Way back when Ceca was still a Velickovic and Vuk Draskovic was in the opposition, I realised that rule of law is something like the Holy Grail that you have to fight for, search for and believe it exists, no matter how many times reality proves you are on an impossible mission.
Some say that they’ve seen it, that it really once existed.
Some adventurers swear that they have visited distant lands where it couldn’t be more real.
Others shake their heads at these stories and declare them fairy tales, superstitions, politics, entertainment for the masses.
I’m not talking about fairies, witches, Loch Ness monsters, and other imaginary creatures. I’m talking about the rule of law, of course.
In my almost four and a half decades of existence, I have mostly encountered the right to rule rather than rule of law. And it’s an unlimited right to govern too, in any way that suits the ruler in any given moment; without any restraints, controls, sanctions or, God forbid, institutions that would control, curb and direct that rule towards respect for…
Rights? Constitution? The law? Ethics? Morality? Basic politeness?
Along with the mystical rule of law, these concepts can increasingly be found in beautifully illustrated books we read to children at bedtime, rather than in our society and our everyday lives.
(I didn’t mean this seriously and no, don’t read the Constitution to children at night, they will dream of Kostunica or something much worse)
I’ve encountered the right to rule however the ruler pleases back in the tender days of my youth. Way back when Ceca was still a Velickovic and Vuk Draskovic was in the opposition, I realized that rule of law is something like the Holy Grail that you have to fight for, search for and believe it exists, no matter how many times reality proves you are on an impossible mission.
The reality of these heroic struggles of mine usually manifested itself in the form of a cordon of police jumping at you, which would usually make me forget the honourable search for rule of law and seek a hideout.
No one can take away my right to be afraid of the police, be it back then or today – especially since I’ve spent decades haunted by the feeling I am guilty of something either way, and I’d be toast if I got caught.
It often happened that I head to the polls, cast my vote, and the state steals that vote from me – eats it, loses it, or it simply disappears.
Then I would take to the streets to demand the rule of law, and on the same evening, instead of being recognised a brave fighter for truth and justice the national television would call me a traitor, a foreign mercenary, a force of chaos and madness, or a little more gently – a handful.
I realised that I have the right to vote, but I have no right to expect that my vote will be counted. It’s only my fault I obviously circled the wrong answer. I never did well in quizzes.
Although there was no rule of law, in those years, someone only slightly older than me had the right to be mobilised, and sent to one of the wars in which Serbia did not participate.
Interestingly, after being at war they would often lose all the rights that veterans should have in times of peace.
Poor and hungry citizens had the right to invest their modest savings in one of the sensational pyramid banks that promised high interest rates.
These were empty promises to say the least, and the banks were closed soon after they’d taken advantage of the people, with their owners locked up shortly after.
After the change of government, we expected the rule of law to come to Serbia any time. After all, we welcomed the Rolling Stones, so how could we not have this rule of law.
Unfortunately, just like great bands sometimes send their opening acts to play, take money, and run away before dissatisfied fans realise that they have been deceived, so the rule of law, which would occasionally peek out, soon disappeared. We started to realise that even these ‘new’ ones will not give us the privilege of living in a normal, orderly country.
And finally, in this last phase of our lack of rule of law, which has been happening for almost ten years, we have reached a touching, so-called “retro” situation, known to some as “I love the nineties” in which I am again a traitor, a foreign mercenary, a servant to embassies, and sometimes (mostly at night when it’s a full moon) a Satanist.
I am aware that we will probably never reach that Holy Grail of rule of law here, but if you think that these are the words of a defeatist, a depressed person, a man who has lost hope – you are mistaken.
Fighting is my middle name.
The more unattainable the goal, the greater my persistence.
The flame of freedom is smouldering in the captured state.
That flame is in my chest.
I take to the streets and resolutely demand the immediate establishment of the rule of law.
Either that, or I’ll be causing total chaos.
Oops, it’s the police!
I better get home and finish this column, it’s a bit chilly for March too.