nettime on Tue, 22 Jun 1999 01:52:59 +0200 (CEST)

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

michael benson: POTUS in SLO [ + PS ]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
<> is the temporary home of the nettime-l list
while rebuilds its list-serving machine.  please continue to send
messages to <> and your commands to <>.
nettime-l-temp should be active for approximately 2 weeks (11-28 Jun 99).
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 21:10:50 +0000
Subject: POTUS in SLO

I just came back from Congress Square, the center of Ljubljana, 
therefore the symbolic center of Slovenia. Bill Clinton was there. He
made a speech. It was raining. Hard. 

First, President Kucan, the micro-miniaturized "bonsai president" of
Slovenia, said a few words from under his umbrella: blah blah. I don't
mean to sound condescending; he's a silver-haired,
distinguished-looking gent. He didn't look very pleased to be there,
though. In fact, he exuded gloom. Mostly he scissors ribbons at new
highway exits. This was not that, at least, so I don't know why he was
so down. 

Then dour, dark-haired Janez Drnovsek, PM of Slovenia, 
said a few words from under *his* umbrella: blah. Blah. He also 
did his best to look pleased -- and actually managed to look pleased,
a kind of triumph for Drnovsek (especially since I'm sure he *was*
pleased. So it was a kind of major effort in the midst of a genuine

Then Leon Stuklj, the 100 year old Slovenian Olympic gold 
medallist (gymnastics, the Berlin Olympics!) introduced all-smiles
Bill. He warbled some words after what would have been a standing
ovation, if everyone hadn't already been standing. (Come to think of
it, I guess that makes it a standing ovation by default.) Rhythmic
shouts, and clapping: "Leon! Leon! Leon!" 

Oh yes, sorry. Hillary was there. Chelsea was there. Madeline was
there. Sandy was there. The whole family. Right in the center of
downtown Slovenia, Central Europe, ex-Yugoslavia, former Hapsburg
Empire, fringe of the Balkans, EU candidate state, prospective NATO
member. A relatively prosperous representative democracy with a pretty
good record in respecting its minority rights (Italian-language TV
station, permanent Hungarian and Italian seats in parliament, very few
armed thugs going door to door randomly executing people, the whole
bit). All the top Slovenes, needless to say, were also there, getting
soaked to the bone. The square was packed. Anything else? Oh yeah: the
secret service guys, in their smooth suits and with ominous
brief-cases, hawk-eyes squinty behind aviator shades, were there. But
they were inconspicuous. 

Still, I didn't make any sudden moves.    

Where was I? After Leon, they actually gave POTUS himself some 
mike-time. Yeah, they gave Bill a chance to speak! Smiling that *It's
so excellent being at the center of all attention, all the damn time*
smile, he said proceeded to shout out various things.

What did POTUS say?  

"The whole world admires Slovenia's success."

The 20th Century was "The bloodiest and most turbulent in history."

"Racial and religious hatred has no place in a civilized society."

"Eight years ago Mr Milosevic triggered a military assault on your
nation. But you resisted."

"We must build a Europe with no front-line states. And Slovenia 
can lead the way. And America can help."

"Serbia must choose the path Slovenia has chosen." 

This last one got me. What now, I flashed, even *Serbia* secedes from
Yugoslavia? I guess that would make Podgorica the capital of
Yugoslavia. Not a bad idea! The Montenegrins probably wouldn't take
any military action to keep Serbia in the federation. What would be
the point? They would in fact be kind of pleased -- startled, but
pleased. They would wave, lock the door quietly, and sit down next to
it with an expression of relief.

After several hours of concentrated thought, I guess I figured out
what POTUS *really* meant. But I won't get into that. 

Actually, I had another reason for going to see this theater piece in
Congress Square in the pouring rain. When I was making a film, a few
years ago, I looked at all -- *all* -- the archival footage ever shot
in Congress Square. And not a few stills as well. 

In 1918, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was announced
to a huge crowd in that square. Proto-Yugoslavia. Only a still picture
survives. Word has it that people were enthusiastic. It was a peak of

In 1944, a quisling rally was held under Nazi flags in Congress 
Square (one where, I'm told, everyone was required to be there on pain
of unspecified consequences; though no doubt many were there by
conviction as well. The ones who were fighting fascism were all up in
the hills. Thousands of them. Sound familiar?). Anton Rupnik, the
Quisling president -- more like a governor, since Slovenia had been
annexed by Germany -- said: "Slovenians can be rescued only by a
victorious Europe, and Europe can be led to victory only by Germany!" 


Only a year later, in 1945, Josip Broz Tito made a victory speech in
Congress Square (it was pouring rain that day too, come to think of
it). Tito said: "Comrades! We want the entire world to know that
Yugoslavia, which was fighting, doesn't want anything but that one
nation, of one blood, shall live within the framework of one state!"


In 1988, after several Slovenian journalists had been arrested by the
Yugoslav Army for allegedly having stolen military secrets, and were
on trial in a military court (a trial conducted in the Serbian
language), thousands gathered in Congress Square. Many things were
said. In Slovenian. The weather was good. (Sorry -- no transcript at
hand. But they were pissed!)

In conclusion, a partisan song (if you don't want to sing, just hum

Through burned fields, all the way to 
white Ljubljana, our army breaks through like a storm!
As long as the brigades are here, who can steal our land? 
On Slovenian land we are master!

Michael Benson  <>

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 21:49:40 +0000
Subject: POTUS PS

I forgot, he -- or should I say, He -- also quoted the words of the
Slovenian national anthem. (Slovenia has a national anthem.) The
Slovenian national anthem was written by national poet France
Preseren. It was originally, I'm told, a drinking song. The words are
as follows:

God's blessing on all nations
Who long and work for that bright day
When o'er earth's habitations
No war, no strife shall hold its sway
Who long to see
That all men free
No more shall foes, but
      neighbors be.

Funny little country.

Michael Benson  <>