Saturday-Sunday, June 22-23, 1996

Writings from the twilight

The Contract

The essence of living has come down to a consensus between the majority of people and the government, to the silent contract "Do not bother us, and we won't bother you." It is one of the primary reasons why the anticipated upheaval of the workers was nipped at the bud by establishing open, subsidized and highly attractive means of survival through smuggling.

Filip David

There are written contracts between one state and another, or between the state and its subjects, that change and forge history. There are also unwritten, silent contracts, whose goal is to maintain the status quo, and avoid any possible change of the present condition.

The years behind us have witnessed an enormous shift in the areas of group and individual values, and our way of living. Several credible surveys indicate that over 80% of the population of new Yugoslavia [Serbia + Montenegro] subsist on the black market and smuggling. The populace is allotted minor (border and open-market) deals, while the criminal and political elite -- united in greed and business -- is in charge of those that net unimaginable profits, literally overnight.

The fact remains that it is impossible to make ends meet by doing only honest jobs. Wages are humiliating; services, especially those intellectual in nature, cannot be charged [appropriately]; salaries and pensions lag several months behind. What existed even before the sanctions -- parallel life in the dark spheres of corruption and "wriggling" -- has become an integral part of the system during the isolation. Laws of the Wild West ruled the economy.

Return to the international financial market, with its universally accepted norms of doing business, now poses grave problems before our troubled economy, while respect for the law faces many thousands of people with choice of survival. With a bit of irony, and much more sincerity, some mourn the lifting of the sanctions. "Re-impose the sanctions!" wail the managers of many firms that prospered at the time of isolation, largely on illegal dealings, but who are hopelessly down-bound now.

With a strong reason, the conviction that one cannot survive without crime to a smaller or greater extent became one of the rules of life. Almost all state institutions have been converted into establishments with the ultimate goal of squeezing out the last dinar from the people, instead of alleviating the harsh conditions that befell these men and women. Flow of cash has been diverted to the underground, and almost none of the banks do normal banking, just as those who are supposed to defend the laws are often the ones that break them. Several very basic rights -- right to work, human rights, right to truthful information, security in everyday life and work -- have been transformed into very abstract notions.

Fear from the legal world market, the legal flow of money, and normal life, is based upon reality. How can we enter the world market with factories that forgot how to manufacture, with outdated machinery and poor-quality products? How to become a citizen of Europe with the income that does not meet even bare needs? We have become the prisoners of a system of insurmountable obstacles -- ideological, financial, and bureaucratic -- that need to fall if there is to be communication within the country, but also with the outside world.

The essence of living has come down to an agreement between the government and the people, to a silent contract: "You leave us alone, and we will leave you alone." It is one of the primary reasons why the calls for strikes remained unanswered, why nobody listens to the moans of the destroyed middle class, and why the predicted upheaval of the workers was nipped at the bud by establishing open, subsidized and highly attractive means of survival through smuggling.

At the same time, around all the misery that becomes more and more apparent, around the pain and sorrow that are ever more ubiquitous, a halo is being drawn of fake splendor, nonexistent grandeur, imaginary victory. Like, important historical pretensions were realized, significant military success was achieved, all in spite of the obvious sight of defeat; a monument of wisdom, power, and geniality is raised to those responsible for doubtless loss.

This all creates yet another form of collective psychosis. What began as the "happening of the people" -- invoking the suppressed hatred, the `collective unconscious', mass psychology -- is now terminating with formation of collective amnesia, a somnambulistic view of life, where one begins to believe that nothing of what happened really happened, so why change anything; we were always better off the way we were, better than in Somalia, though, admittedly, less well than in Switzerland. Our bards, grizzly-haired historians, and famed wise men -- supporters of baptism of a nation by pain and endurance -- tell us that lives of suffering but proud nations are paved with thorns.

Pathetic story continues of the "heavenly nation" cum smugglers' nation. Collective amnesia contributed to collective blindness. Political force gives repentance to its people for their poor response to the call of defending national interests, while the people give amnesty to the leaders for all the trials and tribulations they shoved it into. It is a contract of non-invasion, when each is left to oneUs own means. There was no war, no suffering of the nation, no crimes and no criminals...the obvious truths are willfully inverted, defeats are taken in as victories, humiliations as peculiar means of preserving pride; so be it -- absurd after an absurd -- just leave us some space to make it in this struggle, the most important of all, for survival. But everything has its price, and so does this contract. The circumstances we live in, and all that preceded them, raise the price we pay for these compromises. A part of the silent contract was drawn in blood of others and ourselves. How long can this way of life and thinking sustain itself? It is hard to predict accurately. In general amnesia, many have forgotten what a normal, civilized life is like. The twisted has become normal. Anyway, this is the way that leads to Europe -- that macabre part of Europe and the world that is on the other side of the ethics and the law.

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