What is it with sex and you lot?

Today, whilst flicking through the discussion boards taking note of the sex section, I was amazed to see what sort of things turn you lot on! There are about 50 boards on role-plays, vibrators, role-plays, fruit and veg, phone sex, cybersex and stuff like that. Me, I prefer good honest clean rolling about on the floor/field/bed or bending over the toilet/sink/table sex.

Reading about the role-plays and hearing people discuss it in chat (and yes, they do!) it makes me wonder. I mean, if Matt flounced towards me dressed as a fireman brandishing his hose – wink wink, nudge nudge – I think I might laugh. And from what I can tell, laughing whilst a man is trying to be sexual and horny and turn you on, sort of, deflates the situation. It’s the same with doctors and policemen etc. I don’t see the point. To me, it’ just more clothes to unbutton and fling off in the fit of passion!!!

And like, hello, what is with this manic use of cucumbers, bananas and vibrators? I mean, why substitute fingers, tongues and dangly bits! Humph, the thought of a big black (or any other colour) plastic thing heading towards me makes me shut my legs quicker than the image of childbirth does. And as for fruit and vegetables… My word!

And the biggest turn on I really, really, really don’t get is cybersex. Nope. Not now, not then, not ever. I mean, why would people do this? Working in the chat rooms as much as I do, I get propositioned a fair bit by people wanting to have a quick pull of their plonker over their computer screen. People come in and say, “What are you wearing?”, “Do you look good in black underwear?” and “Want me to suck your fanny?”

Many moons ago, I was completely gob smacked. I didn’t know how to deal with things like that. Now I’ve realised that they are usually 12-year-old boys who are desperate for a quick bashing of the bishop and haven’t got the cuts to go buy a dirty magazine. OK, so maybe 12 is a little young, but you get the picture.

Now, I know that everybody’s turn-ons are different but you can’t deny that for 99.9% of the male population, the thought of two women at it spells instant soldiers to attention time. Also black underwear, thongs etc seem to be a major part of it for blokes! Me, nothing like that. I think it’s more when I shouldn’t really be having it – when we’re out at a pub or club, for example – that I suddenly get an extreme horn on – but that’s probably a lot to do with the alcohol! I think I just like a challenge and I get even more into it if my boyfriend Matt gets all embarrassed (like he does frequently).

SO, what’s the conclusion? There isn’t really one. I’ve just wittered on about sex yet again. I’m really ruining my innocent pure image aren’t I? Mwah mwah!

Getting a-breast of matters

Ola, bonjour, ello everyone, apologies for the wait, but like the thought of actually having to think of something in my life interesting to write about takes sometime since I spend most of it on a f**king computer.

Today I’m going to talk about my breasts. They’re not that big, and they’re not that attractive, but somehow, out of no fault of my own, they seem to jump out of my tops and show crowds of people in shops, or nightclubs, or just pubs.

It occurred to me last night that usually it really isn’t my fault, I’m just a clumsy cow, with a very evil boyfriend. Last night, we went out with another couple, and I wore quite a covered up top for a change (the one I wore to the meet up), yet halfway through the evening my top ended up around my neck. I attempted to do that curling away thing, you know, where you’re desperately trying to put it back to normal, but somebody who is bigger and stronger than you and less drunk manages just to stand there watching you struggle.

Thinking back, I wasn’t as embarrassed as the first time the city of Lincoln saw my breasts. I was about 16. Here I was standing in a changing room attempting to try on a nice dress in NEXT in a pair of old saggy knickers and grubby bright red ski socks, when it got stuck just above my shoulders. My mum then whipped open the curtain to ask how I was doing and the lucky Christmas shoppers got to see ickle me still not growing that much pinky and perky!

That was probably my most embarrassing experience as I’d just started the “F**KING HELL WHERE THE F**K ARE MY BOOBS!” stage. Okay, so that’s a lie, I’d been like that since I was 13, but by 16 it gets a little worrying that you’re still on picture two of the puberty book! Anyway, they obviously took a liking to the open air and since then have decided to pop out wherever and whenever they see fit! Pubs seems to be the favourite location, usually when I’m bopping away in my own little world to Britney Spears (did I mention, I aim to be her one day?) with my arms up in the air. Then either Matthew sees fit to whip my top forwards, back, up down, left, right or some poor unexpecting lad accidentally brushes past me and WOOOSH out they pop!

So where now? Should I carry on as normal and let them pop out at every opportunity? Should I wear a metal bra? Or should I just get them out constantly and be done with it. Please get back to me, because I’m fed up of making a tit of myself.

