Image credit: Kevin McNamee-Tweed, "Untitled," clay

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The Slovenian pop group Zaklonišče prepeva [Air-Raid Shelter Singing] recorded the song Samo da prođe demokratija [If Only Democracy Would Pass]. Their video clip made the rounds on the Internet and social media in the post-Yugoslav countries when it came out in 2014. There have been other videos like this one over the last twenty, twenty-five years. The band wasn’t particularly compelled by originality, in fact not at all. Using trite language and images, they assault our flagging, benumbed memory. Everything in the video—the music, the words, the backdrop—is a belabored quotation. The empty industrial hall, the actors there as extras, the band striking poses straight off of old communist posters, their gazes suggesting an unwavering faith in the future, the singer with his Che Guevara beret. There's the accordion player with his accordion, and the three flags—blue, white, red—symbolizing the Yugoslav divorce, while the red star, of course, is nowhere to be seen. Everything in the video has an amateurish feel, and the lyrics are squeamishly thick with clichés.


“I’ve come down from horse to mule, I plod along like a ragtag fool, no longer do I buy the fairy tales / I slave at two-three jobs a day, never an end to the bills to pay, how do old mothers ever survive / Our grandfathers fought in the war, many of them gave their lives, is this what we were fighting for? / They sent Krauts and King packing, they knew he was a hack, they toppled every single foe / If only democracy would pass, and straight to hell with the top dogs, dogs / If only democracy would pass, so we can live again like people. / The top dogs rake in the dough, play golf, drive jaguars, on our backs sit the scum / There is only a handful of them but a whole pack of us, losers, let’s show them they are done.”


While listening to the lead singer’s penetrating, clarion voice, the older listener can’t believe that someone so young would be revisiting the spent language of social critique—the language of the 1970s student demonstrations, the peasant uprisings against greedy landowners and cruel tax collectors, the language of political criticism with the vocabulary that was key to the Partisan movement (their great-grandfathers!) (foes, Krauts, top dogs, etc.). Yet this pop-protest is aimed at the current transition phases that are still ongoing (although the Yugoslav divorce happened almost thirty years ago!). One can easily misread the last line, “let’s show them they are done” as: “let’s show them we are done.” The most visually and semantically striking detail in the video is at the end: the inflatable Father Frost on the floor of the empty hall, deflated and trampled. The camera lingers on Father Frost as the dummy gradually inflates and fills out.1 The video attracts post-Yugoslavs; its appeal lies in its precision, stripped of all affect, and its feel for the hopelessness of protest inherent in the very call to protest.


So here we are, we’ve broken through to the end, reached democracy’s nadir. The more protests there are, the less effective they become; the more channels there are for sending messages, the less the messages are heard. We are all denizens of Hyde Park, each of us with our right to the speaker’s corner. Political language has lost the impact of faith and conviction, it is emptied of meaning: people organize themselves by the herd instinct, to the left and to the right, believing that thanks to the left-wing or to the right-wing they’ll keep their job, or find a job, or, maybe, retire. The language of political protest has lost its muscle, protesters come and go. Slogans, nudity, flowers in hair, women’s bared breasts, the living Jesus on the cross, self-immolation, the Hong Kong umbrellas—all of these flash through the newspapers and across screens and quickly sink away into darkness.


Maybe we should have listened, twenty years ago, to what the peasant women at the outdoor market were saying. The newly ensconced Croatian authorities in the early 1990s introduced many changes, among these a brief disruption to the daily life of Dolac—Zagreb’s central outdoor food market—by sending armed guards in special uniforms to patrol the marketplace. The peasants who came to the market to sell their wares—women from the villages near Zagreb, selling homemade cottage cheese, corn bread, and fresh eggs—did not appreciate the presence of the uniformed guards. When the boys in blue showed up, the women signaled to one another, “Time to go, girls, uh oh, democracy is coming!”


