George W. Bush became the president four years ago, like his father. He went to war with Iraq, like his father. His politics were favouring the rich, like his father’s.
But unlike his father, he defeated his democratic opponent and won his second term, despite numerous things running against him. This threw entire US blogosphere to deep hole of angst, disbelief, hopelessness and dark void.
How sadly familiar all this sounds.
The decade of living dangerously
In 1989, I had 15 years and was only starting to think for myself and questioning what I was being told by the elders. In that very year, the final decomposition of S(ocialist) F(ederative) R(epublic) of J(ugoslavija) started in earnest. Western republics of Slovenia and Croatia declared independence. While Slovenia left fairly unharmed, Croatia did not. A large part of people living in Croatia were Serbs. Serbs that still remembered the horror of WW2. And when they saw that new Croatian government was openly promoting WW2-Nazi friends, a little spark was needed to feed their fear and start a bloody war.
What they got from Belgrade was not a spark, but dynamite. The civil war ensued and both sides suffered greatly. And while the war was going in Croatia, our regime kept telling us that we were not in war. Yet our people died there. Military police was banging on doors after midnight, picking up people on the streets.
We were not in war territorially, but were very much in, in any other aspect. People were being taken there, our economy was staggering and social structure was deteriorating. Yet, the regime kept winning election after election. Sure, they rigged them in parts, but in general they were winning. Even in the year of 1993, when (remains of) Yugoslavia had the record-breaking inflation of 5 quadrillion percent; that is: 5.000.000.000.000.000%.
I believe most of you will have a hard time figuring out what this means in real life. Let me tell you…
Not a single price was put up in dinars (local currency). Everything was in deutsche marks (this was before the Euro). But you could not buy everything in DEMs - bread, milk, things like that - so you needed to change. If you change 10DEM to dinars, you have about half an hour to buy something before those dinars lose their value and you can either burn'em or eat'em. If you were doing business contracts for, lets say construction work, you had 10-15mins window to:
receive the money from investor
buy all the necessary materials
pick the money from the bank (which was nearly impossible as they never had enough notes) and change it to DEMs so you can later pay your workers
How did people survive that?
Easy. Regime controlled all the banks (they were state banks) and they allowed people to write cheques, as much as they want. So you write a cheque in dinars that was worth 500DEM at the time, but until it came to your bank account it was like 0.5 or less. People used to make international calls for hours which would cost a fortune; but since you pay it at the end of month, it costs you few pennies.
Someone had to pay a price. And it was a country in whole, as this destroyed entire economy. From the strongest economy in the whole non-western block in Europe, we became the poorest one in a matter of years.
So, what did the regime do to stay in power?
Brainwash. Seed fear
Sold whatever they could to get money. Example: selling of 49% of state Telecom for 1.7 billions. This bought them several years.
Control every TV outlet so people don’t hear. Shut down opposition media. Kill prominent journalists.
Convince people that it was not their fault, but that [Germans|Americans|…] was trying to destroy them because they hate Serbs.
First is easy to do when you are a regime. Second is easy to do when you are a regime based on police and army oppression. But how did they managed the third? How do you brainwash large part of your nation?
See the second point.
They were constantly bombarding people with “news” and images of how entire world had only aim - to destroy Serbs. They put various obscure lunatics to prime time TV and let them “explain” how the Serbs are actually the oldest people in the world, that we are divine nation and we are the last defence from the devilish nations. Amazing array of fortune tellers, crooks and other idiots had 2h shows. I can’t tell how it look like to have a central news show (Dnevnik 2) lasting for 2h and showing images of torn mutilated bodies “Serbs that were butchered by blood-thirsty fascist falangs” (or some even worse vocabulary used). Each time when some fucking leftist novelist or journalist visited the country, he was treated like a world leader. They were given free rooms in Hyatt Regency hotel, private driver and a luxurious state-owned car and all they had to do is say that everything regime said is in fact true and that they are admiring the bravery of Serbian people.
They were feeding fear, chauvinism and hatred. And claiming that each and every opposition party leader is being payed by foreign secret services (no matter which one as long as it is foreign) with sole aim of over-throwing the last government that opposed the new world order. The fear of unknown but imminent. If we lose, the entire country lose and we will all be western puppets. - that was the main message.
We - the non-brainwashed part of the country - were amazed how can people vote for them with all the job loss, wages drop and general devastation of the country in all possible aspects. Idiots, dumb ass, ignorant…we called them. Yet, with no other voice to hear, a country with low education and no middle class at all, rural Serbia believed the regime hype.
Only after several years of opposition local media broadcasting they started to lose ground.
I remember thinking something along these lines many times. (Sad thing is that I still do, but that is another story.)
What this has to do with Bush and US?
Well, I can’t help but notice that Bush won on the sole platform of bombarding people with “if I lose, terrorism will win”. His campaign did whatever they could to capitalize on fear of another 9/11. His economy portfolio is pretty much negative (job-loss, from good suficit to large deficit in just 4 years…). But he also went to war, and its feeding the need for war, constantly finding new enemies, having the perfect excuse. I doubt that he really want to find and kill/capture Bin Laden. Doing that, he will lose the main reason for his war on terrorism. Osama is good for him.
Milosevic damaged the economy and then went to war. Bush did the same.
But what do I know…except that devil always comes for its own, in the end.