In Search of Lost Time

by Dr. Ylli Popa

Zëri i Popullit

April 28-29, 1990

One day I was talking with a student from the Faculty of Economics. For a long time he sent and re-sent his mother to the hospital, due to chronic heart disease. In such cases, a tense and aggravated situation between the doctor and the patient or patient’s people is created. 

One day the student said to me:

– Doctor, I have the impression that medicine has not yet become an exact science, as it still cannot cure many diseases.

– No – I said – medicine is more than only science. It is a science to find the diagnosis, an art for medical care and a psycho-diplomacy for the relations with the patient and his/her people. However, medicine as a science has its limitations and among them is its dependance on economic conditions. A good economy means a better life for the people, a balanced diet for pregnant women and new mothers during lactation, abundant protein for young children while the brain is in the process of formation, better housing, a clean environment, and surely a more developed medicine. So, please do not blame only us, the doctors, – I continued to tease him. It means that even the economy is not an exact science.

– No, – the student said, determined and annoyed – economics is a true and dynamic science, which does not allow you to play with its laws, and which does not bear using old methods from 30 years ago, which in economics have the same value that camphor oil has in modern medicine.

He was inclined to carry on, but I did not have enough free time, so standing up I said that healthy concepts and courage make a necessary duo when undertaking very important actions is considered! After the student left, I remembered a passage I underlined in Ramiz Alia’s speech to the 9th Plenum of the Central Committee. I re-read it and present it here: “At the stage of intensive developments taking place and dominating our economy, when quality, rate, effectiveness, scientific and technical progress are the priorities, the further perfection of the elements comprising our economic mechanism becomes necessity. Without losing time any longer it should free itself from the old elements, from some borrowed non-efficient practices; along with that the identified shortcomings and weakness should be corrected. Certainly, it is difficult. Our experience and others’ practice have taught us how we should not act, while deep research and reflection are required regarding the way we should act and take new steps.”

These are some of the recent ideas of Comrade Ramiz and they charge our economists (but not only them) with new and bold tasks. Thinking deeply about these ideas, we came naturally to the conclusion that this analysis should also be applied to other fields of our social activity, such as: education, culture, science, medicine, etc., because these fields (so, not only economics) are subjected to these intensive developments; in these fields, quality, rate, effectiveness, and scientific progress comprise the priorities. Without losing time any longer, these fields should also free themselves from the old elements, from some borrowed non-efficient practice; along with that, the identified shortcomings and weakness should be corrected.

I have worked in the field of medicine for many years, but maybe I will exceed its “limits” in this article. It can’t be different, as it is part of the nature of my profession, of which the main object is man in all his complexity; that is, not only physical, but also mental, psychic and social. This is the reason that in pre-history and history of this profession, the doctor has been astrologer, orator, philosopher, astronomer, alchemist, botanist, etc. So, he was always something more than a simple healer. What is more, a doctor nowadays cannot treat the illness separately from the patient, from the society and the environment. Considering only the technical aspects of the profession changes him into a real and sterile “biocrat,” who in his daily work involves the brain but not the heart. This is the reason why the doctor nowadays should be more sensitive towards literature, painting, psychology, history, etc. Now more than ever, we need to involve more art in the science, but also at the same time more science in the arts. In both cases, the created alloy would be of a better quality than the two components separately.

The importance of the 9th and 10th plenums stands not so much on the material capacities they offer at once, but on the sound concepts to be rooted in the mind of the people to attain such material benefits. But new things can not be attained using old attitudes, without changing something in our way of thinking.

It is very important for everyone, while moving forward in his field, to look at the past in order to see the way traveled and to evaluate whether or not it was a straight or zigzag path, what was the obstacle, how much time was lost and why. So, the retrospective should serve the best way possible to the prospective.

I remember the verses from Robert Frost:

The forest is thick, deep and relaxing,

But I swear to continue my way

Still many miles before I fall asleep

And still more miles before I fall asleep.

In such moments the brain works speedily, thoughts lose their coherence and get scattered like the scared birds from an arm-shot and as it happened to the “Alef” of Borges I suddenly thought of Bora and Christ, the rings of Saturn and black holes in the cosmos. I quickly repeated the “On the dignity of man” oration by Pico della Mirandola; I thought of Ramiz Alia, his humanism, the heart’s law “everything or nothing”; Bush and Gorbachov, the air (pollution) in Elbasan and the forests becoming smaller; the acid rain and the hydropowers needing water. I was shocked seeing the “Guernica” of Picasso, the light used by the impressionists also astonished me. I disgustedly thought of Milosevic and Pol Pot (it is easier to send the hunters of the halls to the International Court than the people using genocide), I listened to the requiem of Mozart and the blues of the American black people, I saw the blood of Ylfete Humolli and Enver Hadri, the two Kosova martyrs; I saw two narrowed aortas, I thought of Proust, Kadare and Faulkner, I remember the verse from Bardhyl Londo: “I will die from the passion to be a man”…

