In just two days, two mass murders occurred in Serbia. On Wednesday morning, a thirteen-year-old boy killed eight students and security staff and injured seven others at the "Vladislav Ribnikar" elementary school in Belgrade. On Thursday evening, a twenty-one-year-old man went on a killing spree in the village of Malo Orašje near Smederevo, and then continued to shoot and kill in Dubona near Mladenovac. He killed eight people and injured 14. The boy called the police himself, and the young man surrendered to the police on Friday morning in the vicinity of Kragujevac. Several injured children and adults are still in critical condition.
The whole of Serbia is in a state of shock. Grief, pain, anger, helplessness, fear, and a sense of insecurity have overwhelmed the entire country. Parents don't know what to say to their children, why such horrors happen, and who guarantees that they won't happen again. Citizens have been continuously gathering in front of the "Vladislav Ribnikar" school for days and lighting candles to pay their respects to the victims. People gather in cities throughout the former Yugoslavia, from Zagreb to Pristina, from Podgorica to Tuzla, to light candles for the souls of those who perished in terrible crimes, sharing in the grief of the citizens of Serbia. Three days of mourning have been declared in Serbia, from May 5th to May 7th, and a day of mourning has also been declared in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Failed the most important exam
Psychologists, sociologists, lawyers, criminologists, and various other experts are constantly in the media, analyzing murders, sharing advice, and trying to help citizens cope with the horror that has befallen them, to somehow process the unprocessed horror. When a tragedy of such surreal proportions occurs, citizens need more than ever to know that there is a state, that institutions function, and that they have someone to rely on. Unfortunately, all of this has been lacking, and government representatives have failed the most important exam.
This was discussed by Žarko Korać, former member of parliament, member of Zoran Đinđić's government, and long-time professor of psychology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. Korać clearly defined the situation we find ourselves in: "In times of social crises, the stability of different social groups but also the stability of the social and political elite is revealed. At such times, people follow the messages of elected political leaders much more than usual. They expect explanations, advice, words of comfort... If instead they are scared, panicked, and give nonsensical advice, the population will certainly notice. This only deepens the crisis."
Internet, Video Games, and Western Values
The downfall began on Wednesday, at a press conference held by government officials. Minister of Education Branko Ružić stood out, announcing his findings, which he likely gleaned by staring at an icon of Vladimir Putin. Without a shred of shame, Ružić said, "The cancerous, destructive influence of the internet, video games, and so-called Western values is evident, and it is clear to all of us that a major turnaround is needed, stricter measures need to be taken, and systemic solutions need to be found so that this tragedy would not, God forbid, turn into socially acceptable behaviour, as unfortunately is the case in some Western societies."
We all know who is never to blame, nor responsible for anything - the Serbian authorities. Since Minister Ružić started looking for a culprit, it's a pity he stopped at the internet and video games. What about the angry subculture of heavy metal fans? Why didn't he mention the cartoon "South Park"? He could have at least remembered Marilyn Manson. Ružić's like-minded colleagues blamed the notorious Western values for the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April 1999.
I understand that the Kremlin's agenda dictates that the minister blame the infamous Western values for all the world's evils, but it is a bit much to claim that school shootings in Western societies are "socially acceptable behaviour." In which Western societies? Where is the killing of students an accepted phenomenon? Does Minister Ružić even know what the term "socially acceptable" means?
Never heard of shame
Of course, it didn't occur to the minister to offer his resignation. Only when public pressure became too strong did his party leader Ivica Dačić, the president of the SPS, a criminal organization that plunged entire Yugoslavia into darkness, say that Ružić was ready to offer his resignation, but only if it was determined that he was individually responsible for the massacre in the Vračar elementary school. This is called mocking common sense, the victims, their families, but also all citizens of Serbia. So, it's a discipline that socialists have thoroughly practised in the last thirty years. These people simply do not know basic empathy, their face is thicker than the soles of boots, and they have never heard of shame.
At the same press conference, the chief of the Belgrade police, Veselin Milić, showed a list of children that the killer had planned to murder. Cameras recorded it, and it was broadcasted on television, as well as reported by newspapers and portals. Thus, parents of the students could see their children's names on the hit list, and the children themselves saw it, causing them even more trauma and horror. I understand that someone can be unprofessional, confused, or whatever, but to be so devoid of empathy for other human beings and their suffering goes beyond human understanding. One can only helplessly ask the authorities: Are you normal?
