…the occasional stupidities of the individual can easily lead to a constitutional stupidity… This also ultimately leads observation from the realm of personal qualities to the idea of a society burdened with mental defects. Of course, one cannot transpose to whole societies what happens psychologically in a real sense in the individual, and this includes mental illnesses and stupidity, but still one might speak repeatedly today of a “social imitation of mental defects”; the examples are pretty blatant.

Robert Musil, On stupidity, Vienna 1937


The attitude of Milosevic and his government towards war crimes was clear and understandable. They simply denied those crimes, because they were primarily in the first place responsible for them. The public and citizens of Serbia followed them on that course (with very rare exceptions).

However, the fact that the situation hasn’t significantly changed even after October 5th, 2000, when “the new democratic government” came to power is incomprehensible, even though regardless of the fact the same government extradited dozens of defendants to the Hague Tribunal. In one of his first public statements, president Kostunica declared cooperation with the Tribunal to be “mere frippery”, “a fifth wheel”. The denial is still ongoing.

The government keeps extraditing suspects, but continues justifying this to the public as deeds performed “under pressure”, “as a condition of further financial aid” while publicly counting the days until the end of the Hague Tribunal’s operations. It is obvious that the Serbian government would rather be seen as a government which extradites innocent citizens to “the fake Hague Tribunal”, “for a fistful of dollars”, than as a government which cooperates with the International Hague Tribunal in good faith and out of a sincere belief that the crimes have been committed and that the perpetrators should be punished.[1]

Stojan Cerovic, a columnist of Vreme, one of the few people who wrote about war crimes during the war, was against the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic after October 5th, on the argument that we must “protect our dignity”. “After all, he was the president of the state”, said Cerovic. When it became obvious that cooperation with the Tribunal couldn’t be avoided, Cerovic began to suggest that cooperation should instead be dragged out and obstructed (as it has been and continues to be).

The Serbian media don’t cover Milosevic’s trial (let alone trials of other defendants) in a serious manner. The sparse reports from The Hague which do appear in the media, are reduced to abbreviated and superficial excerpts from testimonies, with the mandatory disclaimer that Milosevic has “rejected” these testimonies. If it weren’t for Natasa Kandic, the Serbian public would never have learned about content Biljana Plavsic’s confession (the media reported that she confessed to “point 3 of the indictment”, without mentioning what it contains). The Serbian public also doesn’t have a clue about the confessions of Momir Nikolic and Dragan Obrenovic, nor is it aware of the content of documents recently presented to the Tribunal which prove the presence of both the Serbian police and the Army of Yugoslavia in Srebrenica. Not to mention that there is not a single analytical document which would attempt to summarize the course of the proceedings so far and conclude which parts of the accusations have been proven (and a lot of them have been proven).

Countless lies produced daily by Milosevic during his “defense”, even those widely recognized as notorious lies, are never questioned by reporters. A prime example is Milosevic’s shameless insistence that “Serbia was not at war”, as well as that he “has always been a man of peace” and that “as the president of Serbia, he couldn’t influence events which took place in Bosnia” are broadcasted without a word of comment. As if we don’t know anything about that! Let’s see them prove that! (But, even if they manage to prove that, we are safe since that court is “biased, fake and illegal”. According to whose assessment? Well, our own, of course!).

The Prosecution and the Court, on the other hand, are closely monitored. The proceedings, which allow defendants unprecedented liberties in the use and abuse of the right to a defense, are criticized. For example, the Court allows Milosevic, who decided “not to defend himself” (before the “fake Tribunal”), to give speeches in the courtroom every day. Why is this permitted when, according to his own words, the purpose of the speeches is not his defense?

Countless testimonies were given before the Tribunal which heavily incriminated numerous perpetrators, indisputably identifying them by first and last name, who still continue to live peacefully in Serbia. Yet, their responsibility has never even been mentioned before national courts. The best example of this is the testimony of general Krstic who, in his confession, listed the names of the main culprits of the Srebrenica massacre – not one of them was even questioned about that in Serbia, let alone prosecuted.

