When asked to describe our country, every one of us mentions the most beautiful places, the most prominent aspects of our way of life, the points in history that fill the history books with stories testifying to our glorious ancestors and their great deeds. We also like to talk about the food that is the best in the world and the things you must try, describing them in such succulent words and gestures that we make the visitor believe them even without tasting a single bite. Finally, the poor stranger listens to you talk about the music and dances and customs and books and films and people who created all those things forming what could be called the collective being of a nation.
|Belgrade, Serbia – On the street – Miamia|
Painting this portrait of our country, we stick to the beautiful, ignoring all those little imperfections that appear on every face no matter how attractive it may be. It often happens that even the faces we adore sometimes appear repulsive; some movement of a brow or a lip makes us appalled and stunned to the extent that we start questioning the justification of our adoration and zeal. This exact feeling arises when the topic of Serbia’s polarized culture comes up.
|Vlasotince, Serbia – Epiphany – Maximilian|
On one side, there is the millennial tradition of folk songs depicting all aspects of life, from love and family to war, heroism and the deepest turmoil of the human soul. This was the basis for the folk music of the 20th century that filled kafanas (a kafana is a Serbian bar, coffee shop or tavern where people go for a drink and listen to live folk music; a place that has to be experienced to be understood). There is also the Serbian modern music scene with all the genres you can name: rock and roll, jazz, pop, rap, house, rock, heavy metal, hip-hop, techno… And classical music also has its firm place in the tapestry of Serbian music as well.
|Novi Sad, Serbia – A gig – Aleksandar Kamasi|
On the other side, there is the world of identical-looking creatures with hair extensions, fake nails, eyelashes, pouted fake lips that perform the kind of music called turbo folk – music with oriental rhythm mixed with elements of pop, catchy choruses and simple lines of text that easily go with the twisting tunes. The videos accompanying the songs consist of hypnotizing movements by half-naked girls mimicking sexual acts while male performers attract their target audience by showing six-packs, expensive cars and jewelry.
These two parallel worlds exist without any common ground so that two people belonging to them could easily live within a radius of one hundred meters of each other without having any chance of meeting – they might as well live on completely different planets.
|Sombor, Serbia – Talking – Nenad Nedomacki|
Polarizacija is also quite evident in the world of literature, in the works produced in Serbian and those translated from other languages. While there are authors whose works show a high degree of deliberation, exquisite usage of the Serbian language and immense respect for the reader as an intelligent being, there are also highly popular texts with predictable content, a limited vocabulary and a false belief that having an attitude means being rude and pushy. Somehow, the interest of Serbian readers is shifting from the world’s classics to celebrities’ biographies and fiction of questionable quality. While the majority of Serbian booklovers still look for something to intrigue their minds and higher levels of self, there is this other group of unfortunately young people who seem not to be able to read at all. Quite recently, a journalist interviewed people in the streets of Serbia asking them what their opinion was about the Serbian president meeting a Russian arms dealer named Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (“puška” means rifle in Serbian and the pronunciation resembles the great poet’s last name). A quite considerable number of young people were disturbed by it and they criticized the president for having any business with such a person. Some even claimed that they had seen photos of the two of them at a meeting. What makes this even more shocking is that Pushkin’s novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, is obligatory reading in Serbian schools.
|Pirot, Serbia – At the corner – Dimitar Kazakov|
Serbian television programs are also seriously polarized and the population is divided into two camps: those who watch reality programs and sensation-mongering shows and the people who watch documentaries, debates or entertaining shows with good music, intelligent humor and high-quality use of language. For a country of 7 million people, Serbia has a significant number of TV stations and each one of them is fighting for good ratings by any means necessary. An open fight for every person with a remote control created reality programs that are broadcasted all day long with characters so peculiar that even the most imaginative fiction writer could hardly invent them. These characters have become exceptionally popular in the circle of people who spend their precious free time watching them, and they have become a part of everyday conversations over a cup of coffee. Fortunately, there are people who don’t know that such characters exist and refuse to accept such a decline in common sense, living oblivious to their neighbors who can’t wait to see how the fight between two empty, insignificant personae will end.
