“Where is the horse and the rider? / Where is the horn that was blowing? / They have passed like rain on the mountains, / like wind in the meadow. / The days have gone down in the West, / behind the hills… into Shadow“. Thus spoke Theoden King of Rohan, one of the characters in the conservative masterpiece The Lord of Rings. It is a world renowned book, considered the best of the last century, written by a conservative giant, Master John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In my country of Albania this jewel of world literature is little known and yet it should be, because we have much to learn from it. It is a story of the resistance of the free peoples of Middle Earth against a tyrant who wants to destroy all the art, culture, cities and places of worship as he subjugates the world and reshapes it into his image.
Lessons from Literature
So, in this novel, brave people who wanted to preserve their kingdoms, nature, history, traditions, culture, art, objects of thousands of decades of life and even those with but a few hundred years, rose even when the odds of winning seemed distant. As his stronghold was being overrun by the countless of hordes of the enemy in the middle of the night King Theodon only wandered despair for a fleeting moment. Then he thought about the riders of old, those that so valiantly made history atop their horses. They are those that now are lost in the shadows of history, but thanks to whom future generations are currently alive in their own countries.
The Attack and Destruction of Albania’s National Theater
I was thinking about this, amid a few tears I have to admit, last Sunday morning, May 17, 2020, a day that will go down in infamy in the history of my country. At 4.30 am, countless police troops, many unidentified, attacked and destroyed the National Theater of Albania, a building deemed to have great historic and artistic value by many Albanian and European institutions. They knowingly risked killing the group of artists and art-loving people that had been protecting the theater for two years, day and night. What ensued as the sun rose on a bloody Sunday, was a day of violence, protests, tears and arrests.
It was a similar description to the one found in the Avanti Ragazzi di Buda song about the Soviets crushing the anti-communist Hungarian rebellion. They did so just as they had crushed the bones of the protesters, while the world stood still and watched. It is a shame that in our modern societies we allow a communist song like Bella Ciao to brainwash millions of people, and yet a song about the valiant quest for freedom is abandoned and forgotten. Nevertheless, Europe can do what it always does: stay still and watch. Watch the suffering of one of its older nations — a suffering it has enabled.
A Symbol of Resistance to Tyranny
Sunday was a day of mourning, no doubt. I had never imagined I and many others would weep for the destruction of a building, as if it were a human being. Yet, as the initial shock wore off, I realized the tears were not for the bricks and columns of the theater itself. They were for the symbol that had been obliterated. A history of actors, drama, tragedy, comedy, directors, producers and so on was buried that morning. However, together with them a symbol of resistance, a yearning for the rule of law, democracy and proper institutions was demolished. Soon, no one will be able to utter a word of protest in a country that has suffered decades of communism and has yet to taste true democracy and republicanism.
I want to be honest with my readers. It is first and foremost our own fault as Albanians. Yet, we are such a small country that it appears even fate has been against us and we must surrender before the fatality of life. We were betrayed in 1990, when the world was defeating and condemning the remnants of communism. We forgave those who left us behind and let them rule us under a peculiar system we like to call democracy. It is not. There has never been a real democracy in Albania during the last 30 years.
We have lied to ourselves and the EU has lied to us. It is very difficult to explain to foreigners that have not experienced it themselves exactly what communism does to people. It does not only impoverish, imprison, and destroy a country. It attacks the soul and spirit of individuals. It strips them of their humanity, dignity, individualism and critical thinking. The individual does not exist anymore. He is a part of the communist society and its inhuman collective. He or she becomes simply one more human unit, ordered to perform as the party requests. This happened in Albania and was a process that lasted decades. Finally, the new man was created, who resembled more a robot than a human being. People were ordered to spy on each other, distrust one another and love only the tyrant. The past was erased or deformed in Albania to suit the needs of the Party. There was no culture, no art, no religion apart from what communism allowed.
