Fear and hope
There are two definitions of diplomacy that I enjoy. The first is that a diplomat is one who always remembers a lady’s birthday, but never her age. The second is that a diplomat is someone with the ability to look you directly in the eye and tell you to go straight to Hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip.
It is this second definition that applies to the US Department of State when it comes to Macedonia. And by that definition, American diplomacy in Macedonia is not a success.
The recently departed American Ambassador Kate Byrnes — together with her predecessors as well senior members of the Department of State — have been looking Macedonians directly in the eye and telling them to go straight to Hell, in a manner of speaking, for at least the past two decades. But Macedonians have not looked forward to the trip and, in fact, have resented it on every level.
Author and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) in her masterful book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1966), states that, in a totalitarian society, “the worst have lost their fear and the best have lost their hope.”
While Macedonia is not a totalitarian society, I think this is fairly descriptive of many in Macedonia today: there are too many individuals — consisting of both politicians, certain “businessmen” (read: criminals), actual criminals, and others — who have lost their fear of being prosecuted for their crimes, misdeeds, and outright bad management of Macedonia, while, perhaps, the vast majority of Macedonians — of all ethnic groups — have lost any hope of things ever getting better.
Certainly, those who have lost their fear don’t believe that justice will ever reach them. And they certainly do not believe in a Last Judgement either. They believe that they can continue getting away with their crimes and malign management for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they have powerful protectors and enablers behind them.
For instance: shortly before her departure, US Ambassador Kate Byrnes tweeted “Honored that for more than three years I had the privilege to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to North Macedonia. Happy to see (Macedonian flag emoji) progress these years, and our continued partnership and cooperation. Thank you to citizens, partners, and colleagues for this unforgettable journey.”
A few points: first, yes it has been “unforgettable” and unfortunately so. Byrnes presided not over “progress,” as she calls it, but regress. In her time in country, Macedonia has gone backward in just about every conceivable way (and part of the blame for this is with her for enabling and protecting those who do wrong). Second, the use of the Macedonian flag emoji shows that, in her last communication, she could not even bring herself to write “…Macedonian progress….” which would have been a kind nod to the Macedonians, at the very least. To use a gambler’s term, that is a tell: ultimately, she does not care one whit about Macedonia or Macedonians, despite her nice words. Third, the collage of pictures associated with her tweet were all government officials and some youth from various organizations. That should seal the issue of who her “partners” were in her “unforgettable” journey.
I’m glad she is gone. But I expect nothing different from the next US ambassador. That ambassador will do pretty much the exact same thing: cozy up to the left and progressives (both in and out of government) .and spend endless American tax dollars on leftist, progressive projects that the vast majority of Macedonians do not want…or, importantly, need. Remember: the State Department practically brags that it has spent nearly one billion US dollars of American taxpayer money spent so far over the past quarter of a century. And how is the Macedonian judiciary doing?
If strengthening relations between the two countries is a major goal of US diplomacy, one role of the State Department, then the vast majority of Macedonians — from all walks of life — then again, US diplomacy has failed. While most Macedonians do like America and American culture (and would happily accept a 10-year work visa if offered) it is the diplomatic efforts of the diplomats of the US, who have failed to engender any respect for the US. Again, blame lies with the American diplomats, not the American people.
Now, perhaps the view of the Department of State is simply one of “We don’t care if you like or love us, just do as you are told.” And that might be correct.
But a country, like Macedonia, whose bad actors have lost all fear and whose good inhabitants have no hope, is a country in danger of collapsing — and that is not a scenario that American diplomats want, especially when that country is in Europe. A country in which there is no fear by the criminal class and no hope among honest people is not a healthy society and one would think that, at a minimum, the American diplomats would recognize that as a bad situation. At least they would if they had a moral compass but perhaps that is asking too much.
(I am criticizing my own foreign service here because, as an American, I have that right and duty to do so — but we all know that the European Union and its various representatives to Macedonia, along with the various Member State ambassadors, have all behaved in similar fashion during their tours)
Can you change any of this?
I think the answer is “yes,” and it must be if people are to be given hope (we all need hope) and the bad people are taught to fear. It begins with doing what is right — on every level, but starting at the individual level — you know, don’t cheat on your taxes, pay your utility bills, stop at red lights — the seemingly small, mundane things. Everyone needs to do these things.
Next, don’t be silent. And, in fact, use humor, sarcasm, and parody to showcase the government’s ineptitude, wrongdoing, and foolishness. Do the same with the international diplomats.
Finally, take a little bit more responsibility for yourself, and for Macedonia. I find many Macedonians always blaming others. Stop it. There’s plenty of blame to go around but take a look in the mirror first. And then shape up and stop whining.
Do these simple things, repeatedly, and I guarantee you things will change, and for the better.