In the centre of Belgrade zoo is an amazing bronze statue. A muscular man straddles a lion, kneeling on its back, bending its spine and forcing its mouth open with both hands. It's a fountain: out of the lion's mouth pours a jet of water. The message is nice and clear: get the fuck down you miserable majestic magnificent animal and open your mouth for me. It's a good emblem for the zoo.
The zoo is the bottom tier of a smelly pyramid of disrespect. It starts at the top…
1. The government doesn't respect the people. It charges high taxes for shit service. It doesn't feel the need to be accountable. Civil servants work until 2pm.
An indicator of this disrespect for the people is the fact they handed over a large share of the economy to chums. Of course the stuff they gave away wasn't actually theirs to give. We all know that. The buffalos - a race of genetically depleted giants
the head bone's connected to the... neck bone.
2. The oligarchs don't respect the people. Wages are poor in Serbia, prices are high. Topshop gives us the privilege of leaving the British and Irish prices on the tags. Here's a shirt for £25, and here's the Serbian price tag 5,500 dinars. £25 is 2,725 dinars at today's rate.
We know that this is crap, made by slaves in Indonesia or the Philippines for loose change, so respect people enough to charge low prices for it.
The llamas are eating each other's hair
The neck bone's connected to the... back bone
3. Private employers don't respect the employees. Staff are sacked for being ugly, or taking a holiday. They participate in the black economy by signing contracts for minimal wage and paying the rest in cash, as and when they can be bothered. Not much help if you want a loan. Or to do a bit of life planning. Mentally disturbed birds of prey munch feathers.
The back bone's connected to the... hip bone
4. The police. Too many stories about the police. Everyone’s unwillingly bought them dinner a few times when stopped for something or other. the solitary elephant bites bars and I apologise to him. He is furious.
The hip bone's connected to the... thigh bone
5. Shopkeepers don't respect customers. Many of them couldn't care if you buy something or not. Leave me alone. Why should I be bothered with you just because you'd like to give me some money you earned? No you can't exchange it. You bought it, now fucking wear it. Ah the stench of the reptile house; the snakes lying on tables in plastic buckets of their own shit.
The thigh bone's connected to the... knee bone
5. Drivers don't respect pedestrians. There's a llama on its own in with the goats in the goat pen!! : )
The knee bone's connected to the... shin bone
6. Ivan's friends don't respect Pedja's friends don't respect Relja's friends don't respect Bojana because she used to go out with Nemanja and he's an idiot doesn't respect people from New Belgrade they're all cunts don't respect Red Star fans don't respect hippity hoppers don't respect rocky rockers death metal heads or trancers don't respect Dushan doesn't respect people from the provinces they're basically trash with their shitty music don't respect people from Belgrade a bunch of snobs who think they know everything and live with their parents while spouting intellectual wank don't respect men don't respect women don't respect kids don’t respect Bulgarians, Romanians or Albanians. Now lets all look at each other across the dancefloor again.
The panther is also angry. The lynx is angry, pacing and growling.
The shin bone's connected to the... ankle bone.
The ankle bone's connected to the... foot bone.
The foot bone's connected to the... toe bone.
7. And here, at the toe bone, the shameful zoo, where the animals are treated like shit, bottom of the whole foetid pyramid, through no choice of their own.
The keeper feeds the apes on plasma cookies. He teases the solitary adult male orang utan with two pieces of brown bread, poking them through the bars. When the orang hauls himself off his branch and waddles over the young keeper snatches them away again and makes to walk off. He does this twice.
Nothing can dull the splendour of the golden pheasant who shines out of the corner of his gloomy home, sitting on an iron bar.
We can go and cut the bars and release at least the wolves; give the streets of Belgrade some really mean dogs to follow the drunkards home. The toe bone’s connected to the… foot bone. The foot bone's connected to the... ankle bone. The ankle bone's connected to the... shin bone. The shin bone's connected to the... knee bone. The knee bone's connected to the... thigh bone. The thigh bone's connected to the... hip bone. The hip bone's connected to the... back bone. The back bone's connected to the... neck bone. The neck bone's connected to the head bone. Now hear the word of the Lord.
In the village of Highway in Cornwall, just outside Penpoll, just across from Fowey, is a square stone which has been painted to be read as a road sign. It reads, in nicely drawn capitals: “LOVE ONE ANOTHER”, on both sides. It’s been there at least 30 years, maybe 100 years, and every time I see it gives me a little lift of the heart and a little thought. Cheesy, maybe, but if the bones are connected then basically all we’ve got to do is beam a little respect up, sideways and down, vote and try to keep caring. It might work.