Human nature is a very complex one. Sometimes one person’s demise may have a greater impact than the death of thousands. This is exactly what happened in Serbia, where the savage killing of a young Frenchman, Brice Taton, provoked public outrage. The same public, almost indifferent to everyday violence in Serbia, this time reacted with anger and fear. Even the political parties – which were at first downplaying violence in the streets, acting like there is not much difference between organizations like Otpor and Obraz – stepped back. They are afraid that the public anger could justifiably turn against them.
These political parties had good reasons for their change of attitude, because they bear the greatest responsibility for everything that happened.
When Milosevic inaugurated his plan of “national rebirth” twenty years ago, its fundamental message was that Serbia had finally found a leader who is ready to use force in order to carry out the task. Everyone still remembers his line: “We cannot rule out the possibility of war when it comes to meeting our political goals.” It was then that the culture of violence was accepted as the norm. Unfortunately, that kind of culture is still dominant in Serbia.
How else could we explain the fact that the Serbian government is paying huge sums of money and providing forged documents to get a young man out of US prison, because he had beaten another man unconscious and put him into a coma in a barroom brawl. How could we explain the fact that this thug became a hero in Serbia and that they were parading him through the Parliament building? How do we explain the whole country being covered in graffiti that reads “Justice for Uros,” in a case where the roles of victim and perpetrator have been cynically permutated and the man who was shoving a lit torch down the mouth of a policeman all of a sudden became the one who is oppressed? How do we explain that the participants of the Pride Parade are accused of “jeopardizing the public,” while they are getting death threats each day?
There is no other explanation than the fact that the Frenchman who was beaten to death is in fact a victim of the still dominant notion according to which all is fair in the fight for political and quasi-political objectives. The neo-fascist organizations that terrorize the public are hiding behind national slogans, offered to them by the “patriotic political parties”. These organizations are named after the year 1389 and use Christian symbols like Obraz is doing. Football fans carry pictures of Mladic and Karadzic and chant: “knife, wire, Srebrenica.” All this should convince the public that they are fighters for the national cause, not hooligans and criminals. Don’t they look up to the “patriots” from the latest wars, which turned thieves and bums into heroes overnight? Isn’t the glorification of Ulemek-Legija, who is convicted for the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic, a demonstration of the same kind of attitude?
And this is how Serbia had gradually grown its “flowers of evil”! While the political parties, which were constantly imposing this value system, retreated and are now seemingly “Europeanized,” their spiritual children continue to terrorize and beat up those who are different. These children are more honest. They take the culture of violence literally.
The thugs who killed Taton in Belgrade were only following their political mentors and spiritual leaders. This was to them a “patriotic” revenge for the bombing of Serbia or Sljivancanin’s sentence in The Hague. The death on a Belgrade street is an extension of the death by sniper attacks on the streets of the besieged Sarajevo. There is no difference – it is a killing of innocent in the name of “the great patriotic goal”. The public should not be surprised – where disregard for human life is a central political feature, there is no life at all. Poor Taton joined the thousands of innocent victims of recent wars. However, the public’s reaction still gives hope that the culture of violence is dying out. This latest victim might permanently change some things in Serbia. Because this time no one dared to justify this death on a Belgrade street.