michael . benson on Tue, 5 Oct 1999 20:07:59 -0400


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Re: Syndicate: Re: reactions and consequences


I'll try.

>I am not a Serb. My parents aren't Serbs either. My grandparents are 
>all Serbs. I believe a person can choose if and which ethnic groups 
>it will align itself with. I will not accept anyone forcing me into
>membership with an ethnic group, on any basis. 

Mihajlo, calm down! I'm not trying to force you into an ethnic 
ghetto, for chrissakes, a-la Ratko Mladic. I think the context of what
I wrote should make that clear enough. Fact is you live in a place
called Serbia, which through various well publicized campaigns and
events seems to have fewer and fewer "Yugoslavs" left in it. Anyway, I
was attempting to invert the common and well known usage of those four
"C"s over the last decade, to imply that a kind of 
anti-ethnonationalist unity might now be useful. Which, I assume, 
makes us understand each other? To save Serbia, let me put it that 
way. Is that acceptable to you? Since you live in Serbia? 

>Divide and conquer  isn't something just Milosevic is doing. 
>Compared to U$ policies,  you could call him an amateur. 

Not if you look at his consummate maneuverings during the last 
decade. I admit that his techniques failed him spectacularly in the
last round. Then again, when you consider that the only thing
important to the man is remaining in power -- not keeping conquered
territory or the rest of the propaganda -- then he's still winning.
And as I attempted to point out in my mail, he's winning through
dividing the many and disparate forces that can't stand him, but also
can't manage to unite to throw him out. Yet. (I hope.)

>I would really like it if you defined  major change. I do not 
>support just any major change. A major change  would be if the Serb
>Radical Party threw out Milosevic and started  ruling on their own. 

Well christ, Mihajlo (Christ Mihajlo? Not bad), Christ 
Mihajlo, not everything can be spelled out in long legalistic detail
in a post to a mailing list, complete with fine print. For the 
record, no I don't mean that any enemy of your enemy is your friend, 
and I'm not an advocate of Seselj taking power, and I don't think the 
ends justify the means either. 

Define major change? How about a Serbia where the rule of law 
prevails, in the sense that people are protected from the 
arbitrary exercise of state power, a Serbia where human rights is a
top priority, where ethnic minorities or those who simply think 
differently don't have to tremble at the sound of boots in the 
stairwell, a place where patronage and nepotism is reduced to 
"normal" levels (since these things can probably never be completely 
eradicated), an anti-nationalist Serbia where, among other things the 
media is truly free and not in the pocket of this or that overtly 
political or nationalist interest? And where a plurality of media 
goes some distance towards canceling out the effects of this or that 
corporate interest owning that media as well? Where many different 
views can be freely aired? And so on? I won't go on because I've 
written about all this stuff before. I think you get the general 
idea. 

>As for subversion,
>I like to consider myself subversive, but I do place great value on 
>motives, methods and consequences of subversion.

Yes of course. Me too. Again, the ends don't justify the means.

>  I would sooner say that they had been within the city limits all
>  the  time.

Ok. The point I'm trying to make here is that the bogeyman has been
implanted through mass media well and truly into the waking thoughts
of the vast majority of people living in what I'll call Yugoslavia. It
benefits those in power. Everyone's in a conspiracy to get Serbia.
Finally it became a self-fulfilling prophesy, despite the best 
efforts by the "west" to stay away from the mess for most of the 
decade. But regarding the latter, I don't expect you to agree with 
me, and I don't really want to argue about it. It's  my view, for 
better or worse. 

>  Yes, they had been spewing out a similar picture and, just as B92's
>  criticism of US policies, using all the false arguments and an
>  occassional true one.

"Grow a tree of falsehood from a small seed of truth." Czeslaw 
Milosz. The key is a plurality of opinion. 

Isaih Berlin had a lot to say about these things. He's worth looking 
up. "Four Essays on Liberty", Oxford U Press.

>I believe the word "opposition" should mark something else than
>political parties. They have hardly ever in history (of Serbia, at
>least) been opposition to the system. The thing with Milosevic's
>propaganda machine is that it is trying to present EVERYONE in such
>blackness. 

Hmmm. Yes, that's it exactly. I agree.


>  One other thing is symptomatic, that it tries to depicted everyone
>  who is against Milosevic, as working for "The worldwide judeo-mason
>  conspiracy involving the USA, ex-nazis, Vatican...", sometimes
>  abbreviated to "The Americans" (nation=government). This approach
>  (for me or for him) can be seen in a more subtle version, from the
>  "opposition" and "independent media", who try to show it like the
>  only people that criticise them are those that work for Milosevic.
>  Anyway, I think that both Milosevic, Haider, Djindjic, Draskovic,
>  Kucan, Pesic, Sonja Licht, Zivkov, Glavas, Racan and Perovic all
>  fall into the same kind of power+money=control_hungry_scum.
>  Congrats to those who can divide the amorphous list of names into a
>  country-by-country order.