The new government compromises itself by obviously lying about Mladic being on Serbian soil. First, it is said that “he is not on Serbian soil”, then that the “he is no longer on Serbian soil”; that he is not protected by the Army, then that “he is no longer protected by the Army”; the government claimed that they would “immediately arrest him if they knew where he was”, but then again that “his arrest might cause a civil war”. Everyone was part of this lie, from Djindjic and Kostunica to Dusan Mihajlovic, the minister of police. (Only Nenad Canak confessed that the government is “playing dumb”). The last police action showed that the police are capable of finding criminals who are a threat to the ministers themselves; unlike arrest warrants for various Legias and Rats which could be seen on TV screens every single day, the warrant for Mladic’s arrest was never publicly released. The face of this mass murderer was never shown on any television, calling the citizens to come forward if they know anything about his whereabouts! His face can only be seen on windows on shops newsstands in Knez Mihajlova street, with the words “Mladic the Hero” underneath (although, of course, this qualifies as a legaly sanctioned breach of public moral – the glorification of a person accused of severe crimes, according to the Law on public safety and order).

What kind of message does this send to the public and more importantly to the suspects and defendants themselves? Well, apparently, that crimes committed against non-Serbs aren’t “real crimes”, that they may be considered crimes according to the values of another world, but that we are not a part of that world, not even when we have to pretend that we are out of material interests. It is a world whose values we don’t share, even though we would like to share the same wallet. Donations made by that world are not enough for our rising welfare demands for the poor, but they allow us, as per recent decision of the council of ministers, to provide 10,000 euro per year to families of all Hague inmates (which is, apparently, a “higher priority” according to the government). The defendants can deduce from this that their own community doesn’t judge them for the crimes they committed and is even ready to conceal them, while the government is stealthily winking when it “calls upon them to surrender“.

The frivolous attitude of Serbia towards the lawsuit for genocide submitted by Bosnia & Herzegovina to the International Tribunal for Court of Justice in The Hague is a separate story. Serbia has recently requested revision of the decision on jurisdiction of this Court, because, allegedly, Yugoslavia “found out” that it is not a member of United Nations only recently, i.e. when it was admitted to the UN. Basic logic indicates that it can’t be true: before it was admitted to UN, Yugoslavia had to file an application for admission and the application was filed exactly because it knew that it was not a member of UN. Ergo, the fact that the application was accepted can’t be the fact that “enlightened” Yugoslavia about its own status. So, how and when did Yugoslavia “find out” that it’s not a member of UN? Of course, it has always known that, because it was made clear that, if Yugoslavia wanted to become a member of UN, it would need to file an application.

However, even more serious is the bizarre professional insensibility, manifested by the legal representatives of the state, who presented these “arguments”: such tricky unserious arguments can’t be made in proceedings for genocide, the most severe crime against humanity, without damage to the party itself. A good lawyer would know that these comic remarks actually show contempt for the values protected by very existence of the criminal offence of genocide, and that such trivialization itself makes genocide more likely, especially the subjective element of intent contained in the definition of this criminal offence: one who jokes about such crimes is capable of committing them.

But these representatives don’t stop there, continuing instead to expertly explain to the Yugoslavian public that the lawsuit is “unfair”, because the possible awarded damages would be paid by “all innocent citizens of Yugoslavia”, and would benefit everyone in BIH, “even the members of the Karadzic family”. Do Yugoslavian legal representatives really not know how such damages are handled (i.e. that only those who can prove that they are victims are entitled to them and the Karadzics are certainly not part of that group)? Would Yugoslavian representatives like to terminate this legal institute as a whole, which is intentionally defined so that “all innocent citizens of any state” have to pay damages committed by their state? Did we find it unfair when “innocent citizens of Germany” paid war damages to us? Is it also clear that property stolen from BIH benefited all Yugoslavian citizens, simply because that pillage increased the wealth of all?

However, even more important is the question whether it is really “unfair” that “all innocent citizens of Yugoslavia” should pay damages caused by their state? All those who freely elected the officials of that state four times and, thus, were approving the regime’s policy can hardly be considered “innocent”. When the last elections were organized in 2000, Milosevic had two million votes. But, both those who didn’t vote for him and even those who opposed his war politics are, despite their innocence, jointly responsible for the consequences of those politics. Hannah Arendt explains why this is:

“Every government takes responsibility for actions and crimes of its predecessors and every nation for the actions and crimes from its past. This applies even to revolutionary governments that may consider the treaties made by their predecessors unbinding… Indirect responsibility for the things we didn’t do and the fact that we suffer the consequences of the things we are utterly not guilty of – it is all the price of the fact that we don’t live alone, but among other people.”

