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<nettime> BULLS RULE
indirak on Thu, 17 Sep 1998 16:52:27 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> BULLS RULE


In the introduction to his book about the Rwandan genocide "We wish to inform
you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families" Phillip Gourevitch
wrote: "...this is a book about how people imagine themselves and one
another...". The key word here is IMAGINE. Gourevitch shows us a world in which
a man who imagines himself as a Hutu can refer to his Tutsi mother as a
"cockroach" and where hacking your neighbor to death is as casual as dining
with him would be under different "imaging" circumstances.

In a comparative example, people of State Line City which spreads on the both
sides of the Illinois-Indiana border in the US, live in two different
time-zones and have to pay an out-of-state toll charge to phone a neighbor
across the street (named appropriately - State Line Road). For all legal and
administrative purposes they are two distinctive communities. Yet, save for
spray-painting "Bulls Rule!" (Bulls refer to Chicago's basketball team - the
one in which Croatia's Kukoc plays) over street signs on the Indiana side of
the road by some kids from the Illinois side, the pragmatic mind won over the
false imagination and those two communities live in peace with neighbors
walking across the street to avoid extra phone charges by talking to each other
face to face. (NY Times, 7/23/98)

Indeed, "...all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face
contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined." (Imagined Communities by
Benedict Anderson), and the way how we are influenced to imagine ourselves and
the others in the world around us is, therefore, important for the conduct
between the communities that we imagine ourselves belonging to. Living under
the ideologically unfocused media and a government accustomed to rule by
procrastinated litigation (as opposed to a revolutionary or nationalist zeal),
produces statistically less hacked-off body parts. Internet, as means of
creating a virtual primordial village of face-to-face contact, spawns
possibilities for the largest imagined community that may eventually encompass
the world with its shared values, or at least some of us would like to imagine

In post-Yugoslav societies that imagination of course went way past the
spray-painting the name of someone's home basketball team over the street signs
in another team's town and the events developed way past anybody's wildest
imagination. Once the  leadership of different republics  turned against each
other, they started a vicious propaganda war through the media they controlled.
Independent, alternative media were rarely distributed nationally.  Major
party-controlled media never tried to cross republic lines. In the early '90s,
as the conflict grew uglier, reading newspapers from other republics came to be
viewed as unpatriotic. Finally, just before the war started, the Serbian and
Croatian governments shut down ALL communication between Serbia and Croatia,
and directed their media to paint a picture-perfect enemy of the "other" side.
The war was then executed out of fear by mostly panicking folks not able to
double check the information they received over government-contr!  !  !  olle d
media.    (http://mediafilter.org/ztn_info.html)

Not only did travel by train or road between Croatia and Serbia become
impossible but the destruction of many telephone connections caused an overload
of the existing lines. Telephone calls between Zagreb and Belgrade, for
example, became almost impossible. Enters Internet. Early in 1991 International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in former Yugoslavia
proposed a "Trust Link" between the conflicting sides. In the summer of 1991,
when the anti-war and human rights groups of former Yugoslavia increasingly
began to organize themselves they found impossible to coordinate their
activities due to immense communication difficulties. In October 1991 several
peace groups (WRI, IFOR, etc...) from countries that still had good telephone
connections to both Zagreb and Belgrade agreed to relay Faxes received from one
peace group on to the other group.

That was not sufficient. In December 1991 and January 1992 COMMUNICATIONS AID
project for the people in former Yugoslavia has been developed by the foreign
peace groups together with the Center for the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence
(Ljubljana), the Antiwar Campaign (Zagreb) and the Center for Antiwar Action
(Belgrade). Modems were given to peace and anti-war groups in Ljubljana,
Zagreb, Belgrade and Sarajevo. A guy from central Pennsylvania, who spent most
of his life as a peace activist in Bielefeld (near Hannover), Germany, Eric
Bachman came to former Yugoslavia to install those modems and set up the
network. Eric was invited in September 1991 by the Antiwar Campaign in Zagreb
to lead (together with two other persons) a seminar on nonviolent conflict
resolution - the field in which he has been working for over 20 years. After
spring 1992 it was not possible to connect directly with another city from
former Yugoslavia, so connections were made indirectly through Austria, G!  !
!  ermany or Britain. This also enabled a connection with the world-wide
networks of BBS's. Those, elected as presidents of their states, bur
self-imposed as nationalist dictators, who imagined themselves to be leaders,
thus lost their power to prevent communication of their people beyond the
borders of their police states.

With re-instatement of communication services between postYugoslav states after
1996, Zamir Transnational Net (ZTN) < {AT} zamir.net> lost its primary function as
being the sole means of communication between anti-war and human rights
activists in the postYugoslav region and between them and the world. The
financial support, it was receiving during the war years from Soros Foundation
and other NGO-s in the West, waned. The necessary  commercialization, due to
users unused to paying for service, nearly destroyed the ZTN (Bielefeld shut
parts of the ZTN down on several occasions for non-payment). ZAMIR.NET
survived, fortunately. Despite loosing its original role, it is still unique:
it is the only Internet service provider with nodes in all postYugoslav states,
which should be a commercial advantage in future years of re-integrating the
postYugoslav region in a single trade zone. 

This uniqueness appeals to those defined by nationalist regimes as
yugo-nostalgics (this is also a coincidence: human rights and anti-war
activists who formed the core of ZTN users, are generally always blamed by all
reigning regimes for their treachery against the imagined sacred cows of
nationhood), which is both blessing and a curse: it defines potential users and
it defines them as outcasts of a paranoid chauvinist mainstream (plus, now they
have to pay for that). Regardless, however, of what happens to ZTN, its
presence launched postYugoslav states to the high Internet orbit. Croatia,
Bosnia and Serbia's presence on the Net is disproportionately larger than their
economic or strategic impact on the "real" world (just play with Yahoo or
Infoseek). All governments, when they understood that they cannot stop or
destroy ZTN, became themselves big believers in the power of the Net, with
Serbian government having their html homework done and their web presentations
ready even before the sanctions (that prevented them from connecting
to the Net) were lifted (check the link provided from
http://balkansnet.org/serbia.html). Thus, the presence of a strong, secure,
independent Internet service provider with the access to all postYugoslav
states is now as important as ever.  Sadly, ZAMIR.NET is neither strong, nor
secure today.

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