Ivo Skoric on Wed, 14 Oct 1998 22:18:27 +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
i s 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"

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 approp
riately - 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
o n 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 f
ace 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
ar ound 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 revolutionar y
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 worl
d with its shared values, or at least some of us would like to
imagine so.

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  lead
ership 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 repub lic 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-controlled
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
impossib le. 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 Y ugoslavia 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 conn ections 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
An tiwar 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
confl ict 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, Germany or Britain. This a
lso 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)
<@zamir.net> lost its primary function as being the sole means of
communication between anti-war and human rights activists in the
postYug oslav 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 destro yed 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 state s, 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 happen s 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 i mportant as ever.  Sadly, ZAMIR.NET is neither strong,
nor secure today.

ivo http://balkansnet.org/
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