I heard this morning that Brice Taton, the young Frenchman who came to Serbia to see the last football match in his life, died in the hospital. I know, you can say that violence at football matches occurs regularly all around the world. It seems to me that violence in everyday life of young Serbs is a regular occurrence. I hope that the hooligans who beat up the twenty-eight-year-old Taton will have 40 years in jail to ponder whether any football score or national identity is a good enough reason to take someone’s life. The police and the government should think whether it is justified to let the militant organizations carry on existing just so they can collect a few political points when the public discontent needs to be displayed (as with the protests against Kosovo declaring independence,) regardless of whether it can cost lives.
I always tried to prove to my friends who want to emigrate that they should stay in Serbia, because we have a chance to change something, to take part in building a better future. Now the thought of a future in Serbia makes me sick. Maybe I sound like a resentful child of October 5th, who expected money to grow on trees after the revolution, but I am not. I just expected a new set of social values. And here I am now, almost 10 years later, sitting in front of the computer and pouring my rage onto virtual paper.
The economic failure in this country doesn’t bother me as much as the failure of humanness. What bothers me even more is the lack of courage among the remaining humane part of the Serbian population. Why are tolerating groups of disturbed, hateful hooligans? Is there so many of them, are they so powerful and well organized, or are we too apathetic because they are not beating us up? Are they stronger than the majority of Serbs, stronger than the police, the government? If they are, why would anyone in their right mind stay in this country?
Consider the last few years and you will recall horrifying examples of how powerful certain militant groups are, that is to say, you might recall the government’s cheap tricks in resorting to violence whenever some policy needed justification. Just think back of the chaos that erupted after Kosovo declared independence. A group of adolescents were burning down embassies, the prime minister at the time, Vojislav Kostunica, was giving a speech not unlike the half-mad Chavez, the protests were scheduled to begin at dusk, children were being released from school to defend Kosovo in the streets… the result was – a young state. Who did we blame for it? Some fictional marines in the American embassy that those kids broke into. The police was not only supposed to defend embassies but also the lives of those who were manipulated. They did neither. From my window of my downtown home I took pictures of the demented kids who were fighting stoplights, I saw hooligans deal with the police in riot gear, who we usually call “turtles”. Those Robocops were sitting quietly in their SUV’s and letting the kids urinate on their vehicles. As far as I recall, these same cops knew how to beat people up and disperse crowds, but it seems that at this particular time they forgot their martial arts, I guess it was some sort of temporary amnesia. I would also like to have amnesia, because the recent events spring back to mind too often.
The neo-fascist and neo-Nazi marches in Novi Sad reminded me of just how lousy our police can be. But when Dacic (a participant in the regime under which the police did not suffer from amnesia) became minister of the interior, it looked like things are getting better. The neo-Nazi and anti-fascist protests ended without incidents. Before the gathering, the police searched the city for skinheads wearing Dr. Martin boots. Is that really so complicated? Couldn’t they do that in Novi Sad too?
Just when I thought I was safe in my own city, minor incidents started happening, and they culminated in the beating up of the French football fans in the city center. I have to make a comparison with the fall of Kosovo. In the city center, in Balkanska Street, hooligans were on the rampage. People called the police and it took them half an hour to come and disperse the young thugs.
Can someone explain to me why during a high-risk gathering it took the police so much time to reach mid-town Belgrade? Perhaps they were deployed somewhere around Borca and hung up in traffic. Also, can someone explain to me how it is possible to beat a man to death in the middle of Obilićev venac? I guess that is some kind of tradition. Several years ago monument was put up at the Zelenjak, to the actor Dragan Maksimović, who was killed on the capital’s sidewalk because of his Romany ethnicity. The citizens of Belgrade are always appalled by these events, but after a short while they go back to their peaceful lives in this violent city.
And then the Pride Parade was supposed to take place. The authorities voiced their support for the event, but also distanced themselves from it. Our bigoted citizens understood the message well – the authorities also consider homosexuality an illness.
And all that in a country whose president is a psychologist, and whose parliament speaker is a psychiatrist. And where there is illness, there is also a cure. Here the prescribed cure is a traditional good beating. One week before the parade, security experts were saying there would be no incidents. They told us they were working on the security plan for three months. And then, after some new young thugs started threatening, the three month long effort of the police, the secret service and university experts went down the drain. Were these huge security institutions tipped off (for example, that aliens were supplying right wing movements with nuclear weapons, for what else could terrify them so much after working on the protection for three months?), or someone decided that they have to give in to tiny groups of instructed xenophobic idlers; we don’t know.
Anyway, while the bickering over the gay parade and the incapability of the police to do their job went on, another foreigner was beaten up – an Australian citizen who came here to attend a wedding. The man was on his way to a public toilet, and wound up in hospital. Some guys who apparently didn’t have anything else to do followed him around town and beat him up in front the toilet. What was his sin? I would like to know that, but it is hard for me to get into the minds of our hooligan heroes, who beat people up whenever they outnumber them. Because the Australian might feel lonely in the hospital, they decided a Libyan should join him. This was the fourth attack on foreigners in Belgrade in just 12 days. The quota was filled. We Serbs are proud of our black humor and the message boards and blogs already started making jokes how breaking news headline might read: “There were no foreigners beaten up in Belgrade today.” Somehow, I don’t find this funny.
I’m listening to politicians and police officials and I can’t help thinking that there is no room for decent, nonviolent folks in this country. I’m not sure whether I should carry pepper spray when I go out or I should trust the police to do their job, although the latter seems less safe. If I were living close to some forest, I would have already carved a stick, but I’m afraid I’m such a jinx that the police will start locking up hooligans the day I become one myself.
I wouldn’t be so annoyed with the police if it weren’t for this straw that broke the camel’s back. Namely, Biljana Cincarevic organized an exhibition entitled „Lord Have Mercy,” which reflects on the church and criticizes its actions. We all know that the church has become synonymous with nationalism, and indeed with vast profit. But the organization „1389“ spoke up, and announced it will be filing a law suit against the artist because, as they said, she hurt their religious feelings. As far as I know, in Serbia you are not likely to be sentenced for hurting someone’s feelings, or for hurting someone’s body or possessions for that matter. Maybe someone will answer for hurting their feelings, but not the people’s.
What got to me was the fact that the police „advised” the author of the exhibition to postpone it, again for safety reasons. All right, how much longer should decent people put up with bullies? No one is safe anymore to express their opinion, sexual preference, cosmopolitan ideology or ethnicity. We all back away when faced with tiny groups of roughnecks, because we are normal, because we do not like violence. How much will this cost us? Are we destined to keep silent until the day we die?
And so we reach the painful truth – what began with the symbol of the fist grew into a fistocracy. While we are doing our miserable jobs and quietly living, our reputation in the world and our safety in the city we live in are determined by manipulated bloodthirsty kids, dreaming of Amfilohije’s blessings and the Heart of Serbia. In a system created by these new kids not only is the Heart of Serbia lost, all hearts are lost. Humanness, love and true patriotism are all lost, as well as the part of the population that wants to fight this retardation. I don’t know if you’ve seen Idiocracy, but if you haven’t you don’t even need to. Just take a walk around town and communicate with this country’s new patriotic kids.
The frustrations are pouring out, and this piece is too long. Although I do not wish to promote my political beliefs, I would like those who are reading this to come to the March against violence on Thursday. Not only to show your outrage, or to fight someone or show your support for a political party, but to prove that not all Serbs are hooligans, that there are a lot more of us who want democracy, protection of human rights and coexistence of all good and not so good people in Serbia. Maybe we can still change something.
Biznis & finansije, 29.09.2009.