Refugees, Belgrade


-You can’t tell who is craziest: the refugees, the police or those women, said a local shopkeeper.  He made a cross over his chest, to express his sincere Serbian bewilderment.
He had just witnessed ten shabby Afghan and Syrian refugees walking past, escorted by ten Women in Black from Serbia, Italy and Spain, themselves escorted by ten policemen and a police car.
By the railway station in downtown Belgrade,  the temporary citizens-from-nowhere are living their nomad existences in the the rubble of  the so-called Belgrade Waterfront construction project.   The refugees loiter all day, hoping for something to happen, between the city bus yards and huge trash-cans full of boxed food that the aid workers supply on a regular basis.
Around five pm there is a kind of tea ceremony where about 800 people gather, most of them arriving from the organized camps where they sleep.   They arrive to be heard, to be seen. We Women in Black went to join them to show this Belgrade political scene to our international colleagues.
It’ s been now two years since the Syrian refugee crisis seized headlines, but the refugees are not entirely Syrians, but a global peoples’ market of Afghans and Nigerians as well. In the beginning  there were many more refugees, and far less aid from the locals and the Serbian state.  The migrants were simply collapsing on flat surfaces anywhere in Belgrade, urban nooks, parks and lots where they ate, drank and slept.
      Now the bus-station square, a favorite place to cluster for obvious reasons, has been fenced and organized.  The  police are everywhere and a routine has been invented for the nomads. Its scope is  international: border walls are being erected  around Serbia, blocking the paths into Schengen Europe, where of course the refugees long to go.  They come from the perilous South, the imagine safety in the West, and Balkan Serbia is only a transit zone.
      I spoke to some : they are 90 percent young men. They aspire to reach France, Germany, Italy and Spain. They have addresses and phone numbers of relatives and allies in those countries, but they have no transit papers and no money.
         A Nigerian young man confided me:  money is the only real problem.  If I had the money for travel, trust me:  no walls or police could stop me.   I believed him, because, although money cannot buy you a happy life,  it can swiftly bail you out of misery, in war and in peace.
         I remember how I myself smuggled chocolate into wartime Serbia from Hungary by handing cash to the customs officers. Chocolate was pure joy for Serbian children living under sanctions.  The same applied to toilet paper, diesel fuel, gasoline, cigarettes, liquor…
         In the nineties in Serbia,  my country was being punished,  but nobody thought to build walls around our national borders.  On the contrary, in those heady days they built shopping malls, instant  ramshackle markets that  welcomed the smugglers, mostly everyday people who crossed the borders and illegally brought back suitcases stuffed with subsistence goods for a population in dire straits.
          The entire economy had been de-legitimated, so we were all smugglers.   The locals from countries around us made plenty of money, for their governments officially supported the sanctions while the population broke them.
         Today, by historical contrast, it’s Serbia is playing the warm-hearted good cop role.  The former villains in the story are generously taking in  the refugees, while the international community, morally pinched by the ever-growing breakdown of world-order, pays a lot of the bills.  The refugees are not a novelty any more, they are escorted here and there to wherever some shred of bureaucracy or activism will take them.
          The official camps were packed long ago, overcrowded with women and children,  so many of the more venturesome young men end up as street vagrants, lurking under the bridges, lighting trash-fires in barrels and building makeshift showers and latrines.
