The first Belgrade Pride was finally held yesterday. Whether we can call it successful or not, is the question that waits for an answer. More than 1000 participants of the march walked through downtown streets of Belgrade to the Student Cultural Center while 5600 police officers tried to prevent 6000 aggressive hooligans from reaching nearby the participants of the march. The results of yesterday’s happenings are more than 150 persons injured (the number that includes more than 124 police officers) and more than 249 arrested ( one of them is the leader of far right movement “Obraz”). The estimated damage is more than one million euro, streets of Belgrade were again devastated, even the vehicle with a mobile mammography that was stationed on Nikola Pasic square was damaged and headquarters of Democratic Party and Socialist Party of Serbia partially demolished. Luckily, and thanks to effective police intervention, participants of the march were protected and none of them was injured. Generally, I am totally against violence and use of force but hatred, aggressive behavior and demolishing practiced by the raging groups had to be stopped. Moreover, Serbian police for once did the right thing… However, the police intervention does not solve the problem and I am going to come back on that later in this text.
Before I proceed, I have something more personal and less analytical to say. I am proud of all those brave and proud people who yesterday walked through the streets of Belgrade demanding their right to decent life. I can only try to imagine how much courage it took for that walk especially since the two previous attempts ended up in the way they did. In the same time, I am ashamed and embarrassed of all those who think that they are entitled to rage, beat and bully other people only because they are on one way or another different. I am ashamed of all those who are trying to limit the basic human rights of “others” and all those who are standing by side saying that is not of their business what is happening to others. Yesterday, I was sad and felt ashamed of the country I had grew up in /and this is not the first time that I felt like that. I was furious and in disbelief that unleashed wild mobs are again on Belgrade’s streets, destroying and robbing everything with the explanation that they are protecting core family values and “serbianess” by depriving other people of their basic human rights and freedoms, while shouting “Kosovo is Serbia”. Some of them were wearing t –shirts with crosses, others had masks on their faces, some were asking a holly religious man what they should do and how should they “protect” Serbia… Some of them on Saturday had “walked” the very same route (as Pride Parade yesterday), only with priests, crosses and icons as if they were exorcists from the period of inquisition. The other day, another group had announced their intent to organize on 10.10.10 a walk in Novi Pazar that would use 2 meters long crosses, icons and religious songs in order to show that Novi Pazar is Serbian town, or in other words to mark territory. Luckily, that walk was prohibited by the police, but the use of long wooden crosses and religious icons by both groups consisted of “highly patriotic” and allegedly, moral people really remained me on the period of inquisition and one good book that I read long time ago.
The book that I have in mind is Jean Delumeau’s “History of fear in Western Europe from the 14th to the early 18th century”, (La Peur en Occident (1978)) where he made a distinction between the fear and anxiety. While the subject of fear is something specified that one could face and confront, the subject of anxiety is not anything particular but an experience/sentiment in form of a “painful anticipation before some kind of danger” and that danger looks even worse since it is not clearly identified. The anxiety is the general feeling of insecurity. After he made this distinction, Delumeau use it to explain a period of collective traumatism in Western Europeans societies in the period between 14th-early 18th century, and shows how the anxiety was overcome by naming the fears. In other words, the feeling of anxiety, since its object is unidentified and difficult for people to cope with it, was divided in several “smaller” easily identified fears: fear of witches and warlocks (more of witches than warlocks since those evil woman were attacking male domination), solar eclipse, god’s punishment for their sins in a form of plague, etc. The moment those “fears” were named and identified, people, led by some prominent figures, started to chase all those their fellow citizens who looked “suspicious” (read different) and could be blamed for bringing particular misfortunes upon the society. The inquisition itself is a product of that anxiety in Western Europe. Does this story ring a bell? Can you place this story in the context of Serbia’s large group of right wing, xenophobic, fascistic, nationalistic, misogynists, homophobic people who are supported, inspired and even protected by some politicians, religious and public figures who were and still are regularly willing to put the blame on certain “suspicious others” for all the misfortunes? One of the biggest misfortunes that trouble this “highly moral and aggressive people concerned about their current and future children” led by “a holly religious man”, is the health of Serbdom. The scapegoated internal groups will be those on the weaker side of the power spectrum: for example NGO’s activist, women, LGBT population and all those liberal and critical minded people (especially journalists) as an internal traitors, while external environment, according to web sites of those groups, is full of Serbian enemies starting with Albanians and all the westerners.
This whole violence and destruction from yesterday did not happened exclusively because of the Pride Parade. The excuse could be anything. How many time have Belgrade been destroyed in the last 15 years? And what were the explanation for those destructions? “Children got mad because of Kosovo so they decided to break a few windows, what is wrong with that?”. Well, “the spirit of the game” meanwhile grew up a brand new generation of young, misinformed aggressives who are ready to use any opportunity to rob and destroy their pretty Belgrade. If Serbia does not put an end to that kind of behavior, any of Serbian citizens can wake up one day and realize that will have to walk the forbidden line because some idiot pointed at him/her and decided to reduce his/her human rights. And that’s why I was furious yesterday when I heard the Belgrade’s major who couldn’t resist not to put the blame for the destruction of Belgrade on the victims. Although the State officials verbally supported the Pride Parade none of them with the exception of minister Čiplić, MP Čedomir Jovanović, state secretary in resignation Marko Karadžić and some other parliamentarians none of the highly ranking politicians nor members of the Government didn’t show up to walk the line with their citizens. Where was the Belgrade major at that time? The USA Ambassador walked with his citizens but he, nor the President who hides himself from critics behind the skillfully tailored role of the only carrier and holder of the 5th October legacies, didn’t show up.
And to conclude this too long post with the question that a friend of mine asked yesterday on Facebook: Pride or shame? I would say both. Pride for those brave people who found the courage to “walk the line” even though they knew what happened in 2001 and 2009. And shame on those haters who are still entrapped in their 15th century’s inquisitional battles with imagined demons. What about the state? Well, there is long and a bumpy ride in front of the State. The police did its job –protected its citizens and the town as much as it could. But that is not enough. First of all, the state should really punish all those young savages from yesterday; then to create a consistent politics in relation to its political and social democratic values and goals and to set aside all those mythical dreams; to really guarantee all rights and freedom to all its citizens no meter what their sexual, religious or political orientations or ethnical background are; should start to educate its fellow citizens about various issues so that some of them stop living in a dark middle ages….well, the list is long, as I said, but let’s start at last .
And you my dear reader, what do you think? Is this a good sign- the fact that parade, even in this way, has been held? Can we speak about freedom when citizens of Belgrade and Serbia are allowed and able to walk streets of their own city only when approximately five police officers protect one participant of the march?