More than twenty years have passed between the line “Time to go, girls, uh oh, democracy is coming!” and the lyric “If only democracy would pass, so we can live again like people.” Thirty years have passed since the Berlin Wall came down. Will anyone, amid the euphoria of the celebrations, have the presence of mind to ask what has happened, lo these thirty years? Why would young people today be hoping for “democracy” to disappear so they could “live like again people”?!


Where is democracy? Why does an old woman in Sarajevo light a candle for Tito every year on the anniversary of his death? It’s because she believes that Tito emancipated women in Yugoslavia, by allowing them to stop wearing the hijab. Today the old woman’s great granddaughter is back to wearing a hijab and resents the old woman’s ‘emancipated past.’


The institution of the church, which has drawn women back under its wing, is doing a bang-up job of subjugation, and has made itself the closest ally of the post-Yugoslav ‘democratorships,’ the new states—busy producing a simulacrum of democracy. The church is more efficient as an institution than the state is: there are more hours of catechism class than there are of computer science in the schools; there are more crosses on the walls of Croatian hospitals than there are supplies of hypodermics, bandages, and cotton batting. The hospitals suffer from a shortage of nurses, but not from a shortage of priests and nuns poised to hold vigil by the bedsides of the dying; thanks to the church’s pro-life propaganda, the fifth public hospital in Croatia has now decided to deny abortion services. The church is the most totalitarian and efficient system of all: they take everything, and in return they sell the tepid water of comfort.


What democratic freedoms are left, for instance, for the people of Skopje? The city has become, overnight, one of the most grotesque of all European capitals, with everything the crazed town fathers and architects, consumed by ‘archaicizing’ the city, have dreamed up. Today Skopje is a European Disneyland, a city in which there are more public sculptures of famous Macedonians than there are Macedonians; more state palaces built of plastic and plaster than there are apartments; more pointless tons of concrete, bronze, and cement than anywhere in the world. The desperate Skopje intelligentsia have pursued all the democratic forms of protest available to them, but nothing has helped: an amateur sculptress—someone’s wife, sister, or mistress—has infiltrated the city with her amateur bronze sculptures.


What are the democratic options available to retirees? Retirees cannot cover basic costs with their pensions, or, if they can, they end up supporting their unemployed children. What democratic options are available to Croats, Serbs, Bosnians, Macedonians and others, who have found themselves out of work in their fifties? Or what about the youngsters graduating from schools and universities every year and starting their professional lives? What democratic freedoms are available to the vast majority of people who do not have the resources to pay for attorneys, dentists, doctors, to school their children, or even to afford a roof over their heads? Democracy today is an umbrella term that encompasses many things: the praxis of merciless capitalist exploitation, the unfree media, media manipulation, the censorship of corporate capitalism, the production of lies, modern slavery… Meanwhile there are groups like a group in Split, calling itself the “Urban Rightwing,” who use their democratic right to protest by putting up posters everywhere with the words: Death to Communism! Where is the communism whose death they’re demanding? Where’s it hiding? In the salesrooms of Croatian Ikea?


There aren’t many animal species on Earth which devour their own kind. Rats, in this regard, are the masters: if they lose a food source, they eat their closest kin. So do people. If you’ve recently experienced people jostling you on the sidewalk, or muttering something nasty at you; or if someone walking by yanks the chain off your neck, or if people who used to be friends and acquaintances stop answering your emails; or if you can no longer count on the promises you’re given; the promise of the carpenter who said he’d come to repair your window, the promise of the gas man and the plumber, the promise of your hairdresser and pedicurist, anybody’s promise; if even your neighbor’s ten-year old kid spat in your face while the two of you were riding in the elevator—don’t worry, this is no figment of your imagination, yes, it’s really happening, you aren’t paranoid, the ten-year-old kid did spit in your face. But don’t take it to heart. Don’t take it personal. Because all this isn’t happening just to you, it is happening to everyone, people have trouble talking about it, the larger state of humiliation is far too widespread, so why acknowledge the little slights, though, to be frank, they’re the ones that hurt the most. No, things are not yet horrible, telephones still work, your best friends have you over on Saturday to celebrate a birthday, the messages from your acquaintances still appear in your email, though it’s true that there aren’t as many as there used to be… They appear, when you provide the initiative, you exchange the requisite messages, and then you and the other side sink again into many months of silence, after which the phantom bell rings once more, only to go quiet forever… Don’t take it personal, we’re at war, we have begun to annihilate each another, our food and dignity have been cut off, we’re useless. No, it’s not that people are being worse to you in particular, this applies to everyone, and they just happened to stumble across you, and the crueler they are, the more unfriendly—the greater their own anxiety. If you think you’re sinking, don’t take it personal, the people who are preventing you from clinging to the life raft are only briefly on it themselves, because they are so good at shoving away the unfortunate people who are drowning, including you. But I tell you, don’t worry, soon enough they, too, will find themselves in the cold, dank water, someone else will push them overboard soon enough, unless they’re kept on board the life raft to serve as food supply.