Millennium, Schmillennium

“The best way to learn the truth,” a media analyst here once said, “is to take the facts that the RTS (Radio Television of Serbia) gives you and invert them completely.” The above statement would be true in 99 per cent of the cases. In one case, however, the government controlled truth benders got it right. While all of the world media couldn’t stop talking about the millennium, the Y2K bug and the “beginning of the Age of Aquarius” (whatever that meant), on New Year’s Eve the RTS simply wished it’s viewers a happy New Year, had a brief statement on how the Y2K bug was dealt with in Serbia, showed the government officials tapping each other’s shoulder for doing such a great job in the year behind us and proclaimed the next year as the “dawning of the Age of Serbia” (and you though the “Aquarius Age” theory was ludicrous). Now 90 per cent of people in Serbia know it’s not the new millennium yet, compared to around 20 per cent elsewhere.

But, as always, the government had an ulterior motive for telling the truth. You see, if it was the new millennium, the state would have to spend money for the free street celebrations, fireworks, free entertainment, and above all, would have to admit that we are entering the 21st century with no infrastructure, money, industry, electricity or gas, not to mention the lack of stability, democracy, freedom and sovereignty. This way, they got off with putting some street decor left from the last year’s celebrations and organising a cheap concert in the town square, saying the lavish celebrations will be in a year’s time, when the new millennium finally comes.

And when postponing the millennium celebrations and quieting down the holiday spirit are concerned, they certainly had a lot of help from the public. Three millennium domes wouldn’t bring this lot out of depression, and needless to say, there aren’t enough funds to build one tenth of a dome, let alone three whole ones. Bad weather, dull looking streets and lack of any real reason for cheerfulness have caused everyone to forget it’s the holiday season, and a Prozac replacement was the biggest selling drug in Serbia for the tenth consecutive month. There would have been a massive increase in tourism money if only had somebody at the board of tourism remembered to start a “Fed up with the millennium hype? Come to Serbia!” marketing campaign.

But there was at least some partying going on. Basically, two types of people existed here this New Year’s Eve, and with that, two types of New Year parties – those who had money, and by that I mean a lot of it, and those who didn’t, or at least had very little. Those with the money had some wild parties and the best live music money can buy; then again, they have wild parties and great musicians playing for them almost every night, and that sort of beats the idea of a “special” New Year party.

Those without the funds just dusted off their old plastic Christmas trees, got a few balloons, bought some booze, and spent the night drinking and watching TV specials. The only variations were in the programmes watched – a whole night of Serbian folk music (you would have to be pretty drunk to watch that), Serbian oldies (drunk and stoned), or Serbian pop (clinically dead). Of course, you could have just slept trough all of it… millennium, schmillennium… what’s the big deal, anyway, right?

My New Year party, by the way, had the excitement best compared to the one you get while watching grass grow – none whatsoever, so I won’t even waste my words on describing it. The days after, however, were a bit more interesting. Not only had the opposition in Croatia, Serbia’s not so friendly neighbour, had a landslide victory in the parliament elections, influencing the public opinion here, but our opposition has shown some progress towards kicking some government ass as well.

Two of the biggest opposition leaders, Vuk Draskovic and Zoran Djindjic, have finally decided to talk, although not face-to-face, about joining forces. Of course, nobody here thinks they’ll actually unite their parties, but they’ll at least show some signs of coming to an agreement about the election details… or so we hope, because experience tells there will just be a lot of name calling and not much more at that conference of theirs. But hey, we can all dream, right? Or does that apply only outside Serbia?

Sparking trouble

After the war nothing seems to be as exciting as the air raids, but there are some stories that everybody has been talking about this week. For example, a 17-year-old has been killed by a runaway flair at a football match between the two biggest teams (and rivals) in Serbia (one of the two Yugoslav republics). The person who fired the flair is a fan of the same team as the person he killed, but the stadium in which the incident happened belongs to the opposite one. So, both clubs will probably get penalised – one for not controlling its fans, the other for bad security.

This accident will probably have great implications in England, too. The same day the incident took place, a UEFA inspector was in Montenegro (the second part of Yugoslavia) to see if conditions are good enough for a match to be held between England and Yugoslav teams in the European Under-21 Cup. England want the match to be played elsewhere, saying that their players would be in danger, that all of the stadiums are bad, and that there are no flights to Yugoslavia, so they couldn’t even reach it. But, there are air flights to Montenegro, and the stadium is, in the words of a UEFA inspector, “quite satisfactory, apart for some minor details”. However, he said that before the flair accident occurred, and it’s very likely now that the English will step up their campaign to move the match to a different (neutral) location, or even cancel it all together and disqualify Yugoslavia.