Or, as the same thing is much more simply said by Sonja Biserko: “How can we take pride in the victory of our national basketball team, when we, the viewers, did nothing to contribute to it, if we are not ashamed of the things done by our army, even if we did not command it?”

From the same frivolous attitude towards crimes stems the recently launched “idea” of some sort of “offsetting of crimes”. According to this idea, Yugoslavia will withdraw its lawsuit against NATO “under the condition” that BiH withdraws its lawsuit for genocide. Leaving aside the fact that the lawsuit against NATO has no chance to succeed, while the outlook of the lawsuit for genocide is hopeless for Yugoslavia, the question remains: how can these two possible non-rights be placed in the same moral plane: genocide and possible violations of civil targets during military intervention which was undertaken in order to prevent (new) genocide? Furthermore, how can our crime against others be retroactively “justified” by possible crimes committed against us, afterwards, by a third party? How can one crime be redeemed by another?

Ideas like these are asserted under the guise of “the need for reconciliation”, as a way to “get over the past”, but what we are really dealing with here is a bizarre, perverse notion of reconciliation, which will be discussed further.

Analgesic society

Without any doubt that the issue of war crimes is the most important issue of Serbian society today.

It manifests itself in several ways:

First, as an issue of sincere cooperation with the Hague Tribunal which is supposed to determine penal and legal responsibility of direct perpetrators and their superiors;

Second, as an issue of moral renewal of society by accepting its own responsibility which was previously discussed;

Third, as a political issue of fulfilling all proclaimed goals of foreign policy of Yugoslavia (EU integration, membership in NATO, etc.);

And fourth, as an issue of internal policy regarding economic development, given that it is closely tied to fulfillment of stated foreign policy goals (which would allow access to foreign markets and foreign investments).

Hence, the interest of Serbian society on this matter is as clear as it can be, as is the necessary course of action, which logically starts with sincere cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

The refusal of Serbian society to take that first step, which was briefly illustrated at the beginning, is incomprehensible. It is obviously irrational and pointless, and works against the interests of Serbian society. It could only be understood if we take the simple gratification of a need to belong to a tribe, the need for security which this belonging provides in the context of risky political circumstances and unfavorable socio-economic conditions, as one of the primary interests.

On the other hand, this behavior hereabout is nothing new: the entire state policy of Slobodan Milosevic had full plebiscitary support despite the fact that it was self-destructive from the point of view of national interests. Researchers of the so called “rational actor theory”, which assumes that people, when acting in economic and political processes, make decisions based on their best interest, point to one important constraint in the implementation of this theory. Namely, it doesn’t apply to the so called “analgesic” cultures which are “not oriented towards achievement of goals, but towards avoidance of pain, reduction of stress and consolidation of stability”, because such societies adjust to hostile and difficult environments by “giving up” or “withdrawing into apathy or small, protected world of self-limited activities… based on frustration and not motivation” (H. Eckstein). What is meant under “difficult environment” is a “materially poor environment where risks are high and aspirations are routinely frustrated” (Roxanne Euben).

Here is how a Serbian best-sellers author (“cultural workman”, as Serbs would say) describes his own, Serbian, “analgesic culture”: “Whenever I ask myself where would I rather live, here or somewhere else, I take my old, torn shopping bag and go to Kalenic market to find the answer. It is because at this market no one asks themselves where and how they would live, people live the way they can and must. They sell, shop, cheat and steal a little, they contrive and survive and don’t engage in vain sophistry. At that market here one can meet live copies of one’s ancestors, tall and bony old men with moustaches… their wives who look like our grandmothers, eternally in black… And, after all, what would I do abroad? I can drink two months for the price of a plane ticket… Hauling a heavy shopping bag… I leave Kalenic market freed of a dilemma where would I rather live if I could. Here. Despite everything” (Moma Kapor).

