Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) started the campaign for new elections using the arguments of – Pescanik. All right, the arguments do not overlap entirely, but the main issues SNS is discussing are precisely those that Pescanik editors and guests have been persistently talking about for years. SNS is pointing out the problems of the political class which has separated itself from the rest of the society, the practically unlimited power and privileges party representatives have, the massive and inefficient governing mechanism which has only one purpose – to make enough room for important party members, the nonfunctioning judicial system, devastated economy, slow progress towards the European Union. In a nutshell, objections of SNS regarding their political colleagues are the same objections Pescanik has – that they perceive the state as the source of their own privileges, rather than a service which should create and maintain conditions for a decent life of citizens.
If we agree that Pescanik and the Serbian Progressive Party are placed on the opposite ends of the political spectrum in the public sphere, then there is reason to wonder what happened. Is it possible that Pescanik managed to fail its basic standpoints of civil society? Or has the transformation of SNS leadership been so substantial, that this party no longer feels a part of the political scene, which gives it the right to speak as if it has nothing to do with it. Needless to say, despite all the similarities, there are important disagreements between Pescanik and SNS, for example, on the attitude towards Kosovo, or Bosnia and Herzegovina – or, more precisely, Republika Srpska. This gives us the right to doubt the scope of this transformation, to doubt that the transformation even took place. The issue here is something else. The Serbian Progressive Party is clearly showing us that the arguments used for the electoral campaign are simply irrelevant in Serbia today, as long as the political enemy is clearly defined. And this enemy is – the competitor in the struggle for privileges.
The gulf between what is being said and actual behavior in Serbia is becoming almost immeasurable, and equally unimportant. Political parties in Serbia address a population mostly consisting of people who watch reality show programs. It is interesting that these programs are so foreign to the Serbian national being, that we cannot even find the appropriate word for them in Serbian. Every possible translation, like, for example “life going live”, sounds so stupid that the senselessness of these shows can be expressed only in the language of their origin. Moreover, for the majority of members of the free Serbian nation, the heroes of these shows who readily give up their freedom and subject themselves to absolute manipulation in exchange for money, are the favorite ones. After considering all this, one can conclude that the majority of Serbian citizens identify themselves with individuals who willingly sell everything that is in the core of the domestic individual and collective identity. In other words, at the moment, Serbs are sending a clear message – give us bread and games, we don’t care about anything else. However, this is not the message which singles out Serbs from other decent nations.
On the contrary, this message is fully in accordance with the concept of minimal democracy, which is, according to some, what political life in states which invented reality programs is usually based on. According to this concept, citizens should sporadically express their will on elections, by voting for one of the political options offered, which they choose based on slogans used during the electoral campaign. After the elections, they can once again fall into a restful political slumber. The important thing in a campaign is to clearly point out political opponents and distinctly point out their shortcomings. In this segment, even if the campaign sometimes partially or totally matches the real state of affairs is not considered to be a problem. On the other hand, the campaign must also include certain promises, mostly the promises people like to hear best. In that segment, every connection with reality is damaging. In other words, just as the heroes of “life going live” use every opportunity they have to point out their honesty, candor and honor, all those virtues which ceased to exist the moment they signed their contracts, the representatives of political parties, who destroyed this country, are allowed today to give promises about restoring it.
However, this is not the most important thing here. We should ask ourselves in what possible ways can this have an effect on political institutions in Serbia in the long run. At the first glance, one conclusion comes to mind: less and less people will be involved in politics in Serbia, and only those who have sufficient funds to buy the loyalty of citizens will remain on the political scene. If that is the case, then decent people should withdraw from politics immediately, if they don’t have the possibility to leave the country (but: where to go?). However, this is not the case. The conclusion should be quite the opposite. Abandoning politics under these circumstances would mean abandoning the use of political instruments which have an influence on decisions and creation of conditions for decent life. This is precisely the goal of the pragmatists inclined to minimal democracy. Thus, the efficient political answer to the campaign of the Serbian Progressive Party cannot be in pointing out the political past of its leaders. Such an answer would be only playing into their hands. On the contrary, political parties which view SNS as their opponent should offer citizens the widest possible scope of possibilities for directly participating in political life, primarily in the decision making process. That would be the only reasonable answer, with any viable chance for success. And the parties in power are precisely the ones which would find it easiest to answer in this way.
However, this will not happen. Because the parties in power are the ones to deliberately destroy the capacities to participate in political life, by destroying the educational system, cultural institutions and the public sphere. They did everything that SNS complained they were doing. And in doing that they were wholeheartedly supported by SNS, and they still are. What we have left is only conscious civic action, thus – Pescanik.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic
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).