So you really have to feel for the guy who fired that flair. He brought it to the match thinking it would probably be taken away at the entrance, but if it wasn’t and that it would be great to fire it when his team scores. And now he’s ended up killing a person, turning the whole Yugoslav nation against him and being threatened with a life sentence (and that’s what some people have been calling for) not only because of the murder, but because of ruining Yugoslavia’s chances in the Under-21 European Cup. And it’s all thanks to an unknown Chinese man who made a mistake while working on the flair.
It would be great if the only problems we had here in Serbia were like that.

However, there are far more pressing issues on everybody’s minds – like what will we do when we only have six hours of electricity a day this winter, and no gas or oil for heating. Right now, school classes are 30 minutes long (that’s 15 minutes less than before), and it’s not even that cold. So everyone is asking how long they’ll last when it’s below zero degrees in the classroom. Last year, both teachers and students started a general strike but back then at least the state could afford some fuel for it’s power stations and they eventually gave in. Now it would be a wonder if it could get enough power for hospitals and government buildings, never mind classrooms.

The Russians, with their enormous supplies of gas, would like to help. The problem is, the gas pipe is running through Hungary. The Hungarian government asked Yugoslavia to clear up the Danube river, which is blocked by the ruins of bridges destroyed in the bombing, or even let Hungary clear it up free of charge. That way, normal trade routes would be reestablished, and Hungary, along with other Danube countries, would stop loosing a lot of money. However, the Yugoslav government, for an unknown reason, won’t let Hungary do that, and now it’s a stalemate – no money for Hungary, no gas for Yugoslavia (or should I say Serbia). So, everyone is preparing for the winter and the most sought after commodities these days are old-fashioned oil lamps, coal stoves and coal. We are entering the year 2000 like it’s 1900 – just like the computers.

One year on

This is a rather unfortunate time for me to write an article. The reason is simple – just look at the date.
While I’m usually allowed to – and more often than not do – write whatever sounds interesting or which I can make fun of (who said Slobodan Milosevic?), I’m now expected to say something important about that little 78-day incident we had exactly a year ago. But if there is a single most unsuitable person for that job in whole of Serbia, it’s me.

An exaggeration? Probably. But on a 1-10 scale of unsuitableness, I’m pretty close to being a nine. The reason for that is simple: the experience of war I had was one per cent of perspiration (watching up at the sky for those tomahawks all night can be exhausting, not to mention how much cold sweat one can break while bombs are falling less than three miles away), and 99 per cent of watching TV.

The few weeks without electricity don’t really fit into the ‘war’ category. God knows we had a lot worse power cuts before as well as after, as he very well knows the reason for those power cuts are more of an economical than a technical problem (money from those few million kilowatts sold to your neighbors can go a very long way).

And that 99 per cent of TV war didn’t look much like a war anyway. You had Jamie Shea with his little pearls of wisdom: “NATO makes the same precautions of not hurting civilians during the day as it does during the night.” – a day after more than 20 people had been killed in two separate daytime strikes on a town bridge.
And the never-before-seen-on-national-television spin doctoring of Ken Bacon: “The day before that passenger train was hit we had reports of Yugoslav fight jets taking off in that part of Serbia.”
Reporter: “So that means the Yugoslavs attacked their own train?”
Ken: “We simply don’t know that yet.” (15 minutes before admitting on that very same conference that a NATO jet was the culprit, making the campaign look more like another well known scandal of the year before that than a serious humanitarian action).

And while I’m at it I should add ‘humanitarian my ass!’ Eight months after it all ended I guess even Ray Charles can see why. Three days into the campaign a Sky News reporter said that just a trickle of refugees is coming trough at that time, but that more is expected later that week. If the great Albanian exodus was the reason for the bombing, then why is it only four days after the bombing began that it actually started? You could say that the cleansing would begin anyway, NATO or no NATO, but can you deny that the campaign was a very big, if not the biggest factor in when the cleansing would start?

I’m using the word ‘cleaning’ because that’s what it was. Milosevic wanted to get rid of the Albanians while there were no international verifiers in Kosovo. But whose fault was it that those verifiers left the are under the pretence of safety precautions? Could it possibly be… NATO? If little Timmy (i.e. Sloba, not Serbia) has an affinity for performing vivisection on his pets you don’t fire the nanny for fear of Timmy vivisecting her – she’s the only barrier between him and Fido. And why do you then agonize over the pet’s fait when you’re almost as responsible as Timmy is for it getting killed. Of course the little brat should be institutionalized, but why whip him for 78 consecutive days while keeping him locked up in a dark moldy basement when the only thing that’s going to do is deepen his psychosis?

I hope you don’t misunderstand that last paragraph. I don’t think Albanians are dogs, far from it. At least they’re smarter than the Serbs and the west. Heck, they were the only ones who actually gained something from the war with almost no material losses, so if they were the dogs, it would make us, you and me both, well, the intellectual, dogie poo… Not that some of us aren’t.

