The Unofficial View of Tirana (98)
Jaime Pozuelo-Monfort with German ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann.
by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
I have always been interested in what other foreigners write, imagine, or fantasize about Albania, to offset my own ramblings. For example, the American psychoanalyst in Paris who spent a particularly dismal Christmas eve in Tirana, the two Dutch students who some years ago accidentally produced a viral video of their motorcycle tour through the weed fields Lazarat, or the President of Molossia, who modeled his national anthem on the Albanian one.
So recently I found on my Facebook feed a Huffington Post blog entry about Albania written by someone calling himself Jaime Pozuelo-Monfort, who describes himself as a “Time Traveller from Year 2210” and has a rather incredible CV full of Master’s degrees. The entry itself is called “The Drama of Albania,” and purports to be some type of analysis of the political and social situation in the country, based on interviews with “Ministers, Deputy Ministers, members of parliament, Presidents and CEO’s of the largest business conglomerates, University Rectors, Vice Rectors, Deans and Professors, NGO Leaders and Executive Secretaries, Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls, Foundation Directors, Writers, Painters, Museum Theater and Opera Directors, Mayors, Actors, Movie Directors, journalists, reporters, Presidents of Orders and Associations and Intellectuals.” Apart from this rather insane Borgesian catalogue of capitalization and missing commas, the article itself breathes an atmosphere of decisiveness and willpower, clearly written by a man who freed time from his very busy schedule to spend a nonetheless luxurious “three months” in Tirana. His writing is a display of his extraordinary capacity to process, abbreviate, and summarize complex social issues into one single tremendous diagnostic apostrophe. Its author is a sensitive and perceptive soul, weighed down by the evils of this world but empowered by the will to do good, to spread his words of hope, to heal putrid, stinking wounds wherever he “deliberately” comes down from the heavens of objective analysis: “My diagnosis must be brutal. […] Difficult it is for me to ascertain the convenience of being brutally honest. But I must.”
In fact, the jussive mood is one of the main characteristics of Monfort’s prose: “In order to improve we must first be brutally honest…”; “We must then design solutions which…”; “Albania must change the course of…” (bis); “The country must embrace…”; “The country’s protagonists and intellectuals must hear my…”; “The mediocre and corrupt must either…”; “Aggregate interest must prioritize….” But contrary to his claims to talk, in bold-face, “to the Albanian elites who might read my analysis,” you never really get the feeling that he is telling them anything they wouldn’t know already. Nor is he proposing any real “analysis” of what is wrong with the country, except for a seemingly endless list of problems that any foreigner may hear upon sitting down for his first raki in a neighborhood bar, covered with some type of bland management-speak sauce. Is that really what he discovered during three full months of research? I read another article about South Africa, where the “emerging leadership needs to acknowledge first of all the great evils” and about Spain, where “We must face the severity of the challenges ahead and accept we need open-heart surgery.” You get the point.
Jaime Pozuelo-Monfort with Swiss ambassador Christoph Graf.
I tried to figure out whom Monfort had actually talked with, and found the following people mentioned by name in a series of earlier articles on Albania: NGO director Ermira Pirdeni, painters Ali Oseku and Mikel Temo, musicologist Vasil Tole, architect Maks Velo, actress Tinka Kurti, the German and Swiss ambassadors, and the honorary consuls of Japan and Latvia. Certainly no impressive list of directors, ministers, mayors, or members of parliament. If I were to write articles called “Tirana Top Secret,” I would at least put some secrets in there… but they didn’t go much further than paraphrasing introductory meetings and the exchange of pleasantries. But what attracted my attention was the last, flippant paragraph of “The Drama of Albania”:
I speak onto you Albanians. There is still time to re-route our journey towards the best possible future. You must be bold and brave. Together we can do it with the help of the Expert Dreamers. Europe’s most beautiful and friendliest republic can accomplish the dream, but not with the current players and stakeholders.
Who were these “Expert Dreamers”? I saved the article, planning to do some more research once I had some more time. Meanwhile, the article was of course rapidly, partially, and badly translated into Albanian and circulated across every single news website. A foreigner who tells the brutal truth (and, moreover, a truth that we are already familiar with and cannot do anything about), that always sells!
Then, a day later a friend pointed out that Monfort was in fact a notorious “development spammer” slash con man, which indeed was quickly confirmed by a Google search. For example: “Monfort is infamous for his frequent spamming of university departments and research institutes, either to recruit scholars to join his team of Expert Dreamers or to rope people into reviewing his inane book chapters.” And: “This kind of spam can more or less drive us insane.”
