A Mechanics of Duty
26th of July, 2005.
Living under mechanised puppeteers.
Everyone of us, who wants be honest by ourselves, has to admit that many things pass by in front of our eyes, but don't get to our consciences. The most of these things are a cover of mist, that is vision only. Conscience turns off. Men transform into mechanical marionettes. They're walking, talking, make strange noises, but no reaction based on the reality, from most of us.
Life sends them messages without cease, which aren't received by their consciences. This mechanism they employ of need. They have many problems, from early in the morning, how to wash themselves, what to eat for the breakfast?
Which is elder, egg or hen? Now, they know that!! Egg is elder, because it is eaten for breakfast, and hen only for lunch.
Next problem for most of them is what to wear, how to visit ill friend. How to go to market, looking for something cheap, but of sufficient quality. Something to keep their eyes mechanical and unnoticing.
What do women do? Watch, and thinking. Need to fix many of these problems. Start immediately. Go to the Ministry of defence, give him letter, and say to him: "Stop now. Stop immediately." Because we are officers' women. We come here from former Yugoslav republic, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia.
Our husbands were elite officers from former Yugoslav army, who saved the lives of many children and cadets, who shrugged not their responsibilities. They returned these children to the safety of their families, whereby they leave their own families in the camp of the enemy.
These officers' women and children must break out of the enemy camp, and by their own force. This is the only way through. Destiny seems to demand we all are sacrificed, and for what?!. The minister and generals have decided together to secure their comfort, their fame, for which we must be sacrificed.
Our husbands secured and saved planes, battleships, material technique, and more importantly than all of these, they save the countless lives of soldiers and cadets. And now, Mr. Minister, where they are?. On the street! Is this fitting thanks for their tireless, selfless efforts?. It can be difficult to see the value of the generals, with only evidence of everything they do for themselves, then fleeing in panic, leaving behind them their colleagues, cadet's, soldier's and of course military equipment and materials.
They come to Serbia, to fine apartments and high positions, to revel in much war-mongering, making many orders to kill in other nations. After that the government recompenses them for a service; our husbands were so severely treated, the government and generals put them in concentration camps because we are the only living witnesses to what they have done in that time.
This much is but a fragment from the epic, a truth that is our burden to illustrate through our daily lives.
Quite simply, a brigade of people was written off. Instead of being shown gratitude, they have finished on the street. So Mr. Minister - what can we say now? Many, many things, and we will.
As we know, there are no princes on white horses; do you know that? Now, try casting your mind back to our close past, we wish to remind you of something. Could you follow us please?
Finally we arrive here. We found us in the camp. What was to be next? On the next day, your collaborator, tries putting us in concentration camps.
We will try describe that location. A kind of shack with 30-40 bed in, and an officer informed us, "Women on the one side, and man at the other side". A quaint reminder for us of of World War II. At first we mistrusted our senses. Was this happening to us? When were we to wake from the nightmare? But no! This was brutal reality.
The children started crying, some women also, but the men were so silent, because they are officers, and they had learnt well how to use mechanical eyes, just living their orders. But we have not, so we demand "Return us to the town, immediately, we insist!!!, Keep your broken promises and dropped obligations, to United Nations resolution No 752 and order of General staff!!! Nothing more, nothing less.
The Officer behaved arrogantly. He said, "Food - get it here!" The women replied, "We don't need any food here, return us to the town immediately". It was incredible, this happening to us, at the end of the 20th century.
To hear our explanations, at one side was an officer of the former Yugoslav army, but at the other side, another officer of the former Yugoslav army. Why this way, what difference did it make? What are we talking about here? Resignation from humanity. Yesterday's co-worker becomes today's enemy. Why? We couldn't understand anyway. Try to explain, if we could ever.
In one brief second, we didn't even get to farewell our human rights and everything we had ever had. What could prepare us? Bad politics? Bad times? Bad knowledge? Bad memories? No!! Only human desire for power and domination! They want to be bigger than they really are. How big they become in their own eyes ... maybe the stature of mountains, but in ours they appear only as bad memories. They are a former kind of people.
Ask again? Do you know how many of your colleagues of yesterday killed themselves? How many became alcoholic? How many never manage even the little problems in their life? Did you know, or who cares enough about this to do more than voice the correct platitudes?
Dear God, how far goes the line of command? How, where and when disappears such an army, the fourth force in the world? What have you done? Every compassionate element cries out against this. Not us, we stay mute. If colleague against colleague? If brother against brother? Mate against mate? Where disappears that army? What are we talking about here? Needing more than one apartment, or a little more money, or what?.
