It’s getting harder all the time to find people who are willing and who have the strength to talk about what we are living through. The negotiations for appearing in this show often start out with the question – what are we going to talk about, there’s nothing going on, or – I’m sick of talking about the same things, I’m desperate, and it’s not good to discourage people anymore…
This is all true, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak, if need be till judgment day. We were given these few decades of life, we were given the eyes to see, and what is more – see this country, and those who had not decided on inner emigration must speak, or as Mirko Đorđević would put it – they must testify. It is true that there are not many new issues, just the same ones that buried our former country, and so many human lives with it. The new government continued cuddling with nationalism, chauvinism, xenophobia and violence, and in these couple of months in power, the pro-European parties did not stop the threat of the country’s deterioration into anarchy and chaos and the transition from drifting into corruption and robbery.
Serbia’s self-mutilation is continuing, although our head of state is not a man troubled by messianic insanity, which was what Koštunica and Milošević were. Our head of state is a good boy named Boris Tadić, or as Laura Bush would say – my husband is a heck of a guy. But our heck of a guy – unlike the Serbian messiahs – has no message. He has smothered everything, quashed every meaning, neutralized all political and moral categories; he is a fierce enemy of everything resembling a clear position, intelligent answer or determined idea. It all boils down to the same thing, it all keeps rolling along, nothing more can be done, we hope disaster will not strike, now go to bed – that is what our president is telling us.
Between right and wrong Tadić and his party choose concurrence. A strange, and in Serbia a monstrous idea that any dispute or conflict can be resolved if the people involved are polite, if they don’t shout and holler – has found its follower in the DS, which is responsible for this country’s destiny. The president politely called for the CEO of Nikola Tesla airport to resign and he answered by making a nice gesture and resigning for moral reasons. The president had politely congratulated RTS on its 50th anniversary, he congratulated “all the professionals who built their effort into the oldest TV station in the Balkans”. The fact that so many of these professionals had been warmongers, the fact that many of them were Milošević’s stuntmen, the fact that their former director-general is in prison for the crimes he committed against his employees and the fact that the current director-general is a disgrace – all those facts don’t matter. What matters is a gentle word from the president will open all the doors of European Serbia, and if someone doesn’t come in, he only has himself to blame.
What did we have this week when nothing new happened, if we leave aside the trivialities (and we are always leaving them aside) such as the testimony of a former high-ranking officer Borivoje Tešić in The Hague in which he spoke of elite forces of the Yugoslav Army took part in operations in Sarajevo, we are left with the triviality of this government still not being able to approve next year’s budget proposal, although being late could cost us the IMF’s assistance. What is even more irritating is the fact that we are informed about the news of the budget proposal by the minister for Kosovo and Metohija and the minister of health. This was also the case in Koštunica’s administration – whenever something uncomfortable happens, we are briefed about it by the so-called ministers on duty – so that the most important problems in the state were reported to us by the minister of religion, the minister for diaspora and the minister of sports.
Naturally, the minister on duty in Cvetković’s administration – the minister for Kosovo and Metohija – blamed the world financial crisis for the failing of budget approval.
Prime Minister Cvetković refused to answer the questions of the press about the budget. Just as Koštunica used to lash out at the reporters for asking about the important issues on the slava, Cvetković refused to answer questions, because he was in the company of the Danish Prime Minister, with whom, according to his aids, he discussed windmills and biomass. Reporters were allowed to ask questions concerning Kosovo, because of the well-known fact that windmills and Kosovo’s status are related subjects, not to mention biomass – even Czar Lazar used to polish his saber with it, before heading to Kosovo, where winds blew that were fit for windmills, which would be – the good czar knew even then – our main source of energy.
I got a little carried away with biomass, but I wanted to say that not only is the fact that the government did not adopt the budget proposal in time rude, what is even ruder is who we are hearing it from, who we are not hearing it from and what reasons we are given. It’s hard – says Suzana Grubješić, head of the G17 parliamentary group – to adopt a budget when the incomes are low and expenditures high. Then there is a reversal – it is easier to do it when the incomes are high and expenditures low. You don’t say, Mrs. Suzana? And who brought us to a situation where our expenditures are larger than our incomes? Isn’t her party ever since 2000 heading every institution that deals with money?
Minister for Kosovo, Metohija and the budget, a certain Mr. Bogdanović, is probably right in part when he says that one of the reasons why 24 ministers are not capable of reaching an agreement on the budget is the world financial crisis, but there are some reasons that are more concrete. It looks like the ministers, or the party cadres temporarily serving as ministers, cannot agree how much money from the budget each ministry i.e. each party will get. It’s a well known fact that election results depend on how much a minister can bribe the citizens during the campaign. The ministry’s budget is one of the main sources of funding for the party that runs the ministry. It’s their financial base – and it’s not recommended to alienate the base.
