Andreas Broeckmann on Wed, 31 Mar 1999 14:05:23 +0100

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Syndicate: responsibilities and the legitimacy of fear

Dear friends,

I feel awkward to take the position of meekness in the face of some much
angry determination, but so be it. Some thoughts following from
communication on and off the list. (I hope I'm not misquoting anybody. They
are now my questions or ideas ... ;-)

Arthur Bueno asked whether the politicisation of the discussion here is not
endangering the Deep European community of the Syndicate, and others have
expressed similar worries. I guess that it is not the discussion, but the
war and the extreme pressure that we are under - and some obviously more
than others -, that makes the future of the Syndicate, and of the Deep
Europe that we live in, unpredictable. However, reading even the hefty
exchanges I get the feeling that these are necessary arguments, and that
most of it is not so much about political opinions but about personal,
moral integrity, which is truly being tested everywhere. With all due
respect, we have to be able to say these things, and to ask these
questions. Not least among people whose country, Yugoslavia, has been
dismantled in war through the last decade.

The question of how to live up to one's responsibility is something that
comes op in the Open the Borders! statement, as well as in other postings
to the list. Arthur and Marilouise Kroker quote Thomas L. Friedman:
'...Americans are in the odd position now of being held responsible for
everything, while being reluctant to die for anything.' It should probably
be added that the US and NATO are actually *taking* responsibility for the
situation in Kosovo, which puts them under so much more strain than the
Russians who never, as far as I know, took responsibility for Serb attacks
on the civilian population in Kosovo since last year. But what do you do
with that responsibility once you have it? If you are a soldier in the NATO
forces, is it your responsibility to die for it? Are these the rule of the
game, Marko? Dejan wrote: 'I think that Western politics fell into a deep
decadence with no sense of responsability and now they sweat trying to find
the most adequate way to get out of this Balkan koshmar.' Joschka Fischer,
German foreign minister, just said in a news conference that NATO is
working on a new, diplomatic proposal. Routes of escape?

One of the sentences that didn't make it into the final version of the Open
the Borders! statement was calling on soldiers to desert. After some
discussion we felt that this was a decision we could not take for others,
given the risk that that puts them into. Can I take responsibility for
somebody to desert and get court-martialled and shot? I find the dilemmas
of the situation excruciating - why do I have to make choices about who to
kill and who not?

Blindness to what is happening is worse, I guess, and that also sparks the
greatest resentment against people who do not acknowledge the primacy of
the Serb attacks on the civilian population in Kosovo. To claim that the
plight of the civilian population in Serbia under NATO bombardment can be
seen in isolation from what is happening in Kosovo, is infuriating. Shame
on the Anthropological Society in Belgrade.

We cannot be suspicious enough. Remember what Michael Benson writes, and
this relates not only to the people now in Serbia:
'I suggest that you think hard about your position now. It may well
come back to haunt you. I assume that you are thoughtful and
intelligent people. I hope I am wrong about what I'm about to say,
and it makes me sick to say it, but I am very much afraid that at
this very moment, during these days right now, Kosovar Albanian men
between the ages of about 15 and 60 are being executed in their
thousands. I very much hope I'm wrong. But the indications are
extremely ominous. Why are they being separated out and taken away
in trucks? Or is this all hyper-sophisticated KLA propaganda,
somehow inserted, under these conditions, into the mouths of the
thousands of refugees with the same story who actually made it out?
Or is it some kind of NATO propaganda -- are all those reporters
interviewing the Albanian refugees NATO agents? I would suggest that
anyone with those views has been exposed for too long to TV Serbia. I
would suggest that anyone with those views also believes that the
executions at Srebrenica were a fabrication.'

How can one keep a straight, honest, human face in conversation when there
is even the faintest possibility of something like this happening? This is
what makes the political opinion-mongering so facile: it is easy to have
one or the other opinion; but how to act responsibly? how not to put on one
of the available masks (which is so tricky also because that mask might
burn into your face and maim you for life ...)? Deconstructions like the
sharp analysis Irina offered of the reasons for Russian support of the
Serbs, are useful intellectually, and they can also help to construct
important political arguments; but what about my soul that knows nothing
about politics and hears no reasoning? What about the Kosovars who are
getting driven away and slaughtered by Serb hords in uniforms? What about
the fearful souls of people in Serbia who are rushed into bomb shelters
every day? We, and they, are told that the bombs are not meant for them,
but does your body believe that when you hear bombers overhead and a
factory getting hit a few miles away, and when the window panes in your
flat are shaking and you are worried sick about your loved ones?

The future mythology of the war will be won in the souls of people. The
Krokers write: 'Unfortunately for NATO, one intractable lesson from the
diary of life is that in war as in politics the only thing that really
matters in the end is what happens on the ground.' This is partly true in
military terms, and it is certainly true for the way in which generations
to come will be able to make sense of what is going on now.

What the Syndicate can do as such is, as Vuk suggests, to keep the
communication between people in Europe going, 'with underlined inclusion of
creative people from yu,' and to show that yu people and their work have an
important part in the overall cultural context - and that this is being
accepted and wanted by everyone.

To conclude: This is a bit of a flaky posting anyway, so why not end it
flaky ... Suggestions have been made about making the fighters luxurious
offers that they cannot refuse - scholarships, travels, big cars, etc. -
just to make them lay down their arms. The replacement of a 'politics of
war' by a 'politics of gluttony' (dt. Voellerei). The more serious question
is: who would have the authority to just tell everybody to desert the war
and go home? maybe the mothers? Tom Keenan and Irina Aristarkhova made
comments about this during the N5M3 - maybe they can expand?

Last week, on the first day of the NATO bombings, Tim Druckrey sent me this
message about evil:
The other night on a public TV show a panel was convened to discuss
some of the great thinkers/inventions of the great 20th century. Amid
the cliché panelists (***, ***, *** ... [3 names edited out, -a])
was Bruce Sterling. Normally I'd see it as an attempt to find
something great in the cyberage. So amid the utterly predictable
names and inventions (too obvious to list) Sterling recommend that we
nominate "evil" as the apotheosis of 20th century. Everyone sat back
in their chairs, hemmed and hawed for a couple of seconds and went
back to reminding of them of the greatness of Einstein and Freud.
This while Holbrook was returning to Belgium to recommend bombing...

Here and on other lists, there was some discussion about the legality of
the attacks, which I think is crucial for international relations, but
completely irrelevant on an ethical level. If evil was indeed the epitome
of our century, wouldn't *fear* be a good candidate for being the most
legitimate, legitimising feeling. Shouldn't the fearful and the meek rule
the world? (Is fear really the mother of violence, or of non-violence?) How
can they get together, on the 'third side'?

With the best wishes for Nikola's father and mother,


ceterum censeo: milosevic must be destroyed.