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NO 97-98

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Helsinki Charter No. 97-98

July - August 2006



By Nikola Samardzic

Cold and eery speech of totalitarianism, which ought to have been irreversibly relegated to the near past, is once again in use in Serbia. Official and semi-official collectivism, under the pretext of the return to tradition, seems to be relying on quasi/mock historicism of 20th century totalitarian ideologies. As early as in 1993 Zbignyev Bzezinsky concluded that the 20t century was "the bloodiest and most hate-filled century of mankind", the century of politically motivated dying, of "mega deaths" and mass belief in ideological utopias and metha "myths". But he also pointed out that Communism has not failed only because of victory of democratic ideals, but rather because of its own basic blunders and illusions. One is therefore to assume that communism was defeated not only because of mass trust in democracy, but rather because of the consumer philosophy which does not set limits to individuals, who thus guided by greed for material goods become "an allowed cornucopia", emerging as an alternative to "compulsory utopia" of totalitarianism.

New modern, this time around, consumer degradation has not bypassed Serbia and its majority population. But it does not entail material and mass destruction, and is more benign than the totalitarian one. However in Serbia has in parallel survived a totalitarian, ideological blueprint, which was simply supplanted by national collectivism put in place by nomencalture and new ingredients in the past two decades of nightmarish wars and isolation. What followed were transitional pains and crashes. In those terms Serbia is not a solitary example. Only its initial structure, in the late 80\'s, seemed more favourable than the ones characterizing the others, on the other side of the iron fence. Then it was possible to assume that the trance of nationalism would wane in the face of temptations of democratization and Europeization. But it has not happened. On a similar pathway, or apparently similar one, democratic transition which tried to usher Serbia into a new century started visibly tottering, collapsing and losing impetus.

Limited in terms of being a threat to its neighbours and an obstruction to the international order, official Serbia until late 2000 and anew since 2004 threatened to plunge into self-isolation. To close down its roads and infrastructure, to effect a stranglehold on free-thinkers. That was exactly what its Prime Minister implied when highlighting that Serbia, shall not renounce its sovereignty over Kosovo for the sake of joining the European road (as if it had not irretrivably lost Kosovo, seven years ago). In fact in place is an informal coalition between president, government and parliamentary mock opposition in the sense that they don\'t offer a serious and feasible alternative solution, and threaten all those who try to contest the dominant interpretation of national interests, or rather the one advocated by them. Nomenclature has not in vain devised and imposed syntagm about Kosovo as the priciest Serb word. State status of Kosovo is built into paradigms of both Serb and Kosovo policies, which are authoritarian, provincial and sporadically racist. (International negotiatiors, notably those who have direct contacts with both delegations, are perhaps most aware of that fact.) In other words, the official platform on Kosovo is only one of the screen of cohabitation, a political orgy by which nomenclature makes senseless all messages of the assassinated Prime Minister, in order to formally keep a tight lid on the reasons behind his liquidation.

Reality is however merciless for all and sundry. Europhobia and anti-global policy are reduced to arrogant rhetoric and various manouevres of the government, which sporadically reminds us that a historical monster has not been destroyed by disappearance of Milosevic. Official Serbia is vexed by globalization which is a principled opposite to economic nationalism and state protectionism, as well as to monopolies which enable nomencalture to control resources and thoughts of people. But nomenclature needs fresh blood. The one which incites inter-generational conflict. Corruption amid the very ranks of nomencalture is at the same time the only successful resistance to isolationism. Dramatically complex, abounding in networks and dynamic, the world economy is most alluring and irrestible. Tecnological and communication changes have compressed the space and time, broken through the state borders and downsized national sovereignities.

Isolationism is an escape from universality which addresses the individual. From the universal myth which does not have its collectivistic denominator. The current mythology about two or three Serbias, as an attempt to denounce an alien body contrary to national identity and national interests, is only one of the East European examples of endeavours of nomenclature to turn itself into tycoons and occupy positions in the new basis of political power (notably in Russia and Ukraine). The majority Serbia due to its unfavourable educational and social structure for the umpteenth time is not able to discern that laying a claim to a bigger or the only truth, which presupposes collective obedience is only a screen for political manipulation. It fails to grasp that trends in the society and development of ideas, are devoid of any causality or regularity, that there is no mandatory social and ideological model. In any case it is not easy to devise a just and steady balance of the rights and liberties of communities and individuals.

Only liberalism consciously generates its own dilemmas. Serbia has in fact found itself on one of boundaries of its stretch. That is the only limes of its current history. On the edges of that limes, Serbia feigns to freely meditate on the world as it really is, on its perversions and temptations. On the evil of \"globalization\".

Images of the world usually have a mythical basis. Since a moral lesson is mandatory in all myths, mythology about the world order carries within itself fears, warnings and hopes. Contrary to the world chaos, the official Serbia has, or at least seems to have re-embraced the myth of the continuity of its duration, of binding messages from the past, and taken up the pseudo-anthropological stance on the return of the contemporary society to abstract collectivism of ancient mythical community. Serbia has not accidentally denied the theory of evolution suggesting that both men and society progress, in biological, political and moral terms. Rhetoric about the state interest and about a great statesman at the helm of that state is a throwback to the Nazi vision of a genius relying on ancient messages of a heroic mythical community, being a great arbiter and conductor of history.

On the other side of limes unfolds the world history in one of its dominant political communities. By stopping at the Serb border, European Union has assumed its planetary responsibility. \"Planetary responsibility as an obligation constitutes ethics\" (Agnes Heller). Serbia tries to bargain with such Europe. At the same time, when it sporadically renounces attempts to manipulate myths and monopolies, which are anyway a time-losing exercise, it seems that Serbia is able to pursue only- the world policy. Then it also apparently resigns itself to teachings about eveolution and its messages.

Communities which stubbornly cherish their cultural, racial and ideological exclusivity crumble into ruin in their isolationism and under terror of their own elites. On the other hand, global civilization, down-sized, in some of its codes even banal, threatens with standardization and simplification of developed and complex cultures. Collapse of time and space, in new technologies, threatens inherent dimensions at disposal of every authentic culture. But all cultures are susceptible to changes, destruction, or self-destruction, and the least to sporadic self-examination. Even the models of their dynamics are not binding. In the throes of birth of a rational society, Serbia seems to recognize similar dilemmas. However, the basis dilemma of its elites is facing the certainty of a future rational society, as a free society, inter alia, free from its past.

It it true that it is not possible to fully free the past from the contemporary values, views on the world, errors and illusions and prejudices. Serbia currently lacks the vision of such a break with the past. The vision of uncovering false and imagined traditions and a new reading of the past. And the vision to accept one truth, namely, that collective right is the only right to the truth.

Sometimes it seems that the truth about the character of the contemporary world lags behind the dynamics of its transformation. There is neither agreement on whether globalization is a real occurence or a new Babylon myth. International exchange of commodities and capital is accelerated, erosion of national sovereignty and borders is unfolding, global finances are spreading, role of international organizations is gaining on importance, power of multinational corporations is large, cultural exhchange is extensive. The world is being tightly united by passengers, tourists, immigrants, telecommunications, standards, international justice and international crime, including terrorism. To end on an optimistic note, in such a world, on the very limes of a historical nucleus, it is difficult to imagine a solitary, isolated, caste-like society. Added to that there is no example of a solitary community which is free, progressive, successful and happy. If nothing else, such a community is not able to preserve from collapse, ruin, abuses, degeneration its own authentic culture.


NO 97-98

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