LET'S CONDUCT A VACCINATION AND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY CAMPAIGN DURING THE PANDEMIC, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

Autor: Director of CEAS, Jelena Milić

jelena milic4

I am begging Serbian pro-European and other associations of citizens, engaged influential individuals, and independent media – let’s unite and mobilize to encourage fellow citizens to get vaccinated and to be more responsible. Please, for the love of God, as President Vučić said to the pensioners the other day. If we manage to convince just a couple of them, it will at least be a start. Let's not reach the moment when we have more vaccines than the people who want to be vaccinated.

Instead, let's have a hand in creating a new lowest common denominator of shared values ​​that Serbia lacks more than anything, and resurrect non-profit, non-criminal, non-discriminatory, honest and inclusive PATRIOTISM! It is not a refuge of scoundrels, but a completely normal and very beneficial need of free individuals who live in a community with which they have a contractual engagement on the one hand, and who live in a globalized and very competitive world, on the other. The scoundrels only usurped patriotism because we were weary. Let's seize it back.

National (state) pride and nationalism are not the same thing. We rejoice when someone like Nole[1] wins. Whether we show it or not, his individual successes rouse the national pride in all of us a little. Why don't we do something ourselves that we would be collectively proud of?

The opposition and many NGOs say that the vaccines were not procured by Vučić , but by the people with their own money they pay for state health care system. Nope. There are wealthier and better-regulated countries that don’t have vaccines and a well-organized vaccination process. They didn’t have ventilators and Covid hospitals back when Serbia had them. The credit goes to  President Vučić,  Prime Minister Brnabić, the government, and others in the system who, with their excellent assessment of international circumstances, in the period of tough pressures and internal frictions, through personal contacts, resourcefulness, incredible work energy, and probably difficult decisions that may come back to haunt them, brought the country to this point. Serbia can boast of its achievements in fighting Covid19 pandemic on a global scale. Well done! Patriotism 101. We can't just talk about local companies that made money on masks and other relevant goods during this period. State leadership this time is what must be emphasized in the first place.

What prevents the rest of us from getting more vigorously involved in the fight against the pandemic as it is surging again, even without money or official functions?

The situation with the number of newly infected people in Serbia is again very grave. The competent state bodies and politicians we have elected to lead are doing exactly what they need to do in emergencies such as this pandemic, including making decisions whether to act legally or legitimately, which is sometimes not the same. They take risks with the next will of the voters, as well as how  the international actors will evaluate their performances and choices, assessing what has been the proper action to take and  what will subsequently be evaluated as appropriate or not. This is not a comfortable position.

It's much more uncomfortable than Zoom meetings, reporting on violations of procedures and the level of transparency of actions taken in Serbia during this unprecedented global emergency, often without an adequate reference system or sufficient knowledge of the real situation in other countries. These are activities for which influential pro-European local NGOs have proven themselves to be very capable of, when it comes to adaptation, self-preservation, operation and networking during the pandemic. It is a privilege that many do not have.

The medical part of the Crisis Response Team is just one of the very important groups of experts whose common goal is to combat the pandemic. However, in emergencies that, in addition to the health of citizens and the burden on the health care system, endanger the economy across the country, and which require a restriction of movement, deciding whether to prevent contacts and the spread of the infection by decrees and decisions or stick with recommendations and appeals, while allowing the services and other activities that cannot be performed from home to continue, is not easy at all.

Leave the crisis management to  the medical professionals the opposition and many NGOs loudly demand! But even during state of emergency caused by pandemic professionals who should be in charge are   economists, security experts, the army, organizers of online classes, to name just a few, and not just medical doctors. It is not easy to harmonize all these aspects just like that and to guide society with political and legal accountability. Especially so now, when we encounter situations we have never experienced before, globally speaking. One tries, makes mistakes, and corrects them. Something new happens in a scientific or political sphere, one applies it, takes risks, recommends, cancels. One argues. And breaks apart. Innocent dogs and dog owners suffer for a couple of days[2], but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. It is not easy for the states.

Therefore now, after a year spent mostly watching from the sidelines and nagging, with a few exceptions, the responsible, fully engaged, self-organized European-oriented citizens or pro-European associations of Serbian citizens should enter the scene. There is a formal consensus between the government and the majority public - and that is EU accession. Citizens and NGOs can be grouped and mobilized on other legitimate grounds, but I mentioned the one that is close and logical to me.

The powerful governor of California, Gavin Newsom, governs his state during the pandemic far worse, sometimes with insane prohibition orders, than the rising Republican star Ron DeSantis. In his crisis management decisions, DeSantis relied more on the self-responsibility and self-organization of citizens, as well as on their common sense risk assessment and their sense of duty to the community. He achieved excellent results striking the balance between stopping the pandemic, vaccination, and the functioning of the economy and society. DeSantis says that a large number of parents with school children moved to Florida during the pandemic because they didn’t want their children to lose a school year, or they could not afford it. Trump won the election in Florida, which also speaks volumes about the arrogance of the American Democrats, who claim that 70 million of his voters have to be "decoded" now.

