Searching for the Bad Guy

Erjona Rusi

When I started working on my story about the decline of civil society in Albania, I had hoped to uncover shocking secrets. I hoped I would pinpoint a culprit behind our problems: a “bad guy”.

But after searching through figures and documents and meeting endless sources, no clear culprit could be found. The “bad guy” did not have a face or a name.

“There is no conspiracy theory,” a source told me, to my disappointment. “Nobody could have known how things would turn out in ten years’ time.”

Nevertheless, I continued asking my interviewees whom they blamed for Albania’s fading belief in civil society and politics. As I heard all sides of the argument, I realised everyone blamed each other.

The activists blamed a society that was not mature enough to engage in civic action. The donors blamed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that focused on training and paperwork instead of concrete action. And ordinary people said the entire civil sector seemed to be motivated by self-interest.

“The NGOs have become businesses, and the people who run the biggest ones are now rich,” said Mentor Kikia, himself an NGO leader who has been trying to raise awareness of our environmental problems.

We all want a “bad guy” who will take the blame for our problems and make us feel better about the changes that have made life worse. But I have learned that everyone shares a portion of the blame because we have all played a part in transforming our society: the winners, the losers, the powerful and those who chose them. And what of my role? I’m just telling the story.