Our history had been a difficult one, beyond the scope of our best intentions we had remained in the periphery not only of the world at large, but even of our own country, one which is both our nation and not, subjected to forces that proved obstinately stronger than our will. We are a proud people, yet too constructive for active dissent, too cautious for the wild actions that could have delivered us our freedom. In the name of order, of growth, we quelled the instinct for rebellion, and settled instead on a grumbling rebeliousness. We are a caring people, solicitous though not quite servile, we lack the obsequiousness for that and remain proudly, yet not unpleasantly, somewhat resentfully, truly yours. As you might have gathered, we lacked the arrogance to ignore our defeats. On the contrary, we spent infinite energy trying to understand them, their origin, their development, the course of events which had brought us to this state of mild subjection. Our press and thinkers obsessively tried to explain why our history had turned out this way, why we seemed destined to live, constantly, on the threshold of being. Yet our history has had grand illustrious moments in which, as a people, we have managed the miracle of flight. Two or three times in the course of centuries we have achieved a measure of flow, an ease, a kind of accidental wild abandon that had something of the recklessness of youth. For despite the centuries we carry on our backs, our dissatisfaction helped us to remain, occasionally, as young and bold and careless as adolescents. At the best of times we had managed to conquer rugged heights and at the very peak of our achievement we even managed to turn the stones on our buildings into blooming flowers. It was the time when prudence and measure were thrown out the window, we stopped fearing, questioning: reckless color and pattern took over our minds, over the city, like a collective drunkenness, the dark tunnel of history seemed to open up and the sun lit our path. We took the world with wild abandon. The mad joy of that collective transformation was followed through no fault of our own by a war, an armed rebellion which we tried to witness as detached spectators, only to find that the detachment was impossible because our manner, our ways, were at the very core of what prompted the armed uprising which proved victorious. An insane and bloodthirsty repression followed and we found that once again our flight, that moment of self-abandon, had been cut short in mid-air. But if I address you at all today it is not in the spirit of contributing yet another opinion to the endless debate which so excites our temperaments. No, I come here as a victor, for in the last years of the last millennium we have finally obtained much of that long-sought recognition, that place in the world that our hearts had ached for in the last eight hundred years! The actual mechanisms of this transformation would be too long to recount and are still unclear. Future researchers will have to explain and clarify how our long dusty capital went from provincial neglect to international stardom, electrifying the fantasy of the world, producing a mirage of itself at a planetary level. We are honestly the first taken aback by this success. It has so surpassed our wildest expectations that we have, in a sense, and forgive the vulgarity of the expression, been found with our pants down, completely unprepared for these events. Certainly the dictator's death marked a new era for our people. The confusion that ensued in the orphan country gave us a unique opportunity to put forth our demands, which we voluntarily tempered, some go so far as to say that we didn't dare to take the long-longed-for steps, so as not to be seen as greedy by our other countrymen. Their opinion suddenly seemed to matter so much that we could not risk their displeasure simply because we finally had the opportunity to obtain our long sought freedom. As is appropriate to our nature, we acted as responsible subjects of the yet-to-be-proclaimed king, sensibly leaving our hopes and desires out of the question. Our admirable behavior at that historical crossroad gave us enough support from the Capital so as to put forth our candidacy for an event of world import which we managed to claim as ours, thus setting in motion the complete transformation of our world as we had known it. In a few years the landscape changed, the streets and shops we had grown up were torn down and replaced by foreign words. The city was painted, the grime removed. Black asphalt coated our streets like a shroud. That event of world magnitude went off not only happily: it was a triumph that managed to convey something like an idea of how we saw ourselves to the world at large. All this happened on prime time, all over the globe. We were finally recognized as peace-loving, forward-looking people proud of their own eccentric heritage and tongue. Our people were transformed by the emotion of this collective endeavor; we are after all a socially minded race. Nothing gives us as much pleasure as holding fraternal hands with fellow strangers, dancing in circles, embracing each other at least six at a time, sitting on each others shoulders in the public squares. The world was amazed by what we managed to convey, perhaps our collective spirit, or something about it, both subtle and unique, seemed