A VIEW ON THE CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA What happens to Macedonia while civil society sector’s functionaries duly fix their tables with indicators of achievements, risks and challenges? The choir of indolent subjects stands mute. As media get quieter, the stench of the decay prevails. The civil society forgets that media are civil society, too. Civil society seems to forget that they themselves are civil society…
When we talk about transition, democratization and other important issues and processes, everyone has a different story. When it comes to the civil society sector, a.k.a. NGOs, people often discuss about the public perception and image of the NGOs, rather than the reality and impact. Of course, the impact is indisputable. By default, NGOs keep reporting about their impact and changes in the society and the state, you may guess, in quite pink reports; and, quite far from the reality.
In principle, it is healthy if the sector deals with itself, questions and values its own work and position. Every sector does that. But, what happens to Macedonia while civil society sector’s functionaries duly fix their tables with indicators of achievements, risks and challenges, programmatic and strategic approaches and other fancy phrases?
While NGOs play their limited role in the corner of the society, oligarchs, organized crime and political elites – structures that appear to be one and the same – exploit and humiliate citizens. Citizens have - to date - failed to nurture political and civic culture, not even distantly similar to that in developed democracies.
ROLES AND PLAYS One of the frequent topics within the civil society circles is the integration of society, processed with various vocabularies. There is one, more important question, though: Integration of what? We failed to build a society at the first place. How to integrate something nonexistent?
How should an average citizen of this country feel when someone talks endlessly about rule of law, reconciliation between communities and integration of the society – and enjoys none of it? And – nobody tries to indicate clearly and unequivocally to the source of trouble; to encourage action and call for responsibility. I believe that the ways of operation of the NGO sector led to apathy of citizens and, even more, led to a situation in which citizens are an easy prey to propaganda, manipulation and various threats.
What do we have at the dinner table nowadays? Macedonia, 21st century: a stinking basket in which people and processes move with no order and no sense; grouping in smaller or larger hordes based on backward, absurd and inhuman ideas; monstrous kitsch being built and assholes singing of some newly composed race of Gotse Delchev on one side, and others kneel on their small towels, in the middle of the narrow streets in the old town – on the other side.
The civil society organizations (or, NGOs) have countless roles to play. They can educate. They can spread the word about human rights and freedoms, knowledge that empowers people, messages of peace, tolerance and solidarity between different communities, make people understand common problems and share common values…
REALITY CHECK Human rights and freedoms are virtually unknown. In communication with students, graduated lawyers, teachers, and even CSO functionaries, I realize that many of them have no clue about what human rights are. Many of them, for example, haven’t read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Even more worrying is the fact that the human rights and freedoms are understood as something distant and irrelevant to “us”. “We have more important issues” and “some rights are simply not applicable to our society at this time”.
Most of the people involved in the Macedonian NGOs are like tourists. They just walk through the sector with a lazy walk, half interested or faking interested in the scenery of an unknown and exotic town. They don’t feel like learning anything about the area they are visiting, just counting days to the end of vacation.
Or worse. Many of them are not taking their position seriously, and will quite willingly accept any other job, especially if it’s paid better. They don’t take their own position seriously to that extend that they wouldn’t even abandon their position in the sector, although they would find a job elsewhere. Simply, the NGO job can be done as a hobby or something like that… Simply, many people I know in the sector behave like they are in between jobs, or just don’t take their engagement as a real one.
No wonder that wider public does not take NGOs seriously. I was in the cab the other day. The driver asked me what’s my job. “I work with Civil – Center for Freedom, a NGO working for human rights, peace and arms control” – I stated proudly. “What? Ah, NGO you said? Well, we all need to do some job nowadays, you know, it’s hard to be jobless. It is no shame to do any job.” – was the cab driver’s response to my occupation.
Further, the NGO sector is an income-generator to many. It is a place where “people do nothing and get paid for that”, “they are doing really well”, “it’s not a lot, but it’s for nothing”. You see people in this sector that are there as long as there is at least some money. They turn their back as soon as there is no money left in the cashbox.
FAKING CIVIL SOCIETY CSOs are locked in a vicious cycle of raising funds to stay alive and stay alive to raise more funds to stay alive even longer. In the hunt for money, many CSOs become unscrupulous and easy to buy. Political parties know that. They created society and system in which political parties have the final say, and politics is profitable business – nothing else matters.
CSOs easily become speakerphones or covers for political parties’ interest/power games.
The scheme is easy: if you didn’t get to some position within the party, next step is to become a member of a NGO supported by the ruling party in power. By doing so, the ruling party/government acts openness towards civil society, pays off its obedient soldiers, and corrupts the sector.
Political parties also form or influence NGOs for various other reasons, such as acting popular support, conducting fake surveys, or stating things that wouldn’t be appropriate to say in public, domestic or international. That’s what I call faking civil society.
CHEAP DRUGS - HUGE PROFITS Prejudices lead to hatred, and hatred leads to violence. The dealers of these drugs are in the power structures and governmental institutions. Cheap drugs - huge profits.
While the opposition still seats in front of the magic mirror, waiting for the answer "You, my queen, are fairest of all" – the 24/7 team (party in power) works in earnest: human rights and freedoms, rule of law, democracy and freedom of media are going down.
The choir of indolent subjects stands mute. As media get quieter, the stench of the decay prevails. The civil society forgets that media are civil society, too. Civil society seems to forget that they themselves are civil society…
I see high walls being elevated between people. I look at my county and wonder. When did it become so difficult to see the obvious? When did ability to speak become a handicap?
I see laziness, apathy and lethargy in those who have the tools to encourage and support people. Silence and cowardice mastered where Glasnost and audacity should be at home. I see conformism, hypocrisy and opportunism where they should be unthinkable nouns.