Vojin Dimitrijevic wrote “The reign of terror” more than 30 years ago, published it’s first edition one year later, and the second – unrevised – edition at the end of the XX century, almost two decades ago. He ended the introductory remarks to the second edition on an enthusiastic note – firmly believing that the end of the XX century was to bring a great, perhaps even final, liberation from fear.
I will not present the book here – it needs to be read carefully.
More than any other book written by Vojin, “The reign of terror” is not only the voice of the author – it is a story about him.
The major part of the book is dedicated to the analysis of manipulative techniques and ideologies of ruling – more precisely, of terrorising people by fear, recognition of such techniques and a description of legal and political reactions of the democratic humanity and influential legal scholars to manipulation by fear. Therefore, the author primarily writes about ruling by fear and legal and political resistance to it – which was more international than internal in character. However, the study clearly shows – ruling by fear aims at establishing the rule of fear – which implies infinite submissive silence of the majority, a life in grey, surrounded by greave poverty of the spirit, body and human contact, an absence of ideas, a hopelessness and numbness through which something only resembling life occasionally shines. This is why this book speaks of Vojin Dimitrijevic. In it, he (as an example) had recognised and described, in simple terms, the legal and political systems of humiliation, threat, seeming compliance of the reign of fear with “higher” values and causes, violations of fundamental human rights (mostly the violation of the right to life, the forms of systematic torture through history, the holding of someone in a position of servitude or slavery, the violation of the right to legal personality). Vojin singled out – as separate chapters – debtor’s prison, terrorism, terror as a form of governance (including genocidal and religious terror), special zones of fear, and in particular irrational terror, which is a purpose in itself, and legal and political systems in which terror is almost everything: form, method and purpose of governance. It was in Vojin’s personality and character not to concede to any humiliation (from common sense to mere “positivistic” nagging), to boldly stand up against threats; he was masterful in uncovering the manipulative backgrounds of “higher” values and causes. With a much needed ting of irony. He recognised and described violations of human rights not only in his scholarly work, but also in “small” examples from everyday life. In short – this is a study of legal and political phenomena that troubled Vojin the most, and his response to them.
The response of Vojin Dimitrijevic is a response of a free man. His belief in the final liberation from fear lies in the optimism of a free man. I believe, however, that the key question is not how many free men are there in the world. The key question is – how many people are there willing to think, regardless of the fact that those in power terrorise their common sense, if nothing else; people who ask questions loudly, curious people who wish to learn.
At the time when Vojin was writing “The reign of terror” there seemed to exist a clear line between the world of freedom and the world where freedom was absent. Today, the boundaries of the latter have considerably expanded to the expense of freedom, and the cause for that no longer lies in ideology alone. This is why Vojin Dimitrijevic, a man of the XX century, had nurtured extra faith in liberation from fear. But forms and methods of manipulation with absence of human freedom are exactly such as Vojin had described them in this book. One only needs to add new examples. Legal and political systems have withdrawn and made space for absence of freedom. Not only here.
And this is why this book must be read all over the world, in one of the “major” languages, but also in our language (our languages). The techniques of ruling by fear are, fundamentally, the same. The reactions to them so far have not been adequate. Vojin Dimitrijevic urges us to ask again: how, who and what? In his book, he offers XX century answers. The people of the XXI century, therefore, have only one part of the recipe. They need to find a few more ingredients Vojin could not have been aware of. There are, however, no alchemic answers in this task. To recognise the forms of manipulation by fear used by those in power (now not only within “their own” states) and find adequate legal and political reactions to them will require many people and many professions. I believe this is why we will be reading “The reign of terror” (not only once) as long as we live in reigns of fear. And, as a start, will begin to voice our questions loudly.
Belgrade, September 2016
Translated by Ana Knezevic Bojovic
Fabrika knjiga, October 2016
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