"Well, nothing. They listen to music."

A dear friend whose father was an intelligence officer told me about the day in the early 1980s when he decided to cut his hair short and get an earring. His father asked about among the intelligence folk, and determined that he "was either an anarchist or a punker." About anarchists everything is more or less known, yes, but what was up with this new category of "punker"? The answer among the intelligence officers was "well, nothing. They listen to music."

These days the fifth annual Exit festival in Novi Sad is under way. It is the biggest cultural event in the city and the only festival in Serbia that consistently attracts a large crowd of visitors from around the world. The concert lineup gets better every year, and the creativity of the organisers is more than obvious. The festival originated as a way of showing a different face of Serbia in the waning agonies of the Milosevic period, and continues to mean something now that the neofascist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) has taken power in the city government of Novi Sad.

Which is where the difficulty comes up. This year the festival coincides with the anniversary of the massacre of the civilian population of Srebrenica. The organisers thought to recognise this with a minute of silence at the performance. The SRS responded by asking whether the organisers thought they might like to have another festival next year, or not. Now the minute of silence for the victims is degenerating into a flowery gesture for peace in the world.

So is it really "well, nothing. They listen to music"? Or is the SRS so persuasive that the youth follow their command? Or is it that if you scratch a young progressive, you find a Radical underneath?


Srebrenica and all that

If it weren't sad it'd be funny.
On 10th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre, UN recommits to rehabilitation
I'm sure the headline writer at the UN news service missed the bitter irony contained in this news dispatch -- the UN, under whose protection the 8,000 men and boys killed by Serb troops were, "recommitting" to the rehabilitation of the town, which is managed by a largely dysfunctional and corrupt bureaucracy. (I have no proof to back this accusation up, but I suspect we might see some solid evidence published soon.) Well, it wouldn't be the only irony surrounding next week's anniversary. How about this?
"Ten years after those tragic events, they continue to haunt us and serve as a reminder that such atrocities must be met with all necessary means and that there must be the political will to carry the policy through," said Mr. Tharoor [Under-Secretary-General for Public Information and Communications].
You mean, like we're doing in Darfur?


Musical news puzzling, sad and great

As people try to figure out whether the continued popularity of Bijelo Dugme means anything or not and the entire world mourns the passing of the great Luther Vandross, may I just note that Stevie Wonder has set to rest any doubts that he is still fantastic with his engrossing, amusing, inspiring and just darn good new single (with Prince and En Vogue), «So what the fuss.» Listen to it, and see that the fuss is about something.

Update on the Srebrenica debate

An update on the public discussion of Srebrenica in Serbia — it has definitely changed, and I am standing by my earlier assessment that denial has dropped out of the discussion as an option. But there are a couple of new directions.

First, the attacks on the most prominent human rights advocates (Nataša Kandić, Sonja Biserko, Borka Pavićević, Biljana Kovačević-Vučo: interesting that they are all women!) has moved from the tabloids to the floor of the Serbian parliament. Maybe an assessment is possible that when the debate moves from disputes over the facts to attacks on individuals, this is a sign of desperation. Probably there is also a class element to this, akin to the tendency of the American far right to habitually label people to the left of them (i.e., everyone) as «elitists.»

Second, the line of semidenial that says «this has nothing to do with Serbia» is still very much alive, and does not appear to be confined to the far right. The lines of supply and command are clear enough that it is not necessary to respond empirically. But I think that something else is at stake here. The global strategy is to say that if there were criminals, they were not from Serbia, and shift the blame onto the refugees. Something similar has been under way for a long time in Croatia, with every evil put down to «Hercegovci.» It continues a long tradition of regional stereotyping of people according to how far above sea level they live that was originally traced by Vladimir Dvorniković. What it amounts to is shifting responsibility from the people who exercised power to the people who trusted them.

Third, the old construct has reappeared which says that if there were victims from one group this justifies the creation of victims from other groups. Leading the charge is of course, Večernje novosti, which on Thursday published as a special supplement a list of names purporting to document Serb victims of war crimes from the area of Srebrenica. Let's say the document is methodologically and empirically accurate: what does this legitimate?

Also, a licence to bottle Stella would be nice

I'll admit that most of my associations with Nikšić are positive: the 'ladna Trebjesa, some of the most interesting driving habits outside of Dorchester, the best Balkan beer this side of Laško (note to people who will reply to say that Slovenia is «not Balkan»: it is. And so is Italy — also only one good beer, Moretti. New Hampshire too — Smuttynose, if you were wondering). So if it turns out that the report is true that genocidaire Radovan Karadžić has moved his hiding place there, that could only interfere with everybody's enjoyment. So please yank him out of his treehouse and send him off. Then chill a nice Nikšićko pivo. Okay? Thanks.