My friend saw and heard all sorts of things, he’s a daily witness to corruption, theft, blackmail, mobbing, fraud, embezzlement, manipulation… And he’s not the only one.
He’s asked me to remain anonymous, and be presented to the public as a friend, without any further details of our ‘friendship’.
He is concerned for his and his family’s safety, and I would tend to agree.
Common-sense caution does not make him any less of a hero.
His very decision to provide me with the material (that’s what he called it in the several emails he sent, trying to convince me that he is not one of thousands of weirdos with a ‘very important story that could be interesting to us’) makes him a true hero, a dream character for movie scripts.
Except this isn’t a movie.
If it were a movie, I would probably immediately be interested in a message I receive from a friend.
In reality, it took him a few weeks of perseverance before I finally gave him my attention.
And once I did, there was no going back.
My friend is employed in a state-owned company, he is Municipality President, he works in a factory, he is a local newspaper journalist, he is a prosecutor, a judge and a lawyer.
She is also: a first league footballer, high school maths professor, a secretary, CEO of a private company, restaurant owner.
Yes, my friend is both a he and a she.
He’s also a priest, a football fan, she’s a singer, an actress, a truck driver.
All those things, and god knows how many more.
My friend saw and heard all sorts of things, he’s a daily witness to corruption, theft, blackmail, mobbing, fraud, embezzlement, manipulation…
And he’s not the only one.
Everyone in his company, his club, chamber, office, parish, municipality, salon…. They are all familiar with what’s been happening, and how things are done – it’s a common topic of discussion, but only in low voice, and when no one can hear you.
Of course, no one will say a peep.
And if they did, who would they peep to?
The government owned media are off limits to my friend, and the few critical media outlets have long been declared foreign mercenaries and domestic traitors, whose only goal is to cause chaos and overthrow the legitimately elected government.
If he were to peep, his whistle would be declared another lie, and my friend would then be fired from his job as a declared liar, embarrassed, just like his family, and completely gas-lighted.
Who would dare peep?
That’s why my friend wants to remain anonymous.
The material he sent me, however, is crying for publicity.
It needs to be front page news, it demands special shows, urgently wants to be the topic of the day in the homes of all citizens.
The material my friends provided me with, all those videos, sound recordings, photos and documents – are enough for to turn this country upside down in less than 24 hours, for all dirty laundry to air in the light of day, and for it to be simply impossible to put out that many fires at once.
Of course, now that I have publicly revealed that I possess this material and evidence which would end the current government, I am in trouble.
I expect a knock on my door any minute now, an apartment search, laptop seizure, and an informative conversation in the police station (best case scenario) or in a weekend home near Belgrade (worst case scenario).
Luckily, I’m a journalist for Southern News; a colleague at N1 and editor of KRIK; I’m a reporter of the morning show at the Serbian National Television and I’ve had enough; I’m a host on TV Pink who cannot stand to be an obedient idiot for a second longer; I’m a TV director and I will play this material in the middle of a reality TV programme on Happy TV.
It’ll be quite difficult to silence me when there are so many of me, when I’m everywhere, and when there are more of me by the minute.
Local heroes, whistle-blowers, people who cannot stand to see and put up with injustice, but also rats who are fleeing a sinking ship and see salvation in ‘switching to Partisans in ’44’, buying forgiveness or at least milder punishment; these are all the people coming out with material.
‘It can’t have been this corrupt, false, and rotten’, people say in disbelief.
‘How have we been this blind all these years?’ they wonder.
‘Was there anything that was honest, truthful, and pure?’ a citizen asks, while trying to process the huge amount of material my friend sent me.
In a movie, everything happens and resolves in a day.
Because the nature of the material is that nothing can ever stay the same after it’s published.
Except this is not a movie.
It will take a bit longer than that, but you know what – true friendships take years.
And I like having friends.
Lots of friends.