Photo: Predrag Trokicic

Photo: Predrag Trokicic

To a person who measures the value of a human life according to ethinicity, and who divided people up into more or less worthy according to that criteria, the concept of a president of all citizens must be profoundly incomprehensible. Aleksandar Vucic doesn’t consider himself a president of all citizens: completely in line with his political career and the beliefs he’s been publicly portraying for almost three decades, he considers himself a football selector as the head of the state. However, our problem with him doesn’t stop there – he doesn’t let the public analyze and judge his selection principles; on the contrary, he sets them completely arbitrarily, depending on occasion, and expects everyone to blindly accept them.

The politics practiced by Vucic as the head of state have caused one seemingly humanitarian gesture – the offer, to one refugee boy from Afghanistan and his family, of a chance for a decent life in Serbia – to be turned into its very opposite: a blatant discrimination and demonstration of absolute power to decide about other people’s lives. One could say that Vucic can be described as the opposite of the famous quote on „the power which always wishes for evil, but always creates good“ – even when he wants to do something good, he always creates evil. His doctrine, which he holds so dear, doesn’t allow him to break the vicious cycle.

It’s been about a week since the national airline – which, by the way, is governed by the president himself and his state apparatus – refused to allow a boy onto an airplane saying that he could disturb other passengers. As we saw, the representatives of Air Serbia applied the same selection principle of the president himself: they arbitrarily decided to discriminate against a boy on the autism spectrum, in violation of the Law against discrimination.

Since he’s not the president of all citizens, but merely a self-proclaimed and authoritarian selector, Vucic stayed silent regarding this case. Between the principle of protection of equality of all citizens and favoritism for his beloved airline, the favoritism, naturally, won by a mile. From now on, the rights of Vid Antic, victim of discrimination, will have to be defended by his family from the very institutions that should have been defending his rights in the first place. Another boy, however, was more fortunate: Vucic has chosen Farhad Nury to shower with his presidential mercy.

Of course, little Farhad is completely innocent. The president selected him and his entire family from all the others because of Farhad’s „artistic, but also human talent“. Like an omnipotent feudal despot, Vucic, just like Air Sebia, broke the boundries of the law and offered Farhad Nury everything that is denied to all other refugees in Serbia – citizenship, scholarship, a job for his father (I guess he forgot the mother?). All that because of the boy’s „artistic“ and „human“ talent. But, who was the judge of these talents? Who decided that these are the key talents to receive all the privilegies?

Everything we know about Vucic makes him incompetent to judge „human“ talent. We can only wonder about the „artistic“ talent. But the position of culture in Serbia, the decades of unsuccessful renovations of two key national institutions dedicated to art – the National museum and the Museum of contemporary art – makes me question Vucic’s sudden interest in artistic talents. And to make things worse for Vucic as the president and former prime minister, Farhad has shown his „human“ talent by collecting funds for the medical expenses of another seven-year-old boy.

This closes the circle of presidential feudal mercy. Contrary to the law, a boy wasn’t allowed on a plane; the state can’t afford to fund the medical expenses of another boy, so his health depends on the good will and compasion of his fellow citizens – and not only citizens, but also refugees who are in this country as a result of misfortune. In a country which is broken and poor like Serbia – which is the result of the politics the president has been practising for decades – Vucic demonstrates his might and mercy and offers a third boy (but not his countrymen) citizenship, a scholarship, a job.

In a different country, Vid Antic would be able to travel on a plane, funds for medical expenses of a seven-year-old boy wouldn’t be collected through auctions, and Farhad Nury (regardless of his talents) and his unfortunate countrymen would have an integration program and a chance to start a new life at their disposal. The opposite is also true: in a country like that, a company like Air Serbia wouldn’t be able to operate, nor could someone as untalented as Vucic ever be president.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 22.08.2017.

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Dejan Ilić (1965, Zemun), urednik izdavačke kuće FABRIKA KNJIGA i časopisa REČ. Diplomirao je na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu, magistrirao na Programu za studije roda i kulture na Centralnoevropskom univerzitetu u Budimpešti i doktorirao na istom univerzitetu na Odseku za rodne studije. Objavio je zbirke eseja „Osam i po ogleda iz razumevanja“ (2008), „Tranziciona pravda i tumačenje književnosti: srpski primer“ (2011), „Škola za 'petparačke' priče: predlozi za drugačiji kurikulum“ (2016), „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016), „Fantastična škola“ (2020) i „Srbija u kontinuitetu“ (2020).

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