Politics and Friendships: There goes your friend!

Politics and Friendships: There goes your friend!

I’ve been traveling a lot out of the country in the past ten days. Often for a longer period of time. And every time I went back, even though I’m a sociologist, I was amazed at the speed at which the changes took place. Not so much from the material aspects of the changed appearance of our cities and villages, of the roads and so on. Architecture is important, but it is merely a tangible expression of the ideas and values ​​that lead people in their interrelationships, and above all, the relations in power.

The terms comrade/friend/friendship mean, of course, different things. But I do not intend to do a detailed taxonomy on the most sophisticated forms of interpersonal relationships (Grayling). Friendships are interpersonal relationships based on the trust and confidence of comrades, friends in the consistency of their mutual goodwill. Therefore Aristotle said that if there is friendship there is no need for justice. Justice is a concept of relationships between people who may not be enemies, but are definitely not friends.

According to some anthropological insights, children are open to friendship with anyone independent of their origin, color, height, obesity … So, as a purely human relation, friendship has no boundaries. But in reality, friendships are limited and closed. They are made and destroyed. This means that friendships are set up by some other forces. The borders of friendships set the circumstances in which they are made and maintained. It is that phantom phenomenon called society, the environment, that is, other people. Other people set the limits on our friendships with others.

This specifically reminds me of the statement: here’s your friend! It is usually said by friends or comrades with whom we, at some point in life, had a common friend. The purpose of this phrase is to say that it is no longer so. The circle of friends has narrowed down or its narrowing is highly recommended. The one who expresses this phrase is trying to tell us that the “bubble has burst” between him and the absent one.

In most cases when this criticism was referred to me, it was about politically motivated divisions. It is not that at one point one went left, the other went right. They were previously inclined to do so. But, at some point, their political orientations were less important. Friendships were stronger than political differences. In the newly emerged situation, the friend “here’s your friend” is already a former one. The syndrome of the name of the state is transferred to us in our interpersonal relations. Many former friends between the betrayal of the country (or the party) and the betrayal of a friend have opted for betrayal of a friend. And what is a country without friends! Therefore, Jacques Derrida was right in arguing that friendship, although shown and enjoyed as a private matter, has its own policy. The policy of friendship is precisely to be portrayed and maintained as a private one, not as a public thing. This means that this kind of public acknowledgement (“here’s your friend”) that a friendship has “burst” has its own political function.

According to two of my former friends, neither could I be a friend to them. There are no independent people! No neutral! Wait a minute, my dear friend! But he’s a mutual friend. Together the three of us were here, we were there, we did this, we did that, we thought like this, we thought like that… Yes, but it was not a true friendship, he says. The man has changed. You’ll see. You are not here, so you do not know what’s going on out here. Chaos!

Yes. Really! Many things that are happening in our closer or wider surroundings are chaotic. Regarding them as individuals, we feel powerless to do anything to redirect them. But even the longest marches – such as our lives – begin with small, modest steps. Even the biggest political processes begin and are realized firstly as changes in interpersonal relations, in relationships with acquaintances, with friends, and with comrades. It is through these changes that we, as individuals, show ourselves as creators not only of our personal biography, but also as creators of the history of our city, our region, our party, profession, nation, of our human race.

Large projects for more democracy, justice for a better life or a new era in Macedonia most often fail because they strive towards the clouds, towards state and national interests, walking all over elementary human relations. And they, like the parties, companies, faculties, marriages and families, cafes, sports clubs and associations and all other so-called social phenomena or creations are based on various forms of interpersonal relations. The so-called social capital is generated in interpersonal relationships. It is at the base of each of the aforementioned and other social institutions. The famous American political scientist of Italian descent Robert Putnam, for example, has shown that the various levels of economic development and general well-being among the Italian regions are strongly linked to the degrees and forms of social capital they have. And the importance of social capital and good interpersonal relations are proven by the policies and programs of the World Bank, OECD and others regarding the issues related to them. Some of these programs reach us as well (the phenomenon of the so-called “team building” is one example).

They are aimed at mitigating the negative consequences that policies for privatization (capitalization) of national (economic and political) resources had and still have on the positive social capital and good interpersonal relations. Those policies have led to a disruption of interpersonal relationships and the erosion of old forms of social capital. The best indicator of this is the statement that “there are no good people left” and even fewer friends and that “everyone looks for a way to use you”. It is not about the literal disappearance of people, but about the disappearance of the established forms of humanity and interpersonal communication.

Virtual Facebook friendships sprout instead of specific friendships. Friends turned into either ‘likers” or haters. Friendship is no longer a private matter but a political declaration. It is publicly known when a new or old friendship has been destroyed. This is reported on social networks, but also on auto traffic signalization – for example, for the newly-established friendship between Prime ministers Zaev and Tsipras, with the renaming of the highway “Alexander the Great” to “Friendship”.

Ilo Trajkovski