The Crimes of the Past Still Linger
These crimes against humanity were never punished. If you teach a whole generation that wrongdoing of the greatest monstrosity can go unpunished, then you incentivize more crime. Those that performed the abuses of power are currently holding some of the highest posts in our nation. The EU and the USA have allowed it and protected them. It is fundamental that we restore the notion of criminal punishment first, so that the country can heal.
Curing a population without identity and humanity was impossible to achieve in just 30 years, because the very soul of humans was transformed under communism, creating a Frankenstein’s monster. Divisions and mistrust between the members of our nation run deep. Patriotism and the notion that we have to love our families and our lands were stripped forcibly from many. Naturally, there were those that resisted. However, these people who managed to keep their identities, their personalities and intellectualism were not allowed to be anywhere near the levers of power — even after communism supposedly fell.
Albania Gets a Raw Deal from Europe
Albania is maybe the oldest civilization in Europe, with certainly the oldest language. It has given Europe four Popes, several Emperors and leaders. It has contributed to the European civilization for millennia and has received nothing in return. It currently gives the world famous and valuable artists, doctors, engineers, lawyers, inventors and so on, proving that when left free, the potential for greatness is huge for every Albanian.
However, it is not an exaggeration to say that Europe does not want Albania. It never has. It divided a once big country that ran from the Danube river in the North, until Ioannina in the south. In 1945, Europe abandoned Albania, leaving it in the hands of the Red terror. Now, Europe has deserted it once again. Albania today exists because of the United States of America. Nevertheless, Barack Obama outsourced us in the hands of a foreign self-proclaimed philanthropist.
Albania — and the Balkans in general — are not the focus of the current American administration, as much as it pains me to say. Due to the abandonment by Obama, Albania which was once the most pro-American country on Earth, is losing faith on the world’s biggest democracy. Diplomats who care nothing about us are corrupted by politicians as soon as they get off the planes. Just as politicians collude with themselves against their sovereign. A small group of people is holding hostage an entire country. The world allows it because it has decided stability in the region is enough, while democracy is overrated. Yet, with their shortsightedness, they do not see that there will never be stability without the rule of law and strong institutions. A strong and democratic Albania, leads to a strong and peaceful Balkans, and as a result, a strong Europe.
Poverty as a Tool of Political Oppression
Inside the country, most Albanians are still traumatized by fifty years of torture and de-humanization. The victims of communism never saw their killers face justice. People have been impoverished on purpose, because the poorer a person is, the less likely he is to rise against his abusers. They have been indoctrinated, divided into political camps and currently stand without civil society, with a corrupt media, an allegedly bought and paid for opposition which does not inspire faith and at the very least is incompetent, and an authoritarian regime. Every night many TV programs serve only the goal of furthering the brainwash of the citizens.
Albanians have been unable to educate themselves properly, because no one has allowed them to. In fact, governments have encouraged Albanians to simply stay in a vegetative state in their cafes and bars and discuss anything but the fate of their lives, leading slowly to the creation of an apathetic society. Meritocracy was never allowed to take roots from 1945 to today. Moreover, there have never been strong and true institutions that would outlive politicians. It truly is the most peculiar and hurt country on Earth. So much potential, so many plunderers and so little luck for its citizens.
There is Still Hope
No help from the outside and no prospective of sustainable inside protest make the future seem bleak and hopeless. Yet, there is hope. It is not the strength of the body, as Tolkien would say, but the strength of the spirit and we must remember that even the smallest person can change the course of history. The signal comes from the United States. Each and everyone of us can make a difference by going through a national reawakening. We must restore our personal identities. We must learn to think in a critical way. Reason and logic are powerful weapons.
We must resuscitate our national identities and the sense of patriotism. Most importantly, we must remember our history, traditions and culture, in the face of those who seek to destroy them, so that we can live, study and work in our own country just like the rest of the world. We need to move forward so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past; so that our youth is not ruined and forever damaged by terror, fear and tears; so that our future generations live with the same standards as their peers of the West; and so that the sacrifices our grandparents and parents, their sufferings and pain are not in vain.