          I joined a Syrian group at their five o’clock tea-time. Very polite and neat brothers  made us tea and poured it into genuine glasses, not plastic containers, as a sign of respect.  Syrian refugees in Europe are particularly well educated, as my friend Faisa from Morocco told me: they are the elite.   Here in Serbia the Syrians are the most envied by other refugees, because they are genuine war refugees and the official recognition of their dire situation is a kind of privilege.
          It follows that the Syrians sometimes get roughed up in the squats for other refugees and the Belgrade police have to intervene. I asked my tea-drinking hosts, and the other young men who gathered around me: where are your women?
        They could not understand my English or Italian, but they had learned some scraps of Serbian.  They all knew the word “mamma!”  Everybody’ s mamma was either back in the home country, or off in a camp.  A few children were visible, but not many.
         Belgrade Women in Black never come empty-handed, so they brought the useful, lightweight treats that true refugees appreciate: cigarettes and  bananas.   We left the covert obscurity under the bridge and began a march with some sick to the local first aid.
         The women activists walked in the center, the refugees gathered around them and the police escort formed an outer circle.   A police car was a kind of cavalry escort.  The Serbian police were the same age as the refugees, but with somewhat lighter skin color and in uniforms.
        I talked to the cops: where are the refugee women, I asked. The chief answered me with a sly secretive smile: you noticed that fact, madame, he said, you are bright , he complimented me. Because these are men fit for army service.  They came here to conquer  Europe, they are on a secret Muslim jihad, they left their women safe behind!
     When I asked the refugees the same question, they echoed the policeman’s compliment : you are very bright madame.  Our women are at home hungry, we are here to earn money to help them.  But they won’t let us make a living; they keep us  behind the barbed wire.
      The refugees and policemen had one great point of agreement in their paranoid stories. They knew that the same people who had destroyed their nations were the ones attacking them for being transnational.  They were punished for the crime of becoming victims.
         I guess they blamed the big powers, those with the power to bomb them rather than their own militias and factions, but I didn’t want to inquire into the details. As a woman, as an activist, I’ve seen enough warfare to know its situations.  It doesn’t take genius to see that a war-shattered society can’t integrate its men and women; the genders get scattered and there aren’t a lot of women around.
       Wars and refugee crises are business as usual for someone, just like the situations in stark situations in barracks, prisons, and hospitals.   When there is money involved, it’s human trafficking; when even the money fails, then it’s sheer disaster.
          I have no recipe to solve a world with 60 million refugees in it,  but I see more coming.  The whole planet is becoming  a nomad zone, for various reasons of war, oil, climate, ethnicity, religion, and everyone, especially including the most privileged, is scared that they might be next.   The one percenters who own the hot investment money are perhaps the most nomadic among us, so they cannot play the geostrategic game properly any more. Their money cannot by them any security,  while the refugees were ardent patriots until their burned their neighbors homes or had them blown up from above.   Utopia and dystopia have the same postal code.
So who are the craziest on the street?  The refugees, women or the police? A good question, and I think I know the answer, do you?
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Future Home Robotics

