Dear friends, the day before Friday’s protests in Ljubljana, you posted an invitation for people to come, on the Facebook page of our group. I am glad that you find it important to express your opinion and that you are concerned about the future of our country. Since I am a little older than you, I like your enthusiasm; it reminds me of the times when my peers and I also used to gather in Ljubljana for a better tomorrow. That is also why I dedicated Friday’s post on my blog to you: why I will not be attending the protests where I think that the participants will be screwed over by the exact same politics you are rooting for, in conjunction with the exact same media outlets in the service of capital, for which you are whistling.
I wanted to understand what you are striving FOR. But I could not, because most of the words and signs I saw at Friday’s protests, screamed AGAINST something or someone.
I wanted to believe that you are striving for better politics. But then I would expect you to first chase away and boo the representatives of the same politics for which you claim abducted the country and has now come to abduct your protests.
In short, I would like to understand you. But I also want you to understand me. That is why I am writing to you.
On the double standards I am glad that you are doing something in an effort for a better society. But I am also wondering where you were before. None of what bothers you was invented by the current Government. All of the problems that made you get on your bicycles have already been here before. Some on a smaller, others on a much larger scale. (Except for the anti-corona measures, but these are mostly very similar to the measures in other countries. In some instances, they have interfered with our freedom less than elsewhere, in some instances more, but on average, we are in a pretty similar situation as the average European.)
So I am just going to ask you about what bothers me:
· You say that you are bothered by corruption. I agree with you. But where were you when they were overpaying vascular stents and whatnot, to fill the pockets of certain individuals, while the waiting periods for doctor’s appointments grew longer.
· You say that you are bothered by the changes in personnel. Where were you when the former Prime Minister explained to the media that it makes sense for every Government to make personnel changes.
· You say that politics are to blame for the tragedies that happened in some nursing homes. Where were you in the last decade, when the state spent 78 million euros on studies about homes for the elderly, which could have been used to make improvements to staffing and other conditions in nursing homes (that number is equal to a price of 2,000 medical ventilators).
· You say that you are worried about the installing of political staff instead of experts (former Director of the National Institute of Public Health – NIJZ). I agree with you – I myself have often pointed out and warned about the politics of negative selection and the appointment of political personnel to professional positions. I wonder, however, why you did not find it controversial when that same person took over the leadership of the NIJZ during the time of the Government, in which she previously had a high political function.
· You say that you are worried about the spread of repression in our society. I agree with you. But where were you when a police officer was appointed to the position of head of the Inspectorate of Education (?!) (don’t get me wrong, I believe that Mr. Slokan is a top expert and full of heart, but on a symbolic level, I find this to be a terrible gesture).
· You say you are worried about opening ideological topics and indoctrination. I agree with you. But where were you when Minister Pikalo inserted his newly invented subject into the school system, for which the structure of the high school curriculum had to be changed by force, and about which I warned at the expert council it could open up space for introducing ideological content in schools.
· You say you are worried about Hungarian funding of certain media outlets. I agree with you. But when did you come forward because of a media outlet owned by a financial fund from Luxembourg (this is the tax haven in Europe in which Juncker was the Prime Minister for 18 years – the same Juncker who, for many of you, embodies everything that bothers you about the EU).
· You say you are bothered by offensive tweets. I agree with you. But where were you a few months ago when an inappropriate tweet was posted by the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Education.
· You say you are bothered by an abusive attitude towards women. I agree with you. But where were you when an important politician demanded sexual favours in return for a job.
· You say you are bothered by hate speech. I agree with you. But where were you when a certain someone said the following on RTV about those who do not worship Tito: “And these eight percent … St. Barbara’s pit has now been emptied … There is room in it again, you know … This is called sarcasm, irony.”
· You say you will not tolerate the theft of our money. Where were you at the time when we were being robbed of our money for TEŠ 6? Where were you when the border fence was procured through a mailbox? Where were you when they paid as much of your money for one model, as 10 good respirators cost?
I do not know where you were then. But I do know where I have not seen you: on bicycles in front of the Parliament. So please understand me when I say that I do not see principles in some of the participants in Friday’s protests, but double standards. I see double standards in those who knew about all of this but did nothing. Or turned away. Or made sure some of the money got in their own pockets.
Some of you have responded to Friday’s blog post, saying that it is better to act now than never. I agree. Better late than never. However, I find it difficult to accept this explanation from certain people who shrugged, turned away, or even clapped in previous years, and today, they are cycling; to me, they do not seem any more credible than the civilians in German cities, who did not know what was going on in the camps from which the smoke was billowing, for years.
However, if you are more bothered by Janez Janša than by anything else you claim is the reason, then just say so. I will understand you. I have also been bothered by certain politicians. But do not try to convince me that what bothers you about the current Government are things for which you used to look away in other Governments. By doing so, you are undermining your credibility.