On the same day, in an address to the public, President Aleksandar Vučić calmly revealed information from the arrested boy's medical records, recounted parts of his conversation with a social worker, and disclosed the names, professions, and earnings of the boy's parents, violating all possible laws. He then announced a list of measures he proposed to the Government of Serbia to combat such incidents. All the measures, of course, were repressive: stricter penalties, lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12, increased surveillance of schools, and so on.
In the end, he could not resist starting to talk about Kosovo, himself, the opposition, and other standard topics he talks about in his endless monologues. Even on the day when seven girls, one boy, and a security guard were killed, on the day of the worst mass murder in the history of Serbia, on the day when grief and pain overwhelmed the soul of every human being in this country, the president could not restrain himself.
Prime Minister defends the system, Mayor on vacation
At first, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić did not respond, and then she only spoke up to refute those who think the system failed the test. Brnabić said, "I disagree with those who say the system failed. If the system did not fail somewhere, it seems to me it did not in this case."
So, what does it look like when the system fails? A student enters a school and kills everyone inside? What needs to happen, what kind of crime needs to be committed for the prime minister to admit that something is wrong with the system she supposedly manages? Did she change her mind after the crimes in the villages around Smederevo and Mladenovac? The prime minister did not comment on that issue, and it seems that she still thinks the system works perfectly. Those in power are so used to defending their position, denying their responsibility for anything in this country that they have completely lost their moral compass. Even a mass murder of children is not enough to awaken their dormant conscience. Simply unbelievable.
In all the horror and chaos, the absence of the mayor of Belgrade, Aleksandar Šapić, was noticeable. On the day of the heinous crime in Belgrade, there was no sign or sound from the man who leads this city. It turned out that Šapić was on vacation abroad, that his colleagues had contacted him, but that he had no intention of interrupting his vacation, because - as he said - "he is not competent". He wrote a condolence statement on his Instagram profile and concluded that it was enough from him.
After the second mass murder, Šapić had to interrupt his vacation, returned to Belgrade, said he was shocked and laid a wreath. However, he did not lay the wreath where all other Belgraders leave flowers, at the "Vladislav Ribnikar" Elementary School, but in front of the entrance to the Belgrade Assembly. Then he called on citizens to light a candle for the dead in front of the Old Palace, practically at his workplace, even though people have been lighting candles and gathering at the school for days. Really, what is wrong with these people?
After the second shooting, Vučić addressed the public again. He said it was an attack on the entire country, he spoke of proposing the reintroduction of the death penalty, but was allegedly dissuaded by the Prime Minister (the same one who is obedient to him militarily and has no right to her own opinion), announced the disarmament of Serbia and the introduction of 1,200 new school police officers, spoke of how monsters will not be released - neither small nor large, 45,000 profiles liking the killer and monster will be examined.
To be clear, he only meant those who like the perpetrators of the two mass murders, fans of Ratko Mladić can continue as before. Otherwise, Vučić would have to investigate and arrest the head of the BIA Aleksandar Vulin, half of the ministers, most of the parliament and himself.
The President of Serbia knows only about repressive measures and sees the only solution as intensifying them. Vučić didn't mention any other options, such as studying the causes that led to the tragedy, consulting with experts, having a dialogue about the social pathologies that exist in our society and why, and re-evaluating the key values on which our society is based. Vučić thinks that the problem can be solved by having more police officers in schools, not more psychologists and educators, better working conditions for teachers, conversations with students and school staff, and real solutions to their problems and difficulties.
There's no empathy, solidarity, strengthening of unity, culture of tolerance, patience, building of educational institutions, ending hate speech, curbing the frenzy of regime media, culture of dialogue, stopping the glorification of war criminals and criminals; such ideas don't occur to him. Only force is what the president knows. In fact, the idea of a decent society is deeply foreign to him, and he has no idea what he would do in such an environment.
No one at the crime scene
When everything is said and done, it's no surprise that not a single government representative went to the "Vladislav Ribnikar" school to light a candle for the victims, to pay their respects, to be with other citizens of this country, and to share their pain. The President of Serbia did not go, the Prime Minister did not go, no minister showed up, no state secretary, and neither the mayor nor his deputy went. Nobody. Zero. Foreign ambassadors went to express their condolences, to be together with the citizens of Serbia, but our politicians did not go. Perhaps they are afraid of the citizens, or they simply don't care.
We all know very well who the people in power are. We know that they are not interested in our well-being, that they are there only for money and power, that they behave like a band of robbers, that they have usurped and captured the state, that they humiliate and abuse society with all their might. However, it is still incomprehensible why even in such tragic circumstances they are unable to fake empathy and humanity. Don't they have any advisers who could tell them that they should not behave so inhumanely and arrogantly? Why can't they at least pretend to be normal?