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December 19, 2016 / Congau

Macedonia or Absurdia

The Macedonia naming dispute is absurd. Those of us who are not Greek cannot understand it, and we should not understand it either. Let the Greek try to explain it to us and it remains meaningless.

The only thing that is understandable in this squabble is human psychology, for of that we are all victims. We are so easily upset about empty symbols – flags and names without content. We want something to fight for and simple principles can be readily followed and incites to action. Reality is complicated, ideas are complicated, but symbols can be grasped without thinking.

Why shouldn’t the country be called Macedonia? Other countries of the world are also named after peoples who no longer occupy the area and if it doesn’t exactly encompass the land of Alexander the Great, it is at least quite close. It is therefore a historically reasonable name. But even if it wasn’t, even if the name was conceived out of thin air, why would it matter? Shouldn’t anyone be allowed to call themselves whatever they want?

Names are not scarce assets. Two persons may bear the same name without being robbed of anything.

Normally when there is a conflict between two countries some sort of real resource is at stake and even ridiculous quarrels imply that a gain for one is a loss for the other. But conflicts between countries are also about honor, and often the visible point of dispute conceals the pursuit of some national glory. In that sense the Macedonian dispute is more honest since there is no material reality behind it whatsoever. It reveals national vanity undisguised.

All the more reason, one may think, to appeal to common sense and put aside the self-destructive rigidity. But the opposite is probably the case; people are all too willing to sacrifice reality for illusive honor.

The Macedonians (or whatever they should be called) must suffer for this. They may be right in principle, but is it really worth it? Isn’t Fyrom as good as any name? A name has no reality anyway.

 

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