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Fake Briton

I am a fake Briton: in elementary and high school, for twelve years of my education, I attended offshored British schools.
    We kids spoke English and were all colonial youth, an army of us educated by young Oxford teachers, who spoke a BBC dialect with no particular accent.  We came to know Shakespeare better than we knew any living person from Britain, and much better than we knew any writers from our various national cultures.


I used to spend summers in London as many foreign kids still do, blessed by their parents who want them to become cosmopolitan.  I am still grateful to the Queen of the UK for the canonic stability of her realm’s education system.
   Compare the Queen’s long reign to the royal ashes of the Kingdom of Serbs, Slovenes and Croats.  The glorious republic of Yugoslavia didn’t fare much better.  My lifetime is notably briefer than that of the Queen of England, and yet my national passport has changed five times.
    I might have guessed there was trouble brewing in Britain when they got more and more worried about the dire prospect of me appearing in London.  My varying passports got ever more politically incorrect, while the British visa forms got quite Kafka-esque, querulously demanding my grandparent’s birthdates and so on.  The personal is not just political, the personal can also be imperial and colonial.
 So, when Great Britain suddenly seceded from European Union, it evoked Balkan memories.  Specifically, that day when Croatia suddenly jumped ship from Yugoslavia.  Just a bold legal declaration at first, there were reasons to think that things might go well, but the devil was in the details that followed.
    But that was long ago.  More recently the fallen mini-states from ex-Yugoslavia have been de-balkanizing by joining the European Union. I used to darkly speculate that when Serbia, my own country, finally became EU, the Union would reveal itself as just a larger Yugoslavia.
   That shuffling process is underway. Great Britain is leaving the EU because — among other major reasons — too many countries like Serbia have joined in.  British colonialism has lost its capacity to embrace and extend from palm to pine.  Britain’s civilizing mission is too much for it, especially when those who need the civilizing are buying-up Britain’s own capital city.
    Charlotte Bronte used to well-describe certain episodes of splendid isolation and  proud withdrawal when the impertinence of other people is just too much to endure.   Britain’s island geography has won again, over the John Donne “no man is an island” philosophy.
   How is it possible to isolate an imperial capital, a vast global entrepot such as London?  It’s sadly true that  native Londoners can no longer afford their own properties, while immigrant Londoners probably cannot afford to leave. The troubles of globalization are certainly real ones.
    But all colonial capitals are mixed and minced by a metropolitan culture; that happened to Rome, New York, Brussels and even Belgrade.  The centers of command and control must also be melting pots.   Great world cities create their own accents, rules, recipes and creolized culture. They don’t obey the interests of their nations, and instead behave much like their own peer cities.
   Even us fake Brits and global wanderers have an anecdotal culture, the cultural experiences that can happen only to the likes of us.  My mother, on a business visit to Britain, once proudly told British customs that she was a member of Tito’s Communist party, so she was politely shadowed around town by the Manchester police.
     GW Sebald was a German emigre to UK, writing novels and teaching languages in England. A car crash killed Sebald just before he became famous, but I remember him soberly telling me of all the petty national persecutions he suffered, from both Germany and the UK, for trying to write his way into an expiation of Europe’s collective guilt. However, Sebald did at least enjoy the quiet liberation of not really belonging to any nation.
    After Brexit, an Italian friend told me how the grand old bohemian dream of every young Italian — to get by while washing Italian dishes in London restaurants — has suddenly been stolen away.
      Virginia Woolf said that no woman has a homeland except for a room of her own, while Hannah Arendt gravely explained how your homeland is more likely to kill you than supposedly-threatening foreigners.
    A secession from the Brussels empire is not the end of the whole world, nor will everything collapse because the British are at their wits’ end. But I don’t think the British can ever recapture the national myth of authenticity that they now perform as a rhetoric.  Visa barriers, wire, expulsions, new brick border walls inside London rather than in Berlin, none of that will ever restore a mostly imaginary past.
    The British can’t have the old myth back, so they’d better invent a new myth. We fake Brits are here to help.
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The Witch in Casa Jasmina

The_Witch_in_Casa_Jasmina from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.

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Intervju Moj zivot bez mene

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Seven Ways of IoWomenT


It was my idea to have an open-source connected home of the future.  My scheme was accepted by brave new geeks, brilliant people, but mostly male.  They gave the house, “Casa Jasmina,” my name: I am grateful for that, but the house is not altogether comfortable.

People are diverse and live in bubbles of limited human understanding.  Men and women, poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, designers, engineers — we might try to classify them as idealists or realists — the people in cloud bubbles, or  the people in ground bubbles.

Now, a project like Casa Jasmina — is it a hands-on, practical, maker’s project struggling up toward ideals, or is it a set of ideals searching for grounded realities that might prove that high concepts are possible?

Is it a house for the cloud-bubble people, those who invent their own cloud-world before crashing into the ground (or at least landing on it, now and then, to pick up supplies)?  Or is a grounded launch-pad for aspiration, where the ground-bubble people assemble tools to reach for the sky?

How can a dream bubble become a real house?  How can a “cloud” be a “platform”?  Does your grandmother’s beloved chandelier have a role in a space station?  What objects belong — not in the world as it is, but in the world as it should be?

When designers think “out of the box,” what box do they unconsciously imagine: an antique carved wooden dowry chest,  or some translucent tinted minimal plastic box?  We all have our bubbles and boxes, but how is a woman’s box that of a woman?

