Defeating a Contemporary Mythological Beast
Every mythology has its hybrid creatures. In a strange way, the political, social and economical situation in my country resembles a mythological beast – a mixture of shady economic connections, unknown political agendas and dependent media.
My country is Bulgaria, part of the European Union, a former Soviet satellite and a struggling new democracy in Eastern Europe.
In May 2013, we had parliamentary elections and a new government. During the first weeks of their work the parliament and the government managed to do what 20 years of post-communist transition hadn’t – it made young, educated people go out to the streets to protest.
What they did was a simple act, intended to pass unnoticed in a Friday afternoon in June.
That afternoon, the parliament appointed a new Head of the National Security Agency. Just before that, that same afternoon, the MPs had changed the law so that the newly appointed Head of the agency could be eligible. He had not been eligible on Thursday, but he became eligible on Friday.
It was not the first case of a similar nature in Bulgarian politics. However, this one made people go out in the streets to protest and demand the government’s resignation because the Head in question, Mr Peevski, is a very interesting figure.
He is a man in his 30s, he has been in politics for quite a while and he is associated with the ownership of many Bulgarian media. Also, the owner of the bank holding the majority of the state’s money refers to Mr. Peevski as his son. The same bank has been thought of as the financing source of Mr Peevski’s media. The ‘finances’ in question being the state’s money.
The intertwining of political power, economic influence and media dependencies has been part of Mr Peevski’s image for years. He has been largely associated with the great media comfort enjoyed by the previous government.
The appointment of such a figure to one of the highest posts in Bulgaria’s national security was an act that could not have passed unnoticed in that Friday afternoon in June when thousands chose to go out and protest instead of planning their weekend.
However, anti-government protests are only one side of the coin.
On the other, there are people supporting the government (even demonstrating their support in so-called anti-protests) and people who continue to claim they do not care about the political agenda of our society.
Even the obvious mythological beast combining political power and corporate interests is not obvious enough. Moreover, its obviousness is not enough to make a discredited government resign while the energy for protests is in danger of fading.
In Bulgaria, this is an old problem with a new context – the lack of will to see political abnormalities as abnormal and dangerous and to act accordingly. The protests may have been a definite positive sign, but society is not yet letting go of the old, communist-era submission to the omnipresent power of hideous mythological beasts, serving unknown causes.
Yet, the young protesters give, in a way, answer to a most burning question – now what? What could be done in order to boost democratic practices and reduce the influence of oligarchic accumulations of power?
It is the young, the educated and the economically active who can increase the chances for change in Bulgarian society. It is the economic development that precipitates the birth of capitalism and the need for democratic institutions. Therefore, we should start where capitalism started a few centuries ago – in the market.
Economic initiative, entrepreneurship and innovation are our best chance to try and change the situation in Bulgaria. These processes can be further facilitated by educational initiatives aiming to teach young entrepreneurs about the possibilities they have. There are many resources – not only financial – to which people do not have access just because they do not know of their existence. Our membership in the European Union for example provides aspiring entrepreneurs with opportunities for education, economic exchanges, participation in various programs, etc.
In addition, economy profiling may be a good way to go. It would be a good development for a small country like mine to specialize in activities related to the knowledge economy (web and programming tools, etc) that require little investment and rely on great ideas.
By developing a strong, profitable knowledge economy, exploring niches, we may have a chance to defeat our contemporary mythological beast.
The picture of manticore – Wikipedia, public domain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Martigora_engraving.jpg)