To the Moon

To the Moon

Aleksandar Krzhalovski

I do not know about you, but when the events in our everyday life become unbearable, whether they are stupid, criminal or simply miserable, and they all lead to new and new disappointments, I need to turn to something different, preferably inspiring, and of course, on the more beautiful side of life.

Not that the events in our country in the past period don’t deserve a comment. From oversights in various state institutions (with procurements, and not just that), for which the responsible people in the West would have resigned long ago (but here nobody cares); through the demonstration of the dysfunction of the system of protecting the prime minister from intrusions, such as that of Russian pranksters; up to this week’s drama with the SPO and its boss – another one of the series of disappointments that “things will get better”.

And these are not the only ones. We are reminded every day at every step, not only of the “captured state”, as we used to call it the end of the rule of the previous government led by VMRO-DPMNE, or of a “runaway state” as it is now called by exactly those who are pointing to the scams of the new government led by SDSM (so similar to their previous scams), but I would say that we are reminded of a “lost state” (I try not to be pessimistic and use the term “failed”).

For example, for me the basic image of this loss (or incompetence) is the damaged central flower boxes of each of our larger boulevards (both on Partizanski Odredi Boulevard and Iliden Street in Skopje, and most of the others), which have remained unmanaged for years, testifying to a complete absence of concern for the common good and thinking ahead, how to maintain and take care of things after they are built or made. Probably many more such examples can be seen in the buildings belonging to the “Skopje 2014” project.

Or the stuff that does on the Goce Delchev Bridge in the past few days. Since all paths almost always lead me that way, sometimes even several times a day, I really cannot understand why it takes 40 days to finish whatever intervention they are doing on that bridge. Especially that out of all the times I have passed by this area these days (at least ten times) I have only once seen construction workers on the road – most often there is no one on either side of the bridge that is blocked, except the police officer who regulates the equally stupid traffic solution (instead of redirecting the traffic at the previous crossroads and leaving one lane to the bridge, all three lanes are left under Stokovna Kukja Bridge so there is a “fight” for the drivers’ position and, of course, a lot of agitation, yelling, honking and lots of swearing.

I am writing this so that, besides the problem of a “(un) sustainable state” (of which I will write more extensively some other time), I could also point out the manners “get as much as you can”… from crossing from one lane to the other (before the bridge), to small “deals” in the workplace (for example, purchasing minor things from a company owned by a “friend”, for a “percentage”; or “small checks” or “checks” from a business trip, etc.); up to attempts to intervene for a contract, a project or a “tender”. There are certainly even more ambitious… We have already seen the manipulations in various state funds, and we see with the “Racket” case in the past few days that ambition has led to extortion of millions of euros from individuals / firms. Only, the racketeers slightly overlooked that people who had that much money to pay such extortions are not stupid, much less naive. Not that they are completely clean (as Onassis said – don’t ask me about the first million, I will explain everything else in detail), but surely most of their property and personal wealth are acquired by legal businesses and properly paid taxes (if that’s not the case, the investigations will show it).

But, as I said at the beginning, let’s get away from the “gloomy” present for a while.

Today, July 19th, gives us a great opportunity to push our dark thoughts aside and think of something nicer and inspiring. Fifty years ago today, the first people (Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin) landed on the moon. It was the final result of the ten-year efforts of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its Apollo program to accomplish the dream of landing on the moon announced by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. And after several missions and many successes and failures in that attempt, the space shuttle Apollo 11, maneuvered by the third member of the crew, pilot Michael Collins, managed to take the two men in the Eagle lunar module to the untouchable destination – which we all see every day, and to which many people have striven throughout history (at least in their dreams).

On that day I was only a month-old baby, so of course I do not have my direct memories of the event (and I think that my parents still didn’t own a TV set), but since then I’ve seen hundreds of documentaries and read many articles about this great (if not the greatest) achievement of mankind and a confirmation that “You can have anything you want if you want it badly enough”.

By the way, this achievement was, in some way, also the final victory of the Americans in the space race with the then-Soviet Union, although, in almost all the “stops”, the Russians were in the lead (the first satellite Sputnik, the first living being in space – Laika the dog, the first cosmonaut that completed one orbit of Earth – Yuri Gagarin, etc. All of this is beautifully documented in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC.

We witnessed a similar fight in Sunday’s Wimbledon final. After an epic battle that lasted for five hours, Novak Djokovic managed to come out as a winner over Roger Federer. Although the Swiss was better throughout the match (almost all the statistics were in his favor, with more: total points, aces, breaks, winners, net points), almost the entire audience was cheering for him, and there were two match points (that is, he was one step away from victory), however, Novak showed incredible mental strength, stronger concentration that was needed the most (the most important points) and eventually won. Those who watched the match already know, and the respectable magazine The Economist has measured, that we have witnessed the most exciting match in the history of tennis (or at least the last 40 years for which the analysis was carried out), with the so-called “Excitement Index” metric (EI), i.e. there were “decisive” points that could have taken the match in one direction or another). Namely, in a match in which one of the tennis players dominates, the average level of “excitement” is about 2%, in a standard match it is around 4%, and in the most exciting since 1980 between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg was 7%,  etc. This time, the “Excitement Index” went up to 7.5%!

The reason I write about this is also inspiration. Namely, the Serbia-born player (from an EU candidate country) once again showed that (when we want something badly enough) we can be matched and compete with the Europeans, and even be better than them and win. Even when the majority of their citizens (in this case the fans in London, but the same often happens at Roland-Garros in Paris, and in the tournaments in Madrid, Rome, etc, when playing against Federer or the EU / Spain’s Nadal) are against us (or, if I personify it with political developments – against the joining of the Balkan countries in the European Union).

Novak shows us how we can achieve European values ​​and standards, and presents a constant inspiration for getting there. And one also could have gained inspiration for our traditional values in Galichnik last weekend. If not from all the customs and the entire manifestation of the Galichnik Wedding, or the transcendental echo of the zurlas and drums on Saturday night, then from the evening performance of Teshkoto, in the surreal atmosphere of the ancient theater at the Upija fountain, under the light of the full Moon and its glare from the river Radika and Debar Lake. And while one inevitably tears up  while witnessing that narrative of the essence of Macedonian history and all that is Macedonian, the folk dancers of “Folklorni Biseri (Folklore Pearls)” in those ten minutes of performance show us that, however hard it is and how many obstacles you face, how much effort it demands, that we can finish the match [and the competition… and the race… and the journey (even the one leading to the EU) with a strong spirit, in a fast pace, with joy and success… with victory!

Let me finish this column with a wise and inspiring quote, and one of the most beautiful ones I have received as a New Year’s greeting from a former colleague, which, in a manner of speaking, connects all three abovementioned stories: “Always shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!

Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik