I went to Kolarac for the promotion of Dobrica Ćosić’s book Vreme zmija (The Time of Snakes). That whole atmosphere at Kolarac, those people who went there – the girl next to me, 17 or 18 years old, burst into tears as soon as Ćosić said ‘Good day.’ I thought – such manifestations, such emotion displayed by these people as if they were in a collective trance. All Ćosić had to do was to turn up. He is today an adviser to the president. I thought: you have reconciled the totalitarian, the worst, side of Communism with our destructive and primitive Chetnik inheritance, and ended in a position which permits you to continue forging national policy. A man capable of blaming the Albanians and the Croats, Tuđman and Milošević, putting them all in the same basket, but always insisting that he was always right. They all made mistakes but during the past sixty years only Dobrica was – and is – in the right place; is in the right today, because Boris Tadić is in the right. This must be very confusing to the public, this thousand-year old Dobrica with all these fans of his – an old people’s home of sorts, but I feel totally disarmed by the fact that you cannot get rid of him, tell him OK you were never imprisoned, never ended up on Goli Otok or at The Hague, fine, OK, go home to your Dedinje or wherever, sit there and look up at the ceiling, just leave us in peace.
OK, I don’t find Dobrica all that interesting any more, regardless of the fact that he is the epicentre of this society, but I do think that Serbia is a fertile land for some other elder turning up, be it a poet or a film director, who will lead us for the next twenty or thirty years. A man who will again send me to fight a war and who will write poems about me – you have sent me to war, written poems about me, and buried me. Well, you know, thank you, but no. I think, everything is in a state of flux, the whole world appears concerned, only we sit to one side saying no problem, maybe there will be a third world war. For, as I understand it, the idea of the whole idiotic elite of this society is that a third world war, including a nuclear one, would just suit us fine, because our whole plan is to snatch back Kosovo in the general confusion. Look, that Samardžić, who was until recently the minister for Kosovo, he teaches students about the European Union at his faculty. While waiting for the third word war to get Kosovo back. You wish him to get lost – he and his Kosovo and the third world war, the whole lot!
The passionate love affair between the DS (Tadić’s Democratic Party) and the SPS (Socialist Party of Serbia, formerly led by Milošević) was supposed to be good news. It took a year after the formation of their government to see how it works in practice. Here are two examples, two textbook examples from real life. There is the protest of lorry drivers in the Čačak area – there are some permits which the lorry drivers need to be able to manage international transport, and there is a market in these permits. The market is controlled by (SPS minister of infrastructure Milutin) Mrkonjić and one of his obscure deputies or state secretaries, whatever, and the tariff is well-known: 10, 000 dinars and you’re in the clear. The business linked to the SPS is called ‘the briefcase’: you stuff 10,000 for (SPS leader Ivica) Dačić into a briefcase. You stuff the briefcase and get the permit. This is what happens when Mrkonjić oversees the infrastructure. The other example is the police. Like any other honest and rather foolish citizen, I went to the police station in Zemun the other day to register my ten-year-old car. I do this every year and every year I take a book with me and stick an iPod into my ears, but this time I was disturbed by a happening: three people got into a fight in front of the doors, an over-eighty-year-old woman, a grandfather of about seventy, and a younger woman of around forty-five. They came to blows while waiting in line for the new biometric passport and identity card, and they had been standing in that line since four o’clock in the morning. Two policemen turned up next, and when I saw them pushing the old lady I was ready to fight. They began to shout at me, then some woman whom they called ‘chief’ started to shout at us, saying ‘you cattle, behave yourselves’. I then discovered that there are two lines at the Zemun police station: line A where the fight was in progress, and there is also line B. A woman turned up, said ‘good day, I’m director of such and such primary school, here’s my son, here’s his girlfriend, this is my neighbour’s child, this is my husband, we’ve made an appointment for passports.’ So they are fighting over here, while over there you can make an appointment. I searched around a little, and discovered that the Zemun police station has a special, hidden place where people with connections can come and do their business. That day, I stood from two in the afternoon to eight in the evening, and on the following day from ten in the morning to six in the evening, and I counted the number of people with connections. And I discovered that when it comes to the line where ordinary citizens stand, they accept between 70 and 80 applications, which means that this many souls enter to get their identity cards and passports. At the other place, where appointments are made for primary school directors, doctors and long-standing SPS members, the whole thing is done in no time at all, involving between 120 and 140 people per day. Here is reform in the SPS manner: ‘we’ve introduced a system, which is biometric, what else do you want?’ But let’s make it clear too: on one side are the cattle, on the other the citizens. That’s how they sort us out. The SPS is simply incapable of understanding that all citizens are equal – it was created in 1990 in the spirit that they, and the apparatus, and the little apparatchiks around them are something special, while everyone else is scum. I talked to the people waiting in the first line, asking them if they knew that people over there were given preferential treatment. They knew it. Our people’s addiction to this degree of masochism works like such a smoothly run machine that you cannot even begin to convince them that their rights are being infringed. You cannot get a single man waiting in line to go with you to complain. That’s reform, that’s the SPS, that’s the identity card, that’s Dačić, and that’s his briefcase.
Boris (Tadić) is a nationalist, a weakling, a womaniser, he is sickly, lazy… . Lacking institutional culture, we have been reduced to watching a man who holds all power. As Koštunica said, he incarnates power and makes all decisions. Tadić is the law on discrimination, probably on the persecution of Roma as well, he is NATO… just like Milošević was before him. A few weeks ago I watched Tadić being interviewed by a Bosnian TV station – I got there at the very beginning. I was distressed – we all feel nervous when listening to our president speak, because you never know what stupidity he’ll come up with. I tensed up as I wrote down what he was saying. Here is the response to the question of whether he is a nationalist, whether he is lazy or sleepy. His views on the war of the 1990s, the collapse of Yugoslavia, and reconciliation in the region – these are subjects that any schoolboy could deal with, but what he said lacked all substance. Slobodan Milošević ruled this country for thirteen years, sent troops into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, started the first, second, third and fourth wars, this nationalist who may not have been one. Then came along Koštunica, for two terms, or for eight years, and he too knew what he was doing. It was a kind of revisionism, shallow nationalism, like we are defending Kosovo. Than comes this guy who spends all his time picking his nose and doing nothing, who does not understand a single thing, including the very society in which he lives, who neither knows its history nor has any vision of its future – that’s why you can never tell what he’ll say. Milošević talked to me for fifteen years about high-speed trains, the Swedish standard of living, and isolated me from the rest of the world, because we were supposed to be self-sufficient. This one thinks he can say anything whatsoever. What really worries me is that after all this – after Milošević, the SPS and JUL, after Koštunica and Nikitović and all those, along came Tadić, (presidential adviser Srđan) Š aper, the policy of public opinion – the nation thinks today 67.6 percent, and if you send a message to 9870… It is perfectly possible that we are not only dumb but also unlucky. First that one, and then the other one, and now this one, the one who picks his nose… You have spent twenty years in isolation, and then – just as you start to create a kind of market economy, and some money comes our way, US-style, investment begins, Tiger, Michelin, something starts to move – two minutes later along comes a global financial and economic crisis. What luck! We are a small fishing boat, without a motor, with only a paddle, in the middle of the Danube, the current carries us along, the wind is up, a storm is about to break out, our small boat has a dozen holes and we have only two plugs, we stick them here and there, scoop the water out with a small pail, and hope to survive. I quite understand them, they know they are in that boat, they know that we are lost. If someone walking by will help us, that’s fine; if not, we shall float down the Danube, to Smederevo and beyond, and it is every man for himself.