At least that’s what my brain felt like through most of the war days. Wake up at 11am, translate the Brits’ press conference to the family, log on to yahoo chat and spread a few patriotic words to the ignorant people of Bahrain (I’m not joking). Then translate Shea’s great words to his admirers (again, I’m not joking, he had a fan club of sorts here), reply to some email messages, watch a few TV reports on the bombsite-of-the-day, spread some more patriotism to the third world nations, repeat until 4am with some interruptions from those noisy F-15s and tomahawks and their even noisier cargo, then go to bed. 78 days of terror? It was more like 78 days of bullshit to me.

But I shouldn’t really complain. The Internet was free, and so was almost everything else, phone, gas, electricity – everything. Not that there was much of either after NATO started hitting the power plants anyway. It was all reading after that, from back issues of National Geographic to the good old domestic literature. By the time I read every book in my library, and it’s by no means a small library, Sloba decided he had enough. And even though the Yugoslav officials held everyone under suspense until the very last moments under that tent in Macedonia, everybody here knew we had lost well before it was officially announced. A Montenegrin newspaper summed it up the best with it’s gigantic front page headline following the talks between Sloba and Viktor Chernomyrdin – ‘Capitulation’. Strong words? Perhaps, but we all got used to them in the past ten years – it wasn’t the first and very passing day it seems more likely that it won’t be our last.

Finally, I’d like to dedicate this particular article to all the people who made this gruesome ordeal be a much more pleasant experience. They are, in the order in which they pop into my mind and with a lot of spelling errors: John Simpson of the BBC and Tim Marshall from Sky, Francis Tusa, Paul Beaver and Duncan Boullivant – Sky’s commentators, Nick Gowing – one of the few BBC anchors with a personality, Simon McCoy, Key Burleigh, Jeremy Thompson, Viviane Creeger, Bob Friend, Anna Botting, Frank Partridge, Sheila Jansen, and many others from Sky, Mark Laity – the king of bias, Keith Graves – a close second at first, becoming very objective all of a sudden, Jaime Shea, George Robertson, Claire Short, Kenneth Bacon and all the others who had their five minutes of squirming in front of the cameras trying to explain one cock up after another…

I hope the only time they mention Serbia again will be in announcing a certain politician’s untimely, but nevertheless totally deserved, death. At least I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Bye, and have a great weekend,


Is it a man’s world?

You could say that Serbia’s women get the worse part of the national and religious holidays, customs and superstitions, and at first glance it really does look like that.

In some parts of the world – the developed ones – the ones the regime wants us to think we’re a part of and fight against at the same time… they have a day when mothers get presents from their children. Serbia doesn’t.

Actually, we do have Mothers Day here, although it’s not quite the same – you get to tie up their hands and feet while they’re asleep and don’t release them until they give you money.

At least that’s how it looked a hundred years ago, because now you can’t have both – you either have the joy of tying her up or you must repress your sadistic needs and get a few dinars for it (wow, this sounds… strange, but it’s really not as brutal as it sounds… it’s quite fun, actually, for both mothers and children).

And on 14th of February, when the rest of the world celebrates St. Valentine’s and spends a small fortune on flowers, perfume and red lingerie, we have St. Tribune’s day. He was, and if you believe in afterlife, the protector of wine, so on that day everyone gets to see if “In vino veritas” has any real truth in it, all for free. Needless to say, most of the people who have any real desire to check that out are men.

But anybody who says that women are mistreated here didn’t hear of the “International Women’s Day” we have on March 8th. I don’t know how international it is – I never heard it mentioned anywhere else – but I honestly hope for the sake of all the men in the world it stays confined to this country’s boundaries.

You don’t have to buy a present just for your mother or wife or whatever (pardon, whoever) you’re in a relationship with, you get the honour of making every single woman you know happy that day. “By giving gifts”, I should add, before anybody starts thinking the whole of Serbia turns into one great big red light district.

And it’s not only that, because you then have to treat them like gods – they have shorter work hours, they don’t get traffic violation tickets, they get to go on shopping tours. There’s no law that gives them all those rights, but it’s just not polite to mistreat a woman on that day, or so it’s thought.

It would all be bearable if gift items kept their normal price, but just like anywhere else in the world, the weather this year was bad, the temperatures were low, we got a lot of radiation from the bombing – Nature, God and the NATO alliance, all conspired to get the price of flowers in Serbia to record heights.

This year, however, there was some unexpected help from none other than the Chinese. Now, even if your knowledge of geography is limited to knowing which way is left and which is right, you can probably tell that China is a very long way from here, making the fact that every town here with a population larger than 10,000 has a Chinatown all the more mysterious.