The place people were taken to during the Second World War was the concentration camps where many patriots were murdered, the same place where we now find ourselves. Does only human kind do something like that? There are parallels between 1941 and 1991. In the 1941 there were concentration camps and then in 1991 there was this. What is this? Why ask of us to live out such horrible things from the past?
We are duty bound to say something about learning a good hard history lesson. Should anyone ask of us, for pity's sake, the reply must be, "Never allow yourself be put in this situation." But many generals and people in power have run from their history lessons, now demanding of us to overcome their difficulty with the lesson.
If we could give you back your history education, what would you choose to learn? Because it seems to us your ambitions burn only for power over peoples' lives and the world, and we fear this is but the beginning. Both of us know that were we to return and act out the history lesson, this time changing the roles, no anger could make us stoop so low as to treat you so shamefully.
This way achieves nothing, and never could.
You communicated your understanding of how hard the life you have imposed on us is. Could you please humour us by elaborating, and define this understanding of yours? Is your knowledge of how we sleep on the soldiers' beds. Or did you actually know the experience of sharing a bathroom with 67 other families? Could it be your special powers of empathy are with those same families all feeding themselves from only one kitchen range. Is it possible you meant you truly understand how it is to fully surrender you privacy? In fact please tell us what you really did understand and how. Dear Mr. Minister, alas, you appear to have missed many other lessons than history. Our standards we forge for ourselves, but who make your standards for you? And how? How do manage you with this?
A woman from your ministry came to inform us how greatly overdue we are much money, that we are first to pay and then only may we ask anything. But her statement voices questions enough of it's own. What sums, for what time and to whom? Maybe her. If we have, then please, present us the bill, because we firmly believe in prompt payment of our debts. If Madam requires the air from our lungs, perhaps we should get that, for you have ravished from us all else.
In a year covering 1991 - 92 you ordered us to Serbia, the Army entire, as the whole former Yugslav Army was revoked from the former republic.
So, with rulings from Government and Army supreme courts, we come here. Upon reaching Serbia, the Army's supreme court asks us to forsake our housing and property, everything we worked for prior to their war, these to become the Government's spoils of the former republic.
As this court undertook to compensate us for everything we lost, we accepted, and signed the paperwork we understood was required to identify our rights and their commitment.
This commitment they made in 1992 and we understood it was to be realised in fourteen to sixty days. Now in 2005 we still reside in the collective lodgings with no sign of release to be seen. Fourteen years ago the officers and families of the brigade enjoyed the tangible respect of the administrators of the Army, but now, we are seen only with mechanical eyes and have been written off. To them we appeal, and the Government, the Army's supreme court and every jurisdiction, for sign of change, but only silence to be heard.
The only course available seems to be the International Court in Strasbourg, whom we must ask for the justice not available here.
The State has wrenched us from our livelihoods and enforced regulations that reduce our available pensions by 80%; there is an ironic comfort in noting that only our pensions need be sacrificed, they should still be able to enjoy their full benefits when the time comes.
Surely some functions of a State are to provide security for the people and assist those in genuine need and distress. But for the privileged officials of this State's bureaucracy, we watch them grabbing at our former lands and housing with a greed that precludes their duty to the people.
Without the charity of our peoples it is difficult to imagine how the State expects us to continue, or perhaps there is something in the notion that the State can afford to wait for their problems to die off, something those of us weakened through lack of food and heating are achieving for them remarkably quickly. In a particularly bad month 1,600 of our retired peoples succumbed to the cold, which might so greatly have lightened the State's conscience as to allow their officials to enjoy the warmth in their houses and their bellies.
We are mothers and grandmothers, and have rights enshrined in law and constitution, and what guarantees you may honour in the Vienna convention regarding human rights. A woman capable of saying such things straight faced to us Mrs. Minister is easily imagined dining on the bread ravished from our children and us.
Here we don't talk about ethics and morals, because barren soil is it in your ministry. All we can advance to you is a substitute theory in that discipline you prove champions and leaders of the world. We have learnt our history, and maybe you can benefit from our efforts. Consider this, that when elephants fight, the underwood perishes.
However you view your obligations and duties, no matter what rhetoric you feather your consciences with Mrs. Minister, despite the most mechanical appraisal of our distress, that you spend and we pay in this fashion - this will not be!!!
Fata Kocic works for various Serbian newspapers including Politica, Novosti and Glas, was winner of the Studio B92 'Zoran Djindji' forum, and appears regularly on Studio B's program "Alternative Guide from Belgrade". Fata is a spiritually motivated journalist pursuing the hope of human solidarity.
For queries, or to provide criticism or any other support, please contact us at:
i n f o @ h u m a n - i n t e r e s t . o r g