So pay close attention, you’ve watched your share of Mad Maxes, you know what you need to do. The war is upon us, stock up your cellars, stow away extra gasoline, you never know, a supply of matches and candles, shelves of canned food—these will come in handy when you need to trade, and you’ll keep yourself going with cunning. I tell you, the war is on, class against class, everyone against everyone, individuals against individuals, the signals still may be a challenge to decipher, but the war is here. Didn’t your next-door neighbor elbow you in the ribs just yesterday in passing? Crazy, you thought, as you weighed whether to confront them. Soon you’ll have to, because there will be no other option, you’ll barricade yourself in, drag home sandbags, we’re at war, it’s just that we haven’t quite recognized this yet, perhaps because we were on the lookout for clear signs of the apocalypse, but there is no apocalypse, only the post-apocalypse; the apocalypse is like diabetes, you don’t even know when you have it. Brace yourselves, because soon you’ll have to confront the faces of those who used to be on your side: the illiterate, brutal, armed to the teeth, the raging, wild, hungry, yes, the cannibals, the people who stayed alive themselves by relying on one skill alone—the skill of survival. And if you get through this, if we get through this, then maybe one day we’ll live again like people.




1. By no means is the image of Father Frost a random choice here: it symbolizes the betrayal of children’s expectations. The figure has been profoundly politicized in the imaginary of the transition, and, like many other things, it drives the traumatized citizens of the ‘democratorship’ to distraction. After the fall of communism, Father Frost was proscribed as a figure in Croatia. “We’ve murdered good old Father Frost, the whole path’s red with blood and guts,” is a ditty chanted by Croatian elementary school children.

Slovenska pop grupa “Zaklonišče prepeva” snimila je pjesmu pod naslovom Samo da prođe demokratija. Video klip živahno cirkulira među korisnicima interneta i društvenih mreža u post-jugoslavenskim zemljama. Istina, sličnih video klipova u ovih dvadesetak godina bilo je. Autori klipa ne mare za originalnost nego suprotno: izraubanim jezikom i imagologijom oni udaraju po našem izmorenom i otupjelom pamćenju. Sve je u tom video klipu – muzika, riječi, scenografija – mnogo puta upotrijebljeni citat. Prazna industrijska hala, nekoliko statista, glavni pjevač s Che Gevarinom beretkom na glavi, svi u pozi koju su skinuli s kakvih komunističkih plakata, s pogledima koji izražavaju nepokolebljivu vjeru u budućnost. Tu je harmonikaš s harmonikom i tri zastave -- plava, bijela, crvena -- koje simboliziraju jugoslavenski razvod, ni traga crvenoj zvijezdi, dakako. Sve u tom video klipu djeluje amaterski, a stihovi toliko vrve općim mjestima da u slušaocu izazivaju mučninu:


“Na magare sam pao s konja, jašem ko poslednji dronja; ne verujem više bajkama, dnevno šljakam dva-tri posla, a računa nikad dosta, kako li je starim majkama; Dedovi su ratovali, mnogi su živote dali, da li smo se zato borili, šutnuli su Švabe i kralja, znali su da on ne valja, dušmane su sve oborili; Samo da prođe demokratija, u tri krasne nek ide bratija, samo da prođe demokratija, i da opet zaživimo kao ljudi; Bratija zgrće pare, igra golf, voza jaguar, sede nam na kičmi skotovi, njih je samo jedna šaka, a nas gomila prostaka, pokažimo im da su gotovi.”


