ccording to Numbeo (database of user contributed data), Macedonian city of Tetovo is one of the most polluted cities in the world with a pollution index of 101.55 on a scale of 0 to 500. According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA), the pollution level within the index values 101-200 is defined as unhealthy, where “everyone may begin to experience health effects and is recommended to stay indoors”.
In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that pollution in northwest Macedonia is currently 8 times higher than permitted limits and says that “exposure to high levels of this type of air pollution drastically increases the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke, and cancer”.
Therefore, in this climate, the government’s decision to extend another deadline for the Jugohrom steel factory to install anti-pollution filters at their seven furnaces in Tetovo, the unfulfilled promise of removing the dump at the entrance of the city, among other “inactions”, are draining the patience of Macedonians.
An artistic (re)action
Eco guerrilla (movement to increase awareness on the problem of pollution in the city of Tetovo), have organized mass protests, publicity and campaigns and have gained lots of supporters along the country.
The most recent campaign is a protest concert in the dump at the entrance of Tetovo. Two classical musicians in their formal outfits with masks, played Bach’s orchestral suite “Air” to protest pollution. The organization has made a video used for digital activism, which went viral on different platforms.
A “power” look at the events
The parties involved in the issue of Tetovo are using their powers differently; while the Macedonian government is using its power by not acting, Macedonians are using their power by acting – in this instance – with an online protest. It would be interesting to know what the theorists of power would think about this particular event.
Foucault would probably say that the Macedonian government, the citizens and the civil society organizations have contributed to the operation of power (independent from individuals, classes and institutions) with their actions, and although Eco guerrilla might not have achieved their state intentions, they are already part of a successful strategy (the augment of supporters and the stronger lobby).
Lukes would clarify that power of Macedonians and their government is a capacity rather than the exercise of that capacity as Foucault advocates, which is seen in different dimensions or approaches; in the first dimension, we see how Macedonians are actively using their power as citizens while the government is exercising its legitimate power through the inaction. In the second dimension, we recognize the government exercising power over the citizens unaware of its consequences (losing population’s support and counterpropaganda). In the third dimension, the role of Eco guerrilla within society shows us how a structural determination facilitates the exercise of power and its success, in this case, shaping perceptions or cognitions of citizens.
This leads us to feminist perspectives of power, seen as a capacity to empower or transform one and others. The inactive power of the Macedonian government empowered Eco guerrilla, who also empowered society with their campaigns.
Gaventa, would prefer to examine the interrelationships of the forms of power in different political spaces by defining the spaces and the levels, because unlike Foucault and following Lukes’ idea, Gaventa defends that power is shapeable depending on the actors.
Eco guerrilla’s form of power, according to Gaventa, it’s the hidden power; where people are able to articulate their grievances and where the voices of discontent can be heard. They are outside the public arenas of decision making (created/claimed space), giving importance to the community-based mobilization in a globalizing world where the local, national and international levels are interrelated; a “local actor using global forums as arena for action” (Gaventa, a power analysis).
Finally, I would like to add my point of view by pointing the power of the strategy of power; the art. This independence of power that Foucault talks about, starts from the human capacity to create something capable to transform.
Nevertheless, we can conclude that the parties are aware of their powers and the consequences on the social movements. Particularly Eco Guerrilla, who is using diverse practices (public mobilizations, campaigns, processes of lobbying…)for advocating change to decision-makers.
Stojanovski Filip. 2016. Global Voices. Surrounded by Piles of Trash, these two classical musicians played Bach in Protest. Available in: https://globalvoices.org/2016/10/12/surrounded-by-piles-of-trash-these-two-classical-musicians-played-bach-in-protest/.
Lukes, Steven. 2004. Power: A radical view.
Gaventa, John. 2006. Finding the Spaces for Change: A Power Analysis
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2005. Feminist perspectives on power. Available in: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminist-power/