The “Internet of Things” is a platform cloud that is also a conceptual box.   That is its nature as “the IoT”: it is a digital platform for software, it is wireless, computational and data-centered, and it is also a paradigm.

This is why, as I explored a kind of third road between feminism and design, an “Internet of Women Things” occurred to me.  Could this “IoWT” become a generous place for conceptual projects, ideas and advice, for a sense of emotional beauty and purposeful living?  Concepts like these are not often the first impulses for a technology project, but they generally last the longest.

The IoWT is something I saw in the fog, as a “cloud” that is also on the ground.  The IoWT might even be an “underground” cloud in some way, of not just airy ideals but of suppressed female energies.

An Internet of Things cannot be merely by and for web technologists, for it embraces-and-extends not just “Things” but also us women, as well as children, or animals or plants, or robots…  Right now, my strong belief is that “the IoT” is dangerously outside of women’s world-views.  The IoT is so alienating, and so narrowly obsessed with today’s technical and economic needs, that it might well fail altogether.    It would be a shame if its profound potential was lost for a generation, in a heap of failed, too-ambitious toys, as happened to similar tech visions such as Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence.

Women as much as men are responsible for technology, and we were major participants in the internet revolution, for good and ill.   Women can’t be excluded from modernity by mentioning our chromosomes.

Even when the Internet of Things is under critical attack — for some just and excellent reasons — we should not allow abuses, crimes and accidents to create the rules.   “Things” have always been troublesome, while the frontier “Internet” of the twentieth century is also showing its ugly side in seamy business practices, cyberwar and acts of repression.

Well, women know how to survive, and — at least I think so — even how to prevail.   I have seen women dealing with wars, humanitarian crises, political and economic disasters.  I personally outlived the Atomic Age and the Space Age, so digital fads and fashions don’t alarm me.   The Internet of Things, that box, that cloud, that platform, is not beyond my comprehension.  On the contrary, I have my hands on it, and I even have something like principles to offer.

And here are some…

1. Critical thinking


Since women are living actively in a men’ s world, a critical rethinking of the things already existing is necessary for upgrading the IoT, into the  IoWT.   Whenever people collide with tools engineered for the high-tech commercial ambitions of  young white male 4 entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, the results are often clumsy, ugly,  tragic or farcical.

Women should not mistake design flaws for gender problems.  Women will always be scolded as “bad drivers” if they have to drive oversized and overpowered tanks and tractors, and a similar unfairness and unfitness is baked into legions of historical objects and services, which are just not women-friendly.   The devil is in the details, but critical awareness of the devil’s work is a feat that only the best of the devils can achieve.

2. Positive inclusion

The Internet of Things is the project of a technical elite that aspires to universality, so it needs to bring in a much wider variety of people, as participants not just clients.  Women must be present and visible, but recent history already shows the very mixed political and social effects of the Internet on language groups, nationalities, ethnicities, regions and peoples.

The world of this decade throngs with frightened refugees, who have Internet but scarcely any “things” left to them.    Refugees need bread and shelter first, but these primal needs, which any of us might have after a flood or earthquake, never seems to be any priority for those designing profitable IoT futures of closed-source tech ecosystems and marketing surveillance.

On the contrary, much IoT work is intently focussed on security, hostile exclusion, and physically and mentally-gated communities and buildings — structures and systems designed keep the unwanted, the alien, the dispossessed and the disconnected well outside the IoT barriers.

Human beings need more than roof and bread, points and clicks,  to keep us alive and kicking.   Where are the positive, inclusive forms of IoT that would keep a screaming two-year-old girl and her mother out of trouble on a broken road?  The women who are really “outside the box” are the ones whose boxes have been bombed.   How will their voices be heard, how can their visions be recognized?

3. Positive seclusion

IoWT needs a free space for women to meet and teach each other.   Women cannot learn all they need to know about their own interests inside technical classrooms where the rules of a male world are long dominant.

When women gather in a space without male oversight, they have a coming-out.  The rules change, their behavior changes; women find themselves in a different aesthetic, a moral code that subsumes centuries of female survival traditions, of providing food, cooking, clothing children, fighting sickness, keeping homes from decay and destruction.   Much of this is conveyed in quips, jokes and homilies rather than rulebooks and algorithms; very often it is double-talk,  since the sociality of the women-to women-world  is not politically correct, or even necessarily good.

There are no parliaments reserved for encounters of women. They are gatherings that are un-historical, in a word.  Whenever we read historical archives of state affairs and policy, we generally know that it describes and defines whatever was not done by women. But we don’t have records of what women did!

Even creative women professionals, when known as professionals, are generally known for their association with men of the same profession.  Our historical predecessors are generally daughters, wives or mothers of some famous guy, touched by celebrity in passing because they are known for joint work. But those stories are not a female history of feminine creativity,  it is a kind of spacey conceptual void where women are forever the pioneers, always unexpected interlopers in the world’s official doings, a dissident, often a witch.

These categories vanish when women are alone in the room, though.   I’ve witnessed the strength and allure of this, within myself and with other women in small groups where I have been active, sometimes even active against my own will.    Groups like the “Mothers of Srebrenica,” the survivors of a genocide who created  an alternative women’ s court.  Women raped in war in ex-Yugoslavia with their brave testimonies made rape in war into an international war crime, instead of what rapes had always been in the war histories, a footnote at best,  a “natural consequence”, certainly known and feared by all women in war, ignored by law and men.

The Internet of Things has many issues affecting women that are never made explicit — some may be grim, but others may be marvelous.   Ethics are aesthetics, the content is the form, so “positive seclusion” is not just an experiment, it has good results.


4.  Politics and Policy

Women, who are the majority gender, are the world’s biggest oppressed group.  They have experienced many and various systems of oppression, and they know that the Internet of Things could simply be another one.

Women on the Internet have long experience in stalking, prying, spying, doxxing, organized harassment and other invasions of privacy by technical means.  They’re keenly aware of the insecurity of those who speak out or act up in public digital spaces, so privacy and safety are basic IoWT issues, not just as hardware functionalities, but as rights in themselves: women human rights.

The Internet of Things is advancing in a  political era that includes Edward Snowden, Chinese persistent threat hackers, offshore bank leaks, terrorist militias, intelligence services and the titanic surveillance-marketing empires of  Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.   So when we talk about “connected things” in the IoT, it necessarily means connecting things to these existing entities, and not just some ideal and abstract IoT “cloud.”

Women are subjected to some forms of surveillance because they are women, for instance, at the door of the abortion clinic, or for daring to go un-veiled.   They have to fight for the control of their own bodies: our bodies ourselves. For a female celebrity, even a new hairstyle or choice of lipstick can provoke a viral uproar, a situation now increasingly prevalent as any tiny detail in some selfie can become part of a permanent database.

Orwell has already warned us about debasing public language and spiralling into a degraded dystopia.  Totalitarianism is living memory, and we’re all paranoiacally aware of how bad things can possibly get.  The wringing of hands is not enough.   How can the Internet of Things actually improve the private lives of women, and make them more secure in their lived experience as women, rather than less so?

5. Just do it

Some times call for audacity and daring.  Women haven’t always lived by the precautionary principle; otherwise there would be no birth-control pill.

In times of tumult, the last may be first.  My mother was a teenaged anti-fascist partisan in Axis-invaded Yugoslavia.  She used to boast that women in wartime were not delicate sissies, but  revolutionary warriors first.  Why, she used to argue, should a woman shoot herself in the leg with diffidence and self-doubt, when Nazis are actively trying to kill her?  Sure, you as a woman combatant might be crippled in the line of fire, but the enemy might well miss.  And the liberation won’t come by itself.

