The Auction of Values


I had a crazy dream last night. I dreamt of participating in a special auction in a remote highland area of Northern Albania. It wasn’t about valuable famous paintings, gold or diamonds. It was an exceptionally distinct one – the auction of value.  I found myself suddenly so overwhelmed by this large pool of values where I had to pick what meant the most to me. While my eyes pre-screened almost subconsciously values like loyalty, knowledge, freedom, independence, family, order, openness, love, integrity, vision, trust, modesty, originality, motivation, optimism, leadership and so forth, my mind was busy listing them by priority in a hierarchic order. It is a difficult task setting value priorities, which are important since they relate to my purpose in life. Certain values even stay at the core of my being with a clear perspective of what I stand for. And here I come up with my top three values: family, loyalty and knowledge. Then I thought some of these values, the social ones I could even move to a different pool.

Reminiscing about different historical époques of Albania, it comes easier to relate the core values of a given period to social condition of that respective time. Throughout the history Albanians have fought against many foreign occupations like against the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Often our people have been in midst of Balkan wars, were subject of the 1913 arbitrary division of Albanian territory among neighboring countries and further followed by World War I and World War II. What used to be dominant values (braveness, honesty, trustworthy, mettlesome, fearlessness, audacity and courageous) were the ones that oriented Albanian against occupiers. Normally, social values usually last for 20 to 50 years. But some of these values still prevail and stay at core of many problems that our society faces. A sad example is blood feud which together with the inheritance of fierce clan mentality and tribal loyalties is still persistent to this day in highlands of Albania.

In the last two post communist decades, the transition of values faces the typical dilemma: traditional versus Western liberal and democratic values. Thinking back of late 80s, it feels like we have been trapped in our own episode of “Truman Show” where Albanian territory was “The World” to us, where were no private cars running on streets, rights to own something, democratic institutions, and where concepts like drugs, HIV/SIDA, prostitution, crime were beyond imagination of an average Albanian. Therefore, the fall of the iron curtain found many Albanians in a crossroad, with little guidance and knowledge, poor leadership and all the freedoms in their empty hands. Just we had a big misunderstanding of freedom. We thought freedom was free while the invisible hand of government serving as regulator to the free market economy using decisive and sound public policies was just not there.

A pool of brand new survival values was suddenly available to us like in a nightmarish auction. Who used to be honest was suddenly considered stupid. Getting rich and educated over night was seen as braveness. Using public resources for our own benefits was regarded with indifference. In other words: welcome to the “Paradise” where the rule means no rule and where everything is possible. The contradiction on family values also couldn’t fall behind. Though marriage and kids are considered the cornerstone of our society, still the number of divorces and family crime has grabbed the “holy” marriage institution and become a plague for our society.

In other words seems like history sadly is being repeated over and over again. Just that our enemies are no longer the border countries, communism, or dictatorship. Our enemy is…

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