I support your legitimate right to express the opinion of disliking a certain politician. But I do not like it when you say that the current Government came to power with deception. It came to power following the same rules as any of the Governments before. With such claims, you are only denying the legitimacy you demand for yourself, to those who voted for the parties of this coalition. I understand that you may not like the Government. But that is what democracy is; not that the Government in power is always one that suits me. It is democratic to accept that there is sometimes a Government in power that I do not like. To demand that it be torn down just because I do not like it has nothing to do with democracy and denies the legitimacy and the right you want for yourself, to a mass of your fellow citizens.
I support your legitimate right to fear that this Government will otherwise distribute the money for cultural and other projects. However, I do not like it when you forget that every Government so far has had its own priorities and criteria and that every Government has supported some projects, and not supported others. In sports jargon, this could be called fair play. Or, as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In practice, this means that in the long run, we can do different things, but we are still all treated equally.
Demanding for oneself what others have no opportunity for, is not a democracy; it is the immature stomping of a spoiled child, not something an adult would do. I believe that everyone is convinced of the value of what they do, but I do not think it is right to deny the value and importance of what others do. I understand those of you who are worried that you are going receive fewer funds from the budget under the current Government and see this as an injustice, but this injustice and this concern is no smaller or less important than the feelings of those who have been left without budgetary resources under the governments which gave you the funds instead.
I support your legitimate right – and human duty – to fight against evil, if you notice it. However, I would like you to assess evil through the prism of personal experience and critical judgement, not through a filter of information that is carefully measured out for you by the media. And I would also like you to sometimes ask yourself if the person who they are trying to portray as the personification of evil more dangerous than the person who feeds you this information and decides what you will see as evil and what as not evil.
In short, I am glad that you are striving for a better society. But I hope you understand why I feel as if those who were cycling in front of the Parliament these days but remained silent before, have double standards.
On corruption and an abducted country
I think that I was one of the first people to step forward in Slovenia and publicly warn about the abduction of the country, more than 10 years ago. I made it clear that I believe that a part of politics has hijacked and privatized the school system, which is something we will all have to pay a high price for in the future (and we are already paying it today). I spoke about this when everyone else was silent; that is why I feel I have the right to comment on the abduction of the country at this point.
Some of you were offended when reading my last blog post because I shared my opinion that even the protests are being orchestrated by certain figures from the background, who have long since abducted and took control of the country. I am not an expert on corruption, so I will quote one of the two Slovenian experts who know the most about it, in Slovenia. Bojan Dobovšek, Ph.D., wrote: “Bicycle democracy is just an illusion of democracy – nothing will really change and the corruption continues. Only the naïve believe that these protests are spontaneous, and therefore only the naïve think that something will change if the leaders are replaced, but the patterns remain the same.”
It is hard for me to listen about the corruption in the current Government, about which Minister has jam on his fingers when the people shouting about this have their hands smeared with jam up to their elbows, after stealing from us for years and months, and finally reaching into our pockets, just days before being removed from the public trough. I find it even harder to watch them drool over your protests. And I find it hardest to understand why you tolerate them when they join you.
Of course, I agree with you that corruption must be prosecuted, and thieves must be punished. But this includes every act of corruption, and every thief by the same standard, and without any blind spots.
On repression and restriction of freedom
I never had the feeling of living in a repressive and totalitarian country. Not even when the children were enthusiastically waving flags, while Tito passed by, and sang in honour of the revolution on the Day of the Revolution in Hala Tivoli, in which the officers in uniforms sat in the front row.
I really only got a taste of repression, which is why I would not wish it on anyone. Not me, not you, not our children.
In the winter of 1988/89, we watched the footage of the rallies of truth and attacks on inhumane Slovenian politics on the TV in the barracks of the army. We also had to listen to a “political lesson” here and there.
One night we had to wait in the hallway in our underpants and T-shirt, without permission to go to the toilet, to be questioned about who threw Tito’s picture in the classroom to the floor and smashed it. We were shaking, some from the cold, some from fear. There were about twenty of us. We, Slovenians, were the most scared, because in the afternoon before the “criminal incident,” we secretly played cards in the classroom; we were the last ones in the room. But in reality, the officers knew that the culprit for the shattered picture was a combination of a draft and a loose nail – their goal was to scare us. In the end, the person who was in charge of the key was faced with a choice: either he goes to military prison, or he would have to tell on his colleagues. Sometime after that, embarrassed, he told me what he had chosen. I understood … and I am still grateful to this day that I was not the one who was given the choice of imprisonment or telling on my colleagues.
This was not my only encounter with repression, but it was one of the more intense ones. I was not just cold that night. I was literally scared shitless.
