Aleksandar Kokotovović
Serbia

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Aleksandar Kokotović:

Fighting For the Freer Future


Name : Aleksandar Kokotović

Country : Serbia

Occupation : ESFL Programs Director

What’s your perfect holiday : Burning Man Festival

What’s your favorite country to visit : Impossible to choose one, but for the sake of answering – Japan

Favorite book : ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ by Tom Wolfe

“Peace is our rebellion. Love is our resistance. Liberty is where we are going.”

Aleksandar Kokotović

What was your journey before your first encounter with SFL?

I have always had an issue with (i)llegitimate authority and in my early teens that reflected through interest in punk music and the messages some of these bands were putting out there. After finishing medical high school, I went on to study International Relations at the University of Belgrade where I was very lucky to have very early on met a fantastic group of people who have shared the ideas of economic freedom and individual liberty that I held to be true. Together, we have spent weeks and months discussing and exchanging ideas and philosophies, leading all of us to feel a strong sense of purpose connected to fighting for a freer future. All of these people stayed in the movement, starting their own organizations, writting op-eds, being vocal on many issues of concern for the ideas of liberty.

How were you introduced to SFL and to libertarian ideas?

The biggest intellectual growth when it comes to libertarian ideas came in the first year or so of Libek being around. That was the time when all the important discussions and ideas were exchanged between this group, we started organizing our first events, educational programs and activities. During this time, heavy reading and writing took place and it was a very fruitful period for being introduced to libertarian ideas, movement and tradition that no longer was just a concept but was reflected in ideas and people I grew to know.

After the first two years with the organization we all were part of from my group of friends in Belgrade, Libertarian Club Libek, my path led to a conference where I have first met two ESFL founders who were at that time starting a European venture of Students For Liberty and not long after the first European conference, I have joined the ESFL Executive Board at the time.

What were your favorite moments in SFL?

Difficult question as there were many. Having the chance to open the ESFLC in Berlin quoting Pink Floyd is definitely one, closing of the Belgrade LibertyCon 2018 in a really great atmosphere another. But there were hundreds of other moments worth remembering, from the first couple of ISFLCs in DC, to first SFL conference in Chile to friends and connections made in India, Lebanon and other places. All of these moments are special in some way.

What is your favorite SFL program?

As I have managed the Local Coordinator Program in the past I think that is an extremely important program which is the basis of everything we do. If that program goes well, we can look forward to all the other activities and programs working out well too. On the other hand, I really love the inspiration, connections and atmosphere of celebration of liberty that LibertyCon brings. I think that it is in that way a very unique experience in Europe for anyone who is liberty-minded.

How would your life look like if you haven’t had a chance to join SFL?

Well that is a very difficult question, obviously but I still believe it would lead me towards some kind of liberty activism, be it through non-profit work or business alternatives giving me another way of supporting the movement for liberty.

How has the political situation in your country influenced your views?

My generation grew up in the worst decade for the region since the World War II ended. Yugoslavia was falling apart and not in a friendly way either, causing the region to go through some incredible suffering. I was lucky to live in part of the country where war wasn’t fought on the ground, but some of my first memories are of us kids playing with real money at the time — it was so devalued due to inflation that it was worthless – we could easily use it for playtime activities. Then in 1999 the war came to Serbia too, with the NATO bombing campaign going on for 78 days. Not so long after, my real memories of actually being excited by a political happening around the summer of the year 2000 when everything was getting ready for the huge political change that was coming October 5th – the removal of Slobodan Milošević, the dictator that led the region into bloodshed. Even though only 10 at the time, stickers, flyers, songs and people around us all made us excited and following the developments leading up to the revolution that took place.

Tell us one Gummersbach story you’ll remember for life?

Closing of each retreat tends to get packed with excitement and emotion and is worth remembering. Many singalongs that happen in those few days as well. The best ones will be left untold, of course.

What was the profession you dreamt about in your childhood and how did it impact your career choice?

Earliest “real” profession I dreamt about in my childhood that I can remember is journalism. And sure, I liked the part with the writing and justice and all, but I really liked the most was the access to the inner dealings of politics, society, technology (but at that time it was likely sports more than anything) with the ability to be skeptical whenever needed. I still like writing and could have imagined myself in that profession too. It impacted my path by giving me the hunger for information which I could feed through papers, journals, later on the internet. That led me to the other things I wanted to do later on.

If any, who is your role model?

I don’t really think there is one role model I could name. I do admire quite a number of different personalities and for different reasons, ranging from Lysander Spooner and Henry David Thoreau to Hunter Thompson, Ron Paul or Edward Snowden. I do not make a role model out of either of them, but I admire the work, passion or integrity of each of them.

What is your perfect work and life balance?

I found that the best work is done when it doesn’t even feel like it was work, but rather a part of life you enjoy and feel enthusiastic about no matter the day of the week or the hour. I think I provide the best results when life and work are in such a perfect mix that work feels as an activity that fulfills a purpose in life rather than something that just puts bread on the table.

Any binge-watching tv-shows you’d recommend?

Oh, many. I am a huge Rick and Morty fan. Love Black Mirror. Bojack Horseman. Maniac is the last I watched and thought it was really good.  If you wanna see some classic English humor, still one of the best shows from the beginning of time is Only Fools and Horses.

What is that 1 book that you would recommend to our readers?

Lately I have been recommending The Art of Invisibility by Kevin Mitnick quite a lot. Kevin Mitnick is one of the most famous hackers who is making a great case for privacy and gives a number of practical tips that can help you stay more secure and anonymous online, from simply putting a band aid over your webcam when you are not using it to advanced PGP encryption, this book is not just for those interested in the dark parts of the internet but rather a handbook for anyone who wants to stay secure online.

What is a freer future in your vision?

A future which allows us to cooperate in any way possible without bringing harm to any third party. A freer market, a freer economy, inevitably leads to a freer society and a culture which is more open and receptive to different views allowing each individual to fully express themselves and their full potential. Internet has brought on an amazing opportunity to collaborate and create communities of like minded individuals, wherever they are. Culture has been growing and changing more dramatically than ever before. Technology as well. With the growth of different technologies, from blockchain and smart contracts to virtual reality, augmented reality, decentralised currencies and tokens, we will see a lot of good coming in the future through technology to all those who appreciate free markets and individiual liberty.

Top 3 advice to our leaders?

  1. Stay open to new ideas, concepts, changes — since you are already here, you are much more likely to be an individual open to other points of view than the traditional ones in the discourse today, so you are halfway there. Keep that openness as long as possible — be open to new influences, cultures, perspectives and experiences. That is what liberty is about.
  2. Stay skeptical — again, if you are here, it is likely that you are skeptical towards abuses of power and the all-encompassing knowledge of elected officials and government dogmas. If that is already so, stay skeptical whenever possible. Be skeptical about your ideas and reexamine them as much as possible. That will be the only way to stay through to them later on. And through this process, your ideas will transform and evolve – you should welcome and embrace that process.
  3. Stay around — even though SFL is a movement that caters to students and young individuals open to ideas of liberty, free market and individual liberty ideas can be spread non-invasively anywhere! Whatever your profession and occupation later in life turns out to be, the ideas that you hold and yourself as the representative of these ideas are what people will see when they think of the liberty movement. By being the best representative of these ideas, you are staying around and making liberty one of your lifelong commitments.
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