After having reached the peak of the experience you always look for the lost time, you feel more the weight of the responsibility regarding what you have done, what you have not done and what you will do in the future, while the words of Louis XV “apres moi le deluge” sound absurd. One of the components of “the weight of responsibility” should precisely be everybody’s constant concern to keep the body of the society healthy because it is as sensitive as a human body. It can be affected by many slight and grave diseases, which can also be acute and chronic. But there are also such diseases which can cause the death of a social system. The earlier and recent history can provide a lot of examples. So, it is good to analyze carefully the “clinical files” of social systems available in the archives of history, in order to learn how to be protected, what to correct, who to fight against, and how to make a prevention.

In the 9th Plenum, Comrade Ramiz Alia said: “Now we should learn from what happened in the East. We should ask the question and find the answer regarding the reason that revisionism took place; which were its objective and subjective reasons, the delays and escalations, the mistakes and the tolerance. The analysis should also cover the developments in the Soviet Union during the long period of building socialism there.”

If we use the terminology of dialectics, we would say that the events of 1990 were a qualitative blow of the quantitative changes having begun in the Soviet Union years ago. One of the most important mechanisms of these changes was the very bureaucratic centralization, which by means of its suffocating gas paralyzed the brain and the muscles of the nation. This monomania was spread in all the fields of social activity, even where there was no reason, such as science, etc. In medicine among all the forms this monstrous phenomenon was also displayed in the form of Pavlovism, which by means of the central nervous system and the conditioned reflexes explained any disease and abnormality of the human body from the callous of the foot to brain tumors. At that time in their laboratories, more than 1/5 of the world’s scientists were dealing almost only with “the conditioned reflexes.” Everybody understood the absurdity of the situation, but none dared raise their voice because the official ideologists and philosophers had thoroughly proved that there was only one truth and everything other than that was idealistic and reactionary.

(end of part one)

In Search of Lost Time

By Dr. Ylli Popa

Zëri i Popullit, April 29, 1990

We, the new students, understood that our professors did not believe in what they themselves said. This arrogant influence of a theory and its intolerance regarding some medical truths reminded us of Clemenceau, who said: “I am sorry to accept the emergence of Christianity. People should have been happier, when they pray to Jupiter, Mercury and all those gallant gods, which were not at all jealous of their opponents; which as many times as another god approached them, they got closer and closer to make room for it. But this our god !! ….”

In fact, Pavlov is one of the greatest neuro-physiologists of our time, but he was no longer alive when his theory, due to political and ideological reasons, occupied medicine. He as all the other great people was too modest, and even if he could come back to life and see what was happening to his work, he would angrily shout: “What is happening like this, these are not my ideas. You have misunderstood my findings and you have applied them wrongly. Re-read me carefully! …”

This absurd story went on for about 10 years and seriously affected the development of medicine in more than 1/5 of the world. But the most important fact was that a great many people began to think (though they could not say) that what happened was something very bad and they began to lose confidence, to get bored, to become skeptical. All these were corroding elements to the system and they led to the events of 1990.

Far more flagrant was the issue of genetics in the Soviet Union, where two different theories were confronted: micurinian theory supported by the academic Lisenko and the chromosomal one supported not by a single leader, but a group of very skilled scientists, who with their work were at the front of world science. Later developments of modern biology showed that the supporters of chromosomal inheritance theory were right. Not only that. It had a colossal economic influence, because through genetic interventions (hybrids, race improvements of animals, etc.) it brought about an increase in the agricultural and animal husbandry production all over the world. Meanwhile, Lisenko supported by official ideologists and philosophers of that time, discovered that the chromosomal genetics was an idealistic and reactionary science and that its supporters were agents of capitalist bourgeoisie. To this end, a special session of the Agronomic Sciences Academy was organized in 1948, and it analyzed “The situation on biological science.” There, the great inquisitor, Lisenko, with his undeniable “scientific”, “ideological” and “philosophic” arguments made the horrible accusation; however, at the end the accused, Galileo Galilei  said: “Eppur si muove”! This was a modern version of two events taking place in the past, when in the XVth century the inquisitors of the Council of Constance accused and burned alive in the pile of firewood Jan Hus and Calvin; the founder of theocratic totalitarism in the XVI century accused Michael Servetus of heresy and he was also burned in the piles of firewood in front of the public. For all the “great services” the charlatan Lisenko made to his nation, he was awarded many of the highest titles, decorates, that the nation in gratitude can offer to a man. In this entire monstrous event what attracts the attention is this strange fact: why the senior structures were engaged in such a debate having simply a scientific character at a time when they had many other problems to resolve! Being not prepared about problems belonging only to specialists, they supported the ideas of an inefficient man, only because they were crammed with political and ideological terms.