It’s not like they’ve been populating the area for years. Two or three years ago some people here didn’t even know what a Chinese looked like, but after the “mistaken” Chinese embassy bombing they’re everywhere, setting up markets in junk warehouses, abandoned parking lots and old bookstores (Books and school supplies? Bah! Fire crackers and highly toxic super glue is what this country’s youth really needs.)

Even if Yugoslavia’s foreign minister brought back a few hundred Chinese (as souvenirs?) every time he got back from his official trips to China, which are by now measured in dozens, several thousands of them currently working in Serbia would still be left unaccounted for.

Are they a secret army acting as one of the last lines of China’s defence against a possible NATO attack, or have the Chinese economic planners got it so wrong to think of Serbia as a new and potentially booming market?

Actually, it’s neither. They are anything but stupid, so what we get of their goods is only what they can’t sell to Romania or Bulgaria, who get what they can’t sell in Russia, who get the things they can’t sell in their own country, and to their own people they give what they can’t sell in the US, which is junk anyway.

So basically, what we’re buying from them is like the tasteless muck you get when trying to make tea from the same tea bag for the sixth time, and the really sad part is that most of it is still better than most of what we used to get.

And who’s to blame? Or should I ask which member of the Milosevic family got his or hers present two days ago? And then I could rephrase it to ‘who actually wears the pants in that family anyway?’. I’ll give you a hint – it’s not Sloba. When four years ago Serbia’s opposition won the local elections, Slobodan Milosevic said to his cabinet they should accept the results because it was a good thing, giving them a challenge for the upcoming federal elections. But then he had a chat with his wife Mira, and the next day the results were annulled. Their former friends said, with a special accent given to the adjective ‘former’, that there was a lot of china flying around that night in their house.

And while he was in Dayton negotiating on that peace accord (now failing miserably in Bosnia), he left his hosts with a giant phone bill he made calling Mira every night. And every time an important decision was about to be made, he was sending her kisses and pet names like Pumpkin right there in front of the most revered diplomats in the world.

Now doesn’t that bring it all into perspective? Unfortunately, nobody’s there to tell Mira that her little holiday is an insult to Serbia’s women, giving them more trouble than it’s worth. A new name for that day comes to mind – “Ok, you’ll all be goddesses for this one day, but boy will you get crap from us during the rest of the year just to be even”. A pleasure / pain thing…

A pot-shot at the International Community

You know, every time I write one of these column things I feel almost responsible to put in something bad about the government, RTS, Milosevic & co, the lot. It’s not that they don’t deserve every single bit of, err, constructive criticism they get from me, but there’s only so many times one can bad-mouth a government without starting to repeat himself. That doesn’t mean, however, that the flow of negative thoughts on these pages will stop; only now it’s time for the “so-called” “international community” (strike out the quote marks you don’t like).
So, after watching and reading about what your people are doing in, ahem, “Serbia’s southern province”, I’ve got to say that they are just as irresponsible, immature and, oh yes, stupid as that set over there in Belgrade. Only yours are considerate enough not to do anything bad to the people who voted them into power, which means you’re safe, but it’s a whole different story when little old Serbia, with or without Kosovo, is concerned. And it’s not only Serbia.

Of course, looking back over the previous few years of wars, crisis and revolutions one could maybe say that those events were, and still are, just too bizarre not to be masterminded and controlled by some higher X-files-like high powered authority we know nothing of, which either knows or controls the fate of the world, and which probably goes by the name of “the international community”. And in a way it would be comforting to know that at least somebody on this planet, bad intentioned or not, understands how this civilisation works.

But sadly, if you examine the inner workings of the
“international community” more closely, you’ll se that almost all that’s bad in this world is not caused by a twisted mind of a person in the shadow, but by sheer stupidity of people in the spotlight, people we all know and – although not necessarily – love. Because the international community is nothing more than a set of bumbling idiots who 1) never have long-term plans and goals, 2) don’t even think about what the history will have to say about them in 200 years or so from now and 3) think their greatest achievement in resolving a conflict is getting two parties to sign a piece of paper. I should maybe change the part under 1) a bit. They do have this general idea of what the future should be like, but “world peace” and “no more wars” are general ideals more suited to pre-schoolers than the “leaders of the free world” as they call themselves.

