Thursday, August 31, 2006


Guca is upon us once again. I do not intend to go. The sweaty public drunkenness and the cacophony of trumpets are really not my cup of tea (bottle of brandy).
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Guca, as such. Let people party in whatever way they see fit, but labeling this a supreme cultural event or saying that there is something uniquely and authentically Serbian in getting drunk and losing control is just wrong. “It’s a Serbian brand, it’s a Serbian brand”, desperate voices cry out to defend the festival from its critics. Sure it’s a brand. It is a big tourist attraction, an important event in the Serbian calendar, a moneymaking machine, but by no means does this guarantee quality or the “cultural” and “ethnic” aspect of the whole spectacle. People rarely think of the actual trumpeters’ competition. It is merely an excuse.
Some website in the UK has allegedly voted Guca and Exit as the top two festivals or carnivals in the world, even ahead of Rio. I have my doubts that this is probably a website frequented by Serbian diaspora, but there is another thing preventing me from jumping with joy at the fact that I live in the certified epicenter of world entertainment.
Within Serbia there is an evident disproportion in treating these two “world famous” brands. I don’t claim one event is better than the other (I certainly prefer Exit), as it is a matter of taste, but they are deliberately and forcefully confronted.
Guca is seen as traditionally Serbian and Exit as something foreign, even anti-Serbian.
The government and the media proudly promote Guca as Balkan joie de vivre whereas Exit is always marred by criticism of drug abuse and incidents.
Neither event is certainly free from corruption, accidents and illegal substances, the death toll of Guca drunk driving car accidents is not insignificant, but that is part of life and these ugly things do not make them less important or less Serbian.
Another thing that bugs me is the approach to organizing Guca. It is graciously funded by the state and still they have the audacity to postpone the event with only a month to go, potentially ruining plans of thousands of badly needed tourists, just because someone remembered that it was time for fasting!? And here I thought we live in a secular state.
Silly me, everyone knows that any good Christian believer has to be done with al that nasty fasting business before stuffing him/herself with fatty pork and liter upon liter of brandy and beer. After the fast, it’s perfectly all right. After the fast, you can indulge in as many pagan rituals as you want. The church can even rent its frond yard to accommodate this orgy of lard and alcohol, as it gladly does. The church, naturally sees nothing wrong with its flock indulging in large scale gluttony at is very doorstep, but it does have a problem with street theatre performances labeling them satanic, and getting the police to intervene.
Here I go again, but like with every other aspect of life in Serbia lately there is a terrible trend of primitive and shallow celebration of “nationhood”, “faith”, “tradition”. Will we ever learn that faith is something deeply personal, that nations do evolve, that new traditions are bourn and that national identity can encompass so many new things that only make it stronger?


Sandra said...

Great heartfelt post! I am appalled that anything should be postponed due to fasting in any secular country - as you say, a secular state is SECULAR! (and here I am living in a "secular" Muslim country) f...foot, pardon my French ;-)

Bg anon said...

Well needless to say I dont agree. I enjoy listening to trumpets, drinking rakije and eating certain types of meat.

Your last point is well taken though - the only conclusion therefore isnt to slag on Guca or Exit as the so called traditional or pro western camps would do. It would be to embrace both.

Serbia being a 'secular' state is another point. And for sure there are double standards about getting utterly plastered with drink causing the death by drink driving and about taking drugs. The former is still seen as normal the later abnormal. But if you think its just like that in Serbia you are wrong.

Above all festivals are about having a good time. If one cant have a good time there then the festival isnt any good.

Marko said...

Bg Anon, my criticism of Guca itself is completely personal. I don’t like it. But I understand there are people who do. And I do understand its significance for this country.
However, the intolerance of anything that is different from the official notion of what being Serbian is, has gone too far. The PM speaking in Guca, saying that those who do not understand and love Guca - do not understand and love Serbia is an insult to me and hundreds of thousands of other people in this country.

Bg anon said...

Yeah from a political angle I understand but stupidty from Kostunica will not impact on my own opinion of Guca.

You can see at the B92 blog there is discussion of this.