Wednesday, 25 November 2015

#NoKosovoUnesco: When Society Showed Response-Ability but Government Claimed Responsibility

In light of Tomislav Nikolic and his cabinet essentially taking credit for the success of the #NoKosovoUnesco campaign, it’s important to highlight a few important points that demonstrate the inaccuracy of this claim.  Not least of which is the fact that if it were true, it would be a remarkable achievement given that no one’s quite sure of exactly what it is that the president does or is doing in Serbia or outside of it most of the time.  We see so much of our Prime Minister, you could be forgiven for thinking that Serbia is in fact a member of the Commonwealth.

Firstly, the best way that this government assisted with the #NoKosovoUnesco cause was by demonstrating a dedication to doing the bare minimum for it and then just hoping for the best.  Unfortunately with that approach, all we could really expect was the worst.  The reason that I say this was the best assistance they could have provided is because it forced those of us both in Serbia and in diaspora to take responsibility ourselves and show the initiative they had failed to show.  It brought together the best of the Serb community (including non-Serbs who were sympathetic to this cause) into a sort of giant think tank and taskforce.  It demonstrated that when we combined our numbers with our love for our homeland and our brothers and sisters living in it, our potential was unlimited.  From active protests on the ground in Serbia (from Kosovo to Novi Sad) to consolidated PR campaigns across Europe, Canada, the US and even down to right here in Australia, the government showed little interest in lending anything more than moral support when work was underway, but were eager to take all of the credit when the work was completed.

We’ve heard this government pride themselves on having spent almost nothing on stopping Kosovo from becoming a UNESCO member, and that’s true.  It’s true because they were never sent invoices for '28 Jun' members’ around the clock campaigning, they were never sent invoices for Boris Malagurski’s late nights spent arranging graphic designs for the cause and for Filip Filipi’s coordination of petition promotion.  They weren’t sent invoices for supporters around the world securing signatures, they weren’t sent invoices for journalist write-ups about all of this work from people such as Katarina Martic at 'Kurir' and they weren’t sent invoices for my work in Australia or for the articles written on my blog ‘The Daily Male’ attempting to communicate our message further.  The irony of it all though; they did little to earn any credit for this campaign yet they were the only ones being paid to work on this cause.

This is perhaps a good time to raise this issue given the controversy surrounding a video posted by Andrej Fajgelj, a Serbian citizen, criticising the Serbian government.  Now we’re not Andrej Fajgelj but we share his concern.  And unlike Fajgelj, our power is in our numbers as well as in our dedication.  Our voices have become too loud for this government to silence us.  There are too many of us for them to break down our doors and imprison us.  Our successes have been too significant for them to discredit us so instead they opt to claim responsibility for them.  So I’ll leave you with my personal message to the Serbian government and it’s a sentiment I think is shared by many others.  It seems that if this government was as willing and quick to accept responsibility for many of Serbia’s problems as they were to take responsibility for its successes, then Serbia would really be on the path to a better future.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Triggers in Paris: What it Took for Humanity to Become a Trending Topic

If you’re one of the many people who’s dedicated more than a few statuses, tweets or Instagram posts to the Paris terrorist attacks, there’s a good chance you’re not the authority on the issue you seem to be or quite the humanitarian you claim to be.  In what's proven to be a shocking few days in world events across a number of countries, it’s hard to say if people have taken the time to learn any more from these incidents than the order of the French tricolour… if that.  In reality, we’ve perhaps learned more from people’s reaction to these events, than we have from the events themselves.

So what have we learned?  Well we’ve learned that while our hearts may very well be in the right place, at times our minds are definitely not.  The Paris attacks revealed an incredible naivety, Eurocentrism and lack of commitment on our parts that we have sadly seen time and time again.  We’ve learned this in the same way that we learned most of us are really only interested in addressing human rights violations in Africa when it involves us sharing a ‘Kony 2012’ profile picture.  We’ve learned this in the same way that we learned most of us will only really show an interest in supporting medical research when it involves posting a video of us completing a challenge on social media that might help get more than the ten likes we normally average on a post.  Now, sadly we’ve learned this as we’ve seen a vast majority of people only show a willingness to make vocal appeals for humanity and compassion on social media when tragedy strikes popular Contiki destinations or places they once visited and posted a photo in.  Our compassion towards, consideration of and commitment to a cause should not and must not be determined by our vested interest in it, but it seems that it is.

