My disappointment with the general state of affairs
I was born and raised in a family where the parents gave their children dreams to follow and values to live by. I must admit that it is not easy to live by those values in my country. Regrettably, it appears to me that the situation is very much the same in many other countries and that the set of values that I have been given seems to be rapidly disappearing these days. Of course, by noticing this I am not discovering anything new. Yet, my perception of reality has been haunting me for quite some time now. I increasingly wonder about how I will raise my own children one day, what I will recommend them to strive for in their lives and what kind of a world I will leave for them. Given that my values have caused me and many others like me a lot of disappointment, wasted time and bitterness, I sometimes wonder whether it would be wiser to teach my children the kind of morals that would make it easier for them to get by in life and to evade all the troubles I went through. Yet, the only solution I always come to, in my desire to have a clear conscience, is not to abandon my convictions. I have also realized that before passing on to my children the set of values in which I believe, I should try doing something about the actual state of affairs to make it better, to improve it so that it is more in line with my worldviews.
What is here before you is the product of my dreaming about a better world. I suppose that my dreams do not differ so much from the dreams of millions of people who are dissatisfied with the way the world is at the moment. Having read countless articles in which others have outlined their disappointment with the way that the socio-economic situation is unfolding in my country and world, I am positive that I am not the only person who would like for the world to be a better place. This conviction was the reason why I began to seriously think about whether I should do something about those things in the world that do not put a smile on my face.
My name is Tomislav Bagatin. I am just an average Croatian who is grappling with basically the same problems that millions of young people around the world face every day. In doing so, I have observed certain trends in my own society and in the world with which I am not very pleased. When it comes to the situation in Croatia these are an ever-growing level of corruption, cronyism and nepotism, the destruction of social harmony and a serious economic decline. These problems have been associated with the erosion of values that I cherish. For example, the appreciation of education, creativity, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit among young generations is being increasingly replaced with dreams of and instructions for becoming rich and famous overnight, dreams and instructions that are imbued with the “whatever it takes” attitude that is constantly searching for shortcuts. To be sure, this situation is not limited solely to my country; I am fully aware that the general state of affairs is similar in many other countries. Besides, owing to the process of globalization, the world has become a global village in which money, violence, physical beauty and ignorance are, in my opinion, far too much celebrated and promoted. By contrast, creativity, open-mindedness, tolerance and social equality are some of the concepts that are insufficiently promoted in the media worldwide.
Moreover, I am disappointed with the entire political class in Croatia that does not seem to show the slightest bit of concern for future generations. Given that their collective performance in the last twenty years has brought the country to the brink of economic and social collapse, they have become the chief source of my discontentment. Regardless of the political option to which they belong, their economic policies have been virtually reduced to selling out our national treasures (privatization), increasing the public debt and delaying the much needed reforms as long as possible. As evidenced by numerous cases that emerge on a daily basis, instead of caring deeply for the wellbeing of their countrymen, members of Croatian political parties overwhelmingly care only for themselves and for the interests of their protégés. In the last several years examples of their misconduct have come to dominate the headlines of daily newspapers to such an extent that it is becoming increasingly difficult to point out politicians from top echelons of the main political parties in the country who were not associated with immoral or criminal acts in the past or with people who are known for having committed wrongdoings. Every now and then the name of some political figure appears in the headlines, accused of being embroiled in some nefarious deed, but the entire sordid affair is swiftly replaced with a new one where another prominent political actor assumes the leading role. This cycle constantly repeats itself and it seems to rightfully cement the public opinion that politics is chiefly reserved for those who are sooner or later destined to face charges in court. But since, in my opinion, the Croatian judicial system does not function adequately and justice served the Croatian way leaves much to be desired, politicians and their protégées eventually either get away with their crimes or receive scandalously mild sentences for their misdeeds. At least this is my opinion, one that I have formed by reading about numerous eyebrow-raising cases and shady business transactions.
Instead of being an area in which politicians act in the best interest of their constituents, the political arena in Croatia has become a place dominated by individuals of questionable character, many of which are willing to trade their voting right for a rewarding sinecure. Many individuals who participate in the Croatian political scene are corrupted, incompetent and less than impressive individuals whose only outlet for their limited abilities seems to be politics. Many of those are put in charge of public companies or institutions, but they mismanage them to such an extent that upon their departure they leave nothing but ruins in their wake. And then, instead of being punished for their incompetence, they are often rewarded with a new sinecure. With this kind of management in place, it is no wonder that public companies rarely bring the desired results.