Better Politics — Not Less Politics
Politics is not a dirty word. It has been soiled by those who want to privatize it. We need more fair politics. And that is achieved by everyone becoming more involved. Being indifferent is a trait we should erase. As in every market, competition leads to the top product. That is what has been missing in Albania — competition of ideas and political groups which compete honestly and fairly. In truth, Albania lacks a conservative force to contrast the existing forces and to defend national identity and freedom.
Conservatism is important because it is connected to human nature. It shows us that we have to love and conserve the land we are born into, because we simply have no other. By building a connection with the land, we manage to learn and understand its history and traditions. It is in the human nature to attach oneself to things. It is a longing that everyone has. This attachment is the strongest motivation to defend the land, as one defends his home or neighborhood. It becomes part of ourselves. That is what people in Albania have forgotten. And to succeed in getting their freedom of expression, of thinking, of working, of investing, of building, of preserving, that is what they must remember.
We also do not know how to vote. Because we do not know yet, how to value candidates during a campaign. Often, oppositive stances are chosen instead of proactive values and principles. This has harmed us.
Albania Needs Justice
We must built a society based on the punishment of crime through fair laws and the reward of hard work, meritocracy instead of nepotism. We must know the value of earning. Earning a job, earning a degree and earning democracy. A country whose achievements are not earned but given, will never know the value of keeping those achievements and will not fight to protect them.
The destruction of a nation is not simply done through the invasion of armies. In many cases it happens little by little, with the demolition of art, of theaters, of history and traditions. That is why the destruction of even a small building can cause so much pain. By eliminating the history of a country or an individual, you obliterate their future. Any talks and discussions we make about the economy are futile, if we lose our identities. Someone who knows who he is, where he comes from, what he stands for and what he loves, also discovers where he wants to go and how to save the things he loves. By remembering to love our families, communities, history, and by being proud of who we are, we can finally built a country.
Heeding the American Example
The United States proved that it is possible to reclaim a former glory through individual responsibility, patriotism, history, tradition and meritocracy, which in turn enable the members of a society to be invested highly enough that they have an incentive to revive the economy. Why would someone protect a country so disfigured that he cannot related to it? Why get up and protest for the well-being of a country that you do not recognize because it has been robbed of its past? Why would someone whose hope and dreams have been stripped away and substituted with famine get up to defend the national resources that are being stolen? We must understand that these are the major questions of our time. It is a discussion of global proportion. The US serves as a model proving that the future lies on this path.
For us this is not a mere option. This is the only path forward. Albania stands at a crossroads. Either it will awaken its identity, perform a total restart of its society, give power back to the sovereign and have a chance of success or risk becoming a ghost in Europe. It will be a modern lost city of Atlantis that nobody will remember. Even Atlantis, as the legend says, had its marvelous technology. We will have nothing. What fate is there worse than being sent into oblivion, forgotten for the rest of time?
Albanians Must Preserve Their Identity
The fault will have been our own, by allowing our identity to be stripped away. I understand that someone who is poor is more interested in the food they will be able to get for the day. These thirty years they have learned that as long as they obey, they will get that daily piece of bread. But, oh, what sense of liberation must be to imagine having a free will! Once someone gets that in their head, it is difficult to take it out. Reawakening our identities and sense of individual responsibilities is the first step. Building strong institutions that will be able to protect this identity and the rule of law must follow. Afterwards, economic strength will ensue through small governments, fair and free markets, saving, investing, low taxes and so on. Yet, it is impossible to reach that without learning to conserve and restore what makes us and where we come from.
It is a dangerous business to step out of the door, for sure. You step into the road and if you do not know your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. Yet, it is fundamental that we step out of the door and show that our country and our citizens are still alive and will go and meet the European citizens one day as peers and not as vassals.
The EU has lost its way. We need to find ours, and perhaps one day we shall meet as equals with a fair Europe of Nations.
In the end, it may be a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. How soon and in what shape the fair country of Albania will be in days to come depends upon its own citizens.