Ok, they’re consistent; I’ll give them that. They said two years ago “The Serbs are bad” and “We like the Albanians. The Albanians are our friends”, and they’re still sticking to that. But let’s see what happened in the meantime, shall we? More than 80% of the Serbs left Kosovo because, and I’m not trying to be a part of Sloba’s propaganda machine here, Albanian extremists either burned their houses down or threatened them. It would be OK if they only did it to Serb extremists. Hey, I’m all for it. Get them to come here and we’ll deal with them in courts when Sloba’s out of power. But a difference should be made between 5% of Serb extremists, and 95% of the rest of the population.
I could even, maybe, perhaps, after a long brainwash; understand why the intcom tolerated the Albanian extremists in that respect. There was a war, some Serbs did bad things – the collective guilt thing. But why, oh why, did those very same extremists who just a year ago said that the Serbs hate them only because they were of different ethnic group, then drive away the Gypsies who had absolutely no part in the war. Could it possibly be because the Gypsies are (dramatic pause here) a different ethnic group?

And if that weren’t enough, NATO itself had a lot of problems with some Albanian extremists. Do I even have to mention Mitrovica? I’ll just recap on some of the mishaps NATO had with them there in past two weeks: a bus from Serbia blown up by a land mine, a couple of NATO soldiers shot dead by snipers, Albanian citizens (and I’m not talking only extremists) still having weapons in their homes, a few massive riots with more than a dozen soldiers getting hurt as the direct result of them, the same amount of Serbian houses set on fire, a few thousand Serbs less in Mitrovica, and to top it all of – a gun stolen not from a rookie fresh out of the academy, but from the KFOR commander Klaus himself, and still not returned.

So, why does the intcom tolerate it? Well, for the very same reason Tony Blair was so hawkish about a ground war – neither of them wants to look bad on TV. It would be hilarious seeing George Robertson, Cook, Clinton, or Blair standing in front of TV cameras and beginning their speech with “Remember those Albanian refugees…? Well… we’re no longer friends.” Of course, the question of why they took the Albanians’ side in the first place is a whole different, and a lot longer, story. But I must admit most of this is just sour grapes syndrome, because if I had to choose between a leadership with a bad foreign policy and one with no policy whatsoever, guess which one would be my pick.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: The author of this text is in no way funded and / or supported and does not fund and / or support the RTS, the Socialist party, Slobodan Milosevic, and / or any other part of the Serbian government. In fact, as far as the author of this text is concerned, all of them would have been arrested, prosecuted, jailed and / or buried alive by now.

Dinner with the folks

Although for most countries the holiday season is over, here in Serbia it has just begun. Because of the two-week difference between the official and the church calendars, Christmas is in January and we get to have two New Year’s Eves, one regular and one on the 13th. But one of many examples of the confusion that rules here in this country is the fact that nobody really knows why that is. Everybody calls this late New Year ‘Serbian’, and thinks, mostly thanks to a well-known government run media company whose name I mentioned so many times in the past that
I simply won’t waste any breath, ink, bytes or whatever on doing it again (okay, it’s RTS), that this ‘Serbian’ New Year is a gift from God to Serbs because they are a heavenly race.

Now, that maybe sounds just a bit too far fetched, but back in the early Nineties, when all this mess with Sloba (ie ‘Slobodan Milosevic’) began, more than 80% of people over 18 in Serbia believed that theory, and there are election results to prove it. I believed, however, that most of the people who voted for him, and most of those are the elderly, have either changed their minds or died of cold. But, as the past tense in the previous sentence suggests, I was wrong.

You see, at the start of the holiday season I had dinner with all of my extended family – aunts, uncles, and grandparents – the lot. Of course, everybody has those, so I guess I don’t have to point out all the joys of a family reunion. At one point, the conversation turned to politics… and it got scary… or should I say ‘bloody frightening’. The situation at the table represented perfectly the Serbia’s electorate in the early Nineties I already mentioned. And there were 15 of us there, so it was 12 against 3. And the fact that those 12 were much worse off in life than me and my folks made it look even more like an episode from The Twilight Zone.

I mean, there was my aunt, a housewife who even with the government scholarship has barely enough money to put her daughter through college, and has a son in the army that, was he only a year older, could have got himself killed in Kosovo, talking about how we actually didn’t loose Kosovo, and how the VJ (that’s the Yugoslav army) will come back there in a year, according to the UN resolution 1244. She also didn’t fail to mention the protests in Seattle against the US government and the
WTO, like it had anything to do with the situation here. And she doesn’t even know where Seattle is, let alone what the United Nations represent or what that number 1244 means. All the arguments she got were from RTS, and she kept repeating them like a parrot, not even understanding what the things she’s saying mean.

It would all be fine if RTS only affected middle-aged housewives who don’t have anything else to do in their dreary little lives than watch the news bulletins all day. But it’s not only them. Her daughter, the one in college, said that she’d rather starve to death than live a life of, I quote, “going to McDonald’s and watching TV all day”. Umm… what’s wrong with that? And it didn’t even make a lot of sense until I realized that an average American or western European (and that’s you), is represented on RTS like a person whose only requirement in life is to have enough Big Macs to eat and CNN to watch.