When in in XVI century Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote “The praise of folly,” I don’t think he could imagine that the folly would have spread that far. He could never have believed that the intellectual cannibalism would have been more horrible than the plague that he knew quite well. Some foolish people of the XX century considered Einstein’s theory of relativity as idealistic and reactionary and they considered cybernetics a bourgeois science, as it appreciates the machinery rather than the man. Certainly, a great many people, who did not believe such rubbish, felt extremely worried. They lost confidence and remained silent.

That is all about the science.

You can also find such examples in literature, music, history and painting. Regarding the last one:

Let’s suppose that there is an exposition of the original works of the most distinguished impressionists and expressionists in the art gallery. (What a luck for our painters and art admirers!) There are the works of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, Van Gogh, etc. A student stands before a painting of Monet, while a worker does not understand why he feels a well of emotions while looking at “A Starry Night” of Van Gogh. At this moment, somebody touches him gently on his shoulder. It is an art critic, who said in a soft but critical voice: “You are enjoying it, aren’t you! But, be careful it is not as you think it is. It is true that there is a lot of movement and light in there, but there is no social content. It is out of the norms of Socialist Realism.” The worker looks at him indifferently and while the critic leaves, the worker approaches his friend, the student, and says to him: “Well, who is that beast, who wants to tell me what I should or should not appreciate, and who wants to plan my feelings?!”

This was just a story, but if you read the school books and the works of many critics of literature, painting and music, you will get the impression that their point of view is very limited, as if they are the only ones able to define the borders between beauty and ugliness. They are the permanent teachers, who define the rails on which creativity should pass. They want to convince us that Picasso in painting, Franz Kafka in literature and Stravinsky in music place the independence of our country at risk. It is only them, who define and combine the elements of our new man’s inner world.

I would rather be an eagle flying high in the sky and looking at the fauna of life, as it really is with its good and bad things, along with its surprises, than a train-engine passing on flat rails.

I met the student of the economics faculty again two days ago. He was very happy, but not only because his mother felt better. We talked about many things, especially about recent events. I wanted to carry on, but the student while standing up said: “Excuse me doctor, but I need to go. I have a meeting with my professor, to whom I suggested the thesis for my diploma. It is “The economic efficiency of physical work.” I am eager to work hard on it. The professor will confirm it today, so I have to go.” After having walked for a while, he turned back and said something, which impressed me: “Doctor, there is a wall to be demolished and a bridge to be built in all of us.”

After the student left, I continued thinking of the last two party plenums. It had never happened before that we discussed so massively and with so much interest following the party plenums, as it happened following these twins plenums. On the other hand, considering thoroughly their content and demands, it becomes clear that their success will be sure only if the people are free to say what they think. Further development of democracy is one of its fundamental demands. In fact, such ideas have always existed in the minds and hearts of many people.  But not very rare, due to epithets, pressure of the ism-s, the thought – word and action have been separated from each other. (The thought ocean – the word stream.)

A sound thought is that which serves the development of a nation and the quick improvement of people’s well-being. Such a thought (economic, technical, scientific, artistic, literary, philosophic, etc.) should be cultivated very carefully. It is useless to drill for oil and minerals in the depths of the earth, we had better drill in the depths of our thought, and there for sure we will find treasures never discovered before. Let us study the experience of those countries, which though poor in raw materials, sit atop the world economy. Perhaps they have understood in time that the most important “raw material” of a nation is the brain, and its bigger richness is the emancipated and progressive thought of its people.

The last two plenums of the Party Central Committee highlight the demand and they emphasize that someone having old ways of thinking can not walk on new ways. The natural and unrestrained development of a society dictates such changes, too. A child can not wear the shoes of the previous year, as his feet grow bigger and the shoes cause pain. However, one of the factors affecting our development is also the concept of some people on time and work. You should not smile when I say that somewhere in the brain of many of us a man in slacks lives. He is sitting with his legs crossed on the rug, drinking coffee, and talking for hours. In this wonderful period in which we live, when the history of Europe is going faster and faster, we as its eternal part have a lot to do! Each of us, a healthy cell of the nation, has something to demolish and something better to build.

I would like to close this article by citing Comrade Ramiz Alia: “We are building a new society, which we are always looking for, so it can happen we do not always hit the target. But shyness should not bind our hands and feet.”

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