But, also, there is a critical reflection on the position towards my story by those who (should / think that) self-identify with our story. Including the situation when in what is their version of the story that should be common, my story gets the status of Otherness, and it is not excluded that it may manifest itself as a conflict. In other words, it is when the individual exceeds the expectations of the collective.
With this, Stefanovski’s essays touch on deeper observations and reflections than those insisted on by imagogology. Because it usually equals me and us – my and our story and seeks the Other in the other culture. On the other hand, in Goran’s essay, the one who considers my story as his own Otherness can also be part of our own / our culture – from our current story. To the extent that he can insist that my story no longer belongs to our story. That is, more precisely, to be excluded from what constitutes his version of our story. This is because the conflict with our story is also since “we are in a conscious and unconscious schism with the world, but also with ourselves and inside ourselves. We are in a relentless struggle, intolerance, poisonous hate, measuring everything through double standards.” (Стефановски 2005: 28)
As an illustrative example for this segment of Goran’s essayism, we would point out only one part of the essay-anecdote that grows into an essay-short story, an essema in the essay “Misheard”. “After establishing cooperation with a producer from Europe, I’ve heard comments,” Stefanovski said. “He works there now, so he is not our appropriate representative.” “But I represent us,” I say. They say: “Yes, but as soon as you represent us with them, then you no longer represent us.” (Стефановски 2010: 126)
On another level, the epic principle, outside of our story, actively includes the Other too – not the one we and I recognize as the Other, but the one who sees our story as his Otherness. The Superior Other (usually personified thru Europe), which in some contexts completely identifies my and our story, which gives other imagological dimensions to the conflict. Already at this level, the clash between the lyrical and the epic principle is equivalent to the clash between the small and the big – between the inferior and the superior. But this is not a clash of stories or a clash of our world and its values with the world and the values of the Other, but a clash of our story with the way the Other sees it, even one who has not read it but perceives it as his own Otherness…
“Until ten years ago, Macedonia was in Eastern Europe. So, more or less, it was still in Europe. But that story fell apart and Eastern Europe no longer exists. We found ourselves only in the Balkans, and in its western part, pushed into the third world, not only not complementary to Europe, but also somehow opposed to it, as an oriental pendant, like a dark mirror on which Europe projects its views. It’s a new, ugly and dangerous page in the story. And how do we think of ourselves now? How can we Europeanize again, when Europe is careful not to become Balkanized? How to see each other, to measure ourselves, to make a diagnosis, how to set the target? We are having a difficult and exhausting debate on these issues.” (Стефановски 2005: 37) – says Stefanovski.
The clash of our story with perceptions of it in the socio-cultural context on a broader scale sometimes means exclusion: will the superior Other accept my and our story inter-textually to be part of his story? But at this level, the conflict leads not only to critical observation of the relation and perceptions of the Other, but also to the relation of our story towards the Other, which is much more a relation towards ourselves, and this emphasizes the need for criticism of the relation to ours (own) story. This opens the questions:
- How ready are we for our story to be an intertext/quote/part of a bigger story?
- How do we imagine that our story can be the intertext of another story?
- Can and how can the authenticity of the interpretations of our story be preserved in a bigger story if it is only an intertext/quote?
Illustratively, the effort to think and make an essay about our stance in the conflict with the epic principle embodied in the Other is also seen in part of Goran’s essay which is an access sermon to the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Noting that some say that Europe is solely to blame for our unenviable position and that we should turn a back on her, while others say that we are to blame for everything and should turn our backs on ourselves, he points the critique to the attitude of our story towards the Other, which, in essence, is primarily a critique of the attitude towards oneself. An almost identical view is presented in the essay “Misheard” when Stefanovski points out that there are two types of rocks among his fellow artists. “The first are those who say NO to everything. They open fire on everything that smells of Europe … … The other group is those who immediately say YES to everything. They accept everything that comes from Europe, they would unconditionally agree with everything that is said here, they mechanically imitate ideas, uncritically accept empty promises.” (Стефановски 2010: 123) In the subtext is the determination that in the conflict with the socio-cultural context, through the perception of the Other, one also comes to know the one who perceives, and not only for the Other.
“Both positions are inferior and only feed the European exotic cliché about us: in the first story we are meant self-absorbed heroes, and in the second we are slimy uncritical epigones. The two stories are mutually exclusive – they offer either everything or nothing, hell or heaven, and nothing in between – no earthly life. They are despairing and based on negative identification: I do not know exactly who I am, but I know exactly who I do not want to be. Those stories are lazy and passive; they avoid analysis, work, and responsibility and melodramatically claim that we deserve more.” (Стефановски 2005: 34) – Stefanovski is explicit in the essay “On our story”.
This view seems to follow the theoretical conclusion that “the feeling of ‘inferiority’ produces new negative emotions, seems extremely frustrating and makes the actors even more insecure. Being ‘insecure’ means not being able to face the everyday challenges of society in the right way.” (Крамариќ 2010: 62) But at the same time, it upgrades it, because Goran’s essayism does not agree with reconciling with inferiority.