Interesting that Haidar won a landslide second place victory in the
Austrian elections yesterday, resulting in the best showing by a far
right party in post-war Western Europe. Are you sure your list isn't
having an unintended effect, Mihajlo? (It's a joke.)

I personally have a problem with you lumping poor little 
innocuous Milan Kucan, the "bonsai president" of Slovenia, in that
list of hardened criminal and opportunists, but I just don't have the
patience and energy to argue it at any length. Suffice to say that
there's a palpable absence of slivo-swilling door-to-door death squads
in Slovenia, minority rights are quite well protected, and there's
even state-funded Italian-language TV and Hungarian-language radio.  

>"King of the Streets and Squares" is the name he ordered his 
>members  to spontaneously start calling him.

Interesting about the squares. The slang meaning of squares in 
American English is "a person who is old-fashioned, conventional, or
conservative." Hmmm. 

Yes, let him be the King of the Squares.

>"Hristos Voskrese"

Church Slavonic, complete with incense, candles, and the Mitrophon's
foul breath through a greasy beard -- the whole sound and light show.

> The winner are the Euroamerican buisiness interests, 

Here I simply don't agree that it was any kind of major motivation
behind that "war"/"police action", no matter how much evidence you
wave in my face of individual companies benefiting from Kosovo
reconstruction, and no matter how high the military-industrial complex
weapons reorder figures undoubtedly are. Sure the bomb makers are
making some serious money now, etc, but my sense is that everyone
wanted the damn problem to go away, hoped that Slobo would cut a deal,
and they started bombing pretty reluctantly. But I'm losing my
patience in arguing these things -- believe what you want.  

> who are all united(Milosevic and U$A
>  and Tudjman and...) making Yugoslavia a place with no healthy food
>  or water, with the cheapest workforce in Europe. 

Well, Ok, everyone's in the same foul-smelling bed, and they're all
lined up waiting to exploit cheap Serbian labor? To make what, Nikes? 
Doesn't China already have billions lined up for the opportunity?

Yes of course Slobo and Franjo are in the same bed, as was made clear
by that brilliant cover of Feral Tribune a few years ago. Too bad we
can't just leave them there and lock the door.

>The divisions between those who should be resisting these
>people are what is depressing. 

Well, jeez Mihailo, thanks for *getting* it, finally. It was my main
point, or so I thought.

>I propose a healthy discord, where the wiser do not give up their
>integrity, for the sake of false unity.

Well, your rhetorical construct very skillfully makes it impossible 
to disagree, but I would submit that (a) of course you should never
give up your integrity, ever -- see "means/ends" point above and (b)
how about unity of that percentage of people who actually do fulfill
your exceedingly high standards? So that you can stand together rather
than hanging separately, so to speak? (Knock on wood, and may no harm
come to you.)

"Healthy discord" is not healthy in your circumstances. It won't get
you anywhere. "Healthy discord" is fine in societies where human
rights are by and large reasonably well protected, and etc. -- where 
key things have been achieved. "Healthy discord" is a no-go in 
societies where newspaper editors get shot on their doorstep for 
their views -- i.e., for being part of the discord.

Mihajlo, I'm not trying to force you into a ghetto, and I'm not 
trying to get you to collaborate with Seselj either. In fact, it's all
up to you, and I'm just airing my opinions, which you can quite
obviously take or leave as it suits you.  

>  Draskovic knows damn well who is pulling his strings and he is one
>  of the rare persons who know how many people have pulled his
>  strings so far. 

Yeah, well, not as well as you think. He found out two nights ago just
how seriously he had underestimated his abilities to know what the
string pullers will do next. In short: the man's a fool. 

Make that: the King of the Squares!

> I don't.

Well, exactly!

>  Not being able to stand and having contempt for are very different
>  sometimes. I have learned to stand a lot of anoying people, but to
>  have contempt for them, or the other way around. 

"Hell is other people." As some person said.

>I might have mentioned what shoulder to shoulder usually means...
>  Putting aside differences is also something I don't like doing.

Well jebiga, what I mean isn't forgive fascist views, or tolerate
corruption, etc. -- it's meet reasonable people half-way, especially
if you share fundamentally the same political views, and possibly not
be as judgmental as you seem to sometimes be. Just a thought.

The other question is how many reasonable sane people there are out
there. What's your take on the "post-pessimists"? Just asking. I have
no idea.

>And I would also mean the U$ government. Do you think of them as
>lesser bastards? Or do you think they are not significant enough a
>factor to be mentioned. 

I think they went home and you're on your own, with not a dinar of
reconstruction money in sight. Anyway, the bastards there *will* be
thrown out, most likely, to be replaced by George W. Bush -- all of
whose foreign policy advisors thought that any involvement in the
Kosovo problem or Bosnian war was a big mistake, and the US should
never have played a role. So, we'll be back to "realpolitik" and
'don't even call us unless oil is at stake.' Who cares about fascism
and mass murder in distant foreign lands, anyway? We're peaceful and
prosperous, "we don't have a dog in that fight", etc. 

