Fire and Ice: Croatia in change and transition

Heraclitus (535BC-475BC) the early Greek philosopher developed the “doctrine of flux” within the context of the Delphic precept to “know thyself”. A thorough examination of change shows the central transitions: night to day, summer to winter, sleeping to waking, life to death. The most famous surviving fragment of his writing is the statement that ”you cannot step twice into the same river” ‒ because it is constantly flowing and changing. His core principle is that only one thing is constant ‒ change.

Change and death are ubiquitous features of the natural world. Maybe this is what Heraclitus meant when he said, in his inimitable way:

Gods are mortal, humans immortal, living their death, dying their life”

Much of what we know of Heraclitus comes from his commentators, and so Heraclitean epigrams can seem dubious in provenance, attributable to other authors. Everything changes, and history has changed a dozen times since Heraclitus’ time; yet I believe we can still take value from Heraclitus, particularly in a time like today, which is so clearly calling out for deep institutional and infrastructural change in Croatia.

Unless deep institutional and infrastructural changes are finally made in Croatia and we define “life” by the motives that drove Croatia to secede from communist Yugoslavia and defend itself from Serb aggression in the early 1990’s – a life of fully functional democracy and citizens’ rights to advance their lives upon individual merit and productive collective community worth and accountability – it’s “today” is the epitome of “living its death, dying its life”.

Not much of the originally intended has changed at the “service counter” maintained by the public purse since the times of communist Yugoslavia – You walk into a Pharmacy and you are automatically labelled “a patient” (Not a customer!) even if you’ve walked in there just to purchase a tube of toothpaste! The unhealthy and unnecessary distance between the customer (citizen) and taxpayer funded services is maintained. This is a typical example of keeping elitism alive and a typical example of what needs to be removed from practice in order to turn the tables and make the citizens the elites – they, after all, pay the taxes.

Not much has changed since the War of Independence/ Homeland War even though the War itself was the herald for change – to democracy as opposed to socialism/communism! Unnecessarily cumbersome systems and procedures, inflexible administrative processes, cult of personalities and elitism, “I know it all” attitudes and much more are as alive today as they were in the 1980’s!

The Croatian Homeland War veterans and political activists vying for freedom were the fire that would melt the communist ice. Thrust Croatia into all-round positive change that freedom is all about for personal lives of citizens. With winning of independence the ice was not melted, it was simply made into a mush that clogged almost all pores of urgent or imminent change that was on the cards, so to speak. Growing alienation of individual opinion, combined with political and economic stagnation made the mush – mushier. An ever-increasing number of new political movements or parties that would save Croatia made the mush – mushier.

New leaders, from year 2000, in particular, made sure that the mushy ice called the changes and defined the change that was to come to Croatia after the War. This change, of course, was not the one that was originally defined or elaborated upon in Croatia’s first president dr. Franjo Tudjman’s speech on 30 May 1990. True leaders are supposed to bring new ideas and energy to carry on the development of the country into what it started out to be. Croatia’s main changes should have involved lustration in one form or another. This did not happen. What did happen was the dressing-up of much old communist/socialist legislature, rules and regulations into a new cloak that would be labelled democratic!

The result on the political scene – and politics are crucial for society because that is where all change for nations truly start – is the familiar environment where two opposing and major political parties become so similar in their practical pursuits and ideology that they might just as well merge into one and save taxpayers money.

Wide-ranging consultation and proper planning produce positive change. Not much of that has been visible in Croatia so far and the enormous potential of its diaspora – almost ignored! Diaspora, that was part of the fire that would melt the communist ice was cut down especially after the year 2000 and yet it could have contributed so positively to the facilitation of changes that were and still are needed for Croatia. However, despite that, the diaspora fire still burns and given the current political jungle in Croatia, much of the society being atomised, apathetic and broken – hence, the alarmingly high percentage of people leaving Croatia in search for a better life – one indeed is justified in posing questions: Can such a society be transformed into an articulate, united civil society that would bring about changes and capture leadership for the country’s progress? How private opinion can become public opinion? How a nation can stand on its feet again?

It’s like existing under the ice, all over again!

On change actor Steve Martin recounted, “I handed in a script last year and the studio didn’t change one word. The word they didn’t change was on page 87”.

And this would just about wrap-up the amount of changes needed in Croatia, still! It was like that in 1990, it’s like that in 2018! Such change will only succeed if the diaspora takes a more assertive stance and role, driving the search for new leaders to bring Croatia back onto the tracks from which it was derailed via the “detudjmanisation” attacks and prolonged communist power influences. Any effective support for such change must be institutionalised rather than exist in a “from pillar to post” fashion that has resulted in atomisation.

On that note, wishing you all triumph over darkness for coming Easter and beyond! Ina Vukic




  1. I wish you a very Happy Easter Ina.
    xxx Huge Hug xxx

  2. Thank you very much for this touching report! Happy Easter to you, too!:)

  3. So much in the world seems to be in flux these days. Good word to describe it, Ina.

  4. Happy Easter!

  5. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  6. Happy Easter Ina!

  7. Joyeuses Pâques! Happy Easter!

    That pharmacy sign is absurd. Great way to drive away customers!

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