Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Mutual mistrust between the citizen and the state

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr. 

At the beginning of the pandemic all countries prepared various health scenarios, strategies and protocols to prevent, manage and how get out of the crisis caused by its outbreak. Depending on the social structure and different institutional capacities, especially health ones, these measures varied from country to country. In addition to the intensity of the spread of infection, another very important factor that determined their severity was the mutual trust between citizens and the state. If the lack of trust of citizens towards institutions we perceive as an indication of the functionality of a state, this time the lack of trust of the state towards citizens was an indicator of civic awareness. This can best be illustrated by the imposition of isolation measures, i.e. the curfew, which in translation means that: the state does not believe that the vast majority of its citizens will follow the recommendations of the institutions, so it imposes restrictive measures for their implementation. While, all of Europe (with the exception of Sweden) shut down economies and non-essential businesses, halted public events and mass gatherings, the curfew was typical of the Balkans, including North Macedonia.  Civic awareness essentially means individual and collective commitment to the common good. This complex commitment can be manifested through various activities and forms that contribute to this good. Citizen awareness is extremely important, especially in times of crisis, and unfortunately in exceptional situations, because it is precisely civic awareness that mobilizes communities, activates resilience mechanisms to react, prevent and recover from the consequences.

But in a fragmented society based on different identities, where there is deep mistrust between the parties and with a polarized public discourse, it is difficult to find a basis to build a general sense of the common good. When we add here social media, fake news and disinformation campaigns, this general sense is lost in the chaos of group interests and the common good is fragmented accordingly to these interests.

Unfortunately, we continue to prove this even now when the prevailing general sense is the protection of public health. Despite the curfew, crowds of people continue to challenge the recommendations of health professionals, relevant institutions and restrictive measures imposed by the state on the streets and secondary neighborhoods. This in a way justifies the mutual distrust between the citizen and the state, the first for lack of civic awareness by not respecting the recommendations and measures, while the second by not having the capacity to implement the measures that he himself has imposed. Other actors who play an important role in our society instead of committing to protecting the common good, put their group interests first.

Unlike the beginning of pandemic, the religious communities played a destructive role by becoming the first to challenge state institutions to put their financial interests first, then by playing the “game of the culprit” to escape responsibility, while using anger to justify their decisions. Here, too, the state failed to hide behind secularism, leaving all those who tried to follow the recommendations and instructions of the responsible institutions in the mud and despair.

With the start of the debate on the early parliamentary elections, the political parties returned to their usual habitat where attitudes and actions are taken seriously based on their party interests. And so, now we will have a constant mutation of attitudes about the common good, which of course will be presented as a reflection of party interests, while in the absence of civic awareness the situation will be further complicated.

The crisis has always brought to the surface the best and the worst of us, and since this crisis is not over yet, we will prove even more than we have seen before. However, our individual role will constitute the plurality of the magnitude of our civic consciousness that can protect us not only from pandemics but also from ourselves.

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