Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Demise of Serbs: Masochism in Sheepskin


To be a Serb and to care about that fact, but to stay undisturbed looking at the unending tragedy engulfing the Kosovo Serbs at the hands of North Atlantic powers and Kosovo Albanians, is impossible, I'd say. Yet, for every Serb who internalizes the pain inflicted on the people of North Kosovo, there are at least three who are either emotionless, self-involved, minding some unrelated daily business, or fear that the North Kosovo events are a bother that could endanger their grand Euro-submission prospects, therefore, should be removed surgically, like an ulcer. 
Serbs are masochist. Most of our people exist oblivious to their own interests. Forget the interest of the nation they belong to - I'm talking about the interests of individuals that eventually share the fate of that nation, regardless of their actual level of national consciousness. 
It was May 1992, Bosnia was in flames already. Army of the secessionist Republic of Croatia crossed into Bosnia in at least two places - Brod and Capljina - and attacked Serb civilians, massacring them. The Sarajevo wedding party murder had happened, JNA soldiers had been massacred in Dobrovoljacka Street. Arkan had freed Bijeljina, Murat Sabanovic had threatened to open the Visegrad dam... I was to be twelve that summer, but it wasn't meant to be for me to celebrate my birthday at home. A Serbian village five miles away was fighting a larger neighboring Muslim village. In my village, residents were keeping watch at the outskirts. All my parents had to say to this was: "Hopefully, it won't start here..." Here? Five miles from here is not here? Where does here start? When we had to leave, my mother still did not let us pack a lot of stuff, saying we were going to be back in a few days, right after the situation surrounding the JNA withdrawal from the city is over. The Army, withdrawing following the agreement with Muslim authorities, was ambushed by Muslim paramilitaries under direct control of these authorities that day, 200 young men were killed in the street, some burned alive, some shot and burned, some just shot - all of this coordinated with a live TV coverage. (To this day, not one perpetrator has gone to jail for this war crime.) 
Anyway, we were gone to a more Serbian, more secure place, hours before this massacre. Some of the villagers, those who did not live under Muslim mortar fire, still refused to acknowledge there was a war happening to them, only because they lived a mile or two away from the front line. They thought it wouldn't come to them and they went on living in an alternate reality of selfish subsistence for a few more weeks, some even daring to loot the areas under Muslim fire. 
In a nearby Serbian town, in which most of my villagers found refuge after being expelled by the Muslim neighbors and after the village was looted and razed, many residents refused to go to the newly established defense lines, engaging in smuggling and war profiteering instead, since it wasn't their war, since it wasn't their homes being attacked. "Let the refugees go and fight," they said. 
Serbia was safe - it was 1992 and it wasn't going to come to them for seven more years. Peaceniks were protesting, calling for severance of ties with Bosnian Serb and Krajina Serb warmongers and nationalists, blaming Western Serbs for the international embargo imposed against Serbia and Montenegro, criticized patriotic volunteers and Army reservists that went to defend their brethren... These were the same people that gloated when NATO attacked Serbia over Kosovo. These same Serbs invited NATO bombs onto their own homes. I thought it was just a naive bunch of coked up hippies that meant no harm, but lacked patriotism and failed to understand war, peace and politics, especially the world outside Belgrade. 
During the North Atlantic community's aggression against and dismemberment of Serbia, I began realizing that it was impossible to be so shortsighted and naive to welcome your own demise - you either had to be a paid puppet or a masochist. I won't dwell on the former. The masochist trait of Serbian psyche was what appalled me and scared me. Disagreeing with a course of national politics or a vision of political leadership - that's healthy. Rooting for a warring enemy against one's own homeland out of hatred of the political leadership or the political course is sick and ultimately self-destructive. Being blind to the natural choices grounded in self-preservation time after time, while repeatedly paying a bloody toll for naivete and obtuseness, was puzzling and required a deeper historical, sociological and even psychological analyses, which I shall try some other time. 
In 1996, I had a chance to meet and talk to a professor retired from Belgrade University. Both he and his wife were foreign language professors, renowned experts in their respective fields. I asked him about Kosovo and its prospects for secession. Kosovo and Metohija were, at the time, under heavy police presence and the KLA had just begun their overt operations. The war in Bosnia ended, so I expect the next fire to be lit and Kosovo was it. The walls of this wise man's apartment were book shelves. He projected a calm, esoteric sense of knowing - yet he made an error in judgement. "Kosovo can't secede," he said with disbelief. "It's impossible. Kosovo is part of Serbia." I retorted that the secessionist Yugoslav republics were part of Yugoslavia, but they still seceded, to which he, to my surprise, just kept repeating the stance that Kosovo was Serbia. That was the best I could get out of him.
Why do Serbs see the enemy only when he is at their doorstep? Why do Serbs feel attacked only when the cold blade flashes underneath their throats? In Vuk Draskovic's "Molitva II" - not the politician Vuk Draskovic, but the former writer - old Lazar Vukotic had a sheepskin hanging from the wall. He was going to wrap himself into it if Serbs fell victim to the folly of believing the enemy one more time. There is only one place that fictional sheepskin can be found now: wrapped around the old man's shoulders, somewhere in the fictional heaven. 

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