It no longer matters, really, what lawmakers are discussing in Parliament. Whether they are in the grips of a heated dispute over the name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, talking about the details of the budget or discussing a report on rising crime and lawlessness at the country’s universities, they always seem to start publicly bickering and attacking each other, with growing vehemence. In recent weeks, we have also seen them becoming more creative in their insults, like one member of Parliament who recently tossed this little gem at a colleague: “Go stand in front of a mirror and spit at your reflection until it goes dark.”
The usual excuse we hear for this incredible display is that we’re heading for elections so the political climate is bound to become more and more toxic the closer we get. Does this mean that everyone will calm down once the elections are over? That all the disgusting things which will have been said will be erased so that we can carry on with a public life that is unblemished by the past? Sure, this is a very nice way to brush it all off, but it doesn’t correspond with reality.
This “tension” – as such aggressive rhetoric, so beyond the limits of healthy albeit heated debate, is so politely described – dampens expectations and is a blight on the future. It is a slippery slope that has made a decisive contribution to the wall of indifference raised by citizens against politicians. When the so-called indignant movement left the public squares and settled into the seats of Parliament, it undermined politics as a whole and strengthened the sense of political and social destabilization.
If this seems a bit exaggerated, consider the possible consequences of the continued denigration and rejection of our elected representatives, particularly at a time of such popularity of the extremes and such inequalities. Populism comes in many guises and while identifying with its worst form may be a great way to blow off steam, it also lowers expectations that anything can get better and transforms reaction into the dominant voice. It is indeed a slippery slope.
An earnest political system does not limit its focus to economic performance, reforms and innovations. It also helps shape an atmosphere, a mentality about how we live together and get along, not just on a national level but on an individual level too. By spitting at the mirror, it’s not just your reflection that goes dark; it destroys all effort to guard ourselves against the madness and instead leads to more aggression.