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Friday, April 19, 2024

Sabotage on stage

By: Gašper Blažič

I will probably be just one of the many commentators who on the day of Prešeren’s death, comment on celebration in the media, social networks, and backstage in general, which received a lot of attention due to what happened in the days before it. And it probably would have drowned in some greyness of the average and the proverbial alienation between the cultural elite and the people, if Svetlana Makarovič had not taken care of the “stealing of the spotlight” – which even the new intimate companion of Prime Minister Robert Golob, Tina Gaber, did not manage to do with her appearance in public with her new partner, and even less to the President of the National Assembly Urška Klakočar Zupančič, whose eccentric behaviour always caused quite a stir, but this time it was not noticed.

Personally, I have nothing against Svetlana Makarovič. She is the way she is. In her defence, I could perhaps say that those who need her have been using her for years and years to splash around in mud puddles. Namely, Svetlana dares to say out loud what her followers and like-minded people probably do not dare to. What Zeus thinks, Hermes speaks, you could say. And it is easiest to cast someone who operates on a stimulus-response system because of painful memories into the role of a useful idiot who does the dirtiest of jobs. We have gotten used to it. But perhaps it would be better if we did not, because through Svetlana’s red starred devils and pigs, violence against those with different opinions was legitimised. For now, only verbal, but we know from the history of the 20th century that small things grow into big things and that distant thunder can gradually develop into a storm of unimaginable proportions through the system of “cooking frogs”. During the time of the previous government, we saw what was happening on the streets and how the slogan “death to Janšism” became almost part of the “people’s” tradition. Well, conditionally popular, because the old Party always boasted that it does what “the people” gave it the authority to do.

This year’s celebration of the Slovenian cultural holiday is also the first after the big affair, which cast a dark shadow over many “autonomous” cultural circles. I am talking about the Fotopub affair, which exposed the previous perception of various alternative art events in the style of the emperor’s new clothes – chaining to a radiator and sexual abuse are not an artistic act. However, the affair sank into oblivion just enough that the board of directors of Prešeren’s fund was able to act fairly impartially and award a member of the so-called alter scene. And that is why we cannot blame the board for awarding awards exclusively to right-wing artists. Therefore, it is also redundant to say that the board somehow usurped the awarding of cultural creators, because this area is regulated by law and cannot be subject to the arbitrariness of this or that political party, which happens to be managing the Ministry of Culture that year.

Perhaps the public disclosure of the hidden sins of Father Marko Rupnik, Prešeren’s laureate in 2000, is to blame for the fact that Svetlana Makarovič, who should have received the award at that time, but voluntarily renounced it (at the time without explanation), changed her mind this time. As if to say, if they cannot take it from this old pervert /Rupnik/, at least they could give it to me (again). Namely, the end of 2022, when the previous president of the republic, Borut Pahor, said goodbye, also passed in some acceptance of already returned or unclaimed decorations. I do not know if in this case the idea of re-awarding the award, which was already rejected once (and was also rejected in 1979 by Janez Menart, who simply did not come to the award ceremony) is really the brainchild of Svetlana Makarovič or her whisperers. The fact is that the groups, which now controls the country, used this case – similarly to the case of RTV Slovenia’s jumping – to settle accounts with the members of the board of directors of the Prešeren’s fund. Of course, the tact in this dirty game was given by hostile literary organisations, such as the Slovenian PEN and the Society of Slovenian Writers, which played a rebellious role during the Slovenian Spring, but now for some time they have been a group of literary luminaries of the regime defending the gains of the revolution. The fact that they declared Makarović a victim with whom Prešeren’s fund is wildly calculating is already a proven tactic of reversed roles. According to this logic, Ukraine has been brutally attacking Russia for almost a year.

The celebration itself started rather awkwardly, as those who should have taken care of order escorted the media representatives from the stage much too late, who were chasing the best shots of the front row. Which is a pretty ugly stain on the direction of the event. It is a bad start with the choice of TV footage – in between, it deliberately showed the very part of the stand where Makarović was sitting together with Jaša Jenull and Boris A. Novak, and it was seen that they were deliberately on the edge so that they could make their way onto the stage as easily as possible – also foretold a bad end. And when the last credits announcing the end of the telecast disappeared (and we know it is always the end of the broadcast), the spotlights did not go out, the sound did not turn off, and the broadcast just went on. Moreover, one of the employees of Cankar Hall, who took care of the technology, even brought a microphone on a stand. That Makarovič could recite whatever she wanted. And that we all had to see and hear this in front of our TV sets, even if we did not want to. Also, how enthusiastically her performance was applauded by the Minister of Culture Asta Vrečko. Exactly her thing, but not on my behalf!

With this action, on the stage of Cankar Hall, in fact, its most representative hall, i.e., Gallus Hall (which, for example, also hosted the striking workers of Litostroj in December 1987), an unprecedented sabotage took place, in which the technical management of the event was involved, as well as the national television, which broadcast it directly. And according to all the rules, they should have shut down the transmission, and deny Makarovič the right to the microphone. But they brought it to her anyway. And many people remembered the inverted sabotage from the celebration of the declaration of independent Slovenia, which took place on June 26th, 1991, at the Republic Square in Ljubljana (in the immediate vicinity of Cankar Hall!). At that time, the Archbishop of Ljubljana Alojzij Šuštar blessed the lime tree, which was also foreseen in the script (this was also agreed upon with the management of the event a few days earlier), and the evangelical senior Ludvik Novak also read the blessing text with him. However, their voice could not be heard because the microphone “failed” because someone had turned it off. In the live broadcast of the event, one of the technicians of the national television already at the time when Archbishop Šuštar was already pronouncing the text, turned on the microphone, which is used to catch sounds from the crowd, so that at least he could be heard a little during the broadcast. No one from the participants of the celebration heard this blessing, because the microphone that would transmit the sound to the sound system was not working and it was done according to the instructions from the top – there are more and more indications that this order was issued by the then chairman of the presidency and former head of the Central Committee Milan Kučan – apparently someone turned it off on purpose. As for the muted microphone, the archbishop himself knew that something was wrong, and upon leaving, he expressed his disappointment over the incident to his secretary Anton Jamnik (now an auxiliary bishop and full professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Theology), as well as his belief that the road away from totalitarianism would still be a long one.

The antithesis, in comparison with the microphone brought to Svetlana Makarovič, offers itself. And she was applauded by the minister who recently liquidated the barely established Museum of Slovenian Independence. Which means that we are passing from the phase of cultural struggle to the phase of Maoist cultural revolution. Cheers!

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