When the Illusion Seems Real: Albania Then & Covid Now

I was in the process of preparing for facilitating my third monthly Decloaking conversation when my parents came to visit. The “theme” of the conversation this month was exploring how the nervous system works, how it is wired, and how that wiring impacts who we know ourselves to be. The conversation with my parents, as with most conversations today, revolved around the fear mongering imposed top-down regarding the dangers of Covid along with the one-and-only proposed solution, THE vaccine, the ingestion of which is coercion-masked-as-choice.

“Enemy of the State” OR “Democracy Hero”

You see, my parents were born, raised in, and have lived the majority of their lives in communist Albania. They were literally born into an autocratic-slash-totalitarian-called-communist governance system with a brutal dictator-proclaimed-democratically-elected vice president as the country’s leader. They experienced, first hand, everything you have read about in 1984. Not as metaphor, as real life. Top-down imposed narratives of fear, deprivation, distrust among neighbours and family members, media censorship, unjust justice systems, dictatory school systems, state control over the vast majority of aspects of life. And, more than that, state-sponsored terrorism, torture and even illegal executions (aka murder with impunity). My mom’s uncle and my own father were imprisoned as political prisoners and tortured as “enemies of the state”; my grand-uncle because he threw Enver Hoxha’s picture on the ground in a drunken feat and my father for peacefully marching for democracy. If it wasn’t for the fall of that government both these men would still be imprisoned today, if not dead. Because of my great-uncles actions the entire family was displaced and socially shamed and shunned. My father was luckier — he only spent six months in Albania’s toughest prison before he was released as a “democracy hero“.

I was born in the midst of the chaos that followed the demise of the communist era in Albania. But if you know anything of epigenetics, you know how the trauma survives in the very fabric of my being. I know state sponsored violation well. It’s reminiscence lives in my body.

I only oh-so-briefly mention that relevant history to this post in order to contextualise what I’m about to write.

My parents moved to Canada, as all refugees and immigrants, “for a better life” for their children. In their reflection of their lives, in their personal story, they sacrificed their lives, their livelihoods (my dad was a successful musician in Albania, for example), their families (noone here but us, literally an Atlantic ocean apart from our roots and families of origin) to bring us here so that we might know a different life than perpetual persecution. When we got here and for many years after, my mother was deeply depressed. To survive living in this part of the world, my father adopted the opposite of my mother: he became deeply committed to making it work, no matter what. At that time, he believed in the (long-dead) American Dream. All people in the parts of the world I grew up in do. Most people here do, also. That’s the powerful hold of ideology: the illusion seems real. Work hard and you will be handsomely rewarded some day. And so in keeping with working hard, my father had no time to stop and think or notice because he was working 16 hour days, six days a week. My mom knew something different, but that was readily disregarded. Gotta keep working; gotta pay the bills; gotta get the kids educated.

Gotta be somebody, so that we’re not nobody.

I have noticed during the last several conversations with my parents they have both been very clear that they regret “coming to this country”. Up until now, I didn’t understand — our lives are so much better here.

And then, Covid hit. I finally get it.

Despite what you might think regarding whether or not the immense push to be fearful and to comply is a legitimate response to a legitimate problem, you likely still sense the pressure to comply whether that’s locking down or wearing a mask (or two, or three…) or getting injected for “the vulnerable”. The immense and perpetual fear mongering, the pressures to comply, the hurried international responses, the hijacking of the media to control the narrative, the censoring of diverse narratives, the polarization of narratives, the blatant demonising of “other”, the attempts to divide people by vaccinated-or-not waiting lines, the us-versus-them mentality, the blame and high risk of those choosing to not vaccinate, the shaming of anyone who asks merely questions, the inability to hold anyone accountable for what might happen (noone can be held accountable for side effects), the fishy emergency measures, the mandating the green passes even though its legality is questionable, the disregard for people’s right to medical privacy, the intimidation to get everyone injected, the disregard for people’s right to choose, the year-and-a-half-long lockdowns, the shifting in narratives of three-weeks to-flatten-curve all the way to fourth-wave-coming-no-matter-what, the blatantly shameless hijacking and politicisation of science, the silencing of discourse, the muzzling of doctors to give us informed consent, the suppression of information, and my personal favourite: the plea to the good Samaritan side of us who does whatever we’re told to help those vulnerable “others”.