In such a culture people don’t make any (apart from very modest) demands of themselves. Because of that, they can’t evaluate themselves based on the success of achieving any goals of their own. In such cultures of low-expectations of oneself, self-respect (a self-image with which one can live) is somehow acquired either by grandiose compensatory fantasies (from “heavenly nation” to “the economic locomotive of the Balkans”) or by constant comparison to those who are “worse than us” (hence the malice embodied in the trope about the “neighbor’s cow” which is better off dead, because our value rises as the zeroes behind us multiply) or by begging for praise from the grand ones, (section “others on us”), described by Isidora Sekulic.[2]

The herd

During the period August 1 – November 28, 2002, a vibrant debate about our attitude towards war crimes was taking place in the magazine Vreme. Some readers of Vreme stressed the need for dealing with the crimes, stating all previously listed arguments – legal, moral, political and economic. The other side, consisting mainly of the journalists of Vreme whose attitudes were criticized, couldn’t stick to the subject. Aside from the usual arguments: “what the others did”; “we were bombarded”; “you are accusing a whole nation”; “it’s not the right time”; we faced a real avalanche of anger, aggression, and personal attacks which contributed nothing to rational discussion.[3]

This irrational denial, confusion and relativizing came from those who not only never executed or commanded those crimes, but who, on the contrary, disapproved of them (sometimes even from those who, with significant personal risks, condemned them!). It became transparent any rational conversation about responsibility for war crimes is impossible in Serbian society today.


On a basic level, a sociological level, the answer is clear: we are talking about a tribal society and tribal identification (“all for one and one for all”) where an individual exists only as a part of a whole, so the credits and faults of the tribe mark its every member. (So, “Milosevic defends all of us in the Hague”, “We are all Radovan”, “We are the basketball champions of the world”, etc). There is ample evidence that the developmental process of individuation, the process which causes one to gain a full awareness and sense of one’s sense of self, separated from other people and from the world, is never completed “in this region”. We remain mere parts of the collective for life, without permanent personal traits, faiths, decisions and, hence, accountability. Anyone who acts differently, acts as an individual, is excommunicated – “as a cowardly traitor” by an automatic defensive reaction of the community and, thus, deprived of the right “to speak for us or on our behalf”.

Here is a description of that “reluctant commitment” to the tribe by one articulated tribe member, a famous Serbian poet Milovan Danojlic (speaking to himself):

“You were forced to accept your belonging and you can’t do it partially. It’s all or nothing. It is easy to be smarter than that; what good is being smart, when that seems to be the only thing that you can stand on with both feet (“that” is, of course the same thing that Rade Konstantinovic calls the Province – remark S.P.). That is yours, and yours truly, no matter how you experience or evaluate it; you can even hate it, if you are and while you are inside it; outside it, you turn, at best, into a shadow; in the worst case you become a cowardly traitor… I remember how much you mocked it all, as if it didn’t concern you, as if seeing the squalor and stupidity lifted you above it. Now you have been cured of an illusion of superiority, put back into your herd.”

However, for those who live here while excommunicated from the tribe, the answer of the tribal nature of society as a pure given can’t be sufficient, because this “given” is psychologically unacceptable for an individual. A person has a congenital need to communicate with another person, i.e. to believe at least in the theoretical possibility of communication. A person (a grown-up, who is not a mere member of “the tribe”) is incapable of waiving this need (“to be smarter than that”) even when it is being systematically frustrated, because he is a social being, but in that case communication must be transferred to a meta-level: conversation about why we can’t communicate. And this is exactly what we are talking about.

For example, what is the meaning and origin of the irrational discourse in Vreme? Where did the seemingly upset incomprehensible vehemence of those who denied the crimes or responsibility for them come from? What is the source of that strong affect, aggression, elevated voices, choice of vocabulary, disregard for basic logic, personal attacks, incapability to stay on theme probandi, evasiveness, argumenti ad hominem? It all points, even to the layman, to the fact that the vital defense mechanisms of tribe members are endangered. We are the witnesses of a panic which causes what psychologists call “regressive dedifferentiation of mental functioning”, that is, the inability to objectively look at facts outside the context of “other mental needs, wishes and aspirations” of the subject (i.e. “heavenly nation”).

However, the important thing is that such behavior, although irrational, self-destructive and immoral is nevertheless, at least psychologically, comprehensible.

Fear of destruction

After Milosevic’s regime was toppled, things improved a bit, both regarding cooperation with the Hague Tribunal and the amount of information about crimes (although this can also be explained by a pragmatic need of the new Serbian government to “justify themselves” to the public regarding this unpopular cooperation). Currently public discourse on these crimes barely exists and even when it does exist, it stays within the limits of the conceptual.

