Geert Lovink on Fri, 28 Feb 97 09:32 MET

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nettime: ivo skoric/news

>From Thu Feb 27 01:23:30 1997
Subject: News

Those news are bad for the people of Balkans - they are not necessarily
bad for us here, tho couch warriors:

Bad News 1

Croatian "Operettendiktator" (German media came up with that perfectly
suitable nickname) will live through elections and, perhaps, win, but
then he will rapidly become incapacitated to rule, not unlike Yeltsin,
because he *is* dying of lymphoma - a cancer of lymph nodes which
takes its time, but it is inoperable and terminal, I learned from a regional
diplomat, while bumping into him accidentally in Los Angeles. 
Consequently, Croats should brace themselves for the probably
not-so-peaceful grab for power between all those different political
factions inside and outside of HDZ in Croatia after Tudjman.

Bad News 2

His uniqueness, the Butcher of Balkans, meanwhile proved once again
how foreign the concept of SHAME is to him.  In the interview for
Greek newspapers Vita, he explained how majority of vote in Serbia was
won by "left and democratic forces", while "the opposition" won just a
few cities and counties.  Of course, he said that he was NEVER
OPPOSED to that opposition take those posts.  Yeah, and we all
remember how he claimed that Serbia was never involved in the war. 
Which war, by the way?  Not only that he is willing now to recognize
the victory of opposition, but he wants to pass a special law (lex
specialis) recognizing that victory, setting a legal precedent in which
elections are decided by a law (an interesting concept, actually - I am
sure that lawyers in the U.S. follow it with great appreciation).  He,
after all, called OEBS commission to Serbia, didn't he?  Now, he says
that he agrees with everything that they concluded.  So, why all the
police in the streets?  Well, some demonstrants destroy property and
behave aggressively.  Lame.  Every politician would say that anywhere
in the world.  And why are then so many demonstrants for so long in the
streets in the middle of winter if everything is so rosy?  Demonstrants? 
Which demonstrants?

Why the special law?  The system is obviously unprepared to deal with
somebody else replacing communists/socialists in power.  Old
Yugoslavia was build around the Constitution which in theory granted
necessary legal grounds for establishing political parties (as so called
socio-political organizations), but it guaranteed to the League of
Communists its historic and vanguard role, basically suggesting that
nobody else is fit to actually rule and govern.  The bureaucracies in all
successor countries (Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, etc.)  were largely carried
over from the previous regime, and they still behave in the confines of
the old system: they are cynical and suspicious about the random drastic
changes of political power and direction which naturally occur in any
democracy.  They simply don't believe that ordinary people are qualified
to elect their leaders.  To them their constituents are sheep.  They are
probably the dogs, and they hate when the shepherd changes.  Now, the
law makes a difference - if the sitting president proposes and already
elected legislators pass such a law, bureaucracy will accept the victory of
opposition - but for a very high price - proving that Serbia lacks basic
foundation of any democracy and civil society: trust in its citizens.  This
event should be closely watched since it is bound to repeat itself sooner
or later in Bosnia and Croatia.

Bad News 3

Bosnia is fucked up.  Everybody knows that.  Bosnians know that
particularly well.  Squeezed inside Republika Srpska envelope in the
West, East and North and clogged with Herceg-Bosna in the South,
Bosnia is largely dependent on the World's mercy.  Two cities could
change that. Brcko in the North: if Bosnian government would have
Brcko, it would gain access to river Sava, Croatian Slavonia and
Hungary - the added benefit would be the control over the narrow
corridor connecting Eastern and Western parts of Republika Srpska,
which would probably make Bosnian Serbs more agreeable.  Of course,
that is precisely why Biljana Plavsic asserts that they will never give up
Brcko, and the West, reluctant to fight, is ready to oblige her.  As Brcko
is key in the North, Mostar is key in the South.  Mostar is the largest
city in the Neretva canyon, which controls the region and carves its way
to the Adriatic Sea, where Bosnian government has its terminals in
Croatian port of Ploce.  Again, this is precisely why the local Croats do
not want to give it up.  Control of traffic between Croatia and Bosnia is
too lucrative to let go without a fight.  The situation in Mostar is
extremely sad, with both sides not shrinking from even the most
gruesome actions.  Mostar is today under dual control - Bosnian
Muslims in the East and Bosnian Croats in the West.  On top of that
there is an International Police with powers over local police - but they
are outnumbered, and therefore ineffective, because the people of
Balkans understand only the language of an overwhelming power.  Croat
West is larger and economically more prosperous than Bosnian East. 
Croats continue to expel Muslim elderly from the West.  But the worst
happened just recently: Bosnian Muslims had their end celebrations of
Ramadan (Bajram) and they were gathered at their cemetery, and Croat
thugs opened fire on them; parallel with that Croat Catholics had their
beginning celebrations of Lent (Carnival), and Bosnian thugs stormed the
ceremony attacking police with knives and other weapons.  In 500 years
of Ottoman occupation, Muslims honored Christian holidays, and did not
attack processions, and vice versa, Christian rebels honored Muslim
holidays and did not attack their cities at that periods.  Did we all
become more barbaric and uncivilized with years?