That last one is my absolute favourite because it is brilliant in it’s execution. Appealing to the “be a good-girl/boy”-people-pleasing-desire-to-belong is a fool proof way to coerce people to comply by simply rewarding their deep desire and need to appease the parental figures of authority by being good (and therefore deserving). The state has asked healthy people to inject themselves with an emergency approved experimental drug to prove to them we are good. Because of the do-gooders, everyone will be saved.

But, don’t worry, even if you didn’t do it for any of the other reasons listed, if you’re poor enough you’ll do it to win some money. Who else other than Quebec will be creating a freaking lottery for young people who get injected. My tax dollars at work. Seriously, how does this not ring alarm bells?!

All I’m saying is this: the tactics I’m witnessing unfolding before my very eyes are age old mind control and manipulation tactics.

But, to see that, you need different perceptual filters. To notice what else might be going on, you need to choose to take off the glasses you’re wearing and notice if the world is still the same colour. You need to be able to notice that there are multiple realities unfolding before our eyes. You need to be solid enough to dare question the habitual, status quo narrative that everyone around you believes is real. You need to be able to question mom & dad and to notice when they’re not 100% truthful (pssst, in case you FYI, your parents have wilfully lied to you, more than once).

While people like my parents and I have differing perspectives of what might be going on, and while (of course!) we can never be darn certain of what exactly is going on, we sense the violation in the totality of our being: there is, undoubtedly, a violation here. What exactly, by whom, for whom, why … all those are unanswerable by those of us not in the know (aka all the people who don’t belong to the groups of elites I call “the committee of they”). But that doesn’t mean that they don’t firmly know what they know, in their bodies, in their cells, in the inexplicable quantum spaces between all the matter of the body.

First “They” Create the Problem, then “They” Blame the People

After all, you shouldn’t be so fucking gullible …

There are many reasons why my parents fled Albania when they did. One of the many reasons was the civil war that broke out immediately after the declared bankruptcy of the pyramid schemes that overwhelmed the people in the mid 1990s. This is a good story you’ll want to read…

According to this brilliant article I highly suggest you read, “In 1995 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared Albania a “success story of free market reforms.” Meanwhile, local media was lauding the owners of the pyramid firms as trailblazers of homegrown capitalism. The firms’ monthly rate of return grew from around 6 percent to 44 percent—enough to more than double the principal in two months. By late 1996 roughly half the country had invested. A number of Ponzi schemes popped up across postcommunist Eastern Europe, but the scale of the Albanian pyramids was unprecedented. At the time of their collapse in January 1997, their nominal value amounted to $1.2 billion, equal to half the country’s GDP.” (emphasis mine)

The Albanian people were preyed upon. We had just come out of a totalitarian regime, our borders had just opened up, many people had fled the country never to come back while others came back seeking to rebuild (the latter was my family’s case). The ideologies internalised until then had been heavily controlled by Enver Hoxha and his government; the main one to note is that you must trust your government and those in power positions of governance. And so, it is not surprising when most people in Albania invested their hard earned money in these internationally backed institutions, trusting them to be legal, ethical, and (goodness forbid!) moral.

Instead, these institutions came in and intentionally further destabilised an unstable populous on the verge of recovering. The international players involved intentionally set up pyramid schemes.

And in the end? The world blamed the people for having no idea what they invested in! And I quote: “For the American correspondents who parachuted in, the answer was obvious: Albanians were “emerging from the dark ages” (Chicago Tribune) and were too ignorant to understand capitalism, which they regarded “with childlike naivete—and grown-up greed” (Washington Post). What can you expect from a country where, according to the Los Angeles Times, “the term ‘work ethic’ is an undeveloped concept”?”

