No Reprieve For Sarajevo

What was remarkable in the simultaneous Strasbourg-Sarajevo Art television broadcast, titled "le Couloir pour la parole" (a corridor for free speech), on December 19 (1993) was the absolute status, the extraordinary superiority conferred by misery, distress, and total delusion. The very features which enabled the inhabitants of Sarajevo to treat the "Europeans" with contempt, or at least with a sarcastic feeling of freedom that contrasted sharply with the remorse and the hypocritical regrets of their counterparts. They were not in need of compassion, they were in fact the ones to take pity on our dejected condition. "I spit on Europe", one of them was heard saying. No one indeed can be more free, more sovereign in a rightful contempt, directed not so much at the enemy than at those whose good conscience balks in the sun of so-called solidarity. And God knows that they have seen lines of those people pass by. Lastly it was Susan Sontag who came to have "Waiting for Godot" played in Sarajevo. Why not bring "Bouvard & Pecuchet" to Somalia or Afghanistan? But the worse is not about this cultural soul-boosting. It is about the condescending manner in making out what is strength & what is weakness. They are strong. It is us who are weak and who go there to make good for our loss of strength and sense of reality.

The problem lies indeed in the nature of our reality. We have got only one, and it must be preserved. Even if it is by the use of the most heinous of all paroles: "One must do something. One cannot remain idle." Yet, to do something for the sole reason that one cannot do nothing never has been a valid principle for action, nor for liberty. At the most it is an excuse for one's own powerlessness and a token of self-pity. The people of Sarajevo are not bothered by such questions. Being where they are, they are in the absolute need to do what they do, to do the right thing. They harbour no illusion about the outcome and do not indulge in self-pity. This is what it means to be really existing, to exist within reality. And this reality has nothing to do with the so-called objective reality of their plight, which should not exist, and which we do so much deplore. This reality exits as such - it is the stark reality of action and destiny.

This is why they are alive, while we are dead. This is why we feel the need to salvage the reality of war in our own eyes and to impose this reality (to be pitiable) upon those who suffer from it, but do not really believe in it, despite the fact they are in the midst of war and utter distress. Susan Sontag herself confesses in her diaries that the Bosnians do not really believe in the suffering which surrounds them. They end up finding the whole situation unreal, senseless, and unexplainable. It is hell, but hell of what may be termed a hyperreal kind, made even more hyperreal by the harassment of the media and the humanitarian agencies, because it renders the attitude of the world towards them even less unfathomable. Thus, they live in a kind of ghost-like war - which is fortunate, because otherwise, they would never have been able to stand up to it. These are not my words, by the way: they say it so. But then Susan Sontag, hailing herself from New York, must know better than them what reality is, since she has chosen them to incarnate it. Or maybe it is simply because reality is what she, and with her all the Western world, is lacking the most. To reconstitute reality, one needs to head to where blood flows. All these "corridors", opened by us to funnel our foodstuffs and our "culture" are in fact our lifelines along which we suck their moral strength and the energy of their distress. Yet another unequal exchange. And to those who have found in a radical delusion of reality (and this includes the belief in political rationality, which supposedly rules us, and which very much constitutes the principle of European reality) a kind of alternative courage, that is to survive a senseless situation, to these people Susan Sontag comes to convince them of the "reality" of their suffering, by making something cultural and something theatrical out of it, so that it can be useful as a referent within the theatre of western values, including "solidarity". But Susan Sontag herself is not the issue. She is merely a societal instance of what has become the general situation whereby toothless intellectuals swap their distress with the misery of the poor, both of them sustaining each other, both of them locked in a perverse agreement. This parallels the way the political class and civil society are swapping their respective misery: one throwing up corruption and scandals, the other its purposeless convulsions and its inertia. Thus, not so long ago, one could witness Bourdieu and Abbe Pierre offering themselves as televisual slaughtering lambs trading with each other pathetic language and sociological garble about poverty.

Our whole society is thus on its way towards "commiseration" in the most literal sense of the word (under the cloak of ecumenical bathos). It looks like as if we are in the midst of an immense feeling of guilt, shared by intellectuals and politicians alike, and which is linked to the end of history and the downfall of values. Then, it has become necessary to replenish the pond of values, the pond of references, and to do so by using that smallest common denominator which is the suffering of the world, and in doing so, replenishing our game reserves with artificial fowls. "At the moment, it has become impossible to show anything else than suffering in the news broadcasts on television", reports David Schneidermann. Ours is a victim-society. I gather that society is merely expressing its own disappointment and longing for an impossible violence against itself. Everywhere, a New Intellectual Order is following on the heels of the New World Order. Everywhere, we see distress, misery and suffering becoming the basic stuff of the primitive scene. The status of victimhood, paired with human rights is the sole funeral ideology. Those who do not directly exploit it do it by proxy - there is no dearth of mediators who take some surplus value of financial or symbolic nature along the way. Loss and suffering, just like the global debt, are negotiable and for sale on the speculative market, that is, the intellectual-political market - which is in no way undermining the military-industrial complex of old & sinister days.