Slušajući jak i jasan glas pjevača stariji slušalac ne može vjerovati da netko može biti tako mlad i pritom se služiti tako iznošenim jezikom socijalne kritike (koja pripada studentskim demonstracijama sedamdesetih godina, ali i seljačkim bunama protiv velmoža i okrutnih utjerivača poreza, jezikom političke kritike s vokabularom koji pripada (sada već pradjedovskom!) partizanskom pokretu (dušmani, Švabe, bratija, itd.). Pa ipak, ovaj pop-protest odnosi se na suvremeno tranzicijsko vrijeme koje još uvijek traje (iako je od jugoslavenskog razvoda prošlo dobrih dvadesetak godina!). Posljednji stih, pokažimo im da su gotovi, po nekom jezičnom automatizmu čita se kao: pokažimo im da smo gotovi. Jedini vizualno i značenjski jaki detalj u spotu je sam kraj, slika Djeda Mraza na napuhavanje, koji leži ispuhan i zgažen na podu prazne hale. Kamera se dugo zadržava na Djedu Mrazu, koji se polako napuhava i zadobiva svoj oblik. 1 Video klip pobuđuje pažnju među post-Jugoslavenima; banalna preciznost artikulacije problema i izražavanje nemogućnosti protesta kroz pozivanje na protest njegova su snaga.


I eto, dogurali smo do kraja, do samog dna demokracije. Što je više protesta, tim su protesti manje efikasni, čim je više kanala za odašiljanje poruka, tim se poruke manje čuju. Svi živimo u Hyde Parku, svatko od nas ima pravo na svoj Speaker’s corner. Politički jezik izgubio je snagu vjere i uvjeravanja, ispraznio se od značenja: ljudi se grupiraju prema instinktu krda, udesno ili ulijevo, vjerujući da će zahvaljujući lijevima ili desnima uspjeti sačuvati posao, ili naći posao ili naprosto dogurati do mirovine. Jezik političkog protesta izgubio je snagu, protestanti dođu i prođu. Parole, golotinja, cvijeće u kosi, obnažene ženske grudi, živi Isusi na križu, samospaljivanje, honkonški kišobrani - sve to načas bljesne u novinama i ekranima i brzo potone u mrak.


Možda je već prije dvadeset godina trebalo poslušati što govore “kumice”. Hrvatske nove vlasti početkom devedesetih promijenile su mnoge stvari, između ostaloga su nakratko uznemirile uobičajeni život Dolca, glavne tržnice u Zagrebu, postavivši onamo naoružane, specijalno uniformirane čuvare reda. “Kumicama” – ženama iz okolnih zagrebačkih sela, koje na Dolac donose domaći sir i vrhnje, kukuruzni kruh i svježa jaja – nije se sviđala prisustnost uniformi na tržnici. Kada bi se pojavili dečki u uniformama, žene bi signalizirale jedna drugoj: “Bež’te, cure, eno ide demokracija!”


Od replike “Bež’te, cure, eno ide demokracija!” do stiha “Samo da prođe demokratija i da opet zaživimo kao ljudi” proteklo je više od dvadeset godina. Od pada Berlinskog zida proteklo je dvadeset i pet godina. Hoće li se itko u slavljeničkoj euforiji stići zapitati što se u ovih dvadeset i pet godina izdogađalo? Kako to da danas mladi ljudi priželjkuju nestanak “demokracije” da bi ponovo “zaživjeli kao ljudi”?!


