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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Tanja’s flight over the cuckoo’s nest

By Gašper Blažič

“Where do we get if we are not like ourselves.” This thought of Gregor Čušin, which I read in the new issue of Družina weekly, somehow brightened my day. He derived it from an anecdote when he escorted an elderly lady from the store who needed help and to whom he seemed “somewhat familiar”. And he really did look a bit like a famous actor. And she could not recognise the identity of the person who helped her, even though he confirmed his identity. But with this, she at least somewhat explained the concept of “singularity”, which has been used very often recently – which is welcome, at least because people are increasingly somehow getting lost in the mass of pre-divided classes: ours-yours, Janša supporters, fascists, and so on.

The thought that we are “similar to ourselves”, i.e., something special, in its own way frees us from everyday greyness and the imposed consciousness that we are just part of a wider crowd and that we cannot do anything by ourselves, because an individual as such, means nothing unless specifically “chosen”. That is why I might link to a topic from one of my previous columns, namely Jančar’s drama “The Great Brilliant Waltz”. In the “Freedom liberates” psychiatric institution, the hospitalist Volodja also appears, i.e., with a name that in Ukrainian means an abbreviation for Vladimir (Ukrainian: Volodymyr), but in this context he is actually an “ox”, i.e., someone who looks mighty, but is actually without “balls” for any kind of rebellion against the existing system. His most famous statement is: “Nobody is from the outside. We are all inside. We are all in.” Because the path to this institution is one-way and visitors also become patients of this “venerable” institution. Volodja’s statement metaphorically illustrates, as Dr Tomaž Toporišič wrote, the hopelessness of human existence, the impossibility of any activity, a kind of surrender to fate.

However, the motive of the psychiatric hospital is not so original, but in its own right it is very suitable for illustrating a system that takes care of killing a person’s “self-similarity”. Ten years before the release of the aforementioned Jančar’s drama, the now legendary film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest appeared on the big screen, which also takes place in a similar setting, and the message is also very similar. Head nurse Mildred Ratched, who never smiles once, with her authoritarian management of the institution, symbolises systems that place themselves above human dignity. “Do what we tell you, and you will not lack anything,” is one of her most characteristic statements. But here, of course, the main character is McMurphy, who tries to awaken the other patients with a rebellion, to whom he actually returns the stolen identity. Unfortunately, he fails to destroy the system, but thanks to him at least someone got out of the institution he was in, which the idealistically oriented partisan poet Kajuh would otherwise describe: “…because we are not just numbers, we are people…” Purely by the way: Kajuh did not live to see the beginning of a new social order in which he himself would again become a number and not a man, which he probably did not realise when his heart burned not only for liberation from the occupier, but for a new order. However, as Jacques Maritain would say: on the one hand, there is nothing in the world more precious than a single human person, and on the other hand, nothing is treated more wastefully than human beings…

Although someone may say that the aforementioned American film can also be used as a critique of 21st century democracy, capitalism, and globalism, it should be noted here that the destruction of a person’s “self-similarity” always has the same roots, regardless of which system is happening. In the case of ordinary people, it happens as their depersonalisation, but in the case of rulers, it is an extreme pragmatism and sometimes grotesque imitation of their political opponents, if they discover something useful in them. Of course, what is useful is first torn apart in a destructive way because they are the opponents. In this way, the bearers of the system actually depersonalise themselves and become imitators of their anti-ego. In other words: they are no longer like themselves. In a normal democracy, such a phenomenon may be grotesque-comic, but in the conditions of guided democracy, such as we have in Slovenia, the phenomenon can also be extremely dangerous. However, with the remark that guided democracy would not thrive if it did not have suitable conditions for it, namely people who are willing to support it more or less consciously in exchange for this or that privilege or at least for a relative sense of security. In the psychological profile of the average Slovene, the sense of security and the need for peace are very high on the list of values, so it is not surprising that the vast majority in the elections, due to the artificially induced “state of emergency” that lasted for two years, preferred the option that brings virtual peace.

And if you were already looking for examples of imitators of their anti-ego, then we should highlight the example of Tanja Fajon. That Tanja Fajon, who, as a member of the European Parliament, called the visit of former Prime Minister Janez Janša to Kyiv (together with colleagues from the Czech Republic and Poland) a farce. And now she herself has agreed to an attitude that is farcical for her and her colleagues from the ranks of European socialists. This visit happened very soon after Tanja’s “promotional” flight over the Karst fire, after she shed crocodile tears from her holiday in Dalmatia (otherwise I am happy for her holiday, make no mistake). In any normal country, such an attitude would be immediate political suicide. However, this is Slovenia, and here it is possible to indulge in such behaviour without much risk, if you have on your side the pliable spines of those who long ago surrendered to the fate outlined by the “Big mushroom picker” in the 1970s with the famous formula “… if it was not us, it would mean that it is someone else…” And after all, Fajon and her “proud successors of ZKS” are just part of some wider system that can sacrifice her to take a step forward. The only thing foreign media will notice during her visit to Kyiv is that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was not among her interlocutors. He is not the nurse Volodja from “The Great Brilliant Waltz”.

However, Tanja’s episode in Kyiv will be forgotten rather quickly. The Ukrainian hosts will politely applaud her and take a breather, because even after the change of government, Slovenia did not change the direction of its foreign policy, despite different expectations. Some foreign analysts will probably laugh bitterly at her, saying that a wolf changes its coat, but not its character. The domestic public – except for the “Janša supporters” – will applaud her, saying that this is how state politics is done. The main battle for power is being fought elsewhere, certainly on home soil, where the revision of the previous government’s “harmful measures” is already taking place: RTV is being deposed, the long-term care law, the Demography Office, the highway police are being abolished… and civil society extensions of the current ruling transitional-predatory luminaries are being rewarded. Perhaps Fajon is even aware that among the presidents of the coalition parties she is adopting the attitude of a clown and that she may even voluntarily accept the role of a sacrificial lamb for the realisation of “higher goals”. Here it must be recognised that the bearers of the succession of “advanced forces” are exceptional disciples of Lucifer, who is ready to bite off his own tail just to achieve his goal. And it will succeed as long as we are all mentally “in”.

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