I am naive. I believed that the Democratic Party could pull itself out of the ditch into which it has fallen. (Humbly I admit that a few years ago I also believed that the Civic Alliance of Serbia had to and would be able to survive.) I believed that Democrats, i.e. party members: ordinary citizens who, unlike myself, decided to contribute to the society through direct political engagement, would be able to rid the party of the leadership that has been systemically ruining it. By destroying the party, its leadership simultaneously destroyed society’s capacity to self-civilize. I am not ashamed of my naivety. I will gladly admit to those that have criticized me – yes, you were right. Nevertheless, I’ll remain naive because I passionately believe in the ability of reasonable people to emancipate themselves and autonomously shape their community. But the fact that I am making mistakes does not necessarily mean that I am not right.
It is easy to describe the current state of our country. You start by saying that it is not a state in its full meaning, then you move on to the constitution and the preamble, and then the rest lays itself out along these lines. The success of this undertaking is a matter of mere rhetoric: arguments are well known to everyone. One can then go ahead and morally fortify these arguments by citing Serbian mass crimes, so to be able to conclude while staring into the mirror – gosh, am I not great and bright. But who are the people that are being judged from the perspective of superiority? How are we connected to these people? Does the responsibility we attribute to them extend to us as well? Or are we the whole time speaking about ourselves? Because, ultimately, who should be building the society that we talk about and from whose perspective are we making judgements about the current state of affairs?
Presently the final bricks are being laid in the wall that will finally separate the Serbian political space from its citizens. The wall is being erected by the leadership of political parties, equally by those in power and those in opposition. They have established a monopoly over political decision making and public space. It does not matter who supports them and whose interests they are protecting. One can easily draw conclusions even without knowing: the only place for discussing and negotiating the type of society in which we will live lies beyond the reach of the majority of citizens. In other words, not only are Serbian citizens denied the right to decide in what kind of society they want to live, they are also deprived of the opportunity to talk about this. This leads to violence, which many tend to call revolutions. Only a revolution in a society without vision is often just bloodshed.
Discourse on corruption is an example of violence in a society without vision. It overwhelms public and political space and stifles any meaningful conversation about politics. It is, if you will, a matter of revolutionary confrontation, not with political opponents or those who do not think alike, but with the citizens themselves. Today in Serbia very few can offer credible evidence about anything. In an institutionally devastated society each and every persecution of individuals can be justified through administration of justice. But what grand idea of justice can be the basis for the frenzied ravings called the fight against corruption? Corruption is not an important issue for Serbia, in a sense that fight against corruption is a lie that suppresses active political engagement in Serbia. It does not commit to anything. Its promoters do not have to say anything about what our society should resemble: for them it is enough to run around and scream – stop the thief! But at the same time, it is an effective way to instill fear and rid the public and political space of meaning.
Leaving illusions of revolution aside… Society evolves through institutions or institution building. Serbia has a long tradition of abusing its institutions (revolutions have over time assimilated into this tradition). But in the past several months, within some political parties, emerged an opportunity to put an end to such traditions. This could have given a meaning to the crisis in the Democratic Party; however it seems that its resolution will make this crisis otiose. For the same reason escalating the crisis in the Liberal Democratic Party could be beneficial. However, there is much reason to doubt the party will be able to successfully navigate thought its crisis. And for this reason announcements of new parties being formed are more than welcome. Of course, anyone that remembers the beginning of the nineties must be at unease over the multiplication of parties. But we do not have much choice. I will repeat, in Serbia struggle for political meaning is waged among political parties. As long as there is hope that something could positively change within the Democratic or the Liberal Democratic Party, we should naively believe in this and support such efforts. If those two parties are irretrievably lost, why would then a desire to establish some new party be perceived as illegitimate? Those who do not wish to go with the old membership should establish new political parties, as long as they know how to.
Of course, it is very unlikely that any of these efforts will be fruitful. One should be sufficiently naive to decide to act. But what is the alternative to this naivety? We can passively stand aside and with great confidence, based on the past experience, predict the failure of every possible option. But relinquishing engagement in politics inevitably leads to violence, from which nothing positive can stem. Choosing between these two options, I opt for a naive belief that one can achieve change through rational political action. Altogether, citizens of Serbia, or at least one part, can be categorized into those who are smart and insightful and whose intelligence and perceptivity will make them stand aside and not engage in anything destructive (as if destruction had not already happened), and those who are naive and wish to try to do something. I choose to be naive. In the context of fatigue and defeatism that paint Serbian politics, perhaps naivety is the only thing we can still rely on. Naive individuals that I am referring to here expect nothing upfront and they know they are destined to lose – regardless of that, they are not giving up.
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) i „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016).