In addition to free individuals, citizens just like those in Florida, who can self-organize and show a high degree of responsibility for the community, in Serbia, there is a large number of CITIZENS 'ASSOCIATIONS-NGOs, gathered around various goals, again  just like in Florida. This value that the concept of an open society brings to the community and the state is becoming an even more powerful social actor in today's world due to social networks that are aggregators of association and mobilization.

Unfortunately, networks are also multipliers of disinformation, and as a result  many don’t want to be vaccinated. Globalization has brought us not only disinformation but also too much information about various topics on the one hand, and too little knowledge of what is a reference source of information and what is not, on the other. Even more dangerous, once indisputable reference points such as global international organizations in charge of certain segments of collective emergency response planning and policies are experiencing an erosion process due to tensions of great powers, to self-discreditation and personal irresponsibility of their employees, as is the case with the UN, to espionage or active sabotage.

The citizens of Serbia and Florida, just like the citizens around the world, from dictatorships to democracies, are physically and financially exhausted and nervous as a result of the one-year state of emergency. Many have contracted the disease or lost someone. Many are broke. Others suffer from different illnesses in very difficult circumstances. Despite it all, many still have reservations when it comes to vaccines. This doesn’t make them Neanderthals, but the very image of a confused global citizen.

In Serbia, this is combined with a strong local admixture of media exposure of formally medically educated influential  manipulators. This is justified with "the media are commerce - the people want it, and the earnings from ratings and advertising are great"! Well, people want cocaine, but it is still forbidden. Don’t they get enough of profits from the supplement-immuno-industrial complex, which will soon stratify us economically, just like the narco cartels[3]? By the way, this cartels are  worse than progressive Serbian citizens assembled in pro Western NGOs according to prominent talking heads! These days, it is a dictated phrase that must be spread on all pro-government media  more than stories about an unbelieving minister[4] and the miracles of Arthriflex, Zglobex, and the immuno-everything which "help treat coronavirus and prevent death." Media-political-health-advertising-industrial complex.

Because of all this and much more, as the vaccines against the pandemic are produced faster than ever before (everything is faster!), with the internet and extra time due to lockdowns we read and listen  much more about the vaccines than we should (unnecessarily so?). At the same time, we trust the authorities, both locally and globally, perhaps less than we should. Hell of a combination. This is followed by "Serbian roulette" - a pandemic of Covid parties, that take place in Florida too.

I don't know what is the reaction to this in Florida, but in Serbia, there is an influential segment of society that currently spends more resources nitpicking whether one newly built Covid hospital had a timely construction permit than on public condemnation of Covid parties and calls for collective responsibility, for example. How about inclusive naming and shaming of Corona party goers which would now be acceptable and beneficial? Or is that principle appropriate only when we catch a Serbian Progressive Party official make a blunder on Instagram?

Intentionally silent pro-European citizens’ associations’ industrial complex in the cartel with Djilas-Šolak-UG’s[5] quasi-political, quasi-media industrial complex. Is that what we have on the scene?

And what are we to do now? Balašević[6] says, "What I have left is that we love each other, we love each other." What is left for us pro-European oriented citizens’ associations and all other clusters whose work I know less about, but I know they are out there, from pro-Kremlin ones onwards, who still believe in acting out of conviction?

Can credibility and public trust that is gained in very different ways and due to very different activities, now be mobilized to help both the state and citizens in making the most informed decisions about vaccinations and lockdown Vs opening? Without exerting pressure, but with facts and examples. WITHOUT PROJECT FINANCING. Self-initiated. Where are all the activists and signatories of hundreds of various initiatives we have seen in the last couple of years? Where are all those funny SMS chain-messages for Christmas and New Year, that could be useful now? Where are the members of United Against Covid, to organize and call out to their medical colleagues at least, since there are too many among them who have not yet been vaccinated? They don't have time because they are too busy hating Vučić and the Crisis Response Team? And then we are surprised that anti-vaxxers are more influential and better organized!

I am calling to pro-European and other associations of citizens, engaged influential individuals – let’s unite and mobilize to encourage fellow citizens to get vaccinated and to be more responsible. Please, for the love of God, as President Vučić said to the pensioners recently. If we manage to convince just a couple of them, it will at least be a start. Let's not have more vaccines than the people who want to be vaccinated, and I'm afraid we are getting closer to that point.

Join us  "The Second Serbia[7]”, whatever that means today. Come join us, if for no other reason than because of the likes of Marić[8] and Bokan[9] who call you/us traitors, as if we have the means for wiretapping the President and access to information at the disposal of state officials, who allegedly share it with "foreign elements"! We are getting lynched by the national frequency media on prime-time shows with high ratings. They call us mercenaries and they claim that we are more inhumane than Velja Nevolja[10], because at least he "doesn’t touch his own people". Supposedly, we were first recruited to overthrow the system by the West, and when that failed the West hired the allegedly  beheading mobsters like Velja Nevolja. Actually we are even  worse than they are because we believe that the beheaders have legal and human rights. The rights which are protected by the laws and the Constitution, by the way. I KID YOU NOT.