So, not only did they blame the people, instead of the corporations who intentionally predated on the people, but the media summed up that “it could never happen here” because, well, we are smarter than those greedy buffoons over there: “By Western standards, the schemes are breathtakingly transparent. The guarantees of huge profits were impossible,” the New York Times reported. “The advertisements, dwelling on images of fast cars or exotic beach vacations, would raise an immediate red flag in the United States.” Albanians, it seemed, were overcome by mania, too eager and unsophisticated to recognise an obvious con. It could never happen here.” The audacity is unfathomable. The gullibility of people to accept any narrative put in front of them as ‘real’ is …

As someone who has lived this and remembers the details unfolding well, I find the international responses and the media coverage absolutely infuriating to the bone, and yet, it all makes so much sense: victim blaming is the go-to modus operandi in neo-liberal capitalist culture. Predate then shift the blame and attention elsewhere while “they” plan their next scheme.

In her book, Tales from Albarado: Ponzi Logics of Accumulation in Postsocialist Albania, Smoki Musaraj explains how the pyramid schemes “are the product of common underlying conditions: political and economic transformation, rapid capital expansion, and unregulated informal financial practices. Musaraj argues that in the case of the Albanian pyramids, the underlying conditions were largely the outcome of devastating economic programs imposed by the IMF and the World Bank.

IMF and World Bank. Yup, sounds about right.

To me, none of this is surprising. I’ve been a huge fan of studying corporate and state sponsored crimes for decades. People-aka-corporations have been invading every nook and cranny of the world where there is destabilization. They have enslaved people under modern slavery, they have created further instability, they have manipulated, they have lied, they have caused civil wars (as in the case for Albania), and then they have turned around and blamed those they intentionally violated.

Don’t be so fucking gullible, we said…

If you look into this, or even read this article as a basics, you’ll notice (perhaps) the similarities between what happened in Albania and what has been going on in the Western hemisphere for decades. The violations might appear more subtle, but to a trained eye, they are not. They are equally as damaging and invasive, only harder to notice because the people being duped are in the middle of it and, just like the Albanian people, have no context from which to contextualize what’s unfolding. They have only ever known to trust authority and believe their stories…

  • Even though corporations and their allies have been intentionally lying to us for decades…
  • Even though institutions meant to protect us have only been protecting the status quo by violating anyone perceived as an “other”…
  • Even though our governments are responsible for genocide…
  • Even though the media is engulfed in fear-immersed propaganda…
  • Even though the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most predatory industries…

…most of the westerners raised by baby boomers allow little space within themselves to question the legitimacy of the institutions meant to protect them. They truly don’t know how to decipher what it would feel like for the institutions “meant to protect” you to instead intentionally violate you.

There are certainly many people who might have a sense inside themselves that something feels off. That perhaps something bigger than what’s let on is going on out there. Perhaps they’re not getting the full story. But, because they have no way of explaining what or how or why, they simply choose to distrust their internal cues, trust the external voices proclaiming themselves legitimate, and ultimately, comply to the top down demands despite knowing something feels off.

This was my dad’s case with the pyramid schemes in Albania. Despite what he lets on, my dad in incredibly intuitive. At that time, he knew that something felt off about these new and exciting firms taking over the country. The story seemed biased, the math didn’t add up, and his intuition told him to keep his hard-earned money somewhere safe. So for two years he held off “investing” his money because he intuitively knew something felt wrong. Unfortunately, after years of resisting the familiar, social, and cultural pressures, succumbed because, in a moment of weakness, he trusted the president of the country, Sali Berisha, who openly encouraged the people to invest their “clean money”. Three months after this, our family, (along with all of Albania) lost all of our hard-earned money. On January 25th, 1997, one by one, all of these predators declared bankruptcy and collapsed all functional institutions in Albania. Of course, enter civil war.