I have the luck to spend a certain number of days each month in Kosovo. The greyness, the mud, the sadness, people who are always going somewhere without doing anything. I go to Prishtina, the capital city, where frequently there is no water or electricity. There are no jobs, two million people don’t know what to do. My job is to deal with the position of Serbs in Kosovo. Regarding electricity, everyone in Kosovo pays for electricity, but not the Serbs. They have been instructed by Belgrade and Kosovska Mitrovica not to pay for electricity. These Serbs are not the greatest priority in the world for the Albanians, since the 1.8 million Albanians too suffer from deprivation, unable to find employment. It would be stupid to expect them to worry about the Serbs, with so many of their young people unemployed, and living in such poverty, especially as the Serbs live much better on average than does the Albanian majority. That’s a fact. Yet Belgrade tells them that because they are Serbs they don’t have to pay for electricity, and when the authorities cut them off they shout ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ and throw themselves in front of KFOR tanks. These people have been tricked a thousand times by all sorts of fools, by these (local Serb leader Marko) Jakšićs here, the sort of people you probably meet only in a nightmare. They target only the people who want to integrate into Kosovo society, it’s truly unbelievable. The Serbs living in the enclaves wish to become part of Kosovo society, because they can find some prosperity there, of whatever nature – a job for their children, such things – they have been building something there for the past eight years. And then those people come and destroy it in two minutes, as the media reported in 2008 – Kurir, Pres,Večernje novosti, Blic or, OK, Pravda. They said last year, following the proclamation of Kosovo’s independence, that Milorad Pupovac, one of the leaders of the Serbs in Croatia, is on Agim Cheku’s list, which is why he hates the Serbs, that he is an Ustasha. That means that the Serbs who live in this region, and who respect the laws of the country in which they live, who live a peaceful life, that they are the problem. But why don’t you throw yourself in front of a tank? Why not sendyour child to do it? You sit somewhere in Chicago with ašubara on your head and shout: ‘Serbs, forward!’ This is still popular in Kosovo.
You may think that the only problem there are the Serbs and the Albanians, but when you are there you see that the Bosniaks don’t recognise the Goranci, that the Bulgarians issue Bulgarian passports to Goranci and call them a Bulgarian minority, that the Ashkalije hate the Egyptians and the Egyptians the Roma, that the Roma hate the lot of them and that they all hate the Roma. It is difficult to know where to begin. When I leave Kosovo, as soon as I cross the border I say I’m back in civilisation. There is nothing personal here, mind you, it has nothing to do with the Albanians, it is simply to do with the territory. You treat something for fifty, eighty, a hundred years as a colony, this something that refuses to be part of you and that you don’t wish to make part of you, and then you leave my generation with this terrible problem. Speaking generationally, therefore, I wish Kosovo a very happy journey on the road it has chosen, and see with optimistic eyes one thing, which is that for the first time after a long while the Serbs and the Albanians seem to have a common aim: both nations wish to join the European Union. This is material with which one could do much good. And another thing. If you go to Prishtina today and speak Serb there – for I shout in Serb when I am there – it is simply impossible to find an Albanian under 35 who hates me because I am a Serb. The best parties in the region right now take place in Prishtina basement bars, so where am I to find an Albanian with whom to fight a war in fifty years time? He will not fight me and I will not fight him. These are different generations, with different ideas. We are really children of technology, of globalisation, fuck war!
It was 12 March (anniversary of Zoran Đinđić’s murder). Every year on that day I feel if someone had hit me on the head with a mallet. I become nervous, I find other people oppressive and they find me oppressive, everything feels wrong. In 1903, when they killed the king, massacred him, Serbia was placed under a curse for the next ten or fifteen years because of that. It is now our turn,. Others will forgive us Đinđić’s murder, but I know that this lot will never tell us why it happened. Another, angry, very angry, wound-up generation will come along, however, which will ask them some hard questions. Koštunica will probably be in his (holiday home at) Belanovica or in his corner in Dorćol (in central Belgrade) – this is not intended as a threat, but if I were him I would not be surprised if in ten-years time, when he is that much older and more bent, kind of dilapidated, weak and old like Dobrica (Ćosić), someone were to knock on his door and say let’s have a little talk, forgive me, but where were you on 12 March? And another thing. I have decided, as have many people around me, that I will not give them to you. I don’t know what, but I won’t give it to you. Be it my town, my family, my car, my bank loan, my state, my nation – I will not give them to you. So there you are: you’ll have problems when a generation that will number hundreds of thousands of people stops giving to you. I don’t know what we’ll not give you, but there will be something that we will not. In fact, I will not give you my country, you can shoot, but it’s my turn. I know it sounds rather silly, but by God that’s that.
From radioshow Pescanik broadcasted on 17 April 2009.
Translated by Bosnian Institute, 02.06.2009.