But I shouldn’t put all the blame on RTS. It’s also the Balkan mentality that rules here. A cousin of mine, a 20-something manual labourer who lives in Switzerland and has to work 12 hours a day to support his mother and sister back here, said during the dinner that the only mistake Sloba made was to give in to international demands once it looked like the bombing campaign wasn’t working and a ground war looked imminent. I won’t even try to understand the pattern his mind followed to come to a conclusion like that, but I had hoped until then that at least he, living outside the RTS’ reach, wouldn’t fall for the propaganda.

And although at times like that I wish I were adopted, having my family’s genes has a few advantages – like an unnatural resistance to flu. And it’s a flu epidemic in here, with more than 15% of the population infected, and a high probability that 10 more percent will join them.

And who’s to blame, according to RTS? Why, the Americans for not getting the vaccine formula right, of course. The poorly paid medical staff and the hospitals last renovated back when Roosevelt was president of the US (the first Roosevelt), aren’t even mentioned.

But it’s not only bad news this week. On January 10th, the opposition finally made a deal on a common strategy, demanding elections in April, and calling for massive street protests in March if the government doesn’t respond. The only thing government can do against them is to call them traitors on RTS, but the public grew tired of that long, long ago. It looks now like the elections will definitely be in April, and I can only hope that somehow I’ll be able to persuade my dear relatives not to go to the polls.

Another bizarre week

Strange things happened in Serbia this week – the government started election talks with the opposition, crime and entertainment, not politics, took over the TV screens, the first November snow in almost 20 years began to fall, and – the biggest mystery of all – there’s no longer a shortage of gas and electricity. To most people, all of this wouldn’t seem so related… but, of course, it is.
It all starts with the unusual weather the whole region has had this month – sub-zero temperatures, continuous rain, and sometimes even sleet and snow are not too common here in late November. With low temperatures comes the need for more power and heat, and if neither of them is available, which was the case just a few days ago, the people are unhappy. And if you have regular federal and local elections scheduled for the following spring, it doesn’t pay to have the voters mad at you because of “small” things such as how many of their friends and relatives froze to death.

So, what you have to do is provide a bare minimum of gas and power the country needs to survive a month without cuts and shortages – by pleading for help from “friendly” countries such as Russia, the Czech Republic and Greece. Then, you schedule the elections for just before you run out of electricity and heat, which will happen in early February, for there is certainly not enough to last trough the whole of the winter. And finally, if possible, you avert the attention of the people you are manipulating with less important events by giving them more entertainment on TV. The voters would then, in theory, think that things are not as bad as they’ve been told they would be by the opposition, and their votes would in turn go to the government – for doing such a good job of restoring the country after the war.

But, if there is no such thing as a perfect crime, there is also no such thing as a perfect election-manipulation scheme – and this example only proves it. It’s main flaw? It’s already been done. Of course, not at such a grand scale, but the basic elements of it has been seen many times before. The elderly, who are the biggest voters of the party in power – the SPS, get their pensions (which are more than three months late… “but as long as they’re there, who’s counting?!”), more roads, bridges, schools and factories are built in a month than in the previous two years combined, and phone and electricity bills are suddenly cut by a quarter. The only problem is, come post election celebrations, things are just where they were a month before the elections, so the people (and the opposition) have all to often had an opportunity to learn what happens when you do listen to the government’s promises. All in all – it’s yet another big mess the government has got itself into, dragging the rest of the country along for the ride.

A side effect of the government’s effort to give more entertainment to the masses is the fact that many important things, which are not related to either politics or daily survival, go unnoticed. For example, just released data has shown that the numbers of skinhead-related crimes have risen dramatically this year.

One reason for that is the “change of policy” that most of the white supremacy groups have accepted. They are no longer attacking only the gypsies, the only “coloured” ethnical minority of the 22 that Serbia has. Instead, they have shifted their tactics to attacking everyone who gets in their way, which, because skinheads usually do their rounds at night, basically means everyone who works the open-air night shifts – like garbage men, taxi drivers, prostitutes and the homeless.

Another reason for expanding neo-nazism is that the new members of white supremacy groups are getting younger and younger, the youngest registered being only 12, which means they have more and more members every month, doubling and even tripling in size in the last year, along with other such groups, like religious sects. However, there are too many bad experiences with fighting the skinheads for the public to accept another effort by the police. Just a few days ago, a 13-year-old was charged with intentionally knocking his gypsy teacher unconscious while they were trying to get into a bus. There was a relatively big media campaign in favor of giving him more than five years in prison, which was supported by the government. However, it turned out that a different student accidentally pushed the teacher out of the bus, and that the teacher lied about being unconscious only to get more media attention. Needles to say the charges were dropped, and the public started considering all such incidents, most of which are really connected to skinheads, as overblown.

