June 23, 2008

23/06 SPEECH - YIANENA (english)

Speech in the public discussion of the Antinationalistic - Antimilitaristic Initiative in Yianena on 23/06/2008 "We are not threatened by the Republic of Macedonia - We are threatened by nationalism, militarism and NATO".
Anastas Vangeli
Initiative for the withdrawal of Macedonian troops from Iraq “We don’t drink oil”
Dobar den
Buna dzua
Before I go on with my speech, I would like to thank all of you for organizing this event, and punctuate the importance of maintaining this kind of activities in future.
As you’ve heard, I greeted you people here on three languages – I said Kalispera to honor the hosts and all the Greek people here; I said Dobar den to honor the Macedonians and for the Macedonian language to be heard; but I also said Buna dzua which is a Vlach greeting, thus honoring the Vlach people, that live both in Macedonia and Greece; and for I know, Janina is a place that many Vlachs originate from. It is said that, the Aromanian minority in Greece, just like the Macedonian and all the other minorities, has struggled because of the regime troughout the time, which I find unjust, and that’s why I insist that minority languages should be heard in all occassions, especially on public events like this one of ours. Minorities should be recognized and accepted and their rights should be provided equally, even some affirmative actions should be taken. I think that the solidarity with all the smaller communities that struggle expressing their cultural identity, is an important issue for all of us and a good gesture to start with.
Some could argue that it’s more of a liberal stance rather than left, but I come from a country that is as diverse as possible, and I don’t see any other way of how a healthy society can be brought up without all that variety of identities living together. The right of self-determination is the foundation of the civil identity; and i want to stress that it should be equally distributed to everyone, I stress, not just to the ethnic minorities: we have to solidirize with every discriminated individual or group of people because of their identity – LGBT, religious minorities, immigrants, refugees – it’s a broad topic, and an important milestone is achieving TOLERANCE.
So, the first thing is – abolish all the predjudices, stereotypes and values that are set by the mainstream. We are already opressed by the State and the capitalism – the first step is to stop opressing each other. One doesn’t have to be a linguist to find out that other languages exist. One doesn’t have to be historian to find out that some people share different myths and memories than others. One doesn’t have to be biologist to find out that there are differences among every human being on the planet. Life is too short to be obsessed with all those non-productive activities – “live, and let live” is a good proverb to be heard once in a while. We share this world, we live under the same sky and we breath the same air on both sides of the borders.
Following this last statement of mine, I would like to make a link with the dispute between the Churches from both countries because of the influence they have on the situation.
People in Macedonia have constantly been accusing the Greek Orthodox Church and its priests of being nationalistic etc. Yes, I’ve heard about that Anthimos guy, whose statements are beyond the verge of sanity. Yes, I can agree with the fact that he is a nationalist. But has someone actually heard what the Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Stefan, said some time ago? He responded more than equally to his fellow Greek colleague, causing an euphoria of nationalistic sentiment at home, and at the same time, validating himself and the Church as being as nationalistic as the Greek one.
So where is the Christianity in the picture? I’m sure that the Greek Orthodox Church and the Macedonian Orthodox Church actually talk about the same God, the same Heaven, the same code of conduct and share the same values. Aren’t we all brothers and sisters in their rhetoric? Where are the tolerance and the compassion that are one of the basic Christian values? Yes, I am addressing a Christian critique to the institutions of Christianity. How Christian is accussing and pointing your finger at your fellow believers, just because they come from another country? There are some good points in the Bible, about turning the other cheek and forgiveness. I recommend to the religious leaders from both countries to start reading more of that kind of literature, rather than the colloquial and profane words of the cruel politicians.
And speaking of the cruel politicians, the first thing that immediately comes to my mind is the name dispute and the grotesques that happen all the time on that issue.
If we now start theoretizing on that topic, we will find ourselves in the middle of someone else’s problem. Because no one here has a problem with a name – everyone can call himself the way he wants to, and it’s a basic rule of communication. I can not understand the official Greek position on the issue. I don’t see the point at all, I don’t see the arguments, I don’t see the sober and rational thinking – all I see is blindness and nationalistic fever. It is sad that the Greek official policy is that sharp and offensive on a neighbour country; but it is also sad that lately, the Macedonian official policy, and the public opinion as well, are shifting towards the same category with the Greek attitude – the difference is the aiming at the opposite direction. And Macedonian people excuse themselves because they consider that they give proper answer to the Greek policy, but they are not aware that by acting as such, they are becoming what they despise – nationalists.
Nationalism is a very serious illness of a society; because it flirts with people’s feelings and inner doubts. It’s a game of fear, aggressiveness and dismantling the individual rational thinking; it’s a game that is based on the psychology of the masses, and the ability to manipulate with the facts.
That’s what the name dispute is about. It’s a clash over just one symbol, over something artificial, it’s a clash over just one WORD, a word in its most literal meaning. But, it has background. History. I would dare to say genocide. Totalitarian regimes. Fugitives. Stolen properties. Who knows? I prefer saying historical engineering instead of just history.
