Balkanist Recommends “Bourgeois Scum: NGOs in Kosovo”

Every now and again we come across something written by an anonymous author on Medium that we feel we must share with our readers. This piece, “Bourgeois Scum: NGOs in Kosovo” signed by one “Shashalin A.” fits that criteria. In a time defined in large part by the steady depletion of honesty, this bit of incisive criticism of the NGO sector in Kosovo, which we bet is equally relevant across the region and the world, stands out as significant.

Bourgeois Scum: NGOs in Kosovo

I’m a Kosovar Albanian in his mid-20s, raised abroad in a Western country (Norway). I’m writing after 2 years of frustration working for various non-profits and think tanks in Prishtina.

You may have worked in the nonprofit sector in Kosovo if:

1) The terms of your contract are rarely respected — tasks and hours are added and subtracted based on the whims of your manager, who usually is the executive director.

2) Your executive director lives in a swank apartment, goes to networking events abroad and gets invitations to dine at foreign embassies — your job is to do the grunt work and no, you’ll never be given real opportunities to advance or grow in your career.

3) Your executive director has the emotional maturity of a 14 year old. They will never take responsibility for their mistakes, gaffes or outright stupidity. In fact, calling them out with constructive criticism could get you fired.

4) Most of Kosovo’s NGO bourgeois elite are people who we in the West would call semi-educated, and in some cases, semi-literate. These people and their children occupy nonprofits, think tanks, foundations, UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations. Their ignorance would be comical if it didn’t directly affect your work.

5) If you work hard and really put in an honest effort — it will not be recognized. You won’t be thanked and you won’t be appreciated. Management will treat your above and beyond effort as a given, and you’ll start to doubt your abilities and worth. In fact, they seem to resent you for caring so much.

6) You will never get paid overtime and you will never get time off for working through the weekend, the evenings or over the holidays. But your executive director can take off whenever they fucking please.

7) The board will be filled with cronies and executive directors of other nonprofits (or sometimes former directors of the same organization!). Basically they are the same bourgeois scum that produced your executive director and all the other executive directors in this tiny country. They will not stand up for your interests as an employee.

8) You’ll be forced into situations that are unethical, like signing a contract for a donor project you have nothing to do with or contracting a service provider without having the money to pay them. You will be expected to remain quiet.

9) Your slacker coworkers will get by just fine, because they don’t pose any threat to the status quo. They can steal from the organization, lie, harass coworkers, come into work late every day for years — and that is just fine.

10) Management will present a kind, humanitarian face to donors — in fact, to any foreigner, period. Their exploitation and lack of gratitude are reserved for you and other employees, who are treated like powerless pawns.

11) If you aren’t bourgeois or upper class, if you haven’t lived or studied abroad, if you don’t have respected parents — you will be treated like a literal serf. Your rights as a worker don’t matter, your feelings don’t matter, and your colleagues will laugh at you behind your back. The irony is most of your colleagues are only a generation removed from illiteracy and rural life themselves.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, congratulations, you work/ed in a Kosovo nonprofit!

Dear donors: STOP GIVING THESE PEOPLE MONEY. By “these” people I mean the executive directors of literally every think tank and non-profit that receives over 20 thousand euros per year in annual donations. They are a parasitic, useless class of elites that are capable of no empathy, and have zero ambition or drive for excellence. By giving these goons money all you’re doing is fueling Kosovo’s ugly caste system of quasi-educated, incompetent directors/program managers/and analysts. Rural, poor Kosovars are nothing more than subhuman peasants in their eyes. Please ignore the good game they talk about human rights. They pay themselves exorbitant, unnecessary wages that could employ 2–3 qualified, younger people. Their projects do jack shit for Kosovo’s corruption or poverty, because they are complicit in the very corruption and poverty they pretend to decry.

Don’t believe me? Don’t talk to executive directors or management. Talk to staff members, talk to administrative assistants, talk to the goddamn cleaning lady because you certainly won’t get anything apart from a buffet of bullshit sandwiches from executive directors. Also, have you ever heard the title “executive director” used with anywhere near the same frequency as in Kosovo? These are people with immensely fragile egos, zero emotional maturity, and utter incompetence. They bully their staff with forthright aggression or with the passive aggression of the weak.

I moved back to Kosovo because I care. But I can’t continue working in a country where my principles and dignity are so frequently trampled upon. The elite world of Prishtina think tanks and NGOs is run on the whims and egos of people who want social status, money and a veneer of civic activism. It’s fake. This elite world is fueled by exploitation and petty class warfare, while surrounded by a sea of poverty and despair they could give two shits about. Turn off the tap.

Signing off,

A Disgusted Kosovar

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Balkanist is an experimental, occasionally bilingual platform featuring politics, analysis, culture, and criticism for a smart international audience underwhelmed by what is currently on offer. Our aim is to provide bold, uncompromising coverage of the Balkan region and everything to its East.