We were not ready for a leap forward – the smallest possible one was made

Srđan Perić

 The long-lasting government produced a state of mind in which we can hardly distinguish between what is beneficial and what is harmful to us. All that should strengthen democracy had been weakened or distorted beyond recognition. Intellectuals, activists, the media… anything that was critically oriented faced a serious challenge. After the change of government, the choice was the following: either there would be a fundamental dismantling of political thinking and then of practice, or we would go loot for prey. Metaphorically speaking: either we see it as a crossroads with the opportunity to choose a different path, or we watch the rise and fall of actors unfit for this historical moment. Instead of an intersection, we got a lever. We were not ready for a leap forward – the smallest possible one was made.

Instead of a fundamental and thorough social reform and a replacement of key system personnel, we have been flooded with demagogy, and in the near future the price we pay will be in extremely unstable public finances. An incidental victim of the process has been the entrepreneurial spirit – we’ve been sold on the idea that if we borrow and spend more, we will have more, and that the ideal job is a state one.

A pattern has been established, we have people who are professional winners of transitions – every single one. They can celebrate new leadership, because it managed to marginalize a significant portion of those who brought about the change in one way or another, and often to create reformers – sometimes even experts – from the servants of the old regime.

The issue of understanding the role of the media has now reached a new dimension. We too have been affected by the global trend in which the media are increasingly being reduced to producers and distributors of information with the economic goal of profit through trading in influence. The exceptions are precious, but insufficient for the needs of true democratisation. The change of government did not end the practice of media “blacklists” – some expected, some surprising. We are in the middle of sharing spoils, and black and white optics are needed for that work. On top of all that, the position of editors and journalists has been devalued to the point of making the profession meaningless – because the new government doesn’t show sensitivity to the viewpoints of those who actually helped it get to power, and media owners, as a rule, don’t understand the existential problems of their journalists.

As a result, we have a situation where there is not even an indication of broad social dialogue. The reasoning is simple: there is an absence of the capacity to hear and listen to that which is different.

Democracy is fragile in its nature, but its basic principles should give it vitality. One of them is the unquestionable rule of the majority. We managed to distort that principle, so by way of various excuses, our state is managed by structures with a very low overall level of trust among the public. Once again, any hope that we will finally indiscriminately apply and interpret the Constitution and the law has proven to be unrealistic. And there is no need to personally stigmatize anyone here – we don’t know any different, and the new management neither knew, or – as it turns out – wanted any different.

In recent weeks, we’ve felt a new political impulse – the election of a new President of the state, after the defeat of the current president, who at the same time stepped down from the leading party position. There is an opportunity to finally start voting for something, and not against someone.

We are facing a slow process of re-education about the fact that we have every right to fight for freedom of thought and speech. If we still have to write about this in 2023, then we can even be happy with our spot on the Freedom House scale relating to the state of democracy, political freedoms and human rights.


Srđan Perić is a civil activist, one of the founders of the Preokret movement