For example, a very good article about reconciliation by Sreten Ugricic was recently published. The author diligently analyses the mechanism for reconciliation and concludes that it consists of three separate consecutive steps: perpetrator (a) admits the crime as a fact and (b) expresses regret (“I will never forgive myself”) and then, only after that (c) the victim, in her/his own moral interest, agrees or (against that interest) refuses to forgive him.

I suppose that the author was motivated by the hypocritical attitude frequently present in the Serbian public space which says that “all should be forgotten and we should make peace”, an attitude which is advertised as “constructive” and “positive”, although it lets the perpetrator usurp the voice of the victim, i.e. the perpetrator forgives himself. He avoids taking the steps which he has to take in order to achieve reconciliation (admission of guilt and regret) and, at the same time, forgives himself (which can only be done by the victim).

However, that article is purely theoretical; it doesn’t mention in a single word the real context, the cause of these theoretical considerations, nor the practical implications of the conclusions of this argument to the process of possible real reconciliations of real participants in wars that ended yesterday. This is not stressed to diminish the value of the article, but merely to illustrate the current psychologically bearable and socially acceptable limits of discourse about “our” war crimes.

A metaphor used by the French psychoanalyst Christian David in another context can be perfectly applied to describe this situation: “conceptual discourse… (about potentially traumatic issues – S.P.) is like a foil with a pellet on top… Remove the pellet (which can be done in a report or an essay or in life, at some “moment of truth”) and anxiety will jet forth, blood will gush out”.

What constitutes “removing the pellet” when we are talking about war crimes?

It would mean, first of all, a thorough elaboration of the events themselves. For example, when our media reported the recent burial of some of the victims in Srebrenica, one could hardly understand what exactly happened in Srebrenica and who massacred whom. The aforementioned debate in Vreme started when the journalists of Vreme said that the crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia should be “de-etnified”, i.e. that we should not insist on the ethnicity of perpetrators or victims, because, according to them, a crime is a crime, no matter the nationality of the perpetrators. Some people massacred some people. That was the attitude of the Commission for truth, formed by Kostunica and elaborated by Mirjana Vasovic, member of the Commission.

“Removing the pellet” is hard for all of those who, consciously or subconsciously, want to protect themselves (they say “to protect the Serbian people”) not only from the responsibility for what was done, but from the appropriate and inevitable change in our (not only intellectual, but also) affective self-image, to protect us and themselves from answering the difficult question which those crimes impose: what kind of people are we? This lack of REGRET and grief because we are (were) the way we are (were) points to the cause of that blind spot in our eye, and to the reason for the “pellet on the foil”. The phenomenon which psychiatrists call disassociation between events and affects has taken place.

The cause (and the consequence) is fear. That fear is described by D. W. Winnicott as the so-called “fear of destruction”. According to him “fear of destruction” is not a danger which could take place in some abstract future, but a disaster which has already taken place.

“An individual has already experienced destruction, but as a fact that is hidden in his subconscious, in the sense that the ego wasn’t able to integrate something so traumatic and which caused a kind of agony, overwhelming it with something much more powerful than anxiety, something that could devastate, demolish, destroy his mental life itself. So, there exists unrecognized dissociation between the (past) event and difficult trial (which doesn’t exist but is yet to come)”.

I can understand that it is difficult for the victims to accept the fact that Serbian society went through a disaster, as Winnicott says – “has been destructed”. But it is true. The crimes committed by Serbs are a trauma for Serbian society as well. Moreover, that trauma is the most difficult for those who wanted to prevent it, but were unable to do so. Those who have “already been destroyed”, but can’t integrate that traumatic experience and so now fear it. (That fear is then cynically used by those who committed and ordered the crimes).[4]

The consequence of this fear of destruction is that an individual starts living “as if he was already dead”, it becomes his main defense. At a level of society, it is an inability to “become who you are”. An important and grand lie which is, thus, partially built into intellectual, but more importantly into affective self-image of a society, makes all life unreal, wastes a lot of mental energy and even prevents “the birth of the new me that is capable of life” (Winnicott).

To be what we are

What do I mean by “we can’t become what we are”?