On top of that, in place of building bridges between the opposite sides of the political spectrum and leaving history to historians, Croatian politicians are busy constantly bringing back into the center of attention the past and issues that disconcert and divide the nation. At the end of nearly every political debate, closing arguments of all parties involved always seem to revolve around the question whose grandfather was a communist and whose grandfather was a nationalist. In order to remove the focus of attention from issues that really matter to an average citizen (and areas where they are obviously too incompetent to provide the desperately needed solutions), Croatian politicians incessantly keep bringing back to the forefront old disputes that should be finally put to rest. Instead of searching for issues on which they could collaborate for the sake of the nation, it seems as if they purposefully concentrate on issues that tend to ignite nothing but conflicts and quarrels. Instead of steering the nation towards the future, they let the past weigh it down like an anchor. Rather than putting emphasis on what brings us together, they highlight the differences that drive us apart. This is, unfortunately, a never-ending story whose conclusion I have been craving for many years now. In vain, as nothing seems to ever change with the passage of time.
Moreover, the willingness to listen to opposing views, let alone the willingness to try to understand someone’s arguments and to accept a good proposition even when it is coming from a political opponent, is nearly completely absent from the public scene in my country. It appears to me that the decision-making actors, that is, the political, economic and religious leaders have all simply decided to stubbornly hold their entrenched positions from which they unleash barrage fire on their opponents.
In sum, there are not many positive remarks I can say about people who do not seem to care a jot about the generations to come. Regrettably, those people have been shaping the everyday life of my compatriots for far too long, the kind of everyday life that is ever more dominated by an economy that is in tatters and by the resulting destruction of the social fabric. That the situation could get even worse is evident from the fact that only a handful of truly capable and moral people with a long-term vision of the future have been willing to engage in political life so far. This course of events has caused the political class in Croatia to lose nearly all of its credibility in the eyes of average citizens. This is evident in the relatively small number of citizens who voted in the last several elections. Obviously, I am not the only Croatian who deeply regrets to see what the political leadership has been doing to their country ever since it finally gained its independence.
I know that the words above are rather upsetting and unpleasant to hear, but the data I have collected (and which I intend to provide in the book that should follow if the project takes off) gives them weight and credibility. Since there are not any noteworthy changes on the horizon that could give me hope that the situation might be changed for the better in the years to come, I am more and more disillusioned with the entire Croatian public scene, by which I also mean academics, intellectuals and religious leaders. Taking everything into account, in my opinion, the future of my country does not appear to be very bright at the moment.
All these and some other characteristics of the current political, economic and social situation in Croatia, coupled with elements of neoliberalism, have resulted in a serious economic and social stagnation, general apathy and loss of hope present in virtually all parts of Croatian society. But if the reports that I have been reading every day for years now and that come from every corner of the globe are more or less accurate, that same picture of a country in crisis I have just painted above could have easily been presented by people who hail from many other countries as well. More than a few of the words and expressions that I have used above to describe the situation in Croatia could, therefore, be used to describe the state of affairs in many other countries too. Of course, I can easily point out other problematic issues, the most pressing of which appear to be the ever-increasing environmental degradation, the rise of social inequality and the emergence of a ubiquitous surveillance system. The latter issues are so important that many scholars claim that due to the increasing environmental degradation we are all heading towards an unprecedented environmental catastrophe. Moreover, they claim that due to a significant rise in social inequality we are facing a real social disaster. Finally, many commentators depict the emergence of the Orwellian world as absolutely frightening. Although we cannot predict the exact extent of consequences that these trends might cause world-wide, many of those who specialize in long-term projections conclude that we have been paving the way for a very bleak and problematic future. That is why I am not glad to see that we lack visionary leaders capable of fighting the abovementioned problems; leaders who can offer not only empty words, but deeds; leaders who will care not only about their short-term political career and local electorate, but also about the world as a whole, even if this means losing the next elections.
 Jared Diamond tells a story about his friend who in the last decade has been closely connected with the federal administration in Washington D.C.. That person was very surprised when, on one ocassion, he visited Washington D.C. and found out that the leaders of the US government at that time had a «90-day focus», meaning that the only thing they talked about were the problems with the potential to cause a disaster within the next 90 days. (See: Jared Diamond, Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, Penguin Books, England, 2006, page 434.)