From: Artan Rama
Smearing the Image of a Failed Reform

When the Italian Gianni Rodari published his masterpiece The Adventures of Cipollino, he used a style that is rich with impersonations, but easily understandable: Cipollino (Little Onion) and his girlfriend Radish were oppressed toddlers, whereas Signor Tomato or Baron Orange represented the exploiting class.

In this fantastic children’s story the characters had the function of metaphors, and the line of conflict in the work represented the direct class conflict within society.

In the end, and with magic – as happens in fairytales – the future belonged to the oppressed masses, which, through revolution, would vanquish capitalism.

The book was written at the highpoint of the Cold War, while in the West communism was a heresy. So the author used this symbolism to camouflage his true ideas from a large number of readers.

You are communists!

When the student Mirela Ruko, a representative of Organizata Politike in Albania, on her own, poured tomato sauce on the head of the Minister of Education, Lindita Nikolla, during a ceremony and in the presence of several dozens of socialist youths as a sign of discredit and protest against the legal changes that minister had undertaken against the university, the communist heresy, the prejudice against that ghost of the past, returned.

In today’s Albania, the drama of the former regime still weighs on the national memory. But Organizata Politike, a group of young activists, doesn’t seem to have any problem with their identification as revolutionaries, as this left-wing group is considered.

Because they have openly turned against social injustices, against the deepening of the social divide, and in support of workers and youth, while taking a clear distance from the bureaucracy and failed heritage of the former government, which they condemn.

You are vandals!

Although it was just a splash of sauce, a part of public opinion considered Mirela’s action against Lindita’s combed hair and expensive outfit to be violent.

Yet another prejudice was thrown against Organizata: vandals! So, both communists and vandals.

A number of citizens, uninformed about the action, unable to criticize and respond to the government’s policies and the incompetence of the administration which caused a chaos in the system of the national final exams, unable to see and to listen to the youths who filled the streets for days in a row to denounce the administrative actions taken against them, called Mirela’s act against “Lady Cherry” an act of violence.

From the looks of it, the guerrilla tactics and this unusual action caught a part of the public with surprise. Without a doubt, also the government’s propaganda has its role in this smear campaign: a group of vandals and moreover radical communists! That’s enough to ignore the problems in education!

But if pouring a bottle of sauce on the head of a minister, accusing her of emptying the halls of the Public University in order to fill those of the private ones, of destroying the system based on merit and preference, for which these youths aspired for four years of their lives, and of financing through public funds private institutions, thus making public education more expensive and private institutions richer – if that is considered violence, then is the murder of four citizens on the boulevard in front of the Prime Minster’s Office on January 21 not enough? Because according to the above logic, even hundreds of those would be enough to justify the “violence” that the government thinks is currently practiced against it.

That’s the conclusion if we follow the same line of argument as the current government. But let’s not forget that the current government is yesterday’s opposition. Indeed, the same ones that organized and directed the protests on January 21, 2011.

Back then, of course, they spoke about institutions, laws, and violence.

Moreover, if a law is unjust, it can be changed. Propaganda and slander are no arguments.

You have to be afraid!

“The duty will be mine, the power yours,” Edi Rama said immediately after his election victory. More than three years have passed and in fact the opposite has happened! The prime minister has concentrated more power while neglecting many of his duties!

But more than “violence” these officials are worried about the reaction, the model.

Mirela’s action caused fear and nightmares. That her example would be followed by others and toward other corrupted officials makes them terrified. First eggs and now tomato sauce! What’s next?

Public shaming is more serious than a violent protest. The feeling of shame makes you unable to sleep at night. An act, seemingly small and non-aggressive, in truth hits them in the heart.

Because the dignity of our authorities has ever less depth. It is changing into just an image on the surface that is fed in fashion boutiques, expensive clothes, and high expenses for hair treatments in beauty salons, where they spend money and hours on end, exchanging their duty of personal comfort.

Thanks to this infrastructure for curating her image, the minister was able to clean herself within an hour from the sauce and appear in another hall, wearing another festive outfit. She could of course not waste another opportunity for some more propaganda! Some more negligence!

But as Deputy Mimoza Hafizi said, “Ms. Nikolla cannot quench the sounds of hate of hundreds of high school graduates, whose dreams she and the Prime Minister unjustly has destroyed!”

So when their comfort is disturbed, they respond with all means and forces at their disposal. They use power, police, and the media they bought out. Their eyes become dark, blinded by the red color of the tomato sauce!

In their blindness, they don’t see the excessive corruption, clientelism, and evacuation of the state by handing out services to the private sector.

They don’t see the Albanians leaving their country in despair and without hope.

They don’t see the profit of a minority and the growing anger of the majority. They only see the façade that they’ve been building for the last three years to hide this gloomy reality.

So when Mirela spoke about Ardit Gjoklaj, they didn’t listen to her. When she entered the street, a megaphone in hand, no one saw her. When she protested together with other youths for the University and confronted the authorities, they ignored her.

And only on that festive evening, when with a small backpack and with certain steps, surrounded by a group of servile youths and many guards, Mirela appeared in front of “Lady Cherry” and emptied a bottle of tomato sauce on her head – only then they saw her! Only then they listened to her, learned her name, saw the color of her hair and the determination in her eyes!

And maybe, for the first time, the corrupted, thiefs, and thugs in Parliament took their eyes off themselves and felt fear.

And so, for all those reasons, we need to continue to pour sauce on those combed heads.

In real life, things don’t happen as in Rodari’s fairytale. Maybe magic is just imagination, but when injustice and negligence of the state become the norm, popular “violence” is a duty!