A few young political thinkers from the Balkans have been getting a lot of international attention lately. Sergej Dojcinovic speaks with Serbian-Canadian film director Boris Malagurski and Croatian MP Ivan Pernar in search of political alternatives.
Time – that inescapable force that puts everyone and everything into the dustbin of history. If something has the power to change things in this world, it would be that. In the contemporary postmodern condition, today’s liberals become tomorrow’s conservatives overnight. That’s why today’s revolutionaries want to bring about change but are also constantly redefining how to go about it.
Revolutionary challenges have always found fertile ground in the Balkans, that perennial “melting pot” of Europe. Despite a wealth of issues worthy of addressing in the region, ranging from plutocracy and media suppression, to the EU and a general disregard for the everyday situation citizens are in, few people have managed to have their voices heard and their visions of what change might look like noticed.
A “revolution of awareness” is one thing to hope for, says Serbian-Canadian film director Boris Malagurski, who makes internationally popular political films that encourage audiences to think differently. His opinions are always in the public eye, and he has an online following of hundreds of thousands. However, maybe this is where the problem lies. The Internet, despite its many benefits, is also influencing politics in a very dystopian way: it gives people a voice, but can also restrict how much they expand on it.
“People are brainwashed by TV shows. Media is manipulating them, telling them they should opt for austerity instead of investing. Neoliberalism is killing the economy and people are still buying it!” Malagurski explains to me via Skype.
Neoliberalism has become somewhat of a swear word, something you would use to describe the Troika’s assault on Greece, or in Žižek’s attempts to explain why we are living in hell and why Goldman Sachs is the devil. But jokes aside, does this mean we are being deceived? Malagurski thinks so.
“Instead of learning from those who fought for freedom, such as Iceland, we are seeking advice from our slave owners on how to be good slaves,” he says.
I ask him about the unpredictable times we’re living in, dominated as they are by Trump’s victory, Brexit, and the general rightwards trend sweeping across Europe. How might all this effect Serbia’s European dream?
“Currently chasing the EU is like going on a blind date, you don’t know what will happen, but you still want to go because you are desperate,” he says.
I wanted to hear another perspective, from someone living in the EU. Everyone who knows Ivan Pernar, the Croatian MP for Živi Zid (Human Shield), knows him as someone who turned Croatian politics upside down. His unorthodox approach to politics is attracting both new followers and enemies daily. When he’s on a TV show that doesn’t give him enough time to speak, he leaves. Recently, he was removed from the Croatian parliament by security guards.
“They did it because I was defending my colleague who was being interrupted by the president of the parliament while he was talking about the former HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) leader’s criminal connections.”
It was breaking news and I was able to watch it live on his FB page’s live stream. I ask him what this means for Croatian democracy.
“Croatia is not fully democratic. In a democratic country, power comes from the people. In Croatia that is not the case, because it is ruled from abroad. People don’t decide anything, our government just serves foreign interests,” he says.
When Croatia finally entered the EU in 2013, it was considered historic. I ask Pernar how the EU influenced Croatia’s development, looking back on it now.
“If the EU was good for Croatia, we wouldn’t have a declining population and an increase in unemployment; we would be able to make our own decisions and not be ordered around by Brussels,” he says.
I ask him if all this is true, what kind of alternative future should Croatia strive for?
“The alternative to the EU is a sovereign state that has its own central bank, and is not owned by foreign banks that coordinate it through interest rates that cripple the budget,” he explains.
When I look at Croatia today, I see that many young people are packing their bags. I ask Pernar how people can be so silent about the most important issues facing Croatia.
“They first need to hit rock bottom; lose a job, lose a home, have their bank account blocked… Until that happens, people will pretend that real problems aren’t there,” he says.
I start getting the impression that Ivan might be an optimist, and that he believes the future is bright, so I have to ask him where he sees himself and Croatia in the future.
“Well, I will be wherever Croatian people want me to be, and I see Croatia in that way too; whether a sovereign country or not,” he says.
It’s not hard to see that people are unhappy with the current status quo. It’s kind of a paradox that we are aware of the problems but are waiting for someone else to solve them for us. I guess voices are not loud enough to wake everyone up at the same time. It takes time for people to change their mentalities and realise that change can only happen if they change themselves first.
If one thing is true, there are always two sides to every argument, regardless of which holds the objective truth. Democracy, being imperfect, therefore asks which side has the majority. If what Boris and Ivan are saying is true – that people are still unable to make sober and independent decisions, that people are manipulated and pretend problems aren’t there – who can we turn to for answers and change?
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Cover photo credit: Balkanist