Friday, May 17, 2013

THE NANNY STATE - Macedonian style?

by Sasha Uzunov

A Macedonian woman complained recently about how her Masters Degree from the prestigious Cambridge University was not enough to get her a job in academia in her homeland. It brought to the boil long simmering issues of nepotism and indirectly the concept of the Nanny State, hence the play on the headline above.

Ana Stojanov(a) was interviewed on Radio Free Europe's Macedonian language section by journalist Pelagija Mladenovska. Ms Stojanov(a) complained that she had been denied a job within Macedonia's University sector even though she was the best qualified of the candidates. The person who got the job, she asserts, had lower grades.

She is also playing the patriotism card:

"I studied for my Masters at Cambridge and out of loyalty to the Fatherland (tatkovina), I returned but the institutions slammed the door on me."

Having worked in the Balkans region on and off over a 20 year period, I have to agree with Ms Stojanov(a) on nepotism being rampant within Macedonia and for that matter other parts of the independent states that arose from the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991.

But Ms Stojanov(a)'s expectation of a highly paid government job in academia after completing her studies also brought to mind the concept of the Nanny State, where the state or government provides you with everything and takes away your own initiative.

It's not Ms Stojanov(a)'s fault for being marinated in such a culture. She is a victim. Nepotism was ingrained and in fact encouraged unofficially in the old Communist Yugoslavia and it rolled over into the independent state of Macedonia. In communist times it ensured loyalty to the regime as well as keeping the privileges within a very small section of society.

Moreover, communist Yugoslavia's so called economic prosperity was built on a house cards, constructed by ruler Marshal Tito who simply took money from both the East and West in his balancing act during the Cold War.

But what Communism also did was destroy the Macedonian man and woman's sense of initiative, independence. Instead the culture of entitlement developed. During the mid 1960s, thousands of Macedonians left their homeland, then under Yugoslav Commuist control for a better life in Western Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States.

But these people, who were largely from the villages and towns, where the ones with strong work ethic. This was a deliberately policy by Tito--and carried out by  satrap Lazar Kolisevski--who wanted to reward a small but loyal elite with privileges.

These Macedonians abroad did not complain about their lack of opportunity to the government, they got on with their lives, built houses and raised families. They were spied upon and intimated by the Yugoslav secret police, UDBa. They even sent back millions of dollars in hard currency to their relatives in the old country (stari kraj), which the regime used.

I would say to Ms Stojanov(a), the issue is not education as such. All societies need trained doctors, architects, engineers and so on. But it also needs trades people such as plumbers, carpenters etc.

 In Macedonia under communism, anyone who worked in agriculture or in a village was seen as "primitive" (zaostanat). The ideal job was for a man to wear a suit, tie and to work in an office and have a sexy secretary serve him coffee whilst he did nothing all day

The mentality in Macedonia has to change....The government can't give you everything. My parents were poor villages who left Macedonia in 1966. They couldn't speak any English when they arrived in Australia. Yet they managed to build a life. I can't understand how "educated" Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia are so afraid of hard work...

The obsession with "over-education" in then Communist Yugoslav where adults studied into their 30s for degrees that were worthless is hilarious, when you consider the man who founded Yugoslav Communism Josip Broz Tito was a Croatian locksmith who barely finished primary school but manged to con both the Soviet Bloc and the West into giving him money....

US President Abraham Lincoln had barely 2 years of formal schooling but won the Civil War (1861-65) and freed the slaves. Steve Jobs of Apple Computers fame worked in his garage.

Ali Ahmeti has a disability pension from Switzerland where he worked but managed to lead an ethnic Albanian uprising against the Macedonian state and later became a political king maker in that country's parliament. But hey he has only a Philosophy degree from Pristina University not from the prestigious Cambridge !

In the real world, if you can't find a job that you've been trained for, then you have to do something else. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism but served in the Australian Army as an infantry soldier for seven years, I've worked in factories, on building sites, dug ditches, foundations for houses, cleaned toilets. Whether you have a Masters Degree from Cambridge or is work... If Ms Stojanov(a) can't get a job in academia, go flip burgers or kebapi in Skopje somewhere. Do something.

Leaving the country is a cop out. Because jobs in the West are scarce as well.

Some critics find it hilarious that Ana Stojanov(a) has a Master's Degree from Cambridge yet she misspells her surname as Stojanov...doesn't that strike you as a bit odd ! In proper Macedonian grammar Stojanov is male gender, whilst Stojanova is female.

Perhaps this is a misspelling on Ms Stojanov(a)'s part. If so, critics would be questioning her standard of education.

Or perhaps she is making a political statement about gender. If so then that shtick has been already covered by greater thinkers such as Germaine Greer and Naomi Wolf, who have managed to carve out careers without relying on others or complaining.

The sense of irony and satire is largely missed by Macedonia's "educated elite" mainly found in the capital city of Skopje, of which Ms Stojanov(a) is so eager to join. This elite holds in disdain those Macedonians in the diaspora who speak quaint, "old fashioned" Macedonian without the trendy Serbian words or any other buzz term that has entered the language.

Language, culture, society, work are all connected... They tell us a lot about a nation, and where it's going... whether some nations are confident  or suffer from an inferiority complex.

If you're a Macedonian "red neck" from deep south in the land of Australia,  heaven forbid if you make a grammatical error when speaking "literary Macedonia" because the Skopje educated elite will brand you an uncultured (ne kulturen) heathen but it seems that Ms Stojanov(a) has the right to break the rules of grammar !


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