You are destined to make the difference - Event with Women Journalists - december 2015
I was both tempted and hesitant to write a few words I wished to share with you. When I say tempted, I refer to a strong feeling I have that there is something special in this group of girls and women that would like to try and explain. But I want to go even further and put my thoughts in order on paper, not for any sense of self-importance, but to add to the significance of this moment of our traditional meeting. I also was somehow hesitant, maybe because the lack of a tradition in writing speeches for family or friendly dinners like this one made me worry that I would be misperceived as detached. All things considered, I still decided to give it a go, and I want you to tell me if I failed the test or this is an experience that can turn into a tradition at the next year’s dinner, where others who are around this table will clearly do what I am doing tonight.
Five years ago, I invited thirteen among you to the first dinner and five years after I can gladly affirm, with a pinch of humour, that I am so happy there was no Juda among the thirteen! As it seems, loyalty is woman, not man.
At the time, I invited you to come together for a friendly end-of-year dinner. It was for me a way to get to know you closely and extend my appreciation to all of you for the special courage that in my view would take for a girl or a woman to thrive in such a challenging environment that is the media. I clearly recall that, even then, I was uncertain whether to invite some of you who I did not know personally, as much as I can remember how pleased I was when you accepted my invitation right away, although it did not placate that insecurity of knowing so little about you from a distance, from TV screens or occasional readings.
I do not know how much curiosity, politeness, the genuine desire played a role, or even how much having a free spot in your agenda in that particular evening influenced all of you saying, “Yes, I will be there!” I want you to believe me tonight that when counting five years of this meeting - now a tradition that none of you has missed (except rarely and for major reasons) - I feel privileged to have met you, to have learned from you and, above all, to have had the gift of your kind friendship.
I have read Kundera say somewhere: “If everything becomes theme, the background disappears, and as in a cubist painting, there is nothing but the foreground." God forbid this effort of mine to leave more than the usual mark at this dinner ends up into a cubist painting (although, I am convinced that my husband, your friend, not only would be in favour, but in my place, he would have created a cubist painting to last throughout the entire dinner). On the other hand, neither do I want to simply suffice myself with conveying the feelings of friendship I nurture for every one of you, because, in my eyes, you are much more than my special friends and your challenging work not only fills me with particular respect, but also compels me to share my with you my perceptions.
I feel increasingly affected by this growing media rush toward the often fabricated and generally vulgar political squabbles. I find it disquieting, it hurts my eyes and ears and insults my intelligence; a kind of force that springs from human weakness that keeps one hostage and estranged from the context and reality they live in. I have this corrosive sensation that all this has now turned into a disease that seems like a game, but instead infests our own sense of thought and judgment day by day.
I think of you from time to time, when browsing through the daily media menu. The stark belligerence, a lost sense of ethics, debates (I am not sure if they deserve the name) so sterile and futile going on not only between politicians, but everyone across social networks and online newspapers, make me want to say: “Enough is enough, I will not do this tomorrow”. Alas, tomorrow comes and I find myself again with this menu in my hands, constantly worried that I might perhaps become part of the whole in how I discern things, how I read the opinions of others and how I judge people. Thank God, I have never been tempted to open a Facebook profile or comment on the blogs of others. I am aware, however, this will change nothing; it is merely personal hygiene for which I do not aim the envy of others.
I have started to believe that the daily mood of the people who sit at the small café located down my office street, where I have my morning coffee with the same friends for the last 15 years, depends on the mood of those who are everywhere in TV studios, blogs, newspapers. Even when they are not with you, it is enough for them to sneeze in their own profiles and, in an eyeblink, they show up wherever there is room for the news or opinion or the experience they want to tell us about. They are not only on TV, but at the table as well, in the bag, or in the pocket via a smart phone that notifies you that someone has entered your life without being asked. You tell me if they give any thought to how their words affect the minds or the feelings of the audience. My impression is that their only interest is to stir among us as much negativity as possible vis-à-vis someone or many others through their words.
Humbly and without trying to say something new, I believe that misusing the power given by the freedom of speech and thought, breaking the news without following the truth to the end, trying to make deliberate opinions that serve all kinds of agenda, except that which benefits the spiritual and mental well-being of people vis-à-vis the others, the country, the world itself, is called abuse. It is quite natural for us to be particularly sensitive to what in Albanian is called sexual assault, but we actually do not have a specific term (not that I know of, at least) to describe when we feel harassed in our intimacy or intelligence by someone’s abusive behaviour. Forgive me for saying it, but I feel this society is being harassed every day from all sides!
