A dear friend whose father was an intelligence officer told me about the day in the early 1980s when he decided to cut his hair short and get an earring. His father asked about among the intelligence folk, and determined that he "was either an anarchist or a punker." About anarchists everything is more or less known, yes, but what was up with this new category of "punker"? The answer among the intelligence officers was "well, nothing. They listen to music."
These days the fifth annual Exit festival in Novi Sad is under way. It is the biggest cultural event in the city and the only festival in Serbia that consistently attracts a large crowd of visitors from around the world. The concert lineup gets better every year, and the creativity of the organisers is more than obvious. The festival originated as a way of showing a different face of Serbia in the waning agonies of the Milosevic period, and continues to mean something now that the neofascist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) has taken power in the city government of Novi Sad.
Which is where the difficulty comes up. This year the festival coincides with the anniversary of the massacre of the civilian population of Srebrenica. The organisers thought to recognise this with a minute of silence at the performance. The SRS responded by asking whether the organisers thought they might like to have another festival next year, or not. Now the minute of silence for the victims is degenerating into a flowery gesture for peace in the world.
So is it really "well, nothing. They listen to music"? Or is the SRS so persuasive that the youth follow their command? Or is it that if you scratch a young progressive, you find a Radical underneath?