Serbia is in a state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic. All movement is restricted to 12 hours a day, the military and police forces patrol the streets, and if you are over 65, you may not leave your home even for a minute, except for a trip to the grocery store on Sundays between 4 am and 7 am. We may no longer take children out to parks, and the entire school curriculum for primary and secondary schools is being broadcast on TV via the public media service. Hence, Serbia’s educational system, already cumbersome and obsolete, was forced to venture into distance learning and home schooling, the legal basis for which has been present in Serbia for more than a decade, but the law has never been implemented mostly due to lucrative interests of those who profit on the obsolete system of education.
Under the Serbian Constitution, the state of emergency can be either introduced by the Parliament, or confirmed by it within 48 hours after it is declared by the President, Prime Minister or Parliament Speaker. As this has not been done in Serbia, the current state of emergency is in fact in contravention of the Constitution.
Life has come to a halt. Kindergartens, schools, universities, cafés, gyms and shopping centers have been closed, and all public city and intercity transport suspended. Borders have been sealed, and movement is possible only by personal vehicles or on foot. Wherever possible, people are making a swift transition to doing business online.
The only stores still open are groceries, pharmacies, and a few post offices, banks or other stores. Queues in front of supermarkets are now taken for granted, and a shortage of basic food supplies was noticeable as soon as the emergency state kicked in: basic food products, notably flour and yeast, are no longer to be found on shelves. Anxiety is further aggravated by large retail chains striving to make extra profit amid general misfortune – after initial discounts, we now witness a noticeable increase in the prices of basic food supplies that are still in stock, such as vegetable oil. Online delivery from large supermarkets does not function, and there has been a general shortage of face masks, gloves and disinfectants for weeks.
Citizens are particularly irritated by draconian fines for curfew violations, brutal detainment of disobedient individuals, 3,000 hospital beds that have been set up at the Belgrade Fair, and the now daily rule by fear. Another issue of concern is the illegal use of more than 1,000 Huawei CCTV cameras of the Ministry of the Interior to identify persons and license plates across Belgrade. On top of that, citizens are quite apprehensive because of the hypocritical stance to migrants from war-stricken regions of the Middle East, with hundreds of them being placed in resorts and refugee centers throughout Serbia regardless of citizens protesting against that and without implementing the necessary measures to restrict their movement during the pandemic. We are now witnessing a situation where migrants, stuck in Serbia on route to the EU and financially supported by Soros, enjoy better living conditions and greater rights than Serbian residents, even during a state of emergency.
A foretaste of the last days, about which we read in the Holy Bible, came from the emergency state measure which banned all public gatherings of more than five persons within a closed space, including churches. Since those older than 65 may not go to church, the number of people actually coming to church services has dropped drastically, and the Holy Communion is taking place outside of the church. The 2,000-year old tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church dictates that the clergy and the faithful take the Holy Communion out of the same chalice and using the same spoon, which is why the clergy and churchgoers were the first to be attacked by the antitraditional, antifamily and liberal media and NGOs. Serbia’s Security Information Agency started filming those who communed in front of the churches, and some employers have begun questioning their employees as to whether they took part in the communion – if they said they did, they were immediately suspended and accused of behaving recklessly towards their families and the community. What these virtue-signaling hypocrites forget is that in more than 2,000 years no one has ever caught a disease through the Holy Communion, but rather the opposite – many have thus found strength, consolation, comfort and healing from spiritual and physical suffering. After all, partaking in the Holy Communion is an act of personal freedom and choice that does not jeopardize anyone, an act in which we partake believing that it will “be done to us according to our faith”, and not because we are forced to do so. That is why no emergency state can separate the faithful from becoming one with Christ through the Holy Sacrament.
And yet, the state of emergency has its good points: a moratorium on usurious loans has been enforced (in 2019 alone, banks in Serbia made a whopping EUR 700 million in profit), solidarity with the elderly is evident, people are gathering to prayer in their homes at the same time, and applause and ovations for medical workers echo from balconies and windows every evening at 8 and are now part of the daily routine.
It brings particular joy to see that most family members are now gathered, especially in the evening. This has turned out to be an unexpected opportunity for all of us to come together with our family members. To quote one of my friends: I finally have an opportunity to get to know my kids a little better. And the other way round.
Nonetheless, we should bear in mind that the worst is yet to come after the coronavirus – an economic collapse of the already ravaged economy, mass layouts that have already begun, and major uncertainty for everyone given that the government has not yet come up with a concrete proposal to help the paralyzed economy, notably the tertiary sector.
If there is no government support and no return to a nationally-oriented economy, the collapse of small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs will have far-reaching consequences to a much greater extent than the ones caused by the coronavirus. This will lead us into an even deeper demographic and economic crisis, and a crash of the Serbian economy, which will in turn reflect on the quality of life of a large number of families that are barely managing to make ends meet as it is.
It is no accident that the coronavirus originated in one of the most developed Chinese cities – Wuhan, populated by around 10 million people, one of the first cities in the world to get 5G network, and a city with a high living standard, and this fact warns us of something which our civilization has never encountered: in the concept of a global liberal hegemony over an alienated individual, it is no longer enough to enslave – the goal is to create a cyborg-man, in a frantic panic to survive, detached from control over his own will and his freedom. If you haven’t yet watched Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion from 2011, I recommend that you do.
Every crisis is also an opportunity for a new beginning. This is why now is the right time for the government and society as a whole to break out of the claws of the neoliberal concept of society and turn to themselves, their tradition and the family model of society. Whether Serbia and many other nations and countries across the globe have the strength to do that, remains to be seen very soon.