Off Life

I walk past the place I call my life or where I left it, a camp by the seaside, and I observe what has become after it fell from grace of the elites who preferred more expensive resorts and could not understand any other value than that of money, which is why this little camp was of no significance and could easily be sold. So it was. And so it rot for years. Now somebody got it almost for free, some kinky dude with a Bieber haircut is mowing the grass that hasn’t been mowed in at least a year or more. The outside showers are ripped from their foundations and thrown in the middle of the clearing where we used to play volleyball. The swings are gone. And of course all the trailers have long gone to other camps.

The funny thing is, things aren’t the way they are because there’s no money. It’s just that people don’t care. They have too much to respect and value it all. You know, they know the price of everything, but value of nothing. A lot of these people would now go on strike against budget cuts although many in public sector are nothing but parasites, doing nothing and getting paid for it. But budget cuts will unfortunately affect both those who have 800 euro a month (and mostly nothing when they pay the monthly bills of over 700) and those who have 1200 or more. Those who work a lot, and those who do nothing. Those who are good at their job and those who don’t know what they’re dong and create more problems that they solve. Selfishness and greed is Slovenian national feature. Oh, and indulging in pleasure whenever and wherever possible. If not physically possible, thinking about it extensively and eagerly awaiting the weekend also does the trick.

 This country is under the dictatorship of rich or well-off elites. They protect their own cartels or family, which sounds remarkably close to mafia, so I’ll use this term. For years now, managers, politicians (any kind of decision-makers) had the power (and used it) to channel large investments of money away from their designated destinations and into their own accounts for the purpose of what a Slovenian wants the most. Wealth and pleasure. Even if it means going over dead bodies. Sometimes literally. By now they’ve drained the country and all the European sources, foreign investments are scarce, because nobody in their right mind would want to work with assholes that you are most likely to run into in Slovenia. But there is some money left, it’s just that now people can more easily see when the scum is stealing it. So just like signing real estates over to their wives etc., now many are sacking highly competent and quality professionals to employ their incompetent, unqualified family members. In turn the quality of EVERYTHING is dropping like temperatures with the arrival of a cold front.

What’s bizarre, but understandable if you consider the selfish nature of this nation, is that people with a lot of money and resources don’t understand how little other people have. They can’t even comprehend having 400 euro a month which is why there never was any interest in synchronizing salaries with the rising prices. Not to mention high costs of just about everything from daily bread to bureaucratic bullshit costs. They have enough and people who don’t are the last thing on their minds. As long as it’s ok for them, it’s ok.

And while high class Audis, Mercedes’ and BMW’s are mounting on our roads, more and more people are going the opposite way. To the gutter. It’s not a financial crisis, it’s simply tyranny of greedy bastards against the majority who don’t have power. Not even the power to act. They don’t have cars, they don’t have money for the bus to come to Ljubljana and protest… For an extreme example. Most of these people must deal with survival on a daily basis. They’re exhausted, physically and mentally. They can’t afford it and can’t even muster the energy to publically protest.

We have everything, but we still have nothing. The distribution is narrowly focused on the elite. The normal level of life in this country is now more like a seaside resort off season. Empty. Dilapidating. Closed.

Our future is none. The world is crashing all around us, jobs are taken away from us, so that the rich elite can employ its mafia. Quality turns to shit, and brainwashed people don’t care. Enough people to make a difference.

In the last couple of months several very good editors lost their jobs to very unqualified friends or family of “someone”. And just like these rich thieves had a great word to throw around a few years ago – recession – largely those that weren’t even affected by it, they now have anther nice word to throw at everybody who would have a preposterous idea of being paid for their work – austerity measures. Well, the government is using this phrase, and you believe them, so why wouldn’t you believe me, when I fire you for that same lame reason and buy myself a nice Jaguar on top of my shiny Ferrari.

We’re so damn poor that, if you walk down a Ljubljana street, you’ll see how everybody changed their daily meals for packs of cigarettes and beer, and their work for lounging and coffee time. Bars are full, restaurants are full, on the day of the strike, the golf course near Ljubljana was full, people walking out of the perversely expensive store in Preseren Square with bags of purchased items…

It’s all representation. The middle ages. Keeping up appearances and nothing more. There’s nothing inside and no value in the life of others. An empty landscape any way you put it. The rich scum is empty of all values, culture and morals, everybody else is empty of any future. What keeps us going is hope. They say it dies last, but it’s got one foot in the grave already.

Some of us live on borrowed time. The end is so near that we can see glimpses of it. For a documentary photographer like me, this nation just killed the media market. With the prospect of losing all clients to mafia, and with no phone calls hiring for event photography or other work in over half a year, and with several projects dead at moneypoint, I’m dead too.

Slovenian companies don’t employ full-time anymore. They employ students for exploitation. Part-time employees are being fired. 50% of media content on our national television and radio was cancelled, because no part-time contracts were allowed to be extended… You think anyone of the fired employees would get a phone call? Nope. Phone calls are for those our media market can’t do without. And quality is something they sure CAN do without. In fact, they want to for … “austerity reasons”. Phonecalls come to those who are regularly getting assignments anyway, for important outlets, assignments that get seen by many. So just like getting a job in Slovenia (people are looking only for people with work experience), you first need an important job and plenty of work to get more work. Quality aside of course.  Some of us have different options. We can try to think of an assignment ourselves in a world that doesn’t share upcoming events, because they only need one media to cover it and that’s where they send the announcement. Lack of information about events is becoming stronger as our media market is narrowing. Then we can have ourselves an assignment on our own expense for nobody else but ourselves and our website that only us and our friends know about. That would surely provide a living. Of course we can call, or better yet – as advised – send emails to editors and potential clients, and watch how they ignore it. We can do other projects and spend some time working out the details of work, just to have some sense of working. It ends with payment of course. They shockingly exclaim: “Oh, we thought it’ll be free!” And our job is done. We go on, saving money against high costs of living, earning some 180 euro a month to battle some 200 euro regular expenses and eventually, one day we realize our photos are getting technically crappy, our cameras die on us in the middle of an assignment, they don’t focus anymore… It suddenly dawns on us what the problem is when we look around us and see everyone else is living in the future and we’re practically retro. So we start looking for a pro camera that’ll handle the strain and weather and shock and speed and mpx demands, and would cost around 300 euro Another mission impossible. Just like our lives.

So all in all, the off season seaside camp is the landscape we should come to accept. Because it seems like season isn’t coming and what other people call the basics of their own lives (like not living with their parents etc.) is something we can’t look forward to in the near future. If anything, it’ll get worse. I was recently asked where I see myself in 10 years and my answer was only partially hopeful. If I’m not lying on a bench covered in newspapers, I hope I’ll be working abroad. But honestly, abroad? With what I have to show from working here? With the expenses of living in Europe and my pay from Slovenia? Really?


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