People go back in the ancient times because of that. People rearrange their lives because of that. People go out on the street because of that. People hate each other because of that. People are ultimately divided because of that. That’s what nationalism suggests.
For me, a true act of anti-nationalism is when a man stops living in the past and abolishes the collective reality and starts thinking of the well being of the very people around him including himself. Thus, a real act of anti-nationlism by me, would not be the deconstruction of the Greek position in the situation with Macedonia. You know better than me what the Greek politicians say and do. That’s your battle to fight and you have some serious work to do.
My anti-nationalism is a critique to the nationalism I see at home.
Some time ago, the nationalists used to call the map of all the three parts of Macedonia - “Great Macedonia” or “United Macedonia”. Now, they say, Great Macedonia’s borders are Egypt and India, and that the former is the “Real Macedonia”. What’s more scary is that people see it as something completely normal; that map can be bought as a souvenir; and it is even accepted in the pop culture as such. There were even some occasions when that map was included in a formal protocol.
The sad truth for the Macedonian nationalists in this case is the fact that in the modern history, a sovereign entity in those borders has never been established under the name of Macedonia. There is no legitimate right to even dream about uniting the three parts together. It’s even written in the Macedonian Constitution, about not having territorial aspirations. I don’t say all this to provoke the Macedonians or just to be politically correct towards the Greeks – it’s all about the rational thinking and being sober. Some say that Macedonians need to ask for revision of the Bucharest treaty from 1913, and that the Aegean and Pirin parts should be returned to Macedonia. I see no point in that; if someone should receive his territories back from that time, it is Turkey, because the Turks were in power here 100 years ago.
Another part of the authentic Macedonian nationalism is the Alexandrology. For me, many of the recent discoveries about the ancient Macedonian language and culture, and about Alexander himself are nothing more than the usual show on the Documentary channel. Some of them are even absurd and questionable. I don’t try to discredit them, but I see no point in abusing all those recent discoveries in the identity engineering. People are sensitive and get easily mobilized over their historical rights which can lead to tragic outcome.
And the center of the whole theory about the glorious past and the continuity etc, is Alexander himself. Renaming public objects, erecting monuments, a mass hysteria... and Alexander, was a military person. Alexander was the Commander of the strongest army of his time. And we know what the strongest armies do. They conquer people. They kill, enslave, torture people. Their leaders reshape the world. Some would say Alexander had humanistic ideals. Yes, Napoleon had the European dream. Hitler wanted a pure world, the purest world possible. George Bush is driven by his Christian intuition. The radical terrorists are driven by great ideals. Even the Allies in the World War 2 fought for world liberty and still did that horrible thing in Japan and Dresden.
There is a strong militaristic flavor added to the nationalistic hysteria in this region. The hero of our peoples [both the Macedonians and the Greeks] happens to be the biggest blood thirsty murderer of his era. Another example of the militaristic shadow of the nationalism is the fact that the climax of the name dispute happened because of Macedonia’s NATO-bid – it was a dispute over the membership in a military alliance that bombed innocent people in 1999, that occupied Afghanistan in 2001, and that its main purpose is stimulating the weapon production and trade. It’s a military alliance that has constantly been making the world worse and worse place to live in.
On the one hand, Greece’s biggest ally, Sarkozy, declared the strongest support in the name dispute during the visit which was intended for establishing the military cooperation between your country and France. On the other hand, Macedonia gained much of the support of its strongest ally, the US because of the alliance in the modern-day-Vietnam-like-war in Iraq.
So, while people fight whether Alexander was Greek or Macedonian, the taxes they pay are being constantly spent on American of French tanks [under the NATO standards], wages for the soldiers in missions in the Middle East, guns, ammunition and other resources necessary for winning the wars we are involved in.
This is the wake up call.
We have to unite in solidarity against the nationalistic and militaristic schizophrenia from both sides of the borders. One of the symptoms of nationalism is seing your own nation as a victim – NO! The only victim in this kind of situation are the humanists, the people that focus on reality and social problems. The political elites are not that antagonistic in the name and all other disputes – the Macedonian and the Greek government have a silent agreement that the disputes will never be closed. That’s the only way how Dora Bakoyanis and Antonio Milososki will remain our daily heroes, that’s the only way to keep people in the matrix, that’s the only way to keep on skipping the real problems – growing prices, social inequalities, intolerance. Believe me, for them it is much easier to point fingers and insult each other, thus stimulating nationalistic sentiments among the masses. They will do everything to escape from reality. And the reality is that, as I’ve heard, Greece is on the brink of a social revolution, and the Macedonian reality is growing prices, unemployment and colonisation known as foreign direct investments. We also have an emerging food and energy crisis, and we have so many environmental problems that can cause much more damage to our children than the name dispute. We need a general mutual platform, to transcend the absurd of the Nations, and start building a new world order, with a human face.
I am not satisfied with the situation and I will do whatever it takes to improve it. I came here to find allies. I hope you’ll stand by me.
Long live the freedom!