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NO 179-180

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Helsinki Charter No. 179-180

September - October 2013


In the land of wedding guests from Žitorađa*

By Dragan Velikić



Imagine all those TV stations and newspapers that poison citizens with vulgarities and lies falling silent for a month. What would happen? The greatest bulk of the society would immediately be in the addiction crisis. Because we simply cannot live without our daily doses of primitivism. The whole nation would be in the same problem as heroin junkies at rehab.

Having lived in insanity for half of a century we got used to our lives. Lies are our truths. Generations and generations believe that what they live is something normal – has always been and is everywhere. To understand how polluted our everyday life is and how far from normalcy we are one must have the experience of an ordered society. This is why older generations invoke the era of socialism. For no matter what one thinks about ex-Yugoslavia no one can deny that it was a well-regulated state with a stable value system and a cultural policy. When it disappeared our area (the term that better determines Serbia than the term ‘state’) turned into a legacy of the criminal gang which intiated wars, throughly plundered all public and private property and destroyed the middle class, the fiber of every society. We’ve been going in circles for years incapable of building a new society on debris. How can we build anything without a value system and a cultural model?

The Serbian society is sick. It has a definite diagnosis, which is not patriotic. Facing up the malady is the first step. Therapy is the second. However, the therapy cannot be prescribed by a dealer even though he carries a doctor’s bag. It’s high time for Serbia to break the vicious circle and have parties – both those in power and the opposition – dealing with actual life rather than with ideologies. We murdered the man who tried to break the circle. And we now refuse to come face to face with, including in plays.

No matter how everything seems hopeless, each and every individual must decide whether to stay hostage to madness forever or try to change something about himself. Stop using “we” to start with. For all this Serbia needs to engage in a mental activity called – thinking. Once you start thinking something always pops us to wonder about. This is how the self is gradually built. And the self implies “I.”



Where would have Serbia been had those in power today been the same as they allegedly are now? Everyone has the right to change, especially in politics. The vicious circle of futile accusations must be broken once for all but not by smashing all the mirrors. One cannot change radically until he takes a good look at himself in a mirror.

I believe that Aleksandar Vučić tries his best to counteract corruption. Anyway this decision of his has secured him high ratings and citizens’ trust. But no matter how conveniently populist method the struggle against corruption might be – given that the poor better endure their fate when the rich are also in dire straits – Vučić cannot ride the same wave forever without concrete results.

The Progressists and the Socialists keep saying that the past decade of the Democrats’ rule was crucial for the present-day catastrophic situation of Serbia’s economy. Without any wish to stand for the Democrats and their irresponsible policy that practically restored the four horsemen of the Apocalypse of 1990s to power, I cannot but note what any normal person in Serbia knows: dissintegration of our society, plunder of public property and the declaration of war were not triggered by October 5 but by the Eight Session of the League of Communists of Serbia in 1987. In other words, the prime mover of Serbia’s destruction is the mentor of incumbent Premier Ivica Dačić. And with Šešelj at the helm of their party, President Nikolić and First Vice-Premier Vučić were singing arm in arm in the chorus leading the country towards an abyss. Therefore, if they want us to trust them when they say they’ve changed and revised not only their policy for EU and Kosovo but also enshrined the values of contemporary civilization, they must come up and admit they had been wrong.

Commenting the recent news about a possible cooperation between LDP and DS Premier Dačić said he had nothing against such an association but the two parties could not claim the monopoly on “the European option” as if they were the sole promoters of democracy in Serbia. But when it comes to the European option DS and LDP are “aborigines” in Europe. The ruling triumvirate is perfectly aware of that but counts on citizens’ fleeting memory. Manipulating hungry underdogs has always been easy. Serbia’s secret services have been manipulating them ever since awakening of the people. Too many players want to keep people in Serbia in the status of unenlightment as long as possible. The scum of the earth thrives on it.

And to maintain and even “improve” such a situation the ruling coalition knows it must throughly cleans all the all cadres. This is why they ousted Đilas in Belgrade and going for Vojvodina. Transfusion has to be complete. They are like vampires. Even principles of elementary schools are on the carpet. “Their” people must occupy all the posts. The fact that the Progressists are short of capable and educated cadres is not a problem at all – day in, day out they are enrolling turncoats and young careerists. And such people are most precious to them at local level. Anyway, people with changeable characters and stained conscience make the foundation of every undemocratic governance.

Common sense is in the minority all over the world, especially in Serbia. One can hardly trace it over here. This is why we make such a devasted, anacronous society incapable of finding a place for itself in the world. Entrenching oneself in stereotypes, living in an idealized past, refusing to cope with challenges and denying the principles of evolution makes one’s life by far easier. As our bards teach us, only invertebrates are prone to adjustment, wheareas we are staunch and dignified. We shall rather die out than change ourselves. However, in real life a change calls for courage and brains. And we have courage and brains only in our own myths about ourselves. In real life we are “somewhat” different.