Gdje je demokracija? Zašto jedna starica u Sarajevu svake godine na dan Titove smrti pali svijeću za Tita? Starica je, naime, uvjerena da je Tito zaslužan za emancipaciju žena u Jugoslaviji jer je Muslimankama skinuo hidžabe. Danas staričina praunuka nosi hidžab i zamjera svojoj prabaki njezinu “emancipiranu prošlost”.


Institucija crkve, koja je žene danas ponovo vratila pod svoje okrilje, uspješno radi na pokoravanju ljudi, i u tom je smislu najbliži saveznik post-jugoslavenskih “demokratura”, novih država koje simuliraju demokraciju. Crkva je efikasnija institucija od države: u hrvatskim školama ima više sati vjeronauka nego informatike; u hrvatskim bolnicama ima više križeva po zidovima nego zaliha injekcija, zavoja i vate. U istim tim bolnicama nedostaje medicinskih sestara, ali su zato otvorena stalna radna mjesta za svećenike i opatice da se nađu pri ruci umirućima; zahvaljujući crkvenoj pro-life propagandi već peta javna bolnica u Hrvatskoj odbija obavljati abortuse. Crkva je najtotalitarnija i najefikasnija institucija sistema: uzima sve, a zauzvrat prodaje toplu vodicu utjehe.


Koje su to demokratske slobode ostavljene građanima Skopja, na primjer? Grad je gotovo preko noći postao najgrotesknija evropska prijestolnica, primjer toga što sve mogu poludjeli državni oci i arhitekti kada im se prohtije da malo “arhaiziraju” grad. Skopje je danas evropski Disneyland, grad u kojemu ima više javnih skulptura slavnih Makedonaca nego samih Makedonaca; više državnih palača sagrađenih od plastike i gipsa nego stanova; i više besmislenih tona betona, bronce i cementa nego igdje na svijetu. Očajna skopska inteligencija iskoristila je sve demokratske oblike protesta, i ništa nije pomoglo: cio grad nastanila je svojim amaterskim brončanim skulpturama priučena kiparica, nečija žena, sestra ili ljubavnica.


Koje su to demokratske mogućnosti ostavljene ljudima u mirovini? Umirovljenici od svojih mirovina ne mogu živjeti, a ako mogu, onda izdržavaju svoju nezaposlenu djecu. Koje su to demokratske mogućnosti ostavljene Hrvatima, Srbima, Bosancima, Makedoncima i drugima, koji su se našli bez posla u dobi od pedeset godina ili pak onim mladim snagama koje svake godine izlaze iz škola i fakulteta da započnu svoj život? Koje su to demokratske slobode ostavljene onoj velikoj većini ljudi koja nema novaca da plati advokata, zubara, liječnika, da školuje djecu, ili da im uopće pruži krov nad glavom? Demokracija je danas termin koji pokriva mnoge stvari: praksu bespoštedne kapitalističke eksploatacije, neslobodne medije, medijsku maniplulaciju, cenzuru korporativnog kapitalizma, proizvodnju laži, moderno ropstvo… Pritom neki, poput splitske grupe koja se zove “Urbana desnica”, koriste svoje demokratsko pravo i protestiraju s plakatima na kojima piše Smrt komunizmu! Gdje je taj komunizam kojega treba ubiti? Gdje se skriva? U halama prve novootvorene hrvatske Ikee?


