Author: Miodrag Miki Marinkovic
Program Director of NGO AKTIV
In last couple of weeks the world has changed before our eyes. It changed to extent greater than it had in last two decades. If by chance, someone slept through those tormenting two weeks in March or embarked on journey to some, off the grid destinations, the changes that awaited were astonishing.
Once he/she, for the purpose of this piece, let’s call it a traveler, left the Kosovo, along with passport and baggage, he brought along the unwavering persuasion of rightfulness of developed world. The traveler left home with outmost piety toward fabled European values, solidarity, tolerance, unity, cooperation. Coming from restless Balkan, where differences are often treated with insults, disrespect and fear, where people seeks comfort solely among those alike, the traveler envied the Europeans that embraced such a way of life. He felt butterflies in his stomach at the airport as being a few steps away from such a world.
When traveler finally came back, world that he left, was no more. In just 15 days the unthinkable has happen; Germany closed its borders, Italy closed its people, USA closed the cashbox, Europe has closed its schools, factories, Starbucks’s and Zara’s. Everyone got closed. The images of famous squares in Europe, Plazza de Orient, Champs Elysees, Santa Maria Piazza, he knew only packed with annoying tourists with cameras and socks with sandals, were now deserted in broad daylight. The images resembled the apocalyptic movies scenes. The fear prevailed and took over a minds of people.
So the people started to act out of fear. The media headlines flashed before travelers eyes, shattered the myths of EU solidarity into thousand little selfish pieces
“Italian authorities have seized a shipment of 1,840 manual respirators intended for patients receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19 in Greece”
“French border guards impounded lorries filled with 130,000 face masks bound for the UK”
“Czech Republic seizes more than 100,000 face masks sent by China to help Italy tackle spread” ….
The very same European solidarity, we all heard a million times as, for us, unattainable value, imploded into state protectionisms, self-centeredness and unprecedented Machiavellianism of European Union states. It proved what theorists and analysts suspected, there is no EU identity. It’s counts more for being Spaniard, German or Italian then European.
One would thought that, once the EU civility as exemplary political and social model vanished, traded for the boxes of surgical masks, Balkan states would resort to deeply embedded animosities and rivalry. Especially because now there is few left to scrutinize them. But no. That was not what happened. Balkan nations, especially Serbs and Albanians as epitome of its calamity, practiced one skill, believed to be long forgotten;
The borders were opened for food, medicine, doctors to travel freely to his patients. Medical aid was shared. Politicians has meet without EU patronage, to discuss how to tackle the pandemic, ministries meet to exchange expertise and information, And no one paid attention to formalities, whether Kosovo is Republic or Kosovo * on the declaration of the aid that was sent, or the flags on the desks of ministers. There was no time for such a formalities. Leaders set a differences aside and acted with intention not to harm. Of course, it’s not that we achieved a miracles, groundbreaking improvements or something of such magnitude. But it was obvious that there was an effort invested, conscious effort, not to make things harder for each other. Knowing where we were just a while ago, I dare to say, this was great improvement.
So, once the first shock with the news ended, our traveler start to wonder how come we acted more mature and responsible than renowned EU democracies. How come our politicians, populists as they are, refrained from cashing in our enmities like so many times so far, and acted with consideration? What have happened?
The empathy happened. Pure and simple understanding what ‘others’ are experiencing and newly found ability to relate with them. This tiny submicroscopic agent, deconstructed and reshuffled all divisions that we created. It was no longer important were we born as Serbs and Albanians, Christians or Muslims. It became us versus virus. It made us understood that living next to each other we share not only claims, but concerns as well. That we depend on each other wellbeing.
The question is, was such epiphany exclusive to the end-of-the-world scenarios, or could have we acted more responsible in all our petty grudges in the past. Could have we acted with empathy if not for our mutually exclusive national ideas but for the victims they left behind. The decades has passed but we as society have not succeeded to build an understanding and acknowledge the victims beyond its national identity. Centuries has passed and we have failed to overcome the urge of subordination of the other as the only possible way to co-existence.
Last couple weeks showed that, despite the common belief, we do have such capacity. This crisis revealed a glimpse of it. We as society demonstrated that we are capable of more responsible and considerate actions toward each other. It’s not popular, for sure. We can already hear a voices to restore “natural order” in which we hate each other. But, regardless of that, one things has changed irreversibly. The idea that Serbs and Albanian cannot live together is proven wrong.