in. That meant being deliberately restrained in both their goals and their methods. This was Albanian Macedonia’s chance. This was Ali Ahmeti’s chance."
In contrast you have the “overly credentialed” Dr Vasil Tupurkovski, a one time member of the Collective Presidency of the then SFR Yugoslavia in 1990-91 and later to become Macedonia's Deputy Prime Minister in 1999 till 2000.
He holds a Law degree from the Saints Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje; is a postgraduate of Michigan State University in the United States and obtained a Doctorate from Skopje.
“At a professional level, he is member of the International Association for International Law, as well as the Association World Peace through Law, and held lectures in over 40 states through-out the world.”
On his website Tupurkovski, an international law expert, has proudly placed a photo of himself with then Yugoslav Communist ruler Marshal Josip Tito, the man responsible for the Nanny State mentality that still exists and who did not respect international law when it came to his secret police, the UDBa, assassinating opponents abroad.
Tupurkovski and Tito
And in what can only be described as breathtakingly insane, Tupurkovski, pushed for Macedonia's recognition of Taiwan in 1998 and thereby angered the People's Republic of China. In revenge, Beijing cut off the UN peacekeeping mission on Macedonia's border known as UNPREDEP, which had been successful in keeping Macedonia's northern border safe from infiltration from hostile Kosovo and Serbia.
With UNPREDEP gone, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Ahmeti's western Macedonian off-shoot, the National Liberation Army (NLA) were able to roam across the border bringing in weapons in the lead up to the 2001 war.
So you have to say that Ahmeti's degree from Pristina University would be more valuable to Tupurkovski's many degrees!