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Serbia: Novelists Participate in “Blog Day” Project

On Dec. 8, Laguna, one of the largest publishing houses in Serbia, launched an interesting project: called Blog Day, it represents a unique example of web activism in Serbia that will be taking place four times a year. Using its reputation, confidence and 12 years of experience in the community, Laguna wishes to contribute to the collective effort of solving relevant social problems.

Each Blog Day will have a different, but always socially-important, topic. All Blog Day content will then be published in an electronic book that will be free for download from Laguna's website.

The topic of the first Blog Day was Ecology, and over 20 Serbian novelists have posted their very interesting – and, often, quite witty – contributions.

Below are excerpts from some of the posts.

Aleksandar Ilic published a post titled “Phenomenology of ecological consciousness,” in which he drew a parallel between Serbia's ecology and economy:

The phenomenology of ecological consciousness of Serbs does not exist […]. In regards to ecology, the average course of consciousness […] goes like this: the first association to the word “ecology” is nature, and the first association to nature is barbecue. Barbecue further evolves into mixed grills, hamburgers, drumsticks, chicken fillets and sausages. In the end, everything boils down to the proportion of the number of kilograms of boneless meat per capita. Therefore, the phenomenology of Serbian ecological consciousness would have the task of describing the proportion of the number of kilograms of boneless meat per resident. The number of residents per number of kilograms of boneless meat results in the economy. To the Serb, therefore, economy is the flip side of ecology and ecology is the flip side of economy. So, the phenomenology of the Serbian ecological consciousness can be easily moved to the field of economy. The word “economy” has only two instances: the first is “salary” and the latter “a small salary.” Who's going to f*** around with ecology when we're all croaking of starvation. […]

Vesna Dedic, a Belgrade-based novelist who was born in Montenegro, a country that was declared an “ecological state,” admitted her ecological consciousness is not ideal and compared it to her daughter’s. She wrote:

The difference between me and my child is that her awareness of environmental protection is a part of her upbringing and education. She was told that she couldn't throw garbage on the streets because this disrupts the ecological balance. When I was her age, I was told not to do this because it was not culturally and socially acceptable. When someone, as a remnant of [Tito’s] time, tells me that something is socially unacceptable, I have an incredible urge to show that I don’t care. The difference is also that my daughter has accepted ecology as the fight for biological survival of the endangered planet, while I first heard the word “ecological” in the 1990s, in the name of some political party.

Dedic considers the debate on ecology hypocritical and refers to the Law on Protection of Citizens from Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, which was put into effect last month:

They banned smoking last month and now we are sitting in our fragrant, airy offices, in which smoking, drinking coffee and using Facebook are forbidden. Mistake. Without good wages, these were the only joyous motives for which Serbs went to their jobs. Now I stroll around Belgrade, smoke and carry cigarette butts in my hands to the first trash can because the authorities forgot to set ashtrays before they adopted the law. When I said that to a [communal police] chief in some broadcast, and when I added that the smoke ban was not the same thing for the French and for the Serbs, that mental and all other frustrations are different in these countries, the chief replied: “Go to France.” Twenty years ago, I would have said: “I'm going!” Ten years ago, I would have gone, but I couldn't obtain a visa. Today, I say: “I will not!” There, my daughter would have to eat unhealthy cheeses and sauces, I would have to drink expensive wines, while I wish to feed my child organic apples, and I wish, at my age of 42, not to be a lady, but, with my hands in pockets, to smoke in the streets and, starting tomorrow, to hit everyone who annoys me in taverns with butts of cigarettes. Why? Because I don’t care about wise discussions on ecology as long as they set ashtrays for me, repair toilets in primary schools, incarcerate everyone who uses their hands [not tissues or handkerchiefs] to blow their noses, as long as we realize how hypocritical it is to prohibit smoking in a city that sends as much sulfur from Pancevo directly into our bronchi as the whole nation can’t smoke in a century.

Vule Zuric is a native of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who moved to Serbia during the war and now lives in Pancevo, a town located about 20 km east of Belgrade. It is the center of Serbia’s petrochemical industry and one of the most polluted places in the region. Zuric wrote:

[…] In Pancevo, as far as the stench is concerned, thanks for asking, everything is well. Excellent! […] It means that the industry, brother, is working. There will be export-import, salaries, holidays, travel, there will be diseases. Hospitals will be working. Doctors, nurses and pathologists will be doing their jobs. And the gravediggers? […]

Zuric further reminds readers of the time of the 1999 NATO bombing and the ecological consequences that the attack caused, as well as of the promise given by the Russian company Gazprom, which bought Serbia’s oil company NIS a few years ago:

[…] First the Americans bombed us, and then the Russians bought us. It’s obvious that both of them have respect for us. The former tried to close us with several direct hits. The black Danube of poisonous smoke was flowing over the sky. And the latter is promising [ecological] filters and similar things. Yet, the former haven't closed down our “store” – and the latter haven't reconstructed it. […] So many years after the war, the air is clean in Sarajevo. But, brother, the factories are not working. […] And what if this happens in Pancevo? That clean air, a crowd of unemployed people in the clean air? What I'm saying is: there is no solution. Either you live in a forest, eat berries, milk sheep, or you remain urban, nibble at pumpkin seeds and yell: “Uaaa…” […].

Novelists Dusan Miklja, Ivana Mihic, Igor Marojevic, Ljubica Arsic, Goran Skrobonja, Miomir Petrovic, Masa Rebic and others took part in the first Blog Day as well.

This project is also supported by the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning.

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