Which is why I got chills when I saw the same picture on the T-shirt of a participant (who is also a member of the Parliament) in the protest against repression and totalitarianism – the picture which was the reason why I had to stand in the hallway at night more than 30 years ago, shivering with cold and fear. I did not get chills because of one man; I got chills because none of the other 10,000 told him that he does not belong to the protests against the corruption, repression, and totalitarianism, neither as the MP of his party and especially not with the shirt he was wearing. And let’s not even get into the fact that he literally gave the Prime Minister the cue for his tweet about the caviar socialists.
On the rise of fascism
You say you are worried about the rise of fascism. I am, too. I am worried about the rise of all -isms, which are rising like vampires from the rotting crates, in which they should have remained as a forever reminiscent of the horrors of the past. I am also worried about certain -isms which you are less afraid of, or maybe even close to. And I will fight them, I will fight for a better world just as I had before – when you were not cycling yet, and I will continue to fight them long after you will have parked your bicycles in the bicycle sheds.
In our country, we have had many opportunities to throw every possible -ism to the trash heap of history. I do not wish for fascism to rise, but it seems grotesque when the people who are scaring us with the possibility of it, are the same ones who were never able to separate themselves from their -isms and will, therefore, be the ones most responsible for the return of any other terrible -ism; but while they continue to point their fingers at everyone else, they are forgetting that one of their fingers is pointing at the one they are targeting, and the other three are pointing back at themselves.
On fear Some of you say that you are protesting because you are scared of Janša. I can see that you are scared. I hear what they are trying to make you believe. But Janez Janša is not the only person in the country who arouses fear in some people. Some are afraid of the coronavirus. Some are afraid of the protestors who are cycling in front of the Parliament. Some dread those who eat beef soup on Sundays after Mass. Some fear that migrants are coming into our country illegally. Some fear for their jobs. Some are afraid of the dentist. Some are afraid of the people who bring the symbol of a red star to celebrations. I understand your fears, but I want you to respect anyone else’s fear just as much as your own. Too often, some only see their own fears, while denying others the same legitimate right to their fears, because of a presumption that “my” fears are reasonable, justified, and give me the legitimacy to protest, and “their” fears are unreasonable and should be made fun of.
I understand your fears. I also have my own, some are different from yours, but I have them. I hope you also understand the fears of those who are afraid of the demonstrations because of their historical memory and the behaviour to which the streets have previously led to, and the creation of tension among the people, to paraphrase the respected former constitutional judge Ernest Petrič, Ph.D.
On the rally of truth
Some have already called Friday’s protests the Rally of Truth 2020. There really are some similarities, the media support, expressing anger for their enemies, even a memorandum from the academics. In 1988/89, in the barracks and wearing a uniform, I also observed Milošević’s protests and rallies, calling for the people to take back the power, which had been taken away from them by the corrupt bureaucrats and anti-people elements.
I understand why you cycled around Ljubljana on Friday. And I believe that you did this in the firm belief that you are resisting totalitarianism, repression, crime, corruption. But the majority of those who sought a better future for their children at Milošević’s rallies and believed the “truths” they read in Politika and Borba, also believed that they were resisting the same things.
I am writing to you in memory of the boys who watched the rallies with me in 1988/89 – the rallies which later affected all of us. Many people from my generation from the former federation are now living all around the world. They were the lucky ones. Some who had less luck lost almost everything. Some literally lost everything. Some lost their families. Some lost their lives. Some became murderers. Some became war criminals. The reasons for these tragedies were older and deeper, but they were incited by what was happening on the streets.
That is why I am writing to you – because experience and research have taught me that there can be no protests without the following two groups: the masters and the puppets. The masters change from time to time. The puppets change. The mechanism of a puppet theatre, however, remains the same.
I do not want to be offensive. I do not want to underestimate anyone. I am not using the word puppet because I would want to blame anyone for letting themself be controlled by strings. I cannot blame you because it is clear to me that the strings we all have on ourselves cannot be felt. I have them too, even though I believe in my free will. Just as I believe that you are convinced of your free will and the fact that you are only striving for a just cause – and you actually are striving for a just cause.
I am not writing to you because I would want to diminish the value of your efforts. I am writing to you because I care about you. Because the masters change here and there. But the puppets always change. Because to the masters, they are really just consumable goods that they can use for their own purposes. After using them, however, they get rid of them. And find new ones.
I do not see a rally of truth in what happened on Friday.
The rally of truth will actually take place this coming Friday. If instead of cycling in front of the Parliament, you will first turn to the seats of those who have forced themselves on you last Friday and tried to kidnap your protests and are trying to show you the remnants of jam on the fingers of the current coalition while their hands are smeared with the same jam up to their elbows, and their pockets are filled with money, you will show everyone what truly drives you.