I mean that we can never be who we were before we committed all those crimes – but also, that we can’t be who we are after we committed them, because we can’t admit them. Our self-image thus becomes impossible, both at the level of society and at the level of individuals as members of that society. In that rift we are, so to speak, damned to exist only as bodies.[5]

We don’t have that necessary (common) self-image, neither as individuals, nor as a society (because it can’t be established) and without such an image how can we even see ourselves as members of that society? How can that society even exist?

This is not a question of mere theoretical construction. The atomization of society into separated and conflicting individuals is an empirical fact that many people today complain about. Empathy, solidarity, respect, even common decency have vanished from this society. Society, as a community of values, doesn’t exist anymore. In the people I know and regularly meet, I sense daily that inability to establish the continuity of their lives “before” and their lives “after” (and sometimes they talk about it themselves). What I mean is their lives before and after all those crimes. Because, if we look back, the last decade of the past century is a decade of crimes for us. Not even a decade of wars, because those “wars” were basically violence of “our” armed professionals over civilians. Someone already noticed that there was not a single battle fought in those wars that can be named, and that there is a striking lack of patriotic heroic memoirs, novels, movies, that always follow “real wars” and glorify “our heroic fight”. Complaints made by veterans of these wars about the lack of attention and respect are not unfounded. Feelings towards them appear to vary between pity, contempt and indifference.

Since the old self-image (before the crimes) is no longer possible, because the crimes happened and we are aware of that, and we still resist the creation of a new self-image (after the crimes) – the identity of the entire society and identity of each individual has become suspicious, vague, unreal, because identity has to be built on a continuum of self-image. The very reality of existence, almost reduced to the mere existence of our bodies, has become suspicious. Interactions between people are filled with distrust, because trust is built on the stability of our identities (that is, stability of intellectual and affective self-image). It is hard for us to recognize one another, as if we were actors playing our former (now impossible) roles. A lot of talks about “the things that happened” (local euphemism for crimes) are needed so in order that our split lives could be joint, so that we can again know one another.[6]

This national and individual loss of self-image can’t be compensated by “entering Europe”, “admission to NATO”, nor by “praise” from others (which we obsessively and degradingly fish for),[7] neither by official confirmations or certificates we issue to ourselves (“Belgrade is the world”, “We are Europe”, etc.). At least as long as we, in the words of the Bible, continue to live “in the sin of Cain, hidden from God’s view”.[8]

Since we don’t know who we are, we don’t understand what is happening around us. Is Kosovo “ours”? Are the borders on Drina ours? Was Serbia at war? Is Karic a successful businessman or a war profiteer? How about the owner of “Pink”? Is Mladic a hero or a mass murderer? Is NATO a criminal organization or the future we wish for? Was October 5th a revolution or a military coup? Are the Red Berets an elite special unit or a gang of war criminals? Why was Djindjic killed? Since we don’t understand what is happening around us, we don’t understand who we are and can’t become “who we are”.

Is it then surprising that political life is so superficial, exhausting itself in conflicts of “personalities” who represent nothing and nobody and who are motivated only by the personal gain which power brings to their “bodies”, as always happens in a herd.


The process of grief has to be initiated in Serbian society; a process that ends in “letting go of everything that is lost” (S. Freud), which here means intellectual and affective self-image of a “heavenly nation”, as well as the previous image of our brotherhood and unity with other nations (who we afterwards massacred). The recent mob rampage on the streets of Belgrade, after the match against Croatia, illustrated the anger and aggression used by that endangered self-image to defend itself. The mob removed the flag from the Croatian embassy, symbolically “stripping Croatia of its statehood”, which was meant to mentally defend the old self-image of the victors of war, despite and regardless of the real fact of defeat.

I think that those people who persistently and unsuccessfully try to make the Serbian society “face” the crimes committed during the past wars may also need to be aware what they’re up against here. Elaboration of events is certainly a necessary and first step on that road, but intellectual, moral and political arguments alone are not enough; a strategy that dissembles the very mental mechanism of defense and devises a new intellectual and affective self-image has to be developed, in the interest of the Serbian society itself so that it can “become what it is”.

Odjek, Sarajevo, 2003.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 29.10.2014.