Women don’t emerge from the womb demanding liberation.  They become feminists after experiencing frustration and discrimination.  A woman doesn’t have to borrow trouble to find plenty of it, but the same goes for opportunity.

We do in fact live in a technical age, where most women are no longer  confined to farmsteads, kitchens, churches and endless pregnancies.  Technology and women’s emancipation are not identical things, but they are not in binary opposition, either.  Because technology and contraception made 20th century revolutionary for women’ s emancipation. Physical strength no longer determined the  division of roles and women’s “natural state” was no longer to be a pregnant all her now expanded lifetime.

The Internet of Things has the general flavor of the current Internet major companies and power-players, but the older spirit of the older Internet is not forgotten.  The roots of the IoT are as old as electrical networks and telephone networks, where women were always users and participants.  Female telephone operators are obsolete now, but there used to be armies of them.

The Internet of Things will also pass some day.  New cultural spaces can never exactly reproduce the old discriminations; when you step outside the box you may build another one, but it’s never the same old box.

Why not meet in small groups and boldly build a thousand small boxes, and see what happens? An attractive approach!


6. Design Fiction

We can imagine things we can’t yet do.  There is certainly no world peace, for instance, but women create and  lead pacifist movements, and are first to clear the rubble whenever the war ends.  They  don’t do that with  male rule-book style of abstract efficiency, but men often save their own bacon by listening and following  women.

Gender equality and universal justice are also fantasies, but so is an efficient Internet and a perfectly designed and functional Thing.  Every engineer knows the “AM/FM” distinction of “Actual Machines” as opposed to “Fantastic Magic,” so this should give women some poetic license for technological dreams.

So, why not invent speculative, conceptual objects from a woman’ s point of view?  Envision  and describe things and connections that have never existed before.  They may be awkward or pretty, useful or useless, a luxury that becomes a necessity — or vice versa.

Design fiction, ‘fantasia al potere,’  suspends disbelief and makes the implausible more possible.   Even traditional artists and artisans can refresh their work by imagining new roles for their work in conjectural worlds.

My favorite form of “design fiction” is not imagining entirely new things — very few real things lack precursors — but in redesigning objects from the heritage we already have.  I love old things from our past, because I am sensitive to their emotional and aesthetic value outside today’s store shelves and webpages.

“Things” are just things,  especially when they are too many, too old, broken, a useless burden, obsolete, dangerous, dysfunctional, and expensive.    But those who know and love their things should have a power to redeem them.

A “lamp” is a thing for an electric power network, but it is also your  grandma’s lamp which she used when breastfeeding your mom.    Your grandfather’s  wall clock is an accurate gravity-powered machine, but is also the presence in the household that played a melody for every fifteen minutes of your father’s childhood.

Find it in your attic, and repurpose it with a little help from your friendly geeks.  Women do think differently,  and whenever the technology  box breaks and cracks a little, it leaks fairy tales of magic wands, self-driving pumpkin coaches and crystalline wearable shoes.   Why sweep the cinders, why wait for some remote prince of technology to put that device on your dainty foot?

Workshops of design fiction can make a  woman’s point of view explicit:  why be patient at the dirty hearth  instead of finding love  and conquering a kingdom .   It is an act of joy and hope to improve one’s dreams.

The atomic bomb was a fairy-tale creation — a monster, “Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” — but although we suffer from realities of our own invention, we also dream.   “Technology is neutral,” so they say, as though technology were separate from our imaginings of it, and our mental models for it, our clouds and our boxes.  But technology never is neutral, because, unlike nature, technology arises from dream-stuff, and there are no neutral dreams.

7. Diversity

A house is a habitat, a home, a small world, an element of the social cosmos, a nursery and an asylum.  A house is primarily the refuge of women with small children, and of the elderly. They who make the most use of a house, and who are most in need of housing, should have roles in creating and maintaining it.