And if you are going to cycle together with these same people on Friday, you will also show everyone what truly drives you.
It’s as simple as that.
On democracy Democracy is many things.
Even the fact that we sometimes have to take something that does not suit us and thus show respect for our fellow citizens, who have decided differently from us.
Sometimes we need to accept that not everything can go our way.
Sometimes we have to grow up.
Our generation grew up in the years after 1988 and 1990.
You will grow up after the year 2020.
We experienced our historical turning point then.
Yours is happening at the time of the epidemic.
Take the opportunity and create a better world. Those of us who have a few more kilometers behind us will be happy to help you.
Many of my peers from the former country had their opportunity taken away and pushed into the most horrific demolition of Europe after World War II.
Do not demolish.
Be FOR something.
Let your ideals guide you.
Not your anger.
Who knows, maybe I will join you someday. Not in the fight against the current Government, because I evaluate its work from a different viewpoint than you. But perhaps on another occasion, when we could all work together for a better world.
And do not believe everything they tell you.
Do not believe that the world is how they are portraying it.
Because the person who is portraying it for you and filtering the information, always has his own intentions and goals. And there is usually no room for your well-being in their intentions. He only cares about himself, not you.
Open your eyes and look at him by yourself. With no strings attached.
On a better world
You want a good future for your children. I want it as well. I believe that they will have the opportunity for a better future when we all start working for it together, and when we will always and consistently point out every crime, every corrupt action, every theft, every scoundrel – and not take a look at who is involved, and only then decide whether we will point it out, or just shrug our shoulders, or – if the scoundrels are “our people,” open our pockets to see if anything falls in.
I will continue to do this the way I have done it so far and the way I know how to. And you do it as you see fit.
It just seems to me that you have been lied to by the same group of politicians and media outlets who are not at all concerned with the fight against corruption; they simply lost the ground under their feet because they are suddenly no longer at the trough, from which they fed and grew bigger at the expense of all of us – they used to take from you and laugh in your face, but now they want you to remove the intruders and once again open the highway for them, back to the trough for which they believe naturally belongs to them.
If you want to do this while riding a bicycle, I am the last person to deny you that right. But please, if you do not want to listen to the Government, at least listen to all the doctors and nurses who have worked as hard as they possibly could have in recent weeks, to make sure that the first wave of the epidemic passed the way it has. They deserve to be heard.
And I will ask you for one more thing: please always use the same criteria: for all the good things (and there were many of those in Slovenia even during the epidemic, but in accordance with the old Slovenian tradition, we never talk about those) and for all the bad things.
Kristijan Musek Lešnik, 2020
On being fed up I get that you are fed up with the corruption, nepotism, the appointing of “our” staff.
I get that you are fed up with the restraints and closing down during the time of the measures.
I understand all of this …
I get that the easiest way to let out your frustrations is to find a culprit and dump your anger on him. I get that the easiest to find, and the most convenient culprit for all of this is the Government. Even more so because we were lucky enough to get through the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic better than many other countries, and it is, therefore, easier for some to believe that this is all just a fabrication and justification of repression.
I get that you need to blow off some steam and I am sure that in the same way (and perhaps even the same people) would want to dump their anger on the Government even if the Bergamo scenario happened to us – but in that case, the reason for their frustration would be the full morgues.
Someone I appreciate wrote the following on Facebook: “We are currently in a crisis, and we are getting ourselves even deeper into it. I don’t think anything else could have been done. But the question is, what else will they do, and above all, will they do it right. The problem here is that we cannot be better off than the rest of the world. And the people on the bicycles are not aware of this and do not want to admit it.”
I would add: If the Government would deal with itself and the protests instead of the crisis, we will not be better off for that. Not me, not you, not your children. Things would get worse for everyone.
This does not mean that you should give up your fight against corruption and kneel. It means that you should leave the fight against corruption to those who are called and trained to fight it. Just as you expect health-related decisions to be made by the health professionals. Without the pressure of the street. And lynching.
But perhaps the good thing we can do for ourselves and our children is to let the competent people do their jobs.
What I can see from my viewpoint with a few more kilometers behind me, is that this is one of the rare few Governments from the last couple of years that actually works. If anyone has cheated and stolen in their work, they deserve to be condemned. But let’s let him be prosecuted by the police, the prosecutors and the court, not the media and the street.
We will get the opportunity to reward or punish them at the upcoming elections – and the next new faces will shine there (isn’t it funny how some people always blame the old faces for all their disappointments, even though we always know what to expect from these faces, while on the other hand, the same people continue to benevolently accept the dysfunctional devastation left behind by the new faces, one after the other – instead of directing their anger at these failed characters and those who sold the new faces to them and screwed them over, making them believe that they are saviours and making sure that this can happen over and over again).