WAR VETERANS: PERCEPTION OF THE INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT
The paper deals with the attitude of state institutions towards war veterans in Serbia, viewed from the perspective of veterans. In addition to the perception of the social policy towards veterans, the paper aimed at showing the social position of war veterans within the sociological theories of war, which understand the war and organized violence in the macrostructural processes of the long bureaucratic organization of the state and legitimizing ideologies. Since we observe war as part of a modern state, and not only as an isolated incident or anomaly, the researcher’s intent was to bring light to one part of this whole which has been insufficiently represented in research, and which in peacetime conditions reveals the processes that are related to the war.The research involved 30 war veterans who participated in the wars in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. They were questioned using a semi-structured interview method. The aim of the research was to determine the opinions, attitudes and experiences of war veterans about their own position in society through the most important aspects of interaction with state institutions. The results of the research show that what predominates the respondents’ self-perception is dissatisfaction because of: a) the (non) recognition of the differences that participation in war entails, that is, the specificity of the difficulties in the process of transition from wartime to peacetime conditions, b) the stereotypical and labeling attitude of civil servants, c) the fragmentation of the veteran population in the form of discriminatory practices of the justice system.The obtained findings suggest that the created institutional prerequisites for social inclusion are not sufficient for the members of the studied group to be able to deal with apparent problems, but even more with latent obstacles in their attempt to „continue living“ in peacetime conditions, which they put on hold at one point in the past to participate in war as military conscripts. With the state politics that discriminates them, the social environment that belittles their war efforts and the civil sector that blames them for participating in the wars, war veterans are a good example of transferring guilt from the structural to the individual level. If we add extremely unfavorable existential conditions of the total low-skilled labor force, in the third age of life, with poor physical health and a perception of a lack of perspective, we can say that war veterans from Serbia have lost another battle, the one with the nation-state to whose call for defense they willingly responded. In practice, when the nation’s narrative, on which all modern nations states are established, “descends” to specific members of the nation, it turns into a budgetary burden. Some future war employers should calculate the cost of rehabilitating war veterans and the care of the families of fallen soldiers in the cost of projected wars. Instead of a realistic compensation for the sacrifice, war veterans say that the wars in which they participated do not have the ideological legitimacy they once had and, consequently, nor does their sacrifice that they would institutionalize through special rights. Absolute domination over the means of coercion, as well as the similarity of bureaucratic institutions with military structures, whose functioning they known well from the war, send a clear message about the state’s supremacy in any eventual protest against the social inequalities they are experiencing.