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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Postcard from Slovenia

There are lots of people enjoying a warm Friday afternoon in Ljubljana square next to the main food market. Locals and tourists enjoy ‘Odprta kuhinja’ event offering foods from different parts of the world, including Chinese noodles, Indian curry, Lebanese falafel and lots of locally brewed beers. It is busy and noisy and everyone seems to have fun.

Living far away from Slovenia and following Slovenian news we tend to think that the political situation in our homeland is all wrong and hope that some day better times will come. The daily life in Slovenia, however, informs me that the population is not hoping for better times, they are already enjoying them. My old friends and acquaintances with secure jobs are not lacking anything. They grumble of course: about the lack of jobs for their grown up kids with university degrees; about the health care if they happen to have met an obnoxiously aloof doctor; or about the complicated rules and regulations that now require you hold on your docket as you leave 'gostilna' as means of ensuring that there is no grey economy. Things could be better, most would agree, but the way it is it’s not too bad.

Politics is generally not on people’s minds. They worry about having their holidays on the coast in summer, about getting food from Mercator before rush hour or about meeting friends on Saturday afternoon. Not unlike people in Australia, or any other country in the world, they have their daily concerns which they meet as they arise.

Politicians may have the running of the country in their hands. They may be good or bad, corrupt or honest. They may be feathering their own nests. But Slovenians have a long tradition of being ruled by unfriendly governments in their genes. They are so used to being used and abused by their rulers that they hardly notice when they are burdened by even more rules and regulations. No matter what the government throws at them they always find a way to survive and get around whatever makes their life hard.

However, in addition to burdens that keep coming they also enjoy a bewildering range of perks and benefits they are most certainly not willing to let go: they are still enraged that the retirement age has moved to 60 and are horrified to learn that in Australia it is progressively set at 70; they enjoy cheap hot meals in their places of study or work and most of them don’t cook at home during the week; students enjoy free university courses and even receive free food vouchers!

As long as their daily lives are still manageable, they try to enjoy early autumn days and make the most of it. Life is too short to worry about politics!

Yet they all discuss politics quite seriously. There are two distinct sides who passionately hate each other. Their hatred is real and runs along the ideological line that defines their friends, choice of media and beliefs. One truth only, seems to be the message from both sides. 

If only life could be that simple. But for those who think that ideology is a reason enough to justify killing, sack or deeply dislike, it apparently is. Perhaps one day they will be able to transcend all this and start thinking that people, with all their imperfections, rather than ideology are the greatest value. In the mean time, we can still try and enjoy the company of friendly Slovenian people and the beautiful country they inhabit.