Who says you can’t learn anything from watching news? A few days ago I picked up a great technique for getting people to believe every bit of crap you give them, the more far fetched, the better, and not from RTS, but from one of your 24 hour satellite news channels. You just have to say: ‘Yes, most people think that (a true statement here), but actually it’s the complete opposite.’ And then start a tale about how propaganda had misled people into believing otherwise.
You might have already guessed how I learned about it. The true statement from that template I just gave you was that life in Serbia is bad. But instead of a so-called foreign affairs analyst saying ‘but people there live even better than we here in the UK do’, he said something slightly more believable. He said that how we live today isn’t much different from how we lived before all the wars broke out and sanctions were put into place almost a decade ago. He didn’t mean that life was bad before, but that life now is actually quite good. And, gullible as I was, I bought it. It was a late night programme, so I went to bed thinking how it’s not such a bad world, or country rather, I live in.
An easy question now: guess how I realised it wasn’t true? Yep, the only thing I had to do is wake up the following morning. I brushed my teeth with a humanitarian aid tooth brush that makes my gums bleed (better ones cost a quarter of what my mother makes in a month, and by our standards she makes quite a lot), and ate eggs fried in pure fat for breakfast. Well, unless of course you’re willing to spend three hours queuing for rationed cooking oil.
What was bad, however, is realizing that. And I know I’ve said this many times before, I’m one of the more fortunate of the unfortunates living here. Yes, there are a lot of people in Serbia who would consider it a great joy to have a new tooth brush (“new” being all that’s less than two years old), or eggs to fry and even fat to fry them in. But do I feel any sympathy for them? No. Why? Because if you ask them who they’ll vote for in the next elections they’ll all unanimously say, ‘For Sloba!’ And does that mean that all those people who do have enough money to afford both a normal diet and luxuries like satellite TV, computers and going to the movies every other week, are against the regime? Well, if you have all those and don’t have a membership card to any of the ruling coalition parties, then the answer would have to be yes. That’s because people who were able enough to have all the things I just mentioned while Sloba is in power know that they’ll have even more when he’s dethroned.
And even those with a card aren’t so sure about their loyalties any more. Most of them became members simply because of business. Having a membership card to SPS or JUL is like having a no-limits credit card with nil per cent APR, opening the doors to all big banks and creditors, and enabling you to pull one of those scams that every person in Serbia knows about, but can’t do a single thing to prevent it. Because when one Deutsche Mark is officially worth six dinars, but can be sold for 22,5 in the street, who’s to stop you from buying a certain amount of the German currency in a state bank, and then selling it on the black market. Well, the answer would be ‘the financial police’ (at least that’s how we call them), but see if they can touch you if you flash that membership card of yours in front of their faces. Then again, you need that very same card to buy Deutsche Marks from a state bank, and because of that the chances are the police won’t even bother you.
So, if you’ve got your membership card only for business sake, why risk your life in case riots or, God forbid, a civil war breaks out? The card then wouldn’t be a key to all the state banks, but instead a lock on your death-row cell (not literally, I must add). That’s why the ruling parties’ members are now divided into two camps – the ones who keep their distance and although not openly supporting the opposition, do nothing to promote their parties causes. The others are the ones who fiercely protect their leader and would quote ‘most rather see the throats of all the opposition bastards slit.’(I overheard that from a conversation my father had with one of his “friends”… good thing he didn’t see some of the anti-government posters we have in our house).
Some people think the end of something is near, carried by the momentum of the big unified opposition rally to be held on April 14th. To tell you the truth, I’m not that worked up about it, mostly because there’s still far too much animosity between the opposition leaders for a broad coalition like that to work (although I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice, for a change). I also think that something will end in the near future, but my opinion is based on the following few facts: In 1975 the Yugoslav basketball team was first in the European Championship.
In 1978 the Yugoslav basketball team was first in the World Championship. In 1979 the Yugoslav basketball team was third in the European Championship. In 1980 the president of Yugoslavia died. In 1995 the Yugoslav basketball team was first in the European Championship. In 1998 the Yugoslav basketball team was first in the World Championship. In 1999 the Yugoslav basketball team was third in the European Championship. In 2000… well, figure it out yourself. I know I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for most part of the year. I think I’ll have them super glued.