That didn’t matter because no one was ever held responsible. Instead, the Albanian people were blamed for their gullibility. In 2021 (you can do the math of how man years later that is) we find out that in 2021 the UN has finally sanctioned Sali Berisha (the bad apple) because he, and you’ll be shocked to find out, “was involved in corrupt acts,?such as misappropriation of public funds and interfering with public processes.” This man was the voice of authority for my dad at that time. He is still in power as a lawmaker for the opposition party; just as Pfizer and Johnson Johnson still have us convinced that their products are “for our own good”, despite the infinite evidence to the contrary… one small example:

…but what’s $2.3 billion when you make over $50 billion yearly?!
…and this is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

Lived Experience Knows, Intellect Thinks it Knows

What I’ve come to discover is that lived experience trumps the intellect every.single.time. That’s because the sensation to pay attention literally lives in the body’s communication system to the intellect. The messages live in the nervous system, in the cells, and in every space in between the physical. This means that when our antennas are up, we really must pay attention, even if we have no clue what to actually look for or an inability to justify why. When the tissue of the body vibrates a truth, I know that’s my truth. That has served me well in the recent years, because I trust what I know. When I read about it somewhere, however, it remains removed from me and I get no charge other than judgement which might sound something like “how could those people over there at that time have been so gullible. I would never…” That’s the main, critical difference between lived experience and intellect one viscerally knows, and the other thinks it knows.

With all that in mind, I can’t say I fully know the details of what’s unfolding now days with Covid, nor do I know how or why; but I recognise the pattern of violation when I see it. It’s a tale as old as time… So, based on my own experiences and the research I’ve come across I have unapologetically concluded that 1. I don’t trust the conventional narrative, and 2. there is definitely something disturbingly fishy going on here.

Despite my intellect telling me to stay calm and trust the institutions mean to protect me, my body tells me otherwise. I don’t trust corporations and I don’t trust politicians, and I’ve long been quite uncertain about the ability of The Law to protect the vulnerable (there’s something useful I got out of studying criminal justice for 8 years!). I know what states are capable of doing to their own citizens and to those of other far-away places. I know the violations corporations have intentionally inflicted and continue to do so with impunity. I know self-proclaimed-philanthropists and media-and-therefore-narrative-controlling billionaires only have their own interests in mind. I know the institutions who have more-or-less protected the upper middle class until now have never protected the poor and vulnerable. I know the God of Science has been highly politicized and hijacked by narratives of fear. I know that the external God-guy-in-the-sky who watches all only promises justice in the afterlife; but while on earth, be patient and obey thy parents and all their surrogates. It’s a brilliant strategy, really.

In my life, I know what I know, and I’m unwilling to pretend otherwise. I’m not under anyone’s spell: Oligarchy has always been another form of totalitarianism masked as democracy; we have never experienced a free and democratic society so long as there has been civilisation. Yet we are conditioned to think that this mess of perpetual, intense and irreversible violations to each other, our animal friends, and our Mother’s body (aka the planet) is the best we could do as a species…

Most of us all go round and round with band-aid strategies to predicaments that require fundamental shifts in paradigm; yet, somehow, most of us are pleased enough with placing a policy band-aid on the wound (because it’s not-too-visibly-bleeding-right-now-in-my-neck-of-the-until-now-protected-woods-so-long-as-I-make-money).

I have come to conclude that we, as a people, have such a deep desire to trust another with our own safety and protection that we are willing to be duped so long as we don’t have to face ourselves. We keep ourselves small to please parental authorities and their surrogates. We’ve spent a lifetime being mercilessly told what to do! We bully because we were bullied. We deny ourselves our truth because we’d rather hope things aren’t what they are. We allow fear to cripple us. We believe the loudest voices. We don’t ask too many questions. We are biochemically addicted to stress. We are profoundly disconnected from our bodies. We have a short memory. We have a pervasive tendency to judge and externalise blame. We believe the God/Science will save us. We’d rather put one foot in front of the other and pretend things are okay than actually deal with the immensity of the predicaments we have collectively created. We’d rather die than face our diagnosis or change our habits…

Personally, I rather thoroughly enjoy the satiation of Life! And I choose to live expansively, meaningfully and with gusto, with audacity, with poise. I choose to digest and metabolise my history so that I may live with Joy! I choose to create a life of meaning. I choose to listen to my own internal cues, increasingly more, no matter what. If we all did that, I believe we’d live in a vastly different world…

If you’re curious or interested in listening to an ethics professor share her perspective on what might be going on out there, I encourage you to listen to either of these interviews (if you can, leave your opinions of the interviewers behind so that you might hear the professor’s message with less static).


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