Also the “Expert Dreamers” from his Albanian article now made sense; they come from his very own book, entitled The Monfort Plan: The New Architecture of Capitalism. According to one of the seven (all one-star) reviews: “Well, Jaime, old boy, I have no love for you, and my dreams do not tend towards helping you realise your aim of global dictatorship. I suggest you desist in your spamming, as your products by no means possess sufficient quality to justify such intrusion.”
I invite curious readers to peruse an article from 2011, in which the precise role of the “dreamers” is explained. For – I’m really sorry about it but I really cannot help it – Albania has once again collided with an imaginary nation, this time called “Decemland,” consisting of 1000 square km of territory in Subsaharan Africa:
Decemland is the land of ten percent. Decemland consists of the New International Territory (NIT) and ten overseas territories I call “Islands of Peace”. NIT is a one thousand square kilometer sovereign territory on mainland Africa that will host the new institutions of the new architecture of capitalism.
The four pillars of capitalism […] are dream, love, cornucopia and eutopia. Decemland embraces the best thinking of the social sciences. Decemland becomes the core of the new architecture, where the new institutions will be based: The Yunus-fund, the Decemfund, the Bank for the Poor, the New Institution and the World Fair Trade Organization. […]
Decemland is no longer a utopia in my dreams. Decemland can materialize in 2010 if we dream awake, if we explore ideas that remained forgotten by the orthodox thinkers of our time, that live a life in black and white, that forgot to incorporate the love and the dream to their models, that undermined the ability of dreamers to persuade, convince and lead a new architecture that reforms first in the industrialized world before imposing our failed consensuses to countries that can barely breathe. […]
I dreamt of a better world, I dreamt of a world of cornucopia and eutopia. I shall never stop this journey, the journey of our lifetime. Welcome dreamers, welcome to the new era that begins in 2010. It is time for the best team of expert dreamers to start building a new world, to start building the architecture of a redefined capitalism. It is time to defeat the pirates of heartless capitalism and write, once and for all, the History of Tomorrow.
The following rather surreal video gives us more details, narrated by Monfort himself:
As far as I know, Decemland failed to materialize in 2010, but according to Monfort’s plan, “six Sub-Saharan countries” are bound to compete to host the new international territory of the Kingdom of Decemland through the five-year “Race of the Century.” In an interview, Monfort suggests “Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Madagascar” as potential candidates. The ten “Islands of Peace” will be in turn “leased from willing developing countries for a period of fifty years,” and will become the basis for the new “Harmless Armed Forces” comprising armed forces from developed and developing nations under the “Decemalliance.” This will make the islands an “appealing investment opportunity.” Thus they will become “Decemplan,” “monfortable, which will make you very comfortable,” and “povertimmune.” It follows naturally that Monfort himself will be the Monarch and “Chief Dreamer” of Decemland, residing in the capital Monfortcity.
I am not sure if Monfort is still in Albania, but I would encourage him to truly seek out the politicians on his list, not to be content with a mere German ambassador or retired actress. For he may find that the Albanian government would be very happy to be one of the nations to participate in the “Race of the Century” and to become monfortable and povertimmune. Albania has ample experience with five-year plans with impossible targets and is more than ready to finally become an “appealing investment opportunity.” The armed forces are already harmless, and they will sign any alliance you propose to them. Only ten percent of Albanians are actually left in Albania, so the name Decemland would make sense, too. Plus: we need more islands, obviously.
Monfort – let me address you personally as a fellow citizen of the world – you may find that the ones ruling from the seats of Albanian political power have a penchant for inventive language, a subtle understanding of the truth, and a great capacity for dreaming, just like you, and much more so than the reasonable citizens you seem to have met so far. In fact, they have already swallowed the advice of Alistair Campbell, and you’re not that far off. The independent Albanian media are on your side; they have already cited and translated your important work. So I think it is time, Monfort, that you seek out our true dreamers, Expert Dreamers, Winning Dreamers! Any of the people you already talked to has their email addresses and telephone numbers, you only have to ask.
Cover image by Makis E. Warlamis
About the Author:
Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei is a philologist, director of project bureau for the arts and humanities The Department of Eagles, and runs multilingual publishing house Uitgeverij. For Berfrois he writes a regular series on the state and concept of Albania, where he lives and works most of the time.