Of hubris and progress
Nikola Dimitrov is fond of saying “onwards and upwards.” Zoran Zaev is fond of saying “there is no alternative.” Both men often talk about being “on the right side of history.” I don’t have too many examples of others from their party saying these things, or from their junior party, DUI, saying these things, but I am sure they have said them — and will say them in the future.
Why do they say these things? One reason is that they believe they are leading Macedonia into the “sunlit uplands” of a Europe, whole, free, and at peace (or perhaps, in their more honest moments, if they have them, they would admit that they are forcing Macedonia into these “utopian” lands, “utopian” meaning, as I must always point out, “no place”). Another reason is that they themselves, as humans, are at the center of this endeavor, whether leading or forcing. They enjoy the attention lavished out on them from the Western elites and woke Macedonian elites and they would hate to be wrong if their actions and policies ultimately undid Macedonia.
This is hubris.
And their hubris comes from a belief in progress.
Christian author Os Guinness in his latest book “Carpe Diem Redeemed” (2019) writes about time, our current age, and the trend of changing the meaning of words in our time. One of the words that has changed meaning is “progress,” which is now used to denote time, rather than space (in the sense of a journey). In our age, however, it has come to mean something that is “automatically and self-evidently positive — regardless of the content of what is being proposed under its banner. For modern people, the sheer claim to progress is argument enough,” Guinness writes.
Guinness continues noting “Progress purports to describe an advance but it also pronounces it good…Reaction, by definition, is bad. According to the improvement myth of the Enlightenment creed, the world is getting better and better. Whatever is today is not only right but a great deal better than what was yesterday. And of course, whatever is coming must be better still. The word progress simply makes it so and tells us so. We are not asked to think…If it’s progressive, by definition it must be good.”
“….progressivism has become the sacred canopy of the secular left,” Guinness writes. “For the secular modern left, the progressive myth tells people that whatever they claim to be doing is justified because they are on ‘the right side of history.’” Many writers have noted that this belief is, essentially, a religious faith and that progressivism, the belief that the world is getting better and better is a key tenet of that faith.
Of course if things are only getting better and better and humankind is always improving, then how does one explain that the “highly civilized Germany of Goethe and Kant would become the barbaric Germany of Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, and Eichmann,” as Guinness asks. And one can find examples of this throughout history. A blind statement that things are “progressing” and getting better and better all the time? Ask the Tutsi’s of Rwanda about that. And many others.
But Zaev, Dimitrov and those like them insist that life is getting better for Macedonians because Macedonia has been forced into NATO — at a terrible cost — and now will pay even more in terms of Macedonia’s history and heroes, not to mention its trademarks, as well as commercial and brand names as it continues “onwards and upwards” into the Promised Land of the EU where everyone is wealthy, healthy, and happy. Because there “is no alternative,” right?
Let’s be honest: Zaev, Dimitrov & Co. thought (perhaps still think) that joining NATO and the EU and doing what they are told by the US State Department, the EU and NATO would make Macedonia wealthy, stable, and secure. It is far easier for them to forcibly change the name and identity, ignore the will of the Macedonians, invite in May, Mattis, Mogherini, and Merkel to say “good boys!” and pat them on the head than it is to….work hard. Work hard at building a prosperous society, wealthy because you pursued economic policies that produce jobs and growth; word hard at building a secure society, because you took into account the will of the people and you worked to create fair and right policies that produce harmony, to the extent possible in inter-ethnic relations and intra-ethnic relations; secure, because you worked hard at being a partner with NATO, content to not sit at the NATO table because of a unjust neighbor, but working with them still, and because you made alliances, while still retaining your dignity, sovereignty, and honor.
Zaev, Dimitrov & Co. chose the dishonest way and in the end, will give away everything that makes Macedonia unique and special. And ultimately, that will do Macedonia in because Macedonia’s identity will crater, inviting other malevolent actors in who will take advantage of Macedonia’s weakness.
We live in an age of both fear and discouragement and I could end this column there, on a rather morose note but let me instead end on a note of hope. The last chapter of the above-quoted book is titled “The End is not the End” and Guinness writes “What looks like the end of something is not always the end of the story.”
Remember that. Hold on to that. Repeat that. Just because this current government of Macedonia is in power and doing harm does not mean that they will be there forever, and hopefully, not much longer.