If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the photos and moving images from Arandjelovac made for a whole novel about the situation in Serbia today.
On the one hand, there was the majority, the invited audience, predominately women and men dressed in respectable clothes who would not look out of place in any other European spa town.
Sitting quietly, they waited for their visitors from Belgrade to begin their discussions, but found themselves by turns embarrassed, discomfited and downright frightened by the great unwashed who had turned up uninvited in their midst.
The yahoos and no-nothings were having a fine time. Their leaders, identifiable by the faint stench of municipal corruption, looked mighty pleased with themselves and it was quite difficult to tell the gravediggers mob from those belonging to the Party of Highway Robbery.
Sporting regalia that became synonymous with rape, murder and ethnic cleansing in the Drina valley in 1992, they came across as exactly the kind of drunken, loutish, criminal, ne’er do wells that did so much for Serbia’s global image all those years ago.
Now as then, these unshaven, angry papac had the temerity to wave the Serbian flag and the presumption to shout slogans speaking on behalf of “the Serbian people” etc while threatening other members of the aforesaid with violence.
And then there were the police, doing nothing, in scenes reminiscent of the mosque-burning in Belgrade and Nis a few years back.
Ranged against them were the forces of urban resistance, European liberalism and free speech that the staff and audiences of B92 and Vreme have personified for so long. Faced with a peculiarly Balkan brand of fascism dressed up as gaudy patriotism and small town ignorance, circumstances have perhaps propelled them to be stronger, more dignified and resilient than their counter-parts elsewhere in Europe.
They certainly acquitted themselves with reason and courage, arguing and facing down the cheap fasc for as long as was possible.
They had come to talk to their audience and engage in a debate about what is happening in Serbia today. Politics, economics, corruption, that sort of thing.
Instead they were shouted down by the followers of “All Roads Lead to Cacak” Ilic. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the B92 program Pescanik had been critical of Mr. Ilic, who’s face, in a twisted take on Dorian Gray is now permanently etched with a history of his bizness activity; corrupted lines which no perma-tan will ever hide.
At Arandjelovac one saw two visions of Serbia, the only good thing to come of it were the photos, which illustrate so graphically the stark choices on offer today.