to speak to the aspirations of the age, as if we somehow have come to represent a contemporary ideal of order and pleasure-seeking liveliness. That erroneous perception of our nature coupled with our benign weather, the cheap hallucinogenics, our quaint folk-dances and shoes, have managed to create a mirage which occasionally confuses even us, aware as we might be of the falsehood behind this appearance. The success of our new public persona has so satisfied an ancient yearning that we have given up any further say in our lives, the direction of public affairs, our common space, and leave it in the hands of the politicians and shop-keepers who brought the miracle about. Given all this you might be surprised then that my tone is not merrier and expansive, lighter, gayer. Perhaps I now realize that our obsession with recognition blinded us to the consequences of fame and success. Thus I come here to lay out before you the outcome of our Faustian success. As these glorious days become a habit, a daily commonplace, I discover that a growing number of us find ourselves sighing in regret at the lost paradise of our marginality. Our rulers, patriarchs, and politicians, magician-like, have managed a sleight of hand. When this transformation began they were nothing but our chosen representatives, the expression of our voice. Now they have become us. They have convinced us that their desires are ours!. We no longer have a voice but theirs. Despite ourselves we have come to love the clowning space of our public arena, the stately and solemn daily declarations, the earnest looks, the crowns of flowers laid on anonymous tombs, leaders' eyes half closed in tender recollection of that patriotic sacrifice. Almost unseen these people have worn our resistance away and in our name have taken over the city, block-by-block, portal-by-portal, stone by stone. Every accumulation of time that had coalesced into a joyous event has been regulated and legislated away, the pure poetry of accident erased in the interest of a vision that nobody ever chose. We had spent such a long time in what felt like deprivation and genteel poverty that we welcomed the transformations with glee basking in the glow of strangely shaped lampposts and fresh creamy paint that erased the grime of centuries in a week. Our sidewalks were manicured and polished like Swiss watches providing photo ops for the crowds of foreign travelers who swarm here every day. They have taken over the city entirely so that there is no longer any room for us to stroll gently down the boulevards as was our wont when the only foreigners around where the sailors looking for a lay in the vicinity of the port. Our local girls used to be the poor and mutilated, the sickly, the desperate, hiding their offer in shadows and narrow streets. Now the avenues overflow with Eastern amazons as tall as masts, happy to fall on their knees in the avenues and coax the visitors' pleasures. Young and old foreign adults use childish vehicles to inspect every stone, every street and square, they move about like hungry wolves in groups and packs. They roam the city with maps in hand, rubber sandals at their feet, their bare strong Saxon chests defiantly powerful compared to our meager frames. Tirelessly they photograph our new garbage containers, our doorbells, our stray cats and quaint relatives. Practical as we are we have given up pretending that we have some right of use over the streets and squares. Practical as we are, we are simply happy to charge them a good rental fee for their use of our place. Everything seems polished and designed for their enjoyment, a finished and complete thing all its own. Thus in our sleep our only fantasies are those of randomness and incompletion. We dream lusty wet dreams of unfinished cathedrals, crumbling sidewalks, aged and blackened facades. We dream of becoming old and wrinkled, worn and happy in our weariness, we feel exhausted by this new eternal youth, constantly vital, constantly changing the very ground below our feet without even granting us the time to feel our own weight, so that new constructions have been torn down and re-built again before we even realize their first completion. Now as I look over my life I am shocked to acknowledge the weight that these peripheral events have had on our life as a people, the silent corrosion of the public arena has worn down our citizens' souls, a slow and constant grinding that has corroded our expectations, our hopes, and we find ourselves once again resigned to our reduced condition, silent spectators of others' performances. Eating it down, gulping it down, our lives already overwhelmed with the struggle it takes to simply make it through the day alive, resisting the pulling wires which cut our soul, the tense wires of a "balanced" life: the body, the food, the mortgage, the holiday home, the holidays, the children, their wants and needs. As we sigh for our lost anonymity our aspiration to transcendence has been reduced to spectatorship, our once passionate and outspoken natures now only expressed in the futile exercise of cheering in front of glowing screens, where ghost-like figures float in pursuit of that perfect sphere. When the effort is unsuccessful we look away, and humbly walk away, for their impotence seems to to mirror our own dejected natures too closely, our own disappointments and broken dreams.