The flag being flown all over the world at the moment.

Compassion is something you either possess or you don’t and you can’t turn it on and off whenever you feel like it.  Therefore, it should be concerning to us all that we only seem willing to show support for particular causes when it seems like that’s what everyone else is doing.  If we latched onto causes as firmly as we latched onto hashtags, we could really begin to get “#HelpForEveryone” rather than just “#PrayForParis.”  So I’m going to do something everyone should be doing with relation to this issue and that’s leaving religion out of it.  It’s a factor in the issue of the attacks but it’s almost irrelevant when it comes to how we deal with this issue.  What we need to start addressing is the hypocrisy and the double standards we seem to be demonstrating and the fact that we in the west (and this includes western Europe) appear to value our lives more than some others.

The world reacts... though often too late.

We demonstrate this when we allow media and ourselves to brush over the U.S bombing of numerous civilian targets, most recently a hospital in Afghanistan, but we devote almost 24-hour coverage to a terrorist attack in Paris.  That’s why we have these problems, because a vast majority of us only engage in selective compassion.  I’m extremely angry with many western governments and their foreign policies, in particular the E.U and the U.S.  I’m not a Muslim and I’m not angry because I’m an Orthodox Christian.  My disdain and anger has nothing whatsoever to do with my religion.  I say this to reiterate that my frustration and disappointment stems from the fact that these same world powers repeatedly get away with murder and destruction because they package it up as something much nicer and more honourable than it is, where they attempt to convince us that their ends always justify their means.  What's most saddening though is that many people believe them and in fact fail to see that these are foreign policies that breed contempt and violence, where their means always seem to lead to innocent people falling victim in the end.

We need to realise that part of showing compassion now is remembering when we should have shown the same compassion before.  Remembering that in 1999, almost 4000 people (many of whom were children) were killed in the 78 day bombing campaign of Serbia.  16 employees working late in a TV station were killed when NATO forces bombed the RTS building in Belgrade.  There was no international condemnation in response to this, no recognition of this as an act of terror and no candlelight vigils in international capitals.  In Beslan, Russia less than 10 years ago, 385 people were killed in a terrorist attack on a school.  186 of those killed were children.  Profile pictures weren’t changed to Russian flags and the world didn’t stop to remember.  On the same night of the Paris attack, a terrorist attack in the Lebanese capital of Beirut killed 44 people and barely warranted a mention in the mainstream media.  The same can be said for U.S-led air strikes in Syria, which alone have claimed over 450 civilian lives.  I mention all of these because we need to realise that the more selective we become about the violence we chose to mourn, the more random the violence becomes.

Egypt projects Lebanese, Russian and French flags on the pyramids of Giza
as a mark of respect for the victims of terror attacks in the respective countries.

The core of the problem is that the west convinces us that the bombs we drop overseas are good, yet only an attack on us is classified as an 'act of terror.'  It’s hypocrisy that calls civilian deaths in NATO bombing campaigns “collateral damage” but western deaths in Paris “an international tragedy.”  It serves to convince us that it’s okay for us not to bat an eyelid when Charlie Hebdo makes fun of Russian air-crash victims, or Serbian civilian casualties, but we must condemn anyone attempting to make light of an attack against us.  And worst of all, even if most people don’t want to admit it, we appear to value our lives more than those of people living in some other parts of the world.

The concept of mocking victims is less appealing when you become the victims.

Maybe it’s because most people haven’t been backpacking through Beslan.  They haven’t visited the markets of Beirut.  They haven’t spent their honeymoon in Belgrade.  None of these cities have been branded ‘The City of Love.’  Whatever the case may be, my point is this; it doesn’t devalue the lives of the people living within them.  It’s wonderful that you've taken the time to change your profile picture, that you've pleaded for others to say a prayer and then you've gone to sleep feeling like you’ve done something to make the world a slightly better place.  I guess I’d just like to see a world where people try a little bit harder to do something good, rather than trying so damned hard to make it look like they’re doing something good.  A world where people are hopefully informed enough to know at least that I've put the French tricolour in the wrong order after the second paragraph.  Because it’s no good to keep saying we support people in times of crisis if we only lend our support to certain people in time of crisis and if we do nothing to combat the causes of the crisis.