This grim perspective from which we see everything that happens and the excessive hostility across the board has quite turned into a social more in the Albanian-speaking areas. I am not talking about politics, as it has unfortunately been swimming in these waters for long now, but about this harassment that pervades every environment, category of people and walk of life. There are even people with academic degrees who write in the public domain using an undignified and rather indecent language. There are people in the academia, students and professors, who use verbal violence and ethical abuse in their public communication as almost exclusive weapons to impose their position. University deans, rectors, their colleagues who take their side emulating their actions, while being fully oblivious to the overarching and most sublime mission of every teacher, which is to guarantee the society of the role model and the values they impart.
I believe we agree, as girls, women and mothers most of us here, that some values, starting with the ethics of communication among us and with the public must be non-negotiable. However, I think that in this fragile environment of ours without a democratic tradition, if protected and promoted, such values are much more powerful than abusive harassments.
Further, I believe there is no reason for any public protagonist to hesitate and take a stand when it comes to making rightful accusations, or even when it comes to educating people with the sense of what is right.
For instance, this government has a lot to be criticized about. Forget who Edi is to me at home. I am talking to you, and I am neither at home with him, nor at work with you in front of the microphones or cameras. How come so many faults have been found with an action of clear public benefit, like paying the electricity, and no public non-political actor has clearly voice what I have heard common people say(?): “There is no excuse for not paying the electricity!” No one says that. Quite the opposite, they only throw flaws into the mix to fuel negativity among people.
I could mention other examples one by one, but you are all familiar with them and I do not want to bore you further. In my view, every effort made for the future of our country that lays the foundations of a normal relationship with the State and makes the State itself normal, must be supported, not because of who does it, but because it must be done. That is the only way to legitimize any eventual concern arising from implementation and any criticism on their progress. Otherwise, everything and everyone will be prejudiced and that only breeds negativity and stokes the flames of social distress at all levels.
Each one of you here has a public role that I follow as much as I can with special attention, just like I would for people I hold dear. Whenever I watch the news, learn of recent events, follow opinions or relax watching cultural and entertainment programmes, I support you from afar and try to understand as much as I can from a distance the challenges you have to face. I am no flatterer, but truth must be told, and I have to tell you that, as the saying goes, you, my friends, “are a different breed.” I feel good every time I witness your relentless efforts to give your best, without tolerating that your professional passion and profile is dragged down by the muddy waters of current affairs, so miserably served under the guise of the media.
The Library, Shqip or Open Window, Studio, mornings and afternoons, the periphery, Tonight and Insight, whether beyond the big brother or news bomb, and the recipes for the people I love or one day in the shoes of Sophia, Maria, the X and Class, the “Madame”, Living or the blog of a single girl or almost and other contacts with each of you, both on TV and on paper, give me courage to keep away from the overall gloominess; not to harass the others or accept the fake boldness of masculine aggressiveness that is so randomly sold and viewed as professional independence, but that, alas, of professional has got almost nothing.
In your quest to test and blaze new trails and opportunities to serve people not only the heavy food of daily politics, but also a serene communication, you make the difference. I humbly witness that even when you are strong to criticize, you do not do it violently. I have the impression that you prepare before going into that studio you prepare yourself to be mindful of how you speak and listen to the others before objecting and are first and foremost concerned with the public agenda. Even though you may be going through an array of personal daily issues, and although no one, perhaps not even I, can keep from being affected by this harassing environment, you refuse to become actors in some soap operas filled with verbal violence that are served to the audience as democratic debates.
It is not only your feminine sensitivity, but also your cognisance of ethical boundaries that makes you the most moderate and, in my view, the most dignified part of the media today. So that you realise that I am not paying any undeserved compliments, just imagine what the media would be like, if none of you or your colleagues were any longer present on TV screens or other domains of the public discourse.
“Do not fear perfection - you will never reach it,” a wise man used to say. By that I certainly mean that none of us, none of you, is perfect in what we do. You have your bad days, your not so happy moments, your missed opportunities in practicing your profession, but you never make deliberate mistakes intended to cause harm, to hurt someone. You never use any moment in front of the public to manipulate them.
Angels do not live on earth and, if anyone here feels that the way I see you is too embellished, that is certainly and simply a result of my inability to loyally express my perception. That is not my purpose, though. Frankly, my aim, in case it did not come out clearly in this speech, is to ask that you realize the heavy burden of your role that goes beyond the daily success, in an environment where you are increasingly destined to make the difference.
In the hope that listening to me was worth your patience, I am glad to have the privilege to wish you from this close to be as happy as you can, first, for yourselves, and, above all, for your dearest people.