These days we are hearing a lot about the director-general of the Nikola Tesla airport, who paid himself 13-14,000 euros in one month. Every newspaper carried a picture of this young manager posing in front of an airplane or on the runway. I don’t plan to make excuses for that little sleazebag, but I have a few sensations, questions and amendments. First, I sense that he is just one of those so-called managers, which were given a position by the party, with an assignment to extort money from state-owned companies and finance the party that brought him there. Naturally, he is allowed to spend a part of the loot on a Rolex, Armani suit and a Pajero SUV. It’s about Dinkić, not Bojan Krišto. At any rate, Dinkić did say that he doesn’t want to let him go, because the kid proved to be a good manager. He did get a little carried away, so the boy will return the money he took, but he – padre padrone – will not replace him.
The opposition rightfully asked for Krišto to be discharged, and not be allowed to resign. The opposition also asked for the Administration for Fighting Organized Crime (UPBOK), budget commission and the attorney general to react. The problem is, first of all, that among the parties that demand this are the DSS and Nova Srbija, whose people are members of the board of director of the Nikola Tesla Airport. They had nothing to say when Krišto paid himself all those thousands of Euros. Not to mention the DS, whose two men are sitting on the board of directors. They were also silent about it, and now their boss in a righteous fury is asking for Krišto to leave.
This is where we come to a dilemma which we often talk about. Does the new overlord of Serbia really plan to fight corruption or is that just one of his many sugarcoated phrases? Because we cannot possibly know what the president’s intentions are, we can only judge by what he and his party are doing. Therefore, in the case of Krišto, he had to join the opposition in its demands that Dinkić’s manager be replaced and that UPBOK investigate the dealings of Nikola Tesla airport, to replace the members of his party sitting on the airport’s board of directors, to tell us how this is one more proof that state-owned companies must be privatized, because they are objects for pillaging, how conditions for the operation of independent regulatory bodies need to be created urgently, how any official that doesn’t follow the decisions of these bodies has to be discharged. Empty moralizing, every now and again, when some greedy party soldier goes beyond the line or displays insubordination to his party’s leader – makes the president an accomplice to a crime.
In Krišto’s case, what is especially disturbing is the dispute over whether what the airport’s director-general did was legal or not, although it was certainly immoral. What sort of a state is that, what sort of a system, in which there is such a huge gap between law and morality? I know that law and morality are not the same, but it is becoming unbearable to live in a country in which things that are legal but just a bit immoral are the same things which you go to jail for in decent countries. If they declared so many things legal but immoral, let them form – like the Taliban did – a Vice and Virtue Ministry, so we know who to complain to about these manager-marauders.
There is no democracy without political parties, but these parties had become the main obstacle of democracy in Serbia, a cancer eating through the Serbian state.
Every political party is a conspiracy against the rest of the people, someone – I believe it was Churchill – said once, but our parties are literally conspiring against us. They turned into those machines from the Matrix which breed people so they could use them as a source of energy for themselves. They turned human beings into ordinary batteries.
For a time people used to get by, maintaining some sort of nerve, but now it is as if someone stepped on the gas-pedal and fear and aggression are reproduced, horizons are blurred, air is getting thin, the state is becoming a threat to every individual. You don’t die from a bullet as you did in the nineties, you die of brake malfunctions, because someone paid someone a bribe to register a malfunctioning vehicle, you die in a hospital, because someone expected a bribe and didn’t get it in time, you die on a construction site, because the investor bribed someone to get a permit without testing the surface. It takes a lot of courage to step out of your house each morning, but it’s the sort of courage when you hope the bullet will hit the other guy.
The media is bored to inform us, and with an even greater boredom we are hearing the news of the world. Who cares that in the terrorist attacks in Bombay hundreds of people were blown into bits and that one nuclear power, India, is accusing another nuclear power, Pakistan, of being responsible for those attacks. The only thing that matters is that it shouldn’t discourage India’s supposed intention to invest in brotherly Inđija – as the Indian ambassador said the other day – 600 million dollars and creates 25,000 jobs for the people of Inđija and other computer experts.
Maybe it’s not strange that we are so self-centered, so sheltered from the blows which the outside world brings – but the price of this disinterest is that we are becoming even lonelier. Our loneliness becomes unthinkable. This is the loneliness of a man wondering through an endless desert, not finding anyone to share his thoughts with. It seems that we have permanantly fallen out of the world and that we became an enclave. The sounds and noises of the modern world are still reaching this enclave, but we don’t understand it anymore, and we are grouchily mumbling something for an answer. This grumpy mumbling means – leave me alone, I don’t need anything, every change – for better or worse – is the same to me, it almost equally distracts me in this difficultly mastered art of getting on with life.
Translated by Ivica Pavlović
Peščanik, Radio B92, 28.11.2008.