by Dejan JOVIC
As other former Socialist countries, Croatia has also developed an illusion about the life and work in capitalism. Disappointed with socialism, where everything was falling apart in the vortex of inflation and chaos of semi-controlled violence, many convinced themselves that "Dynasty" and "Dallas" were documentary films about the true life in the West, rather than soaps that distort the true picture. To many, the life in the West seemed like a fairytale where anyone can strike it rich and justice always wins in the end. It is true that in the West many things are better and better organized than in the "transition" countries. But, only those who never lived in the West may claim that there absolutely everything is better than in Croatia. Such a black and white picture is accepted by very few among us, who live both "here and there".
I recall very well my initial surprise when in 1994, in Manchester, my first residence in the West, I saw homeless people. Although I did not have many illusions about the West, I had a hard time imagining that in the fourth richest country in the world some people lived in such dehumanizing circumstances, on the street, without work, home, an address (and consequently without voting rights, which are linked with an address). I am still surprised when I hear that in Britain people wait for ten months to see a specialist in a hospital; so that many of them die before their turn comes. Some (wealthy) travel abroad for medical treatment, because it is faster and less complicated. Every autumn, there are news that an elderly woman has died in her home, frozen to death, because she did not have enough money to pay for the heating. Many among my students owe five or more thousands of pounds because they must take out loans to pay for tuition or accommodation. Let's not even mention crime. And all of that takes place in the same country where Elton John spends hundreds of thousands of pounds annually on flowers, and the railways director gets two million pounds in severance before retirement.
However, it is difficult to understand why the government is convinced that it should imitate the West in absolutely everything, even when that implies an abolition of rights. Consequently, why is it hard (even for the Croatian Prime Minister who had a distinguished career under Socialism) to admit that some things were better before 1990 (therefore, when he was in power) than since then, and that some of them remained better even after the catastrophic ten years of Tudman's rule? Why should Croatia rely only on others, on somebody else's laws, customs and experiences, instead of selecting from her own past solutions that worked and reject those that did not? What (and whom) does the current Croatian government fear?
Government's reply to all these questions will be "there is no alternative". I analyzed that reply in my previous two articles, so there's no sense in repeating myself. The country with $11 billion of external debts (three times as much per capita than the former Yugoslavia at the time it fell apart) perhaps has no luxury of conducting its own economic and social policy. If it cannot do anything, the government could at least say that it is doing what it must, not what it wants. That would be more honest, and more favorable for the citizens, than the excuse that rights simply must be reduced because they are lower elsewhere. If higher standards must be abandoned, the government should at least express regret in connection with that, rather than trying to convince it's supporters that that is absolutely normal and ("naturally") desirable.