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.