In Serbia the fear of modernity is endemic. This probably why Serbia was so much against railroads once. Good railroad lines imply communication with the world. In Western Europe one can take a train to every single town, even a hamlet. The catastrophic situation of “Serbian Railroads” best illustrates the country’s place in the world: it is in a blind alley.

With each year and each new timetable our capital is short of one departure to a city in Europe. The Vienna-line was crossed from the timetable four years ago and as of the last year we have only one departure to Zurich instead of five. Departures to Zagreb and Sarajevo have also been taken off the timetable. Traveling by train through Serbia pictures the real state of affairs in our society: gall and wormwood as far as eye can see. Old and broken coaches, hours-long delays, stained and smelly seats, negligence and irresponsibility. Ravaged signal boxes are threats to passengers’ lives. This is how Serbia looks today.

The situation does seem hopeless but the fact remains that this is the only country we have. Patriotism is when you work for changing such situation. In all generations there are people who never stopped being human beings in the true sense of the word, these people are to be found in all professions and strata in numbers bigger than it looks at first glance – and these people make our basic capital. They should be given the opportunity to act. But whenever appointed to the offices wherefrom they could influence decision-making and social processes they are the ones to be “processed” by the media. Just remember who hard the centers of power had worked to demonize prematurely deceased Verica Barać. There are many examples like this one.

This is why it is so important that Serbia becomes a EU member-state. This is the only way for it to restore and respect the values of civilization and the rule of law. Serbia’s judiciary is incapable of punishing crime, a major industry of the country. Over the past decade appellate courts have been safe houses to criminals too many times.

Not long ago football players of the Red Star had windows smashed at their cars properly parked in the club’s lot. Foodball “fans” had taken the law into their own hands. That was only a logical follow-up to the story the opened when football players put on inscribed T-shirts saying “Justice for Uroš.” Not only had the Belgrade Appellate Court halved the punishment to this criminal from ten to five years in prison but the Red Star club had also paid for his defense. And when the Amnesty Law was passed last autumn releasing 3,600 prisoners, Uroš Mišić and Miladin Kovačević were among the first to walk out free men. Uroš had become famous at domestic stadiums whereas Miladin had defended the “colors” of the criminalized Serbia abroad, in the States.



Back channels of the Foreign Ministry were put in action. Miladin and the likes will be safe from now on. The accomplice to the fugitive from the ICTY justice, Ratko Mladić, was appointed Serbia’s Ambassador to Ukraine. The Ministry has many characters as such in store at its “fourth floor” /popular name for the counter-intelligence department/. Anyway, the ambassadors close to Zoran Đinđić’s assassins have not exactly nausieted the previous Democrat administration.

A motley collection of characters have represented us in the world in the past quarter of a century. Although the Foreign Ministry has enough top-notch professionals at its disposal, partisan quotas are imposing on it the candidates that are often the shame to diplomacy. The type of the person appointed an ambassador puts across Serbia’s message about the policy it has in mind. To be a professional implies not only expertise but also morality. This item is down on the list of Serbia’s diplomacy – and this is why we are where were are. I’ve myself experienced how the world of diplomacy, especially in Western democracies, perceives the diplomats of North Korean styling: those still uninformed about the fall of the Berlin Wall. At diplomatic receptions one can easily spot them by their Brezchnev-like “all-knowing” look. Their have neither brains nor knowledge but they have information. In brief, a criminal file is not an obstacle when it comes at least to the office of a senior advisor in our embassies and consulates.

Those who consume banalities in privacy but stand against them in public are more fatal to the nation’s mindset than the fans of the Farm reality show. This was evident at the wedding of Arkan and Ceca, the event of national importance attended by the present Premier himself. He was not the only politician enjoying the ceremony. Has anything changed in Serbia’s cultural matrix since? Yes. There are by far more philistines today.
Ceca and Arkan’s wedding planner called an acquantance of mine, a theater-women, for an interview. She was astonished when he offered her to plan the wedding. She put forth some ideas of hers. They never called her again. Later on while watching the wedding that was braodcast live she realized that they used some of her ideas. The contract man of the UDB /State Security Department/ who was robbing banks in the West in his free time obviously did not bother himself with copyrights. However the point of the story is that a person who had nothing to do with the “twilight zone” accepted the invitation to the interview. And saw nothing wrong about it. Željko Ražnatović Arkan did belong to the world of crime but he was also an MP and a persona grata in Serbia. That was an alibi good enough for my acquantance. Or was she just curious? Be it as it may, by he gesture she testified her place among the wedding guests from Žitorađa.


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* Birthplace of Svetlana-Ceca Raznjatovic, folk singer and widow of Zeljko /Arkan/ Raznjatovic, “tycoon” and leader of the
para-military “Tigers” notorious for brutality and plunder in ex-Yugoslav wars. Their wedding in 1990s was a “national event” broadcast live.


NO 179-180

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