As soon as it was announced that on November 15th, the last evening of the Actor’s Film Festival in Vinkovci, Rade Serbedzija will have a concert, it was sold out.
As soon as it was announced that Rade Serbedzija’s concert in Vinkovci was sold out – it was banned.
As soon as it was announced that Rade Serbedzija’s concert in Vinkovci was banned, official explanations came aiming to cover up the fact that the concert was banned because Serbedzija’s name is Rade, i.e. because Rade’s last name is Serbedzija, i.e. because Rade Serbedzija is a Serb.
Two specific figures played the key roles in these events, two figures who represent two archetypes of Croatian social life – the Nationalist and the Opportunist. The first is the HDZ mayor of Vinkovci, Ivan Bosancic, who demanded the concert be banned, and the second one is the representative of the film festival organizers, Slaven Nuhanovic, who first invited Serbedzija to perform, and then meekly carried out the mayor’s order to cancel the concert. Both cited the “Vukovar tragedy” as an excuse for the ethnically motivated censorship.
Here’s what the Nationalist said about this:
“We spoke with the festival organizers and agreed that the date that was set for the concert is not appropriate. The concert is planned for the week when we remember the greatest tragedy of the Croatian people in recent history, when, in peace and reverence, we pay tribute to the victims of Vukovar and our region. I think that, for the sake of all those who come to Vukovar and Vinkovci in November to pay tribute to the victims of the heroic city, holding a concert in that period is not appropriate.”
And here’s what the Opportunist had to add:
“Since the City is the main sponsor of the festival, they asked us to move the concert. It is the week of the Vukovar tragedy and no concerts are held, it would be awkward. I don’t know if that was the reason or not. Let’s just say that we must respect the will of the City, so we decided to postpone Serbedzija’s concert. We will see when he will be available again.”
The Opportunist is more deserving of contempt than the Nationalist. He knows that the Nationalist is full of shit when he talks about “the week when we remember the greatest tragedy of the Croatian people in recent history” and when “in peace and reverence we pay tribute to the victims of Vukovar”, he knows that this is only a shallow excuse for chauvinism, that the Nationalist is blowing smoke in his face. However, the Opportunist gives this smoke his wholehearted support, because – and I wonder if we could prove this in a lab – the state of matter of the smoke is identical to the state of his personal integrity.
The Opportunist knows full well that the HDZ’s local sheriff would not have had any problems with reverence for war victims if it was some prominent Croat holding a concert instead of Serbedzija, like Mate Bulic or Marko Perkovic Thompson. But he does not dare oppose the “patron”, the distributor of money from the budget, or say anything but “we must respect the will of the City”. He could, for example, guided by the same criteria for accepting the concert ban, cancel the whole manifestation, because it is reasonable to expect that some movies which will be shown at the festival would also contain singing, dancing or debauchery, to a much greater extent than possible with Serbedzija’s sentimental and humanistically intoned ballads.
The Opportunist is a human tool by which the Nationalist puts his violence into action. Without the Opportunist, nothing the Nationalist did would amount to so much as a fart in a windstorm. He would be a kind of invalid, a tragically castrated bully. But the mute horror he broadcasts on a daily basis with the “Vukovar tragedy” calms him – he can almost smell the Croatians soiling themselves at the mention of “our victims” and “those who have fallen for the homeland”. The duller among them, though the impression is that they are the majority, have translated that fear into a sense of national pride.
The Nationalist thus realized long ago: more susceptible than people deprived of integrity – than the Opportunist – are only people deprived of life. By which I mean the victims of war, who have such a wide range of possible uses, an inexhaustible thanatopolitical resource. Those who have been reliably deprived of their own will by the fate of violent death, since they do not offer resistance, will serve to mobilize and discipline those who are expected to freely give up their will during their life.
The Nationalist knows very well that the “victims of Vukovar” can be used to justify any kind of hogwash, so he mostly uses them for that purpose, and chauvinist totalitarianism is always a favorite kind of hogwash. A person like this fits perfectly into the ruling party, since, as far as the HDZ is concerned, anti-Serbism has been a crucial feature of Croatian national identity for the past thirty years.
The “Vukovar tragedy” is the reason why a Serbian artist, a certified peacemaker no less, is banned from performing on days when “we reverently pay tribute to the victims”, because Serbs are our universal age-old enemies, just like the “Vukovar tragedy” explains why signs in Cyrillic script on public institutions were banned in the city, although by doing so the Croatian state – after guaranteeing national minorities the right to their language and script – violated its own law.
But what can be done when the exception makes the rule and when the ruling party draws its chauvinistic livelihood from the deaths of fallen compatriots. Because of the alleged respect for the sacrifice of the “fallen knights”, members of the pro-Ustasha HOS, the Croatian government legalized the fascist salute “Za dom spremni” (For homeland – ready!). It is hardly even possible to imagine what kind of abomination the government wouldn’t justify with an assortment of its favorite dead. Because the graves are there to keep the war tensions from dying out.
If I had activist inclinations, I would initiate the establishment of the Association for the Protection of Croatian War Victims from the Abuse of the Ruling Party, since all of them were definitely posthumously – and non-consensually – enrolled in the HDZ. Once a year, their membership cards are stamped with the rites of “paying homage” and laying wreaths, aided by distilleries of crocodile tears. Only with such a line-up of corpses can the mayor of Vinkovci be what he is: a zealous executor of ethnototalitarianism.
Why should the living get to make our lives miserable in the name of the dead? There is nothing more unscrupulous and disgusting than the nationalist glorification of those who “gave their lives for Croatia.” If the Croatia they gave their lives for is such that Rade Serbedzija is not allowed to sing in the city where he spent his youth, it can only mean one thing: that the living commanders are leading an army of those who “died for freedom” into a fight against it.
Translated by Marijana Simic