Srdja Popovic (1937-2013)


  1. Former British ambassador Charles Crawford said in the interview to Danas that Serbian prime minister Zoran Zivkovic answered to his remark (that the government creates the impression that it cooperates with the Tribunal under pressure) by saying that the public in Serbia wouldn’t accept the cooperation otherwise. After his trip to USA in July this year, the same prime minister said boasted that he had asked his hosts to cease the “policy of conditioning and pressures”. It is clear that the prime minister himself doesn’t want the cooperation with the Tribunal to continue.
  2. This addiction to opinion of others causes an ambivalent attitude towards the “others”: it creates hate towards a grand others (when their gaze doesn’t see what we want them to see), which is then projected onto that other (“Serbfobia”) and narcissistically explained by the fact that the other “envies” us.
  3. Whole discussion, which spread to some other newspapers and magazines (Danas, Monitor) is published in the book “The point of break-up”, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Belgrade, 2003.
  4. According to the American psychiatrist Judith Herman “traumatic reaction happens when one feels that it can’t defend itself, avoid or resist extreme violence, pain, death or injury (to oneself or to others)”… And: “All researchers of trauma point to loss of ability to feel as a result of trauma… Especially loss of ability to feel connected to social community”, “breakage of family, friendly, love and social ties, destruction of those values which give meaning to human experience”. Kai Erickson expands these consequences by listing also “damaged social organism” and compares it to “damaged body”. Collective trauma, according to Erikson, can damage the sense of unity and interpersonal relationships in a society. “Trauma can become so much collective experience of a nation that it influences overall mood and temper of a group… sets manners in which people treat one another.”
  5. Even a superficial analysis of Serbian TV programs would show that the topics that occupy Serbian public are all related to body: fashion, cosmetics, physical health, gyms, plastic surgery, tanning, hot-tubs, pools, food. Only our bodies are what we are certain of.
  6. I casually realize that this suspicious reality of our existence and personal identities is actually what makes people think that biographies can be freely changed, forged, tailored at will and occasion, that anybody can be whatever they want. That is because if everybody is nobody, then everybody can be anybody. Hence the horrible loquacity of this society, unrestrained desire to project an one’s own “image” to the public; hence the crowd in front of TV cameras where everyone constantly (no matter what the ostensible subject is) talks only about themselves and where the line between public and private is completely lost. As if we were in a boutique, various public personas are tried out in front of a mirror, skirts are raised, eyes rolled and TV hosts become some sort of pimps who happily manage this brothel.
  7. After the visit to United States of America prime minister Zivkovic informed the public that Secretary Powell “met and greeted him in front of State Department, which is rarely done”.
  8. Again incidentally, according to public polls, there are only 0.5% of atheists in Serbia today, exactly as many as there were religious people when Tito and Milosevic were gods! New believers express their new-found faith almost exclusively by hanging huge designed crosses on their necks (bodies) and don’t mind at all the fact that their “priests” were photographed on tanks during the wars, nor that their church holds anti-Semites such as bishop Nikolaj for saints. This type of “spirituality” was described by Isidora Sekulic in her essay “The Troubles of Small Nations”. She pointed out that our rude and aggressive megalomania easily turns into “those bitter tears afterwards”.

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Srđa Popović
Srđa Popović (1937-2013), jugoslovenski advokat ljudskih prava. Branio mladog Zorana Đinđića, Brigitte Mohnhaupt (Baader-Meinhof), Vojislava Šešelja, Dušana Makavejeva, Milorada Vučelića, Mihajla Markovića, Miću Popovića, Predraga Čudića, Nebojšu Popova, Vladimira Mijanovića (Vlada Revolucija), Milana Nikolića, Mihajla Mihailova, Dobroslava Paragu, Milana Milišića, Vladimira Šeksa, Andriju Artukovića, Beogradsku šestoricu, profesore izbačene sa Filozofskog fakulteta... Pokretač peticija za ukidanje člana 133 (delikt govora), ukidanje smrtne kazne, uvođenje višestranačja u SFRJ... 1990. pokrenuo prvi privatni medij u Jugoslaviji, nedeljnik Vreme. Posle dolaska Miloševića na vlast iselio se u SAD, vratio se 2001. Poslednji veliki sudski proces: atentat na Zorana Đinđića. Govorio u 60 emisija Peščanika. Knjige: Kosovski čvor 1990, Put u varvarstvo 2000, Tačka razlaza 2002, Poslednja instanca I, II, III 2003, Nezavršeni proces 2007, One gorke suze posle 2010.
Srđa Popović

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