IT’S A NEW SPIN, IT’S ORGANIZED AND IT’S ALREADY SPREADING. WHETHER TO DIVERT ATTENTION OR TO LAY ON US A PART OF THE BLAME, I DO NOT KNOW. IF YOU ARE NOT WATCHING HAPPY AND PINK TVs, OR YOU ARE NOT READING THE TABLOIDS, YOU HAVE TO TRUST THE POOR OLD ME. SPIN IS INFECTIOUS, IT IS DIFFICULT TO CURE WHEN IT "SPREADS THROUGHOUT THE POPULATION", WE[11] ALREADY KNOW THAT VERY WELL. THE COMPETENT STATE AUTHORITIES, LIKE THE MINISTER FOR SOCIAL DIALOGUE, ARE LOUDLY SILENT, BY THE WAY.

The legitimate arbitrariness of the authorities during the emergency response in additionally aggravated circumstances is not the same as court-martial against NGOs  and media lynching.

On the other hand, patriotism is not a refuge of scoundrels, but a normal need of individuals in organized communities - ask Fukuyama if you don't believe me. Patriotism is also great satisfaction when it gives results. Wouldn't it be satisfying to help defeat the coronavirus, and to suppress various bokans, marićs, šešeljs[12] and other social viruses along the way? The Nazis didn't use that, so Ćiki[13] won't rat on us. Is there a better way to create an atmosphere for social dialogue on key issues and produce democratic decision-making mechanisms that precede the rule of law? A new social contract for a new Serbia.

Belgrade, 10 March, 2021

[1] Serbian famous tennis player Novak Djokovic, who in March 2021 became the best player of all times

[2] There were some harsh restrictions during the spring lockdown in Serbia w/r timeslots allocated  for dog owners to go out with their pets, and they were frequently changed as allegedly a spat between President Vucic and Interior Minister at the time Nebojsa Stefanovic.

[3] During spring 2021 Serbian government embarked into alleged crack down of two opposing narco cartels with roots in Monte Negro, whose members have allegedly had strong ties to Serbian still semi/public big sports  clubs and high level politicians and members of the police

[4] Allegedly the organized crime and some high level officials were spying  on President Vucic and his family  for more than a year. Pro government media and ruling party SNS leaders claim that one cabinet members from their party was  involved in this, but the name is not mentioned.

[5] Two owners of a strong United Media group in a huge conflict with Serbian government on operations conditions, one of them is at the same time an opposition leader. Media outlets working under this unreal claim to be professional, but they are totally biased and non inclusive, and they differ from pro-government media in more clear formats, respect for timeslots, and less war criminals as legitimate interlocutors

[6] Recently deceased  Serbian musician, very popular in  Yugoslavia and all countries that emerged after it’s dissolution

[7] Part of citizens and NGOs, funded by the Western donors,  who  are strongly condemning Serbian nationalism and alleged hegemonism, blaming predominately Milosevic Serbia for war in nineties, advocating for transitional justice, HR, LGBT rights and Kosovo independence. They are colloquially  called “The Second Serbia” and are object of  continuous semirings, discreditations and intimidations but right – wing extremists, but unfortunately all governments officials from 2000 on. Someone labeled as a member of “The Second Serbia” is deemed as a person working against the state and the people, traitor etc. This segment of Serbian civic society is somewhat less active nowadays.

[8] Very influential TV host with HAPPY TV that has a national frequency and is the third most watched TV station in Serbia, but with coverage in BH and on satellite ( for Serbian diaspora) known for bringing non stop convicted war criminals in his programs as well as top Serbian leadership.

[9] Very controversial  extreme right, nationalist, linked to ’90 paramilitary lead by late Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, a known criminal, promoting stronger ties between the church, the state and the majority nation.

[10] Veljko Belivuk, nicknamed Velja Nevolja (Velja the Trouble), recently arrested ringleader of one branch of mentioned narco clans also a “leader” of Partizan football club funs. There is a long history of turning football fun clubs into state security structures contractors for off the book operations.

[11] “The Second Serbia” part of the civic society. CEAS was deemed as a part of it until we were canceled due to our Kosovo dialogue policies.

[12] Vojislav Seselj, leader of now non Parliament party Serbian Radical Party, of which Vucic was a member once. Seselj is convicted by the ICTY. He did his time and is now constantly on TV despite the fact that Serbian citizens kicked his party out of the Parliament even with lower threshold during the last election. He advocates partition of BH, promote cooperation with Russia, says obnoxious insults  to many oter actors of the public life….

[13] Former journalist, former lecturer ( he lost his tenure after the student  reported him for harassment that he claims was a a lie and that he is a victim of some female  journalists who “canceled” him , frequent TV guest who discredits the NGOs, gossips on them, relatives issues.