Home technology, home domotica, should expand the agency of people dwelling in the home, rather than removing their creative power in the name of convenience or profit.    The elderly are a steadily growing proportion of world civilization, a trend that shows no sign of declining, while the poor, as usual, are everywhere — or, at least, the poor are everywhere they are allowed to go.  Children, the world’s new great minority, are fewer in number, alienated from adult sources of power, and even abused by unloving and abstract command-and-control systems.

Those are the needy people for IoWT: we must seek to protect their dignity and capability, empower them, and give them stakes in their growth to adulthood and their prolonged life. The economic crisis has endangered old models of real estate and housing, and the weakest members of society, who once had some obscure niches for survival, now see those places comprehensively commoditized and globalized.


We should not passively allow extremist economic models to instantly crush the character of neighborhoods and cities.  This is an alienating process and a transition to nowhere, while the evolution of cities should be toward their deeper humanization and quality of life.    Cultural strength and differences will determine the future survival of cities, not  abstract electronic vectors of money and power, which spasmodically come and go.

Cities differ radically all over the globe, and standard electronic data protocols will not make the world flat. The way an Italian makes his own coffee is a sacred rite that should be enhanced rather than engineered away, and one should respect and cherish its differences from the way a Briton makes his tea.   The way a Serb makes his bread with her own hands conveys a pride that a desktop bread-baking machine cannot grant to her.

Home automation is decades old and has failed many times, enough to fill a science-fiction museum with archaic streamlined pushbuttons.   But lack of effort is not comfort, idleness is not wealth, and too many mouse-clicks, like too many butlers, can rob life of its intimacy and dignity.  Networks and systems that connect in opaque ways, that camouflage digital decisions, can crash and burn in spectacular fashion; a thousand invisible computers can fail in tangled, thorny ways that a single one never will.  When each thing chaotically hooks to a hundred others, what becomes of accountability?  If we build human-free systems without an off-switch or an undo button, how will we stop when we err, how will we express regrets and make amends?  If we hide from our own needs and desires in tangles of software, how will we even know that we have prevailed?

And now I have a last question, an open question, an eternal question, a no single answer question, to my  CasaJasmina brainstorming.

Do you feel this gender divide as I do? I don’t lack for help from the capable male “Jasmini” but I need women to come to live with me, to talk with me.   Thank you!

Jasmina Tesanovic  in CasaJasmina

Torino April 2016

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The Humanisation of Crime

At first we had the “globalisation of balkanisation,” when balkan-style failed-state wars became global after September 11.

The modern trend, though, is the “balkanisation of globalisation.”  The failed world order gets divided up by barbed wire into mentally gated communities, due to economic failure, floods of refugees and persistent terrorist attacks.

So the lonely position of the Serbian citizen of the 1990s is becoming universal.  Our leaders from the nineties were  indicted and found guilty in ICTY in The Hague, for committed war crimes, even genocides, but we can now perceive ourselves as universal, everyman figures.  This month Radovan Karadzic, after eight long years of trial, was found guilty and sentenced to 40 years of jail.  When he wasn’t liquidating unarmed prisoners in Bosnia, Karadzic was a colorful, sinister politician, a lousy poet, mad psychiatrist and a hustler new age guru. The only thing archaic about Karadzic today is his personality cult.  Karadzic certainly has more villainous brio than the relatively faceless European and Pakistani youngsters who cruelly exploded kamikaze bombs in civilian crowds in Brussels and Lahore.

Even Karadzic’s defenders seem eager to rob him of his long-sought infamy and give it to someone else. His collaborator Biljana Plavsic, a 90 year old Bosnian Serb who served 20 years in prison and got out on parole, commented: it was actually Bill Clinton who orchestrated the Srebrenica massacre with the Bosnian government.  It was a political deal, the truth will come out. Radovan Karadzic will outlive his sentence and be a free citizen again, just as I am.