But, the public gets it right most of the times. The government’s statements of “the great rebuilding of the country” are overblown. The public knows that. Statements from Russia, Greece and other “friendly” countries that they will help us no matter what, are overblown. The public knows that as well. When the opposition says that the government will fall in less than a month – it’s overblown. And, guess what, the public knows it. The only thing the public doesn’t know is what the hell is happening around them. Too many trees, too little forest – so easy to manipulate. The skinheads, the religious sects and other such groups know it… and so does the government.

Government botch job

It seems that the governments of both Serbia and Yugoslavia have a strange liking for bugs. First a terrorist organization called “the wasp” took the blame for an assassination attempt on Vuk Draskovic, one of the opposition leaders. After that a plan called “operation spider”, which alleges that the French intelligence service has been plotting to kill president Slobodan Milosevic, was uncovered by the Yugoslav national security agency. But, what is the connection between these two and the government?

First of all, there are no terrorist organizations in Serbia. The country in which more than half of the population is already being terrorized by the government, openly or not, is hardly a good place for promoting more terror, which is what terrorist organizations do. Nobody ever heard of “the wasp” before and in other words, as one magazine put it, it’s probably just an alias for “the government”.

And the “operation spider”? Well, I won’t go into the details of it, but it’s enough to check the credibility of that information’s source to see if it’s true or not. The person who first said that the French intelligence officers have been captured, along with the plans for the assassination, is the same person who said that those Albanian refugees who fled from Kosovo during the bombing campaign are just paid actors – the Yugoslav minister of information Goran Matic. And the television station who held the videotapes of the “interrogation” of the French spies for more than three weeks before showing them on air is the same station that showed the US soldiers captured on the Macedonia-Kosovo border less than 12 hours after taping them.

Of course, this time the government had at least some of the facts right (“A lie is best concealed between two truths”, said a character on The X-files). The prisoners really are citizens of Serbia working for the French, and the list of the French led operations in which they have been involved, including human rights abuses in former Zaire, is fairly accurate. But in no way does any of the evidence captured and broadcast on the TV conclusively show that the French intelligence has been making arrangements for the assassination of Milosevic.

So what to make of this poorly run PR stunt? It’s certainly not made for domestic consumption – Goran Matic is not widely known to the public, and if Milosevic really wanted to turn the country against the French he would have used Vojislav Seselj, the ultra nationalist vice president of the Serbian government, instead. This is just a lame attempt by the government to put Serbia back in the headlines of the international news channels. And if not for the poor choice of Matic as the news breaker, it would have succeeded.

Another bad PR job, this time for the domestic public, was an attempt to show a shipment of heating oil from the European union to two opposition run cities, Pirot an Nis, as a plan of the opposition to take money from the citizens of those two cities and gather a few cheap political points while doing it. At the customs, the cargo of oil that was carried by 14 trucks was declared as humanitarian aid, but because the legal definition of ‘humanitarian aid’ is rather sketchy, the customs office had a reason to hold the trucks at the border for two weeks. At the same time, the state’s shipment of oil to those two cities was halted, because the cities’ officials thought the EU trucks would be on time, so they wouldn’t have enough room where to put all that oil.

As it turned out they had plenty of room, as neither of those two shipments arrived. The government-run Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) also had enough room – to speculate that the opposition didn’t even pay the state for the oil, embezzling the money the people gave it for the heating, while at the same time intentionally leaving it’s voters cold so that the EU shipment would have greater effect on them.

But again, the news breaker, this time RTS, was the problem. The citizens of Nis and Pirot, who are mostly turned to the opposition, and who were the RTS’s target audience in this scheme, don’t even watch it. The only thing others have learned is that the Serbian law doesn’t cope well with humanitarian aid, leaving the government to choose which aid is acceptable and which is not. And most people in Serbia already know the RTS language – “definitely” means “maybe”, “maybe” means “certainly not”, and “certainly not” – “definitely”.

Actually, the only time people watch RTS is when it broadcasts football matches of the Yugoslav national team, to which it has a monopoly. And football has been the topic of the week here. Not only did we finally realise why the English were so persistent in delaying the Euro under-21 qualifying match (so that Michael Owen could play for them, of course), but we now know what is our World Cup qualifying group.

And with that, a strange pattern has emerged. It seems that the draw has a tendency to put Yugoslavia with either the countries that were once part of the federation (and with whom, needless to say, the country was once at war), or with its close allies. In the Euro 2000 qualifiers they were Macedonia (the only former republic with whom we weren’t at war, and who are now “friends”) and Croatia (“foes”), and this time it’s Russia and Slovenia.

Now everybody is asking themselves – is it really just the luck of the draw?