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Sunday, December 10, 2023

How to understand the phenomenon of Svetlana Makarovič

By: Marko Špendov

These days, Svetlana Makarovič caused a stir again. In fact, not even her, but the public institution RTV Slovenia, which decided to award her the Ježek Award for her cultural achievements. This event deserves some attention, because the phenomenon of Svetlana Makarovič needs to be considered in a broader context and also by taking into account those facts that may have been hidden so far.

Svetlana Makarovič (Photo: Daniel Novaković)

Perhaps, while reading the continuation of the text, someone will accuse me of defending Svetlana Makarovič. But I do not really care about that. We all know that she is one of the most famous Slovenian literary creators in her mature years. She is therefore a public figure, we know her political orientation and also her controversy. Of course, this does not mean that she is not a talented and creative person who also knows how to develop high quality standards in her creation. So-called high art, however, as we know, is not for everyone, and at all it is not a thing for the wider masses. Although we cannot deny that Makarovič also gave something from her work to the general public – at least to children. We know, however, that the majority of the public knows Makarovič after her controversial performances. Some therefore applaud her with pleasure, while others condemn and frown upon her performances. This is just a typical human reaction, which is mostly emotional and not so much rational.

In the case of the Ježek Award, it is difficult to assess how realistic the explanation of the jury led by Jelka Stergel is – the latter is not exactly a person who could easily be included in the staff of the transitional left. Let us recall: after taking power after the arrival of Pahor’s government, Stergel was relieved of her post as director of the Film Fund of the Republic of Slovenia due to the interest of the Ministry of Culture, which was then headed by Majda Širca (Zares party). However, later, as a member of the RTV Slovenia programming council, she demanded a session on Janša’s tweet about national television journalists, saying that councillors should not allow politicians to interfere with the media’s autonomy through gender discrimination in favour of public radio and television. She described the tweet as a discarded attack that resorted to insulting women and journalists. However, Stergel later signed an initiative with some other members of the programming council to dismiss the director general of RTV Slovenia, Igor Kadunec, the new director of STA.

Thus, it is somewhat surprising that someone who previously vigorously condemned the politically offensive tweets of politicians at the expense of female journalists is now calmly overlooking the controversial role of the writer. This is, of course, one side of the story that deserves a little more attention. Namely, we often read in the media about the awarding of prizes and recognitions, but almost never about the withdrawal of already awarded medals (we leave aside the athletes who were subsequently caught with banned stimulants). However, there is one exception: in September 2015, when the migrant crisis began in Europe, the Association of Journalists and Publicists withdrew Mešek’s honorary award to Sebastjan Erlah, allegedly because of a controversial tweet he wrote about the shooting of migrants at the borders. The tweet caused a lot of noise in both political poles, and it seemed that the subsequent withdrawal of recognition was mainly due to external pressures, saying that we must enforce high ethical standards. Reading between the lines, this also means that you make someone you gave recognition to a kind of debtor and limit their room for manoeuvre in expression.

But speaking of the shooting of migrants: very similar accusations have recently been directed at the candidate for constitutional judge, Dr Rok Svetlič. The latter denied this, even the one who supposedly made the accusation (Sašo Zagorc) pulled back. However, the damage was done, as Svetlič was already left without the majority support of the MPs and it would be a real sensation if he succeeded with his candidacy. I mention this example by the way to understand Slovenia’s dual attitude to the ethics of the public word, where we repeatedly encounter a proverb invented by the ancient Romans: what befits Jupiter does not suit cattle (or in Latin, where rhyme is better: Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi). Otherwise, we all know that the election of a constitutional judge cannot be compared to receiving an award or recognition, because a constitutional judge is a very responsible function that can even decide on the life and death of someone, if we caricature the role of the Constitutional Court. However, in Erlah’s case, we never got an explanation that if his “faux pas” had happened before the Mešek award, whether he would have received Mešek award at all or not.

In the case of awarding the Ježek Award, the grantor could be required to take into account the (un)ethical behaviour of the nominee for the award. However, this did not happen. Of course, this was followed by an avalanche of convictions from the other side, saying that Frane Milčinski Ježek was turning in his grave. But probably the awarder (and those behind him) wanted just that: to trigger public responses of anger and resentment. Sounds familiar? With all skilful protagonists of totalitarian politics, the rule has always been that they must master the masses with knowledge of the principles of the so-called crowd psychology. The awarding of the Ježek Award to Makarovič was a great marketing move by the deep state: it slightly distracted attention from political events, triggered emotional outbursts, with which the “other side” only confirmed the established reputation of anti-art opponents who do not know how to forgive. Of course, the rest, according to the criteria of the deep state, the “normal” part of the public reacts to this with resistance, saying, look at what they are like. It is therefore a move that deepens polarisation and division. This is exactly what the masters of the deep state wanted to achieve. And it must be admitted that they have more than succeeded.

It is understandable that Svetlana Makarovič is not the main protagonist in this story, but is just a means. The deep state, through its envoys at the expense of its visibility and brutal sincerity, exploits its wounds and inner sorrow, directs it to anger, and thus shapes its political capital. It is therefore one of the worst human abuses in recent history. At the same time, no one offers her the option of pain relief. Thus, we can rightly conclude that when they no longer need her, they will simply discard her. As has been seen many times in history.

And if I may add at the end as a Christian a revelation of the spiritual dimension of this problem, I can say that here the devil always appears and wins when he has the opportunity to dance on the medium of a vicious circle of resentment and resistance. Once we move this and cut it, we take power from the devil. And then even the tricks of the deep state will suddenly no longer work. If we ignore the attacks carried out through Makarovič and react maturely, the attacks will remain without effect. And that is our goal: to rise above what the deep state wants to achieve.

Marko Špendov is a sociologist, amateur historian, and publicist.


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