In short, George Bush Sr., redux.

>Maybe you think they don't deserve to be
>mentioned? What is your opinion on them, anyhow?

See above. When it comes to Clinton, he tolerated the mosquito called
Milosevic buzzing in an irritating way around his head for quite a
while, then finally was talked into swatting it a few times when it
looked like it might threaten his own political career (I'm talking
about Bosnia now), and so now finally that whine is confined mostly to
within the borders of the rump Yugoslavia. So I guess that makes
mosquito bites on the rump. It's no longer his problem -- it's your
problem.

>I forgot Sonja Licht as the new rektor of BelgradeUniversity and...

Who is this Sonja Licht who you hate so much? Maybe I should know.
Do you have a picture of her on your dart-board, or?

>What is opposition? Re-phrased, where is the limit where opposition
>becomes simulation or collaboration?  Who do you want unified? 

Well, I got into that a bit above, but I guess it's for you to 
answer -- now that I've nominated you to get the job done! Ha! You are
clearly the best guy for the job, because you know exactly who is Ok
and who isn't. Problem is, I suspect it might end up being a party of
one -- and that's not very much fun, is it?

But of course, you should steer away from the simulators, and the 
collaborators.

>>That means make a platform, try to build some trust, use the 
>>phone, e-mail, radio etc etc as a tool to *organize*, not 
>>*criticize*, and make some desperately needed changes.

> Ah, spoken in the true spirit of the Zajedno (Together) coalition -

The terrible thing about Zajedno is that their immediate collapse and
corruption gave further grounds for cynicism and apathy to an already
cynical and blackly apathetic "opposition." Really disgusting. So much
so that what I wrote above can only be read cynically. So again,
Slobo wins. 

A nasty business!

> Especially the part with "desperately needed changes". What kind of
> changes? 

See above. (Sigh.)

>Are you sure their changes are what you would like to see? I say
>"their", for it is always them and not people like my friends that
>control everything, after people *organise* and "throw the bastards
>out".

Why do I get the feeling that your sophisticated arguments are 
primarily serving to back up your own sense of utter futility? You're
clearly smart, Mihajlo, and quite justifiably pissed off by what you 
see around you -- how about trying to change it, rather than just 
letting "them" control "everything"?  If there's one thing that's 
screamingly obvious, it's that the Serbian political landscape 
doesn't have one figure with genuine integrity to offer. Or at least, 
nobody yet visible. Is the solution to throw up your hands and say 
"it will always be so?"

I mean, look, I'm a filmmaker, I would never want to be a 
politician, so believe me I can understand if you would want to stay
kilometers away from that particular soiled activity. But on the other
hand, you are clearly actively engaged with these issues, and you want
things to be -- well, OTHERWISE. Why are you stopping yourself from
working to make them so? 

Or are you? I don't know you, and don't know what you're doing 
exactly. 

> The movement in Serbia didn't fracture. It was systematically torn
>  apart by U$-funded politicians, whenever it truly endangered the
>  system. From what I had seen, I have gained the impression that
>  they are not trying to oust Milosevic at all. 

I agree with your analysis, unfortunately; Slobo was seen as the
guarantor of Bosnian peace, therefore the opposition wasn't supported,
or even met with. Which is really disgusting, when you consider who
was responsible for the Bosnian war in the first place. But the
"movement" as you call it was busy digging its own grave as soon as it
was allotted it's small share of power and patronage. Resulting, among
other things, in your (unfortunately partially justified) cynicism. 

>  I would take no satisfaction from that. A Milosevic dead or
>  neutralised, that is a relief, but cells like those in EU prisons
>  are something I don't wish for anybody.

Yes! How about your first option. What an inspiring idea. Actually, 
an EU prison is too good for the man. But it would be nice to see a 
public trial, where victims have a chance to testify. An important 
effect of actual justice is that it gives people a chance to heal. 

>I don't do pills, but I'm taking the rest of the advice. Btw, do you
>remember that one "And now everyone to your working assignments"? 
>I'm not the only one who is sounding like someone.

Forward, comrades, let us build brotherhood and unity! Not a bad 
slogan, actually, come to think of it! 

Friendship among peoples, solidarity with the oppressed, the whole 
bit.

B.t.w., the "stress pill" line comes from Kubrick's 2001: A Space 
Odyssey. The computer, HAL-9000, having killed off all the other 
astronauts, is trying to talk the one survivor into not 
de-programming (i.e., "killing") him: "Dave, I think you should sit 
down, take a stress pill, and think the whole thing over." Brain 
surgery, anyone?

All the best,
Michael


Michael Benson  <michael.benson@pristop.si>
<http://www.ljudmila.org/kinetikon/> 
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