Ours is not only an economic, but a moral crisis too - Simfonia e Jetës - march 2014
At the end of August of some years ago, I accompanied my daughter, Rea, on her admission trip to a university abroad. That would be the first time we would be physically apart, after a life of spendings mornings and evenings together.
The evening of the day when my daughter went together with other students to the campus, while I stayed at a small hotel room, was perhaps the most difficult of my life. I woke up with sweeping uncertainty, that was leaving me out of breath. It felt like I had not done enough to prepare for that day when my daughter would leave my arms; like I had not managed to give her all the advice; like I had not been careful enough to make sure she had understood every instruction I had given her. It suddenly felt like I had left her alone and unprotected out in the world …
Those night hours flew away on lines I wrote, scrapped down and rewrote on a piece of paper that contained a mother’s apprehensions, anxieties whispered in the ears of the child hundreds of times from her birth to the moment we had parted, only a few hours ago and Rea, who had grown taller than me, had hugged me as if she was the adult between us, reassuring me, “Don’t worry mum, I will always make you proud!”
Very grateful for your invitation to be here, I could not find a better way to start this speech, but to share with you an episode that marked the end of the first chapter of my life with my daughter and the opening of a new one, in which not only I have gained a best friend, but also have had the opportunity to see on a daily basis how particularly important is that the first chapter develops in the light of the values we ourselves have been imparted by our mothers, who are today grandmothers to our sons and daughters.
The light of those values makes the lap of mothers and grandmothers the first and purest garden for the heart and mind of a child to grow properly; it is the garden of the most irreplaceable voices and memorable tastes; the garden in which we plant and water with the deepest love almost everything that will be reaped further in life on the path of our children maturing and becoming independent.
I am also here to share with you the conviction that, as girls and women, we should take what we have given and taken in that ideal garden, where the fundamental human education takes shape, and spread it wherever we can and protect it in every way possible, whenever we feel there is a need or when it is threatened around us.
This large painting that is our life has the brushstrokes of the admirable work and success stories of many women who have been dedicated teachers, medical doctors, bold entrepreneurs, talented artists, experts of law, economics and science, and, why not, courageous women in politics, whose every day is a battlefield and a challenge of its own taking place within the fight and challenge of the group where they belong, only and only because they are women, only because they are girls.
In this same picture, however, it is not difficult at all to find the marks of major failures and traces of loss that are not fatal at all, but a result of the fading values and disconnection between that ideal garden of a mother and grandmother’s lap and a reality where we often seem to forget that no viable material prosperity can be created in a society, if we abandon those inner values and relationships.
I believe they cannot be read but as the consequences of this abandonment in the rush for quick profits that deepens swiftly the already large gap between the minority and the majority by the day; a result of all intensified expressions of verbal and physical violence in the course of these years that have become so common that today one can make no difference between the crime beat news and action movies that are consumed daily.
Allow me to quote Madeleine Albright, who says that even when laws are right on paper, the reality at home or in certain communities may not be so. There is domestic violence, murders, divorces or forced marriages… Some may consider them as cultural, but I think they are criminal and every one of us has the obligation to contribute to put an end to such situations.
Today, there is an increasing concern and debate over the economic crisis, the financial crisis in general, a systemic crisis that poses a daily threat to the Albanian households. Let us be clear, this is not a concern exclusive to Albania, but almost to all the countries across our continent and beyond. That is so true that it seems as if one watches the news and heated debates of one and the same country when zapping to watch the news of another neighbouring country, or from an EU country to the other. I feel that within such concern boils a truth that has not been completely told, but that is connected to the values, a moment in our history where the world seems to have come as close as a smart phone screen, while moving rapidly, at the same time, in a direction that is unknown to the individuals. That is particularly true for parents, and especially for mothers – let alone poor grandmothers, who watch horrified in silence all this baffling transformation.
I cannot allow myself to be hasty and talk about things that go beyond me, and even less so jump into conclusions on a topic so complicated that has affected the society, the institutions, politics at this stage of our history as citizens of this world. But, as a woman and a mother, I do not believe I am exaggerating if I said that our crisis, even here Albania, is as economic as it is moral, as financial as it is a crisis of values, as institutional as it is a crisis of the very society.
I believe that there is no sustainable economic growth, unless the very moral of freedom is competition, the merit and solidarity. There are no stronger finances, if those who have to pay do not pay, while those who pay must carry the burden of the others who don’t; there won’t be more efficient institutions, if the society does not reject the crippling hate language and behaviour first among the consumers of the public debate and interaction.
It is for many years now that everyone, regardless of their age, gender, education or lack thereof, regardless of any political affiliation or bias, suffers the consequences of a hate-fuelled language and behaviour of public debate consumers, and is faced and overwhelmed with a negativity that is distorting to alienation the culture of co-existence among us, while it is discouraged to hopelessness and a culture of cynicism is adopted that rejects all good intentions in an environment where indifference and disdain against everything and everyone become the rule.
I am far from tempted to give in to the evil or even to describe such evil as inherently predominant in our reality that is spoiling the values of that ideal garden I mentioned at the outset of my speech. The truth is that, when looking back, it is not hard for me to find so many good things common or other exceptional people have done in this country. When I look in front of me, however, when I see all of you, it is not hard for me to believe that with more common awareness and shared efforts, the girls and women of this country are able to do for this society what at times seems unfortunately impossible; they could give to our common garden, that is Albania, a little light from the ideal garden of the mother or grandmother’s lap that is needed for us to take a qualitative leap in the society, economy and institutions.
“Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle,” Mother Teresa used to say. There is no doubt, a candle cannot certainly defeat all darkness but will help us to be useful by not adding to the burden of such darkness with our cursing. Not only, but it will help us realize how much can we light Albania’s garden, if each and every one lights their own candle of the values and lessons they were imbued with in the ideal childhood garden, on the lap of their mothers and grandmothers.
I wish all of us can enjoy this pleasant evening.