Reflections on worn out narratives
It doesn’t stop to amaze me how people still seem to find all of the blame within the Ohrid Framework Agreement, but seemingly no blame with a system that perpetuates division and does almost nothing for the inclusion of the marginalized groups in society, and no, I am not just referring to government institutions. The OFA is not bad, the OFA is simple, and it doesn’t include half of the things that people seem to assume that it does. The problem is that the majority of the society in North Macedonia still takes little effort to include and involve marginalized groups. If I started listing the magazines, NGOs, and alternative online media, many of which represent diversity mostly in their names, but not in their authors, their board of directors, their editors, and the languages in which they publish their websites’ content, I would be including a majority of operating magazines, NGOs and alternative online media. Not to forget to mention that the reason why me and many Albanians made it to public spaces in the first place was because of the rights advanced by OFA, and I sure am grateful. I am the first in line to talk about advancing and going beyond the OFA, but that starts with realizing just what kind of document it is, and more importantly, all of the social discourses regarding legal rights that it doesn’t address, but the Assembly and the Government and the civil society should always fight to cover, and some of them are equality, justice and inclusion for ethnically, socially and economically marginalized groups.
It also doesn’t stop to amaze me how ethnic problems can appear in all places where explanation on everything that is wrong with society is required. Take the census as an example – are ethnic politics a problem? Absolutely. Are they the only problem? Absolutely not!
What can be deemed as problematic is the amount of people that are choosing to migrate exactly because of their lack of trust in public institutions which seek to politicize something as simple as a census and the hostage politics which is not only played by DUI or other Albanian parties, but also by that relentless and unreformed political monster we know as VMRO, that still holds important issues hostage while pushing people to forget the abuse of power they exercised for more than 10 while still using the same nationalistic narrative that perpetuated their governance. What is actually problematic is that we struggle to articulate such issues with the nuance they deserve, something I also do, undoubtedly.
Let’s take the issue of outlining ethnicity in the census – me inserting that I belong to the ethnic Albanian community does not mean I am a nationalist or that I consider ethnicity to be my main identifier, but that I recognize that because of my membership in this community, I need education, documents and information to be available in the language which I speak. If we dispel the illusion that North Macedonia is a monoethnic country, and accept it for the multicultural and multilingual society that it is, then this should not be a problem. The problem here is not ethnicity, but its politicization and the problematization of policies that are targeted towards accommodating the needs of diverse ethnic groups. Perhaps no one is more to blame than our politicians for their lack of innovative ideas to create a better future for citizens. The failure of the Albanian parties and the political elite to articulate what second-class citizenship means without having to draw it back to ethnocentrism and push for law and policies that make very little sense and would do little to nothing to extend the rights of marginalized groups in the country. However, it is still legitimate to claim that sadly, in North Macedonia, if you want to be a civic minded individual, ethnicity is still tied to inequalities, to lack of opportunities, to exclusion, and here I am, not only speaking of Albanians, but of Roma, Bosniak, and other communities, too. Stereotypes are still rife on TV, in policies, and in debates, being stuck to a 90’s world without much critical examination.
What’s even more depressing is that women are still at the bottom when it comes to being considered as a voice of reason in politics and this is perpetuated in non-state institutions as well. We, Albanian women, seem to be interchangeable. I can think of a few cases when I and another qualified, intelligent Albanian woman colleague have been treated as interchangeable “experts” who were used in order to create a superficial image of diversity and inclusion, and that there can only be one of us to speak at any event or moment, because surely we have the same thoughts, considering that we are Albanian women, intelligent Albanian women. Surely, we must not have independent thoughts of each other which come from very diverse academic, social, or political backgrounds. Still, the most depressing thing is that this experience and narrative have mostly been mostly put in place by the “liberal” minded among us. It must also be highlighted, especially in light of the election of a second woman appointed as president in neighboring Kosovo, that there is no Albanian woman minister currently in cabinet in North Macedonia, and only one deputy, and there is no other woman of a non-majority community in the executive branch of government, which is unforgivable. The excuse that “they are hard to find” should be embarrassing for parties which proclaim to have a large group of followers, and it is a lazy and inconsiderate argument, at best.
But sure, keep blaming the OFA, because that is clearly the only thing that is wrong with our politics, and not the fact that we still have systemic inequalities that precede it. Instead, let OFA take its seat someplace in our history that’s already dangling on the margins, and let’s start talking about new policies. I am usually not a person whose disposition is angry, but with the pandemic that has turned the world upside down and has shown the underbelly of all the inequalities swiped under the carpet for too long, I am tired of listening to old arguments. Surely, it is time to imagine new futures, which are inclusive and open, to ensure the welfare of every single member of society, that includes abandoning old conceptions, starting from myself.
Yours truly, an angry woman.