Nema mnogo životinjskih vrsta na zemaljskoj kugli koje jedu svoju vlastitu vrstu. Štakori su u tom smislu majstori: ako im se ukine hrana, neće prezati od toga da počnu jesti najbližeg svoga. Ni ljudi neće prezati od svojih. Zato, ako vam se u posljednje vrijeme događa da vas nepoznati ljudi gurnu u prolazu, ili da vam kažu nešto ružno; da vam u prolazu drsko strgnu lančić s vrata; da vaši donedavni prijatelji i znanci više ne odgovaraju na vaše mejlove; da se više ne možete osloniti ni na čiju riječ: na riječ stolara koji je obećao doći i popraviti prozor, na riječ plinara i vodoinstalatera, na riječ frizera i pedikera, ni na čiju riječ; ako vam se, dakle, dogodi da vam čak i susjedov desetogodišnji klinac pljune u lice dok se zajedno vozite liftom -- ne bojte se, ne umišljate stvari, da, sve vam se to zaista i događa, niste paranoični, desetogodišnji klinac vam je zaista pljunuo u lice. Najvažnije je da to ne uzmete k srcu. Don’t take it personal. Jer sve to ne događa se samo vama, događa se svima oko vas, samo je ljudima teško da o tome govore, opće poniženje pregolemo je, zašto onda priznati malo poniženje, iako, istina, ono najviše i boli. Ne, nije još strašno, telefoni još rade, vaši najbolji prijatelji vas u subotu pozivaju na proslavu rođendana, poruke vaših znanaca još se pojavljuju u vašoj elektronskoj pošti, iako su, istina, sve rjeđe…Pojave se, na vaš poticaj, izmijenite nekoliko kompulzivnih mejlova, a onda opet, i vi i druga strana, potonete u višemjesečnu šutnju, a onda opet zazvoni slabašno zvonce, da bi sljedećega puta zauvijek zatihlo… Don’t take it personal, mi smo u ratu, počeli smo istrebljivati jedni druge, ukinuta nam je hrana i dostojanstvo, postali smo bespotrebni. Ne, ljudi ne pokazuju neprijateljstvo prema vama, nego prema svima, a vi ste im, eto, slučajno naletjeli, i čim su okrutniji, neprijateljskiji, tim su ustrašeniji. Ako vam se čini da tonete, don’t take it personal, ljudi koji vas sprečavaju da se uhvatite za krajičak splavi i sami su na splavi tek privremeno, zato tako marljivo obavljaju posao odgurivanja nesretnih davljenika među kojima ste i sami. Ne brinite, kažem, jer uskoro će se i oni naći u hladnoj, tamnoj vodi, netko će uskoro i njih gurnuti, ukoliko drugi ne odluče da ih zadrže na splavi kao zalihu hrane...


Pamet u glavu, dakle, nagledali ste se Mad Maxova, znate što vam je činiti. Rat je počeo, opremite svoje podrume, stvorite zalihe benzina, nikad se ne zna, zalihe šibica i svijeća, zalihe konzervi sa hranom -- sa svime time ćete trgovati i tako pametno produžavati svoj život. Rat je, kažem, počeo, klasa protiv klase, svi protiv sviju, pojedinac protiv pojedinca, signali su zasada teško čitljivi, ali rat je tu. Nije li vas prvi susjed jutros bezrazložno munuo u prolazu? Luđak, pomislili ste, odlučivši da nećete ulaziti u konflikt. Uskoro ćete morati, jer neće biti druge, zabarikadirajte se, dovucite vreće s pijeskom, mi smo već u ratu, samo to nismo zamijetili, možda i zato jer smo čekali jasne znakove apokalipse, a cio trik je u tome da nema apokalipse, postoji samo post-apokalipsa, apokalipsa je kao šećerna bolest, i ne znate da je imate. Pripremite se, dakle, jer ćete se uskoro morati konfrontirati s licima onih koji su i dosada bili među vama: s nepismenima, brutalnima, naoružanima do zuba, bijesnima, podivljalima, gladnima, da, s kanibalima, s ljudima koji vladaju samo s jednom vještinom -- vještinom preživljavanja. A ako preživite, ako preživimo, možda ćemo jednoga dana opet zaživjeti kao ljudi.



1. Djed Mraz nije ovdje slučajno izabrani symbol iznevjerenih dječjih očekivanja, on je duboko ispolitizirana figura tranzicijskog imaginarija, koji, kao i mnoge druge stvari, sluđuje traumatizirane građane “demokratura”. Naime, nakon pada komunizma Djed Mraz u Hrvatskoj postao je proskribirana figura. “Ubili smo Djeda Mraza, krvava je cijela staza”, šaljiva je pjesmica koju skandiraju hrvatski osmoškolci.

Translator's Note

Ellen Elias-Bursać


In the Classroom