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sreda, 20 oktobra, 2021

“Whoever is not with us is against us” or “whoever is not against us is with us”

By: Dr. Dimitrij Rupel

Some remarks on Slobodan Milosević and the Social Democrats. The second part of Stane Kavčič’s Diary and Memoirs begins in 1980 with the title Synopsis of Josip Broz and the author’s note on the “entry” of Russians into Afghanistan on January 3rd, 1980. The book ends with an accompanying word by Igor Bavčar and Janez Janša entitled Neither the state nor the Party can give happiness to a person – but it can take it away; this accompanying word begins with the sentence: “When the Party draws the devil on a wall, it draws it in the image of a liberal.” (Deviation: The main message of the elections in Germany is that it will not be possible to form a government without the Liberals! As the locals say, we should: remember it well.)

Although the former communists today call themselves the Social Democrats and in some inspired moments declare that their party is one hundred and seventeen years old[1], their biggest drawback is perhaps that their leaders read (too) little. Long before the historical and newly composed Social Democrats, the Latins already knew two things: 1) verba volant, scripta manent (words fly away; what is written remains), 2) quod non est in actis, non est in mundo (which is not written, does not exist at all).

In the spring of 1988, at the same time as Bavčar and Janša published Stane Kavčič’s Diary and Memoirs and when the Slovenian Writers’ Association prepared the Material for the Slovenian Constitution, popularly called the “Writers’ Constitution”, Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević shouted “Ne čujem dobro” (Eng. I cannot hear well) to the protesters and workers of Rakovica at a rally in front of the Yugoslav Parliament. He then promised them a showdown and war with the alleged adversaries, i.e. with Albanians in Kosovo.

21, i.e. 33 years later, Tanja Fajon and her party, which proudly (but somewhat unjustifiably) calls itself the Social Democrats, set up stalls in Slovenia and invited “for coffee” with the slogan “We hear you!” Our so-called Social Democrats have forgotten (if they are too young to remember, they have forgotten to read) that they were once one with Slobodan Milosević’s (ZKJ) party, which used their motto (“We hear you”) 33 years ago. Milosević said exactly the same thing as Mrs. Fajon. “I cannot hear well” means nothing more than “repeat so I can hear you better”. The Latins have already pointed out the “miraculous” feature of this call: words fly, get lost, and scatter, sprinkle, vaporise, evaporate… Slovenians have a good proverb: a word is not a horse! In Milošević’s places they say: we promise to make a fool happy, but in Slovenia until recently it was considered that a promise works a debt. We have to write down our debts, remember them, which means that financial balance sheets should be read, and especially the political programmes and texts of party leaders. At rallies and at stalls, they, their followers or critics, can say many things, but what is written is important.

At this point, I will step away from Milosević and Fajon for a moment. Namely, Andrej Umek published an important text on Nova24TV, in which he compares the activities of the current protesters and the announced KUL coalition with the events before the Second World War. The (left wing) protesters at the time, read the communists, entered (Kavčič’s expression!) into Slovene politics with the slogan “Whoever is not with us is against us!”[2] “This slogan,” Umek writes, “requires people to identify with one group or another. There is neither cooperation nor dialogue between these hostile groups.” Of course, there is no doubt that this is the talk about exclusionary predictions of the so-called left wing coalitions: that they will not allow any cooperation with parties affiliated with the government of Janez Janša. That in the camp, where they swear to exclusion, they did not think that the Slovenian state was founded under the slogan Whoever is not against us, is with us, is a kind of scandal. Excluders are revising the value foundations of Slovenian statehood.

Let me get back to reading and listening. Some politicians prefer to speak than write. Typically, it seems to me that left wing politicians talk more than they write, or do not write at all, and therefore cannot be “taken for granted”. Among the communists, the exceptions were Edvard Kardelj (who today experiences rejection due to his texts) and Stane Kavčič (who, on the contrary, is supported by more and more people, including communists). A special category of political leader was the Christian socialist and poet Edvard Kocbek. In Kardelj’s time, he experienced unjust exclusion, and later rehabilitation and fame. Due to his inclusion policy, Janez Drnovšek, who wrote relatively extensively, dealt with the public successfully. Demos politicians (Bučar, Jambrek, Janša, Omerza, Pučnik… as well as the writer of these lines) all wrote books in turn and – with greater or lesser success – tested our views with readers. It was reading time! In recent times, more and more politicians (Kučan, Bratušek) are ordering books to explain their policy from “ghost writers”.

Of course, the essential question remains: how to communicate political or any other ideas to the friendly, unfriendly or hesitant public as effectively as possible: by speaking or writing? Are readers, listeners or viewers more important? Perhaps the political audience remembered France Bučar’s statement at the expense of the playful MP with bananas more than his books: “You will not be silly here!” We remembered Drnovšek after the announcement “You will kill each other when I am gone!”; Pučnik after the statement: “Yugoslavia is no more, now it is about Slovenia!”; Kučan after warnings (“Tomorrow is a new day!”, “Nothing will be the way it was!”); and Danilo Türk after belittling the post-war massacres (“This is a second-rate topic!”).

Political speakers, as a rule, give preference to picturesque folk sayings (*some sayings are Slovenian): being silly; a word is not a horse; a bull in a china shop; a calf looking at a new door; to suit someone like a cow’s saddle; to hide money like a snake hides feet; scared like a rabbit; to be silent like a fish; to scream like a banshee; to saddle someone with a problem etc. There are, of course, no secrets in such parables, as can be discovered by reading more detailed descriptions and explanations. These and other similar ideas are at best stimuli, incentives for more thorough information. In this respect, speech and book, television, and Google Wikipedia are fatally and fundamentally different. With all the goodwill of the various television documentary channels, after all, with all the goodwill of the coming new technologies (e-books, speakers) and general digitisation, we will still need classic books.

Although it may be difficult to admit that we do not know something, after such recognition – let’s say it is history, geography, health or politics – we start research, explanations, instructions and recommendations. In such cases, we increasingly turn on the computer or turn on the phone. However, after a short (or longer) “surfing” we will find that we will not find out everything we are interested in. Online posts are equipped with an indication of the time we will need to read. Online posts are counting on us to hurry. Everyone is in a hurry today. However!

Sometimes we are in no hurry and we take our time – for important things. The most practical source of knowledge (information, cognition) are still books. Reading is a play on words and exploring secrets. The pages we read do not shut down and do not run away. If we forget something, we find them again immediately. We underline the data that are of particular interest to us so that we can compare them with other data in the same book or in other books. Online publications often do not have editors, proof-readers, correctors, in short, collaborators who check the data. Online publications, especially those considered to be better and more reliable, point out that their data are still unverified and invite readers to update…

And once again a departure: it will not be possible to form a government in Germany without the Liberals! This can be seen on television, but it will be even more reliable if we read a book about elections and liberals!

Dr Dimitrij Rupel is a sociologist, politician, diplomat, writer, playwright, editor, publicist, and former foreign minister.

[1] “On the 117th anniversary of the founding of social democracy in Slovenia”, Lukšič emphasised that the European elections must change the balance of power between the Social Democrats and the Conservatives, as they “force Europe to take money from the periphery and give it to German banks”. See: Ma. F., Lukšič: Slovenia must not become a colony, STA, Slovenske novice, August 15th, 2013.

[2] Andrej Umek, Activities of KUL and protesters – seen many times in all totalitarian regimes, Nova24TV, September 20th, 2021.


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