What does it mean to be Slovenian?


On Friday was my last day of work at the Embassy of Slovenia in Canberra.This point in my life when my three year involvement with the Slovenian establishment has finished and I am venturing into new places is a good opportunity to reflect on my experience of being Slovenian.

We each have our own truth. Migrants generally see our homeland through our own individual perspective which is very much coloured by whatever happened to us in relation to Slovenia and the country where we finally settled.

My experience is very mixed. I used to ask myself: Am I proud to be Slovenian? Sometimes the answer was yes, while at other times embarrassment was a better description of this vague feeling of my ethnicity. I no longer ask this question. Being Slovenian is a part of me and describes one layer of my personality. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. Nothing to be proud of or embarrassed about.

Thinking about what it means to be Slovenian brings up memories of kind and generous people with hearts made of gold. Their basically peasant background is not concerned with civilised good manners that are so highly regarded in the Anglo-Saxon world. Instead they see directly into your heart and take you for what you are. They can see the funny side of pompous behaviour and, crude as they sometimes come across, relish their connectedness to earth.

This beautiful idyllic image has its flip side and I've experienced a fair share of that too. When these kind and generous people become ambitious and get to the top of the heap, they turn into arrogant users and abusers of those under them. They go to a special school where they learn how to manipulate the rest of the population. On the way to the top, they make sure the competition is removed by any means and once they have arrived they feel they are free to do whatever they like. The most successful tend to be the most brutally ruthless ones.

Most Slovenians are somewhere in between.

Our Catholic and communist background is the base on which we were brought up and is hard to overcome. The war between the two authoritarian ideologies has been raging since World War II with no end in sight. Talking about partizani and domobranci is still presented as the story of good and evil, or evil and good depending on the side you choose to take, leaving in its wake a trail of damaged and frightened victims. But the noble war continues, seemingly until its bitter end. Or, until we realise that killing each other is wrong, regardless of the ideologies that so readily provide justification for murder, torture, terror and lies.

The two seemingly opposing ideologies primed the Slovenian people to obey and fear anybody in the position of authority. Fear holds most Slovenians back from opening up and feeling comfortable in the imperfect world around us. Constant worry about whether we are doing the right thing consumes our energy and allows those at the top to manipulate us to their liking. Fear of rules and regulations that are sometimes, but not always, applied to the senseless letter; of what neighbours might think; of whether we are good enough; of  our boss, our priest or the local officer,  and especially of the unknown cripples the whole nation mentally and allows the ruling elite to fill their pockets while woffling about national interest.
Slovenians, wake up! As the saying goes, fear is hollow inside and on the outside it doesn't exist! Let's face our fears and and we will all grow, individually and as a nation.

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