If you’ve ever watched Cartoon Network (although, considering the target audience for this site, the chances are you haven’t), you couldn’t have missed a short and effective commercial for the Two Stupid Dogs show which, I got the impression a few days ago after carefully observing what’s happening around me, fits all to well with the population of Serbia right now – “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” “Why?” you ask? Well…
1 – The Pensioners
If there’s one single group of people either disliked or hated by both the government and everyone else, it’s them. And they have only themselves to blame. Why? Well, I can understand that there comes a point in a person’s life where you just breathe, eat, sleep and really don’t care about much else. I can also understand that when that happens, you’re both physically and mentally too exhausted to protest when the pension you’ve been working hard for all your life is 6 months late, simply because the state officials were too busy filling their empty bank accounts with it to realize it’s physically not possible for the same money to be both in their pockets and yours at once.
But when you see some of your elderly friends rummaging through garbage cans every day to find something more decent to eat than what they can afford with their current budget, and when you have to spend 5 hours a day queuing for cooking oil, sugar, and other luxuries of that sort, must you really vote for the government every time and ruin it for the rest of us?
2 – The Unions
The most important thing about unions here, be they trade, labour or whatever, is that there’s a lot of ‘em. One example is the teachers’ union, which started threatening with a strike a few days ago. The teachers here haven’t been paid for more than 3 months, and when they do get their cheques, the inflation will most probably eat them up for dessert. So in order to get their hard-earned money (and if you ever get a chance to view a class in progress here, you’ll understand what I meant when I said “hard earned”), they announced they will have a meeting to decide whether there’ll be a strike.
The only problem is, there isn’t just one union that everybody is a member of and which holds a single meeting to decide when the strike would take place – the number of the teachers’ unions here is closer to 50. But then you have the unions of those unions, and then some more unions of those new unions, and then you have two big unions of those unions. And guess what, on top of all that, those two unions created last year? Why, a union, of course.
With so many unions of the unions’ unions (if there is such a thing), there are an equal number of separate meetings they have to hold. And because those meetings can stretch out to a month, by the time they all agree to have a strike, the state has already printed some more money to pay them all up. Of course, that causes inflation, which in turn eats up the money the teachers’ have been given, but after all those exhausting meetings, do you think they’ll really care? At least not for another semester.
3 – The Refugees
I guess I already wrote about how my mother works in what is now basically a refugee centre, and about the refugees themselves, so I probably don’t need to say anything about how hard their lives are (after all, I think nobody imagines life of a refugee as anything other than hard). I didn’t mention, however, who or what most of those people blame for what’s happened to them. Do they blame the government of Croatia, for having their army cleanse them from the country? Do they blame the government of Serbia, for not doing anything to prevent it? Or do they think it’s all their own fault, because they were so full of themselves as to think they could get independence from Croatia? No, no and no. They don’t even blame the international community for not helping them. In their mind, you see, according to a poll published this week, it’s the fault of Serbia’s opposition, which prevented the government from intervening, and which then started to collaborate with the West, which helped Croatia in it’s cleansing campaign. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they started blaming God for all their misery – because if God hadn’t created the world, there wouldn’t be any war, and they wouldn’t be refugees now, right?
4 – The Students
There was a time, back in ’68, when drugs in Serbia were rare, when there was this vague idea of democracy everybody was fighting for, and when students presented a major political force for change here. But that as back then, and the year 2000 is now. Every third student is a drug addict and nobody knows what to fight for anymore, but students are still considered a force for change. Well, they’re anything but. Some opposition student movements do exist, but I don’t think they have any idea what they’re doing. Just last week, one of them, called “Resistance”, started boasting about how many of its members have either been threatened or arrested by the police since the beginning of the New Year. It would be in order if they had anything else to boast with, like how many university professors loyal to the government admitted they got the job only because their connections to the regime, or how many people started supporting the opposition thanks to the Resistance’s actions. But the actions they have seem more likely to be a part of an art exhibition than an anti-government rally. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think throwing old shoes at the parliament building serves any purpose, apart from making some people think the opposition’s gone mad and that they’d better stick with the government. Whatever happened to the good old street protest walks?
Of course, there’s a lot more. There always is. These groups, however, stand for more than 60 per cent of Serbia’s population, and it only shows you why Serbia is where it is right now. In deep bleep (that’s self-censorship). But I guess that, for now, there is only one more thing I could say: I rest my case.