Bad News 4

Not only Serbian students were invited to Clinton inauguration: the
editor-in-chief of Zagreb's Radio 101, Zrinka Vrabec-Mojzes, was also
there.  Not unlike the Belgrade students who dissed all their previous
connections and friendships in favor of dull but lucrative tour organized
by them by some of those Serbian Unity guys, Zrinka too did not call
any of her old friends, including me, or express gratitude for carrying on
the struggle to save her radio to guys like Vladimir whose Real Audio
Server broadcasts 101 news daily.  To my knowledge she did not attend
any fundraisers, either.  In fact if she did not call her high-school
girlfriend to brag about her invitation to inauguration, we wouldn't know
she was ever here.

She was always embarrassed that she knew me.  We went to school
together.  Later she was the one to organize those yearly graduation
gatherings.  On the year when the state police took away my passport
and when I was kicked out of the Radio 101 (where we both worked at
the time) for the same political reasons, she simply did not call me for
the graduation party.

People in Eastern Europe are cautious: they are well trained to be always
prepared to rather sacrifice their loved ones to save themselves.  So,
after a while they become insensitive and incapable of empathy.

Those who dare standing up to the challenge are ostracized.

There is a very good example of Mira and Goran to testify for this

I know Goran from Zagreb.  He was a D.J. at a popular indie-rock
hang-out of my generation (Lapidarij).  Actually he was a v.j. - because
they called that VTV (Happy Television) and the set up included TVS
and video equipment always.  I knew that he was into sex, drugs and
rock and roll, since he hanged out with the older brother of my best
friend.  I had no idea that he was a Serb.  Also, I completely missed that
he dated the best looking Croatian actress.  

I was already gone from former Yugoslavia when he was accepted to
Film Academy in Belgrade.  At that time, of course, Belgrade and
Zagreb were in the same country, and people regularly applied to both
film academies (I did the same earlier, yet I was rejected at both), as
people in the U.S. would apply both in LA and in NY.  The
Yugo-communists, as Croats like to say today, didn't have much
of Goran's work: come one this guy hanged out with Laibach, which
was banned to perform almost anywhere in Yugoslavia at that time.  One
would think that would make Goran liked by the new Croatia.  Wrong. 
He was a Serb, period.

Mira was not bothered that he was a Serb, and she went on to live in
Belgrade with him (who later became her husband).  After all, she
probably reasoned, Zagreb and Belgrade were still in the same country,
so what would be wrong with living in either of cities?!  But it was a
time to decide sides, because the mobs were forming everywhere and
preparing for the bloody clash.  She stayed in Belgrade, putting her
family attachment before her country.  She even received some award in
Nis, when the war already started.  Following that, the Croatian media,
prompted by her envious colleagues, basically dissected her cruelly like
a band of hyenas would do a wounded antelope.  And nobody stood in
her protection: probably the best young actress in former Yugoslavia
with years of acting both on film and in theater had to have tremendous
amount of friends and acquaintances in her home city of Zagreb - yet
everybody just played dead when the HDZ henchmen dragged her small
intestines over the front pages.

This is a tragedy of Central and Eastern Europe - so awfully well
displayed in the case of Zagreb: people are simply afraid to voice their
opinion if this opinion is not the same as the opinion of the currently
loudest violent mob in the city.  Citizens of Zagreb always reminded me
of rabbits in that respect, with their ears straight up and on attention. 
Existential fear by far precedes the professional integrity, period. 
Obviously, Serbian propaganda machinery welcomed Mira warmly, and
she was offered to play in theater and film in Belgrade.  Serbian
propagandists did anyway a far better job than their Croatian or Bosnian
counterparts by snatching Mira Furlan and Rade Serbedzija from
Zagreb, and Emir Kusturica from Sarajevo.  Rade, Mira and Emir are
not some Milosevic's spies.  They are artists.  They may be sometimes
vain and insecure and require some personality pampering and some
kindness and you can't expect from them to behave like political
apparatchiks.  We should realize that they ended up in Belgrade because
Belgrade did a better job of attracting them.

They ain't stupid either.  They know what Milosevic did.  They know
what role Serbia played in this nasty Balkan war.  Rade after all
immediately gave his voice to the opposition in Belgrade.  Emir's
Underground is a profound criticism of the regime.  And Mira and
Goran left Belgrade a long time ago (as soon as Goran graduated) and
came to the country where nobody would care were they Croats or Serbs
or whatever.  Here, in the U.S. she and Goran stayed a while in NY
doing what immigrants do, giving up the glamour for freedom, giving
up both countries in the Balkans, but preserving their family - which is
actually very American to do - and America took them in.  Then they
moved in LA.  A friend of Mira's (again a Serb, which doesn't tell
anything about Mira, but a lot about her Croat  friends') with
connections in the "industry" made a party and invited some people,
which landed Mira to several auditions and ultimately she got a role in
the Sci-Fi TV series Babylon 5 (Ambassador Delen).  Allegedly,
according to my Croatian sources, Mira foul-mouthed Croatia a lot in
her interviews, among other things telling that he was always harassed
there because she was Jewish.  Wow, I didn't even know that she was
Jewish.  Yet, I don't doubt that Tudjman's media discovered that and
delightfully exploited it against her (stupid again because Croatian Jews
did not do anything to undermine Tudjman's power, so why sneer at

As I realized, Mira and Croatia don't have many nice things to say about
each other (Goran makes his usual jokes telling that his wife can't keep
her tongue in cheek and loves to provoke).  Sad.  But, that's life.  Mira
is now an American actress.  Her English is flawless and as her many
fans witness every week - without an accent.  Since her fans are
computer geeks and nerds, she has 7 personal pages on the web (check
the biography at ) and 615
references to her name are returned by
Infoseek - about ten times more than to the name Franjo Tudjman.  She
still likes to do pranks - for example she admittedly climbed to the
Hollywood sign in Griffith Park, which is just behind and above her
house, that is forbidden by some LA ordnance.  Goran didn't - too
steep, he said.  Goran is definitely not a work-out freak (it was so hard
to get him outta house for a walk after dinner).  Recently his music
video about the band Laibach was screened in LA, and he is currently
directing a few low-budget advertising projects.  Mira still sometimes
talks with nostalgia about her apartment in Petrova street in Zagreb
where she lived all her life (I am sure that'd please Tudjman to know,
since he revels so much in the suffering of others).  But they settled in
LA and became very Californian in general including the two dozens of
bottles of vitamins and other supplements that adore any Californian
kitchen.  And she was objecting to Goran and me repeatedly listening to
the new Disziplin Kitschm (a hard core punk band from Belgrade that
went on living in London where it became a hard core rave band and
sounds better than Prodigy) with an almost suburban nag.

In the small talk part of our evening together Mira casually asked me
about myself and my family, so I delivered my well prepared long whine
about the parents who saw each other more often during the divorce than
at any other time of their relationship, while I lived with an
over-protective granny.  She listened and then calmly commented how
was a real tragedy, because my parents divorced when I was so young,
while her mom died when she was already a bit older.  I almost got sick
of myself at that point, which really rarely happens to my big ego.  Heh,
but I re-bounced quickly.