|Belgrade, Serbia – My story – Ljubica Arsić|
When thinking about this phenomenon in Serbian culture, it is hard not to look for the roots of this saddening situation. The first thing that comes to mind is a lack of education, but this can be argued because all the public schools in Serbia are using the same curriculum and there is no difference where a person is educated, they are going to get the same quality of education. And it is the same system that has produced all the people who go to the theaters, speak foreign languages, visit art galleries and read more serious literature. Some may blame the influence of other cultures and the internet but the question still arises – why is it that everyone is exposed to the same influences and yet only some acquire these negative tendencies?
|Belgrade, Serbia – Belgrade is eating me – Marija Zaric|
Whatever the cause may be, there is the fact that Serbian society is polarized in this cultural sense and the two sides are unable to understand each other. It would be interesting to hear how those polarized sides describe our beloved Serbia and whether those portraits would have anything in common. In the meantime, we will have to accept the fact that the truth lies where the two images overlap, and only outsiders can experience both sides, unlike the people captured in the images.
Snapshot 1: Belgrade, Serbia – Inside – Alex Blokstra (Unsplash)
Snapshot 2: Vlasotince, Serbia – Epiphany – Maximilian (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 3: Sombor, Serbia – Talking – Nenad Nedomacki (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 4: Novi Sad, Serbia – A gig – Aleksandar Kamasi (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 5: Belgrade, Serbia – On the street – Miamia (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 6: Pirot, Serbia – At the corner – Dimitar Kazakov (Unsplash)
Snapshot 7: Belgrade, Serbia – My story – Ljubica Arsić (Unsplash)
Snapshot 8: Belgrade, Serbia – Belgrade is eating me – Marija Zaric (Unsplash)
Cinemblem voiceover: Caterina Piagentini
Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes
Ahmed, Amina. Growing up with Abuse: A Life of Extremes – Lebanon. April 2019.
Alencar, Joana. Lack of Social Trust – Brazil. January 2019.
Awdejuk, Pawel. Pole-arization – Poland. June 2019.
Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.
Bondarenko, Evgeny. What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Ukraine. May 2019.
Cannarella, Daniela. A Past-Present Dicotomia – Italy. June 2019.
Casas, Marilin Guerrero Casas. Balance – Cuba. May 2019.
Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.
Escandell, Andrea da Silva. The Illogic of Extremes – Uruguay. May 2019.
Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019
Israyelyan, Mania. Polarized Within Ourselves – Armenia. June 2019.
Montano, Osvaldo. Progress in the Face of Polarization – Bolivia. February 2019.
Protić, Aleksandar. Linguistic Balkanization as a Means of Polarization – The Balkans. June 2019.
Ranaldo, Mary. Social Polarization – Italy. April 2019.
Romano, Mavi. Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Spain. January 2019.
Sariñana, Alejandra Gonzalez. Student Movements – Mexico. March 2019.
Sepi, Andreea. A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Germany and Romania. February 2019.
Sevunts, Nane. The Era To Close – Armenia. March 2019.
Skobic, Alexandar. The Loss of Identity – The Balkans. April 2019.
Sitorus, Rina. Polarization in Politics: All a Cebong or Kampret – Indonesia. March 2019.
Spirito, Julieta. A Thought about Polarized Insecurity – Argentina. April 2019.
Valenzuela, Monica. Adults and Children – Peru. April 2019.
Vuka. Extreme Immunity to Functional Tax and Judicial System – Serbia. March 2019
Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.
Williams, Jazz Carl. Unfinished Episodes – Spain. May 2019.
CW 27 – Tajikistan – Nigina Kanunova
CW 28 – Portugal – Nuno Rosalino
CW 29 – Uruguay – Lillian Julber
CW 30 – Argentina – Javier Gomez
CW 31 – Turkey – Seyit Ali Dastan
CW 32 – India – Sanjay Ray
CW 33 – Russia – Anastasiya Zakharova
CW 34 – Canada – Maha Husseini
CW 35 – Spain – Virginia Sanmartin Lopez
CW 38 – Turkey – Peren Cakir
CW 37 – Armenia – Hayk Antonyan
CW 38 – Italy – Sara Deiana
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed