t byfield on Wed, 7 Apr 1999 19:37:40 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> bridges

     [what follows is a message i sent to phil agre.--tb]

i just forwarded a message about the destruction of yet bridge--
that one because it supported, among other things, network services,
which it would be really sad to lose. but now, with this message, i'm 
beginning to see just how tragic NATO's insistent destruction of these 
bridges really is. each one of these bridges has a particular history: 
some of them are horrible histories, to be sure, but by their very 
nature bridges are able to shed those histories and work their way into 
everyday life, in ways that are both practical and symbolic. think of 
the bridges of london, new york, paris, san francisco, and the huge role 
they play in those cities' lives. now imagine that the golden gate and 
the bay bridge were half-sunk in the bay, or if manhattan was turned
back into an island accessible only by boat. beyond the lasting 
destruction of the local economy--which, as we're forever being told
would also have 'global' repercussions--these cities would be pitched
into overwhelming despondency: the golden gate, gone... even america
in its belligerent idiocy recognized this truth in its own ass-backwards
way when hollywood showed godzilla finally trapped in the cables of
the brooklyn bridge: those cables were, if anything, an intuitive
metaphor for the dense and complex relations that support new york and
hold it together. not that the scriptwriters understood this, i'd wager--
but those symbols that are most invisible are also the most powerful.

in its fanatically technocratic and 'strategic' way, NATO is going after 
precisely the same kind of targets that the warring parties in the breakup 
of yugoslavia went after for more symbolic reasons, which proved to be
very strategic indeed. and thus we see that NATO's destruction is first
and foremost *continuous* with the efforts of milosevic, karadzic,
tudjman, et al.--not a repudiation of their work but an elaboration of
it. but where those microfascists were diabolically clever, NATO is 
monstrously stupid. it's destroying 'strategic' targets, weak links in 
the FYU army's logistical infrastructure. yeah. it's also destroying the
structures, both very real and very metaphorical, that yugoslavia (or
serbia or whatever it will end up being called) will desperately need.

i only hope that the bridges built to replace them embody optimism and
forgiveness rather than bitter necessity and anger. but if they do, it 
will be through a spontaneous eruption of the goodwill of belgrade's and 
novi sad's residents, not through any values the west has to offer. 
which, of course, it will do: the west specializes in wagging fingers
in lieu of ponying up the resources to support the values it imposes.



Date: Sun, 4 Apr 1999 20:39:33 +0300 (EEST)
From: Heidi Grundmann <hgrundmann@mail.thing.at>

The following text reached me today from composer
and radio-artist Ivana Stefanovic under the title
"Letter from Amsterdam"

A Bridge Too Far
by Dragan Klaic

The Petrovaradin bridge was destroyed this morning at 5 am. My wife woke
me up with the news she just heard on the BBC radio. I thought it was
the newer railway/highway bridge but when I finally succeeded to phone to
Novi Sad in the evening, I heard it was the old metal bridge connecting
the center with Petrovaradin and the old fortress above, on the other side
of Danube. Why that bridge? It was build in haste in the winter of 1944-45
by the German POWs under the supervision of the Red Army engineers and
a railway line was added to renew the connection with Belgrade, 80 km
south. So in my childhood, with each train passing the ramp would go down
and the traffic would pile up on both sides. It wasn't that much traffic.
I remember the uneasiness I felt every time crossing the bridge even in
the daytime: the wooden planks of the side board got lose and rotten and
one could see the water underneath. I feared I'll step in the void and
even sink into Danube, little as I was. In the early sixties, a new bridge
was built 2 km down the river and the railway track was displaced too. The
old bridge got a face lift and served all these years as a busy connection,
away to enter straight into the center of Novi Sad from the Srem side.
In the years before I had a driver's license I was crossing it often
on foot in the sunset, going to the fortress for a stroll or to some of the
inns on the Petrovaradin side with wild Gypsy music only to return
in the small hours, admiring the dawn above the city. Ugly as it was, this
bridge was part of my childhood and adolescence. The consequence of the
bombing is that windows are broken in that part of town and there is
no running water around, even the large hospital on the nearby hills of
Fruska Gora, some 900 beds, is without water. This is not making the
awful lot of Kosovo Albanians easier. It is not prompting
the brave Novi Sad citizens to start an uprising against Milosevic. Of
course not, Milosevic is stronger than ever and as popular as he was in
1988-89. Moreover, many decent Serbs will hate NATO, W. Europe, USA
for the next 50 years and the self-destructive, obsessive ideology of
Serbian nationalism has been fed richly by this past week's attacks and has
seen all its favorite myths reinforced with new arguments and
examples. If only NATO bombed Milosevic's fleet in the Adriatic in
September 1991 when it started pounding Dubrovnik, well before Vukovar and
the horrors of Bosnia &Herzegovina, the ongoing Balkan war could have been
stopped at an early stage. If only a fraction of 1% of what NATO is
spending in this campaign now has been spent instead to support the
emerging forces of the civil society and the independent media Serbia
would have a different future. A military escalation won't halt the ethnic
cleansing in Kosovo nor speed up the return of the refugees. This senseless
violence should stop at once. The politicians and generals have
committed great errors in judgment. They should call further bombings
off and step aside for a while. How about a conference with 50 Balkan
scholars from the  Western and Eastern Europe getting together and
using their collective knowledge to envisage some sort of future without
war and terror, to restart a dialogue. The politicians can in the meantime
vote budgets for the humanitarian aid much needed in the region and entrust
the generals to implement it. We know how good they can be at it.

Dragan Klaic

Dr D Klaic is Professor of University of Amsterdam and Director of
TheaterInstituut Nederland. e mail: dragank@tin.nl

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