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Latest Writings

The Will (2010)

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What is it with man
who makes him so compelled
to impose his will on others

feeling pleased
when others bend in his favor
feeling satisfied
when the favors pile up
feeling superior
when his priveleges are for all to see

Imposed upon
he gives in only for a cause
And keep searching for new ways
of his will against others
judging his life on its success

And so most live
until wisdom moves us beyond
and finally set us free

Or so the wise man tells you
also an imposer
 
 
London, 2010 

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A fast-but-slow life (2010)

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Seek a fast life
Bombard yourself with experiences
encounters and learning

Your brain needs it
do not stagnate, keep moving

But do not let your restlessness
control your hunger and greed
after each meal, pause
freeze time and feel your heart beat

Feel the length of your life
the harmony of your today
the content being within

And let the irony of your greed
surface within you

Live with haste to cover all that you must learn
but slow down and conquer time to feel living
 
 
London, 2010 

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Contentedness (2010)

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Why so smug and calm
one day
and racing for confirmation the other

Why so content and lazy
like a cat on the porch in the sun
one day
and stressed with emptiness the other

Why so blissful at its own terms
at one with the universe
feeling loved and loving
not caring about all not worth caring for
smug and content
One day I will make it all days
 
 
London, 2010  

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The Kosovar Identity and Statehood

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This paper was presented and discussed at the symposium “European Identity of Kosovo”, organized by Forum 2015 and the Open Society Institute in Pristina 26-28 July 2007. The research behind the paper is based on “Transforming Ethnic Nationalism – the politics of ethno-nationalistic sentiments in Kosovo”, 2002 published in full at www.aasmundandersen.net and partly in English and Albanian by Java Publishing House, Pristina.

The Kosovar Identity and Statehood
 
Abstract; For the state of Kosovo to become successful, it needs to service its citizens in an unbiased manner disregarding ethnicity and kinship networks. The emerging notion of ‘the kosovar’ is an expression of how state institutions promote a notion of a collective shared high culture, representing the values of its citizens. If the kosovar state is successful, and provides a solid framework where its citizens can look forward to realizing their dreams and aspirations, the identity of the state and its citizens the ‘Kosovar’ will continue to be strengthened, and may eventually over time be considered a national identity.
 
 
State institutions are different than any other type of organizations, for example compared to kinship and private corporations. Kinship networks naturally inhibit strong emotional and identity bonds because it comes with descent and are maintained through fact-to-face interaction, but it is reserved for family relations only. Private corporations may try to create emotional-like bonds between consumer and product or services, but its purpose is solemnly profit for its shareholders, which it seeks to accumulate through exploitation of margins of return. Public institutions on the other hand, service its citizens on the basis of priorities formulated in democratic processes. Its citizens may not know each others through face-to-face interaction, but all receive the same security, infrastructure and social services, while in return pay taxes and partake in elections.

The purpose of public institutions is solemnly to execute the democratically formulated program of how to service its citizens in the best manner. Because of their collective status as citizens equal to the state and its services, emotional bonds of identity, belonging and shared values are nourished by performing public institutions. The values emerging among citizens become a platform for the public discourse that shapes the politics of the state.

Central to the success of the state in its service delivery to its citizens, is to what extend the state is able to accommodate, at least some of, the dreams and aspirations of its people. A prosperous state, where wealth is accumulated and somewhat shared between its citizens according to what is considered reasonably just and fair, most individual citizens can look forward to gradual accumulation of wealth and the future realization of dreams and aspirations. This prosperous trend has a cohesive effect on society, and strengthens the notion of a shared high culture, or what may eventually be considered a nation.

One of the keys to the success of market economy is its steady image of growth and seemingly ‘just’ wealth accumulation. If sound democratic processes allow social tension to be resolved without violence, or at least in ways that do not generate more conflict and violence than its judiciary and security system can cope with, the balance between the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of aspirations in society is maintained in a favorably manner. In such an environment, the state institutions easily foster the feeling of belonging and shared values that justify the existence of the state.

In the case of the opposite, economic decline and disintegration or biased and discriminatory provision of state services, it has a fragmenting effect on society. Citizens will be on the search for better alternatives. This may foster separatist and ethno-nationalistic movements, or political ambitions to join more successful states or empires. To justify and gain support for such political ambitions, a ‘high culture’ or political class often produce knowledge and promotes emotional identification with the purpose. Ethnic identities are often a basis for justification of an alternative basis for state power. Ethnicity may represent anonymous territorial networks big enough to claim justification for a new state, and provides a presentation of wide public consensus for such political objectives. The ‘national’ identity and emotional bonds of a failing state can evaporate as quickly as its treasury.