Every commiseration is grounded within the logic of suffering. To refer to suffering, even if it is to fight it, lends it an unending base of objective reproduction. It is clear that in order to fight whatever, one must start from the evil, not from the suffering. It is absolutely obvious that in Sarajevo we may witness the scene of the transparency of Evil. The concealed cancer-cell which causes everything else to rot, the virus whose blatant symptom the Europeans' paralysis has become. One seems to salvage the European inventory in the GATT negotiations, but in the meanwhile it is thrown in the flames at Sarajevo. In a certain sense, it is a good thing. Bogus Europe, vanishing Europe, Europe that has been squandered in the most hypocritical of dealings, this Europe is exposed in Sarajevo. In that sense, the Serbs could almost be hailed as the demystifying instrument, the savage analyst of that ghostly Europe, creature of those techno-democratic politicians who are as triumphant in their discourses as they are ineffective in their deeds. One sees how Europe is disintegrating just as the discourse of united Europe flowers (exactly as the situation of human rights is worsening just as the discourse on human rights is proliferating). But this is not even the fine point of the story. The fine point is that the Serbs, as carriers of the ethnic cleansing, are at the apex of the kind of Europe in the making; because the "real" Europe that is being made, is a white Europe, a Europe 'made' white, integrated and cleansed, in the moral sense, in the economic sense, and in the ethnic sense. This Europe is being made victoriously in, and in that sense, what happens there is not an untimely occurrence on the way towards a pious and democratic Europe, which does not exist, but a logical and ascending step towards the New European Order, itself a branch of the New World Order, whose distinctive features everywhere are white fundamentalism, protectionism, discrimination and control.

Some say: if we let this happen in Sarajevo, it will happen to us later on. What nonsense! It has befallen us already. All European countries are on the road to ethnic cleansing. This is the real Europe that is being slowly put together in the shadow of national parliaments. And Serbia is in forward position. There is no need to invoke some kind of passivity, some inability to react, since we are dealing with a programme being logically implemented, of which Bosnia is merely the actual frontier. Why do you think that Le Pen has all but vanished from the (French) political scene? He has vanished because the essence of his ideas has completely infiltrated the political class, taking the garb of "the French particularity", the holy union, the euronationalist impulse, or plain protectionism. No use any longer for Le Pen. He won, not as a political person, but as a virus, having taken over the minds. Why would you believe that things will remain limited in Sarajevo. It is the same thing that is at stake everywhere. No display of solidarity is going to change anything about that. It will stop only the day that the killing will end, that is when the borders of "white" Europe will have been redrawn. It is as if Europe, all nationalities, all political movements, no matter which, had "taken a contract", a killer's contract with the Serbs, who have become the agents of the dirty jobs for the West. Just as the West had taken a contract with Saddam Hussein against Iran. The problem is that if the killer overdoes it, he must be eliminated too. But if the operations against Iraq and in Somalia look like failures within the establishment of the New World Order, then the Bosnian case looks promising within the New European one.

The Bosnians know that much. They know they have been forfeited, not by some fascistic remnant or revival, but by the international "democratic" order. They know they are bound to be exterminated or exiled or excluded like all heterogeneous and unassimalable elements the world over. There is no reprieve, because, however distasteful this may sound to the false guilty consciousness of Western democrats and humanitarians, this is the unswerving way of development. Modern Europe will be built on the bones of its Muslims and Arabs, as we can see all over. Unless they survive as immigrant slaves. And the strongest objection against this offensive of the guilty conscience such as is displayed in happenings like the Strasbourg one, is that by fuelling the image of the alleged lack of resolve of the European policies, together with that of a European conscience torn by its own powerlessness, it covers up the whole of the really on-going operation by granting it the benefit of spiritual doubt.

The people of Sarajevo who appeared on the screen during the Art broadcast were surely harbouring no illusion nor hope. But they did not look like potential martyrs either. They had objective plight, real suffering on their side. The true misery, that of the false apostles and voluntary martyrs, was on the other side. But then, is it not written that "to the voluntary martyr no recompense shall be given in the after-world."

Liberation, January 8, 1994.
Translated by Patrice Riemens, Amsterdam.