florian schneider on Wed, 21 Apr 1999 09:32:02 +0200

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Syndicate: catching pilots, loosing your mind

[yesterday, this was posted on women-east-west mailinglist.]


Belgrade's bunker mentality is contagious, and you can catch it above
as well as below ground. Ask the local spy.

By Gordana Igric

There are two ways to lose your mind in Belgrade. One is to seek
refuge in an air raid shelter. At least half of Belgrade now spends
the hours of bombing in bunkers. The other is to watch television.

At least this is what a little-known writer friend thinks. A few years
ago he wrote a book critical of the regime. Now he fears that because
of the book, the regime is about to knock on his door. He is convinced
that his flat is bugged.

As a result, over the dinner he prepared for a handful of like-minded
friends, everybody whispers. Thus, imperceptibly, together with his
guests, he too has acquired the bunker mentality which afflicts more
and more of Belgrade's population. These days, everyone in Belgrade
carries their own bunkers in their head.

Ever since the bombing campaign started, two families with four
children have lived together in the air raid shelter at the bottom of
their building in the city centre, only occasionally running up to
their flats to fetch something. They use Styrofoam for beds, prepare
coffee underground, and leave the television permanently switched on.

Mika is a plumber, Slobodan a salesman. During the day, their
children, who have not attended school since the bombing started,
paint slogans on pieces of cardboard that they then take to the
open-air concerts that are daily events in central Belgrade. The
placards read: "Serbia", "Down with NATO", "Clinton-Hitler". While
making the placards, they sing along with the patriotic songs
emanating from the television.

Their mothers, both housewives, spend their time on the phone which
they have installed in the basement. They call their relatives in the
countryside and discuss how together they can "catch pilots".

Catching pilots has become a national sport. Every day state
television (and there is no other) claims that some ten NATO planes
are shot down over this or that village. So the two women share
suggestions as to the appropriate punishment for the captured pilots.
One reports approvingly that a pilot caught near the village of
Mladenovac was beaten to death with shovels. The other disagrees with
this approach. When caught, she says, the pilots should be tied to
Belgrade's bridges.

In addition to pilots, spies crop up regularly in conversation. Both
these women have heard that a car with a Belgian licence plate was
spotted near the city's police station. Loyal citizens reported this
to the police, who immediately arrested the spies. Their mission, it
emerged, was to place homing beacons in blocks of flats.

The fathers have a different routine. During the day, when there is no
bombing, they sleep in the bunker. At night, when air-raid sirens echo
across the city, they climb to the roof of their block of flats to
observe. With the confidence of experts, they explain to each other
where the air defences are located and the types of radar that the
Yugoslav Army possesses. They place bets on how many NATO planes will
be shot down that night. They haven't given up hope that at least one
pilot will land on the roof on their building . . .

Indeed, betting has become a popular pastime in Belgrade cafes these
days. Drinkers, who boycott Coca-Cola since it is a symbol of
everything American, compile lists of potential targets for NATO's war
planes, and place bets on whether it will be the military
headquarters, the main police station in 29 November Street, or some
bridge anywhere in Serbia. Bridges have recently been a safe bet.

More than ever, television shapes the warped reality. The language is
always along the lines of "NATO's criminal machinery", "the criminals
from the Black House", "the monstrous American armada", "the criminal
missiles of the world's neo-Nazis", "the world's killers and
executioners gathered round the hardened murderer Clinton".
Occasionally, other issues feature: the planting of sunflower seeds is
under way, the distribution of diesel fuel for the spring harvest is
proceeding without problems. In other words, everything is under

Miki Vujovic, director of TV Palma, a commercial station famous for
pornography and pop videos, has refined his television presenting
skills in tune with the war. He addresses the public each night,
dressed in black, lying back in his armchair. Twirling a pen in his
fingers, he explains, enthusiastically, that Serbs possess a noble
gene that predisposes them to martyrdom. He suggests that this gene
should be removed once and for all and concludes his monologue with a
message to foreign troops: Just come, you will not return.

Between the television bombing and the real thing, other news passes
most people by. This is the case, for example, with the proposal of
Justice Minister Dragoljub Jankovic that conditions for detention be
changed as a result of the war, as well as conditions for the
protection of private mail and property. Capital punishment is
outlawed by the Yugoslav constitution, yet Jankovic proposed that it
be reintroduced. Some ten days ago, the Serbian President, Milan
Milutinovic, decreed, among other things, that the Ministry of the
Interior pass "a measure for sending all persons who represent a
danger for the security of the Republic to a certain place."

It is impossible to predict who the Ministry will deem "dangerous",
much less where that "certain place" might be. But one lonely
Belgrader may live to regret his bravado. Mocking the regime, he has
scribbled on a wall: "I am the spy in the neighbourhood."

Gordana Igric is an independent journalist from Belgrade.

Break the logic of war! Desert! Open the borders!

------Syndicate mailinglist--------------------
 Syndicate network for media culture and media art
 information and archive: http://www.v2.nl/east/
 to unsubscribe, write to <syndicate-request@aec.at>
 in the body of the msg: unsubscribe your@email.adress