The government in Belgrade has been sending this message to compatriots living abroad whenever things got rough with the so-called national revival and whenever it came to renewing the country after failures of national adventures.
Good old rich Serbs from diaspora, with the wholehearted efforts of Serbian Orthodox Church, were expected to help the creation of the Greater Serbia, and when that silly national idea failed – the diasporas were called upon to use their capital to help the renewal of the destroyed and neglected little Serbia.
Very few of the Serbs who became rich in capitalism were ready to waste part of their fortunes in the rampant motherland. They preferred standing aside singing patriotic songs, pounding their heroic chests, taking pictures with the rulers and bishops, making promises… And that, pretty much, was the extent of brotherly love.
During the 1990s wars, but also after the democratic changes of 2000 (especially during Vojislav Kostunica’s and Boris Tadic’s government, but also the one lead by Dacic-Vucic team) a new class of citizens escaped from Serbia into the world. They were no hard-core monarchists and anti-communists, nor poor migrant workers, but thousands of citizens belonging to intellectual crème de la crème of this society, future science and managerial elite who built their careers and fortunes in the leading international companies and prestige universities.
They didn’t just run away from wars, sanctions, hyperinflation and the smell of incense, SSP, JUL and SOC, Seselj, Milosevic and Amfilohije. No, they ran away from a hopeless country, ruled by nepotism, corruption, careerism, party employment, fake degrees, gold-diggers, criminals/TV stars, autistic Kostunica, Tadic, Dacic, Krkobabic, Dinkic, Jovanovic, Vucic…
All these politicians, in frequent outbursts of demagogic “eclipse of the mind”, called upon the intellectuals from the diaspora to return to Serbia and help it pull itself up from the decades (centuries)-old mud. Numerous offers and gifts were promised to them, and when very few replied, Belgrade said that if they won’t come back, they should at least help “remotely”, from the places they gained their intellectual abilities and social status, to make Serbia a decent country and start looking like those states they work in.
It was not just about financial capital which could help the industry, infrastructure, trade, tourism, agriculture, anymore… Now it was about intellectual and social capital of the new diaspora which could be used to renew the intellectual Serbia and, thus, gain the reputation of a modern, civilized society.
Unlike that incensed “first-Serbia” diaspora, ideologically bigot, coarse in gibanica and submissive to the cult of Sveti Sava, this “second-Serbia” diaspora is educated, sharp, ideologically unburdened and intellectually incorruptible. And whoever is in power in Belgrade will have troubles communicating with this new generation of diaspora Serbs.
During the past few days, we had an opportunity to meet the representatives of “second-Serbs” from diaspora. Assistant professor from the University of Nottingham Ugljesa Grusic, Associate professor from the University of East London Branislav Radeljic, PhD student from the London School of Economics and Political Science Slobodan Tomic, Associate professor from the Law school of University of Nottingham Marko Miilanovic, post PhD student from the Institute for Archeology of university college of London Miljana Radivojevic… they entered a debate which is extremely important for the Serbian society with competence, facts and analytically – the debate about what kind of education system Serbia needs and how well educated our ministers are.
By the way, that subject was fiercely introduced by the then candidate and now the prime minister Aleksandar Vucic in his expose, probably aware of the fact that there will be no progress of Serbia (neither towards EU accession, nor towards modern civilization) unless the existing education system is destroyed and a now one created. “Serbia is the third country in the world regarding the number of educated young people leaving it forever. The majority of educated human resources that stay here has degrees of questionable quality thanks to the collapsed education system”, said Vucic on that occasion.
Answering the call to help their motherland, the Serbs from the diaspora – Grusic, Radeljic, Tomic, Milanovic, Radivojevic… – effectively unmasked the system they run away from and took upon themselves a tedious job of helping the motherland by separating wheat from the chaff. And there! Our politicians wanted the intellectual diaspora to become involved, and they got what they asked for. All of us together now have the opportunity to see what those “educated young people” have learned in that big world.
However! Turns out that the calls to smart and prominent Serbs to help with the reconstruction (not of the damage caused by the floods, but) of the very foundations of modern Serbian society. Now those who were calling the intellectual diaspora to return and help the renewal of the dignity of the profession and science – reject and anatomize them as political schemers and intellectual dilettantes.
What happened that suddenly changed this?
Those children who scattered all over the world have learned a lot in the meantime, especially to be intolerant of stupidity, political arrogance, primitivism, simplicity, frauds… And the Serbia they run away from didn’t learn anything and didn’t change. It remained the same one they had to run away from.
So now those Grusices, Radeljices, Tomices, Milanovices, Radivojevices… are not our new political elite’s cup of tea and that is why the prime minister and his (ruling) party consider their actions to be a political rant.
This reluctance of the government to participate in a serious intellectual debate with the prominent representatives of the diaspora about the necessary reforms of the Serbian society is scary, and could point to the conclusion that modernization of Serbia is just a rhetoric phrase of those who currently rule the state.
The manner in which the government attacked several members of the academic community of the United Kingdom sends a message to all Grusices, Radeljices, Tomices, Milanovices, Radivojevices… that there is no place for them in Serbia and that they shouldn’t come back, because they are not welcome.
In the meantime, and after such cruel reaction of the government and excessive use of force, more Grusices, Radeljices, Tomices, Milanovices, Radivojevices will leave… and leave Serbia in its favorite (mega)trend of stupidity, ignorance, primitivism, intolerance and mindedness.
Translated by Marijana Simic