Macedonia is undergoing a worrisome change of character. If not reversed, these malignant processes will backfire and Macedonia's hopes will be cruelly dashed.
The Republic of Macedonia is 16 years old: an adolescent with the problems and promises that characterize puberty. The country now has a young and dynamic leadership which has succeeded, in one short year, to transform Macedonia's image both domestically and abroad. According to repeated polls, for the first time in two decades, people are optimistic and investors sanguine.
But there are troubling currents afoot. Macedonia is undergoing a worrisome change of character. If not reversed, these malignant processes will backfire and Macedonia's hopes will be cruelly dashed. Under Nikola Gruevski, Macedonia, for the first time, stands a chance of becoming a prosperous member of Europe and the international community. Its history of self-destructive self-defeating behavior can be avoided.
Macedonians would do well to learn from the experience of the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus described in the following article.
*The following article was originally written about the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus.*
All the countries in the mutilated post-Communist parts of Europe inevitably ended up poor. Yet, as opposed to their neighbors, some polities failed to alleviate their misery or ameliorate their dire predicament. The denizens of these states are not only impoverished - they also feel like losers and failures.
To avoid confronting such unpalatable truths and to fend off a tormenting self-image, the citizenry of these places developed a host of psychological defense mechanisms.
1. Magical Thinking
The belief in a fantastic world in which miracles occur, saviors materialize, one is immune to the consequences of one's inaction, and all ends well, regardless of current realities.
The leaders of such countries provide their voters with fairy tales and grandiose fantasies about multi-billion dollar investments, which typically never materialize. Worse still, this obsessive preoccupation with deus-ex-machina salvation-by-outsiders detracts from and distracts the scarce human resources at the disposal of the government.
As a result, the authorities neglect to tackle the most pressing problems facing their nation: unemployment, dysfunctional institutions, and venality. In the meantime, asset bubbles - both in real estate and in the bloated and much-manipulated stock exchange - imperil the country's financial system.
2. Messianic-Religious Leadership
From the Caucasus to the republics of former Yugoslavia, leaders of economically decrepit countries in the region present themselves as either Messiah-like saviors or martyrs to the cause, hounded by a "hate-filled and jealous" opposition, or victimized by outside forces. Such leaders ostentatiously "dedicate themselves" to the nation, forsaking a private life or worldly pleasures.
Their subjects crave for honest and hard-working leadership and so hungrily succumb to the allure of ceaseless media campaigns, which border on a personality cult. They suspend their disbelief and dispense with rationality. The Dear Leader becomes the focal point of their hopes and dreams while other institutions - parliament, the judiciary, and the media - shrink and wither.
Often, this populist worship results in an authoritarian regime that gradually, almost imperceptibly replaces consensus politics. The Beloved Leader keeps paying lip service to democracy and functioning institutions, but effectively, he contemptuously ignores them. He purges the civil service, staffing it with cronies and relatives, and he treats the opposition as traitors and enemies of the state.
3. Denial of Reality
From the Caucasus, through Central Asia, to the Balkans and Africa, unable to face the dismal condition of their countries, people choose to simply deny it. Hype and spin and public relations replace real action and substantive reforms. The language itself is subverted: corruption is redefined by the powers that be to exclude blatant nepotism; a mere change of ownership hailed as a revolutionizing foreign investment; promises and plans presented as facts (faits accompli); statistical methodology altered to produce favorable results. Thus, reality is done away with and replaced with fantasy.
4. Aggressive Assertiveness
Rather than accept the fact that the nation's low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence are outcomes of its failures, the leadership reverses cause and effects: the country's repeated failures are now, officially, a RESULT of people's wavering self-esteem and self-confidence. People who doubt the leadership's claims and doctored data "don't believe in the future of the nation, don't believe that (insert the name of the country) can (succeed)." Dissidents are, therefore, branded as pusillanimous traitors.
Thus, everyone is encouraged to adopt a loathsome variant of newfound assertiveness that borders on narcissism and is unpleasantly aggressive. It does not reflect an inner conviction in the real capabilities and skills of the populace. It is merely demonstrative and hyperbolic.
Sam Vaknin, Ph.D., Associate Editor, Global Politician