Bad News 5

In 1987 a shortly imprisoned dissident from Serbia came to the U.S. and
was granted asylum.  In an unusually short time he became an editor of
Chronicles, picked for that position by Thommas Fleming, a
Christian-Right oriented author.  Chronicles are financed by the
Rockford Institute
whose Board of Directors and Executives list like who is who on
American forefront of Family Values, Religion, Christianity - shortly it
is an obviously Republican leaning right of center foundation praised by
George Bush and Bob Dole - a kind that would be naturally expected to
back righteous Croat struggle for independence from Serbian Antichrist
communist dictator.  Wrong.  Rockford and Chronicles are staunch
supporters of Serbs, particularly Bosnian Serbs in this war.  Which
testifies to how inexplicably big role a single character may play in this
country: if there was not for that Serb dissident who made his way under
Fleming's skin, Rockford Institute and Chronicles would most probably
favor Croats.  What happened to him?  As soon as the war in Bosnia
started he packed his bags and returned to the country he once sought an
asylum from, becoming a reporter from the front in Republika Srpska. 
He is a competent writer and his reports are vivid and strong.  He
doesn't make Serbs look too good, he knows that wouldn't work.  But
his message is clear: not Serbs but others in former Yugoslavia are to
blame for the war and destruction, because they started with the
secessionism.  Today, his reports became valuable to Fleming in order to
appeal to extreme right in the U.S., which opposes American
intervention in Bosnia on isolationist grounds.  Fleming is also a
co-founder of Southern League, a controversial secessionist (sic!) 
movement in American South, which in Village Voice once compared its
struggle (for white living space, I presume) to the righteous struggle of
Serbian people.  Interestingly, both righteous struggles coincide with
massive destruction of spiritual objects of "others" (Muslim mosques in
Bosnia, Black churches in the South).  Southern Leaguers consider
themselves British, not American, and they are eager to reverse the
revolution.  Hence, there is support from Brittany.  In its bid of support
to Republika Srpska Rockford Institute is joined by Lord Byron
Foundation, one of those old blue-blooded establishments, which,
curiously again is headed by a Serb - one who formerly did P.R. jobs for
prince Karadjordjevic, and then for Radovan Karadzic (while his wife
was - despite Croatian-American protests - kept as a chief of Croatian
section at the Voice of America), a job that he still, obviously, relishes. 
With Radmila Melentijevic becoming the Minister of Information in
Serbia - and she was the one responsible for taking Serb leaders from
Croatia and Bosnia around Serbian centers in the US to raise funds, and
later served as Karadzic's spokeswoman in the UN - we can expect
stronger support for Republika Srpska.  

Bad News 6

Hands-on experience is still very regarded.  That's why Mobutu Sese
Seko, Zairian dictator, called Serbs to train Hutu refugees to fight Tutsi
rebels in the East of Zaire.  Mobutu was a lifelong friend of Tito, the
late Yugoslav dictator, and Zairian army was trained and armed partially
by Yugoslav military-industrial complex - the connections obviously
survived the collapse of Yugoslavia as a state.  My friend's article was
censored out of the press in Zagreb as late as 1988 when he criticized
Mobutu's visit to Yugoslavia that year, calling him a murderer.  Zaire is
in poor shape: a giant nation comprised of hundreds of tribes scattered
through the jungle with almost no infrastructure - Eastern parts are
accessible ONLY by air, burdened by incapable army and stagnating
economy.  After the massacres in Rwanda the East Zaire was flooded by
first Tutsi and then Hutu refugees - which completely destroyed the
delicate balance in which Zaire survived all those years.  Since the end
of cold war Zaire lost some of its appeal to the West, so the money
stopped flowing in.  Soon, Tutsi and Hutu continued to carry on their
war in Zaire.  Mobutu realized that he'd have to fight to hold onto the
East, and he decided to do it using Serb instructors and Hutu refugees
(while keeping Belgian mercenaries on call for the case that this low-cost
expendable rag-tag army does not succeed).  Why does nobody cry foul? 
The West seems terrified by the prospects of Zairian collapse -
humanitarian workers working with Rwanda can probably best perceive
what kind of nightmare would the humanitarian work in Zaire be.


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