Does that mean that I will see Karadzic, just as I see Biljana Plavsic, shopping in my market in  Belgrade downtown.  Will he be interviewed by all press, while rambling about God, justice and evil? Will Bill Clinton himself show up to shop in Belgrade, perhaps as the good-will ambassador of his wife the President?

In Europe the right wing governments are hastily building walls inside Europe so as to protect themselves against internal waves of civilian refugees from uncontrollable failed-state war zones in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and so on.

In USA the Republicans are bringing dishonour with their polarizing, misogynist candidate Donald Trump, who demands a wall and attacks Mexican migrants, even though Mexican immigration to the US is historically low. This represents an American coming-out of the Mussolini-style “uomo piccolo piccolo”, the aggrieved and faceless man-of-the-street who opens his dirty heart and demands power to beat up the neighbors.  It’s the Balkan recipe of the 1990s, a Milosevic media fantasy of conspiracy theories, mud-slinging, nationalist paranoia and profound, raging victimism, asserting superiority by demanding revenge for slights and a return of greatness.

I used to call this process “The Design of Crime,” because everybody was involved and made guilty: the greedy parties, the irresponsible press, the indifferent citizens.

But today I am calling this meta process the “humanisation of crime,” because it seems so universalized. These politicians, these criminal deeds, this lack of humanity or common sense is part of all of us. It is not an ideological tyranny with the face and a name of an alien dictator, or of The Other.  The poverty, fear and rising discontent is simply everywhere globally, notwithstanding the race, class and sex. It is “failed globe” rather than “failed state,”  a truly international shame and decadence of world disorder.

In Serbia we will have elections soon: the party that used to support war criminals and war crimes, have changed their credo, although not their veteran personnel. They have been in power for some time and are popular, so they will probably win even greater power in a month.  As is customary with them, they are celebrating the anniversary of Serbia being bombed by NATO, which is becoming a kind of odd national holiday.

The fact that this has been so normalized is part of the humanisation of crime. The American people tolerate, and even celebrate, Trump’s naked, vulgar, dirty unspeakable truth and bad habits — they like the way he demolishes the propriety of political discourse with reckless lies, because it seems more human than the robotic rehearsals of the professional political class.   Also very human is the fact that every party, in government or out, celebrates undeclared wars, civilian bombings, drone assassinations, targeted killings and terrorist attacks, whether they are victims, perpetrators, allies, opponents or arming both sides at once.  The terrorists and patriots are the two faces of the same medal.  Vladimir Putin’s covert-action “little green men” can easily be subverters of Ukraine and heroes of Syria, sometimes on the same newspaper page.

We, as a civilisation are finally sitting down to dine with our inner demons: they kill and we eat what they put on the plate.

Catholic Pope Francis  washed the feet of Muslim refugees for Easter immediately after ISIS terrorist attacks in Bruxelles, but that was an unusually lucid gesture.  In a twilight like this we must ask ourselves: what has become of our civil, skeptical, secular, scientific society? Where are our poets gone? What do our philosophers think, what do our futurists see? Where is our Cassandra conscience or our Antigone morality? What is our art — because our media stars and fancy gadget designers seem to offer no path to survival.

The basic moral ground seems clear to me: it’s among the world’s horde of sixty million refugees.  These are our fellow moderns who are living bare life, from  scratch. They are the ones “thinking outside the box” because their box is demolished. To become a refugee is really easy, because, trust me, in a balkanized globe that condition is for everybody and anybody.  The breakdown of the moral opera we call normality will change its names and slogans, it can be called terrorism, or call it war, call it global warming,  call it economic crisis, but in human terms it is the humanisation of crime.  As everyday criminals, participants in a spreading evil, we become guilty fugitives within our own lives.

I’ve been on this path longer than some others, so I can see where it goes, but I refuse to lead. The road leads to nowhere, while the  solution is to start  anew with creativity and joy.  We all-too-human criminals are never as good as we imagine we are, but we’re not that bad, either.

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