These failed states or empires also represents failed nations and are quickly associated with each other. Often forgotten however, is that the national identities of today are products of successful states, and that successful states over time produce state identity that eventually is perceived as a nation, as much as failed states are associated with unsuccessful nation-building. When a prosperous state governs its citizens with equal rights, it will over time homogenize a diverse population in a modern and industrialized economy, by promoting a shared high culture and statehood identity.

When I have asked the question of whether Kosovo is modern enough, it is meant as a challenge. Firstly, the challenge relates to the presence of kinship networks that may hinder the execution of unbiased bureaucratic practices. If the citizens are not anonymous, their equality is difficult to enforce. Civil servants will find it difficult to apply unbiased and purely rational principles on cases involving clients of their own kinship network. The newly adopted modern bureaucratic culture may not be strong enough to alter kinship-related face-to-face networks.

Secondly, to challenge the modernity of Kosovo is also a call for a less ethnic-based nationalism, one which a modern state could promote and evolve around. If congruence between state and culture is not possible, or will result in violence and expulsion of whole minorities, the state, its leaders and high culture proponents would be wise to nourish and emphasize other cultural identification. In the case of Kosovo, the territorial-based Kosovar identity[1] is an opportunity difficult to ignore.

A modern state must generate a feeling of statehood and belonging in its population, in order to be considered legitimate by those who ultimately grant it power. For this purpose, states adopt a rigorous set of symbols, rituals and public performances that communicates its legitimacy and value systems. These symbolic representations help invoke sentiments of a shared high culture, and a feeling of belonging, trust, honor and pride. Nationalism is a principle that strives towards increased homogeneity in the population of a state, promoting its collectively shared high culture. This culture does not replace ethnic identities or nationalities, but contains the value systems which the policies of the state is based upon. Public opinion and civil society seeks congruence between state polity and what it considers to be its high culture, between the affairs of the state and the values of its citizens.

Central to the state promotion of a shared high culture, is knowledge production. The state promotes the production of knowledge that describes the special history and collective identity of the population it services. This helps explain who we are and why we are here, together. This shared memory constitutes the high culture of the nation and is an important identity for its citizens. The mastery of high culture, the cultural and intellectual refinement that effectively conveys the story of the state, is associated with prestige and public recognition. The institutions that grow and nourish knowledge production and public performances of this kind are usually the most respected organizations of the state, and its masters are its most honorable citizens. Eventually it is the identity that is promoted by a successful and prosperous state which is identified as the nation, and the soul of the state.

The history of European states has experienced the rise and fall of empires, and states with an endless variation of state ideologies. The formation of nation-states first took place in Western Europe, were industrialization started to ‘up-root’ people from their local communities, evolving them into an anonymous labor force of the modern economy. The feudal agriculture system in Eastern Europe gave growth to larger states and empires, where industrialization was later imposed by its leaders in a rapid pace over a relative short time-period.

In much of Eastern Europe, in particular at the end of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia, many industrialized states became independent nation-states overnight. To simplify things, we can say that states slowly emerged as nation-states in the West alongside an increasingly homogenized and modern culture, while in the East, the feudal economy gave ground for empires to form as soon as the nation-states were established. At the end of the cold war, nations or ethnic groups were seeking new state-formation among the falling pieces of the empires that suppressed them. The state structures of these empires were not democratic, and hence did not allow a public and political space where tension and conflict could be mediated and resolved without the use of violence. States that enforce itself through violence and biased bureaucratic practices loose credibility in particular in an environment of economic decline, when the state is seen as an obstacle for the realization of dreams and aspirations, rather than a guarantor.

The European Community is in this respect a new empire, although one based on rule of law, human rights and democracy. The political ambitions of Kosovo to join the European Community are related to the European Union being a successful state structure and a guarantor of development, growth and future prosperity. This political ambition thus generates identity processes, emphasizing Kosovo as part of, and close to, the mainstream of prosperous European states.

The establishment of the state of Kosovo is a peculiar case in the history of European states. The Kosovo state was realized only through strong military, political and economic support from the international community, and against the will of the state it used to belong to. For the state of Kosovo to become successful, it needs to service its citizens in an unbiased manner disregarding ethnicity and kinship networks. The emerging notion of ‘the kosovar’ is an expression of how state institutions promote a notion of a collective shared high culture, representing the values of its citizens. If the kosovar state is successful, and provides a solid framework where its citizens can look forward to realizing their dreams and aspirations, the identity of the state and its citizens the ‘Kosovar’ will continue to be strengthened, and may eventually over time be considered a national identity.
 
 
Notes 
[1] The category ‘Kosovar’ first appeared in the beginning of the 1990s, and as part of the LDK non-violent resistance movement. The ‘Kosovar’ was used as early as 1991 on a collection of articles targeting the international community; titled “What the Kosovars say and demand”. The US State Department is referred to as the first among international agencies that used the term during the escalation of warfare in 1998.

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