So thankyou for changing your profile pictures and sharing your posts.  My question is, where was this concern earlier and more importantly, where will it be in a week’s time?

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Sunday, 8 November 2015

726 Words for #NoKosovoUnesco

This blog post contains exactly 726 words.  This is certainly not an incidental word count and it’s much more than a word limit I’ve imposed on myself.  It contains 726 words because ‘726’ is the combined sum of 263 Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries & church properties, 174 religious facilities, 33 cultural & historical monuments and 256 Serbian cemeteries desecrated or completely destroyed in Kosovo since 1999.

Albanians specialise in coming in like the "wrecking ball" Miley Cyrus sings about.

This is an attempt to explain to non-Serbian friends and followers what the #NoKosovoUnesco campaign is about.  What all my tweets and retweets have been in aid of.  This is, at its core, a custody battle between Serbia and the self-proclaimed “independent” state of Kosovo, over Serbian cultural heritage sites in the region.  It’s a custody battle based on safety and well-being rather than mere possession.  An attempt to protect innocent children from a negligent step-parent who wants sole custody of them, but tends to have a nasty habit of setting them on fire, knocking them over and generally scribbling messages of hate on them at any opportunity.   A step-parent who will certainly do them harm if they are awarded custody.  Serbian heritage sites are already registered with UNESCO as a part of Serbia.  They’re happy with the parent they have and anything more than visitation rights for Kosovo would be a gross misjudgement.  Like sending your children on a camping trip with Ivan Milat and Lindy Chamberlain or cheering for the Albanians rather than Liam Neeson when watching the film ‘Taken.’
Kosovo: keen to help shorten UNESCO's site list. 

Currently, Kosovo’s under the UN Interim Administration and isn’t subject to international law, which is why it can’t become a member of UNESCO.  The Kosovo parliament says it plans to adopt a law on cultural heritage which will deny private ownership rights to the Orthodox Church over monasteries and churches, with the explanation that these are all “property of the republic of Kosovo.”  Unless UNESCO has changed its over-arching policy from one of preservation to one of desecration, this seems like an outcome worth fighting.  One of the best points on the issue was raised by Father Sava Janjic, Archdeacon of the Serbian Orthodox Monastery Decani in Kosovo who said “Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo are living places of worship and not only cultural heritage sites.”  The danger of Kosovo UNESCO membership is that it will turn living sites into relics and then relics into ruins.  Given their plans for these heritage sites, if Kosovo’s government wants to be a part of any abbreviated organisation, perhaps they’d be more suited to ISIS than UNESCO.

Kids have this great habit of telling it as it is.

We’re a part of a generation where superhero films are more popular than ever, yet more people than ever are unwilling to commit to the causes these films tend to represent; justice, moral servitude and just generally doing what’s right.  Perhaps it’s because we enjoy these films for a different reason.  Not simply because they represent people fighting for these ideals and suggest that good ultimately must always prevail over evil, but because they play into most people’s belief that while we know what needs to be done, there are other people who will do it for us.

The Avengers didn't prevent this.  It's up to us to be their superheroes.

I suppose my message is this – it doesn’t make you a better person for being passive.  It doesn’t make the world a better place if you sit on the fence.  What’s the point of having followers if you don’t have a message and what’s the use of having a platform if you’re unwilling to take a stand?  Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked that “to ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.”  People often seem to enjoy relying on the belief that there is always a “grey” area in order to avoid having to make a decision when presented with a “black & white” ultimatum.  I hear so many people complaining about how things should be and yet they’re often the same ones unwilling to accept part of the responsibility for bringing about the change they desire.  People that expect governments to implement new policies and leaders to improve lifestyle, yet people who aren’t prepared to sign a petition.

So how about this; with the ease that you click ‘like’ on that Instagram post or click ‘open’ on the YouTube video you were tagged in on Facebook, do something useful and click on this link, and leave your signature on something worthwhile?

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