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June 11, 2012

Comments

dsquared

Strangely, the Greater Manchester City Region lags behind Bangor, Maine in this regard

Matt Schiavenza

Nice post, but Flushing is actually in New York City, not New Jersey. (Sorry for the nitpick, but I spend quite a bit of time there so I know!)

ajay

What makes this slightly odd is the fact that 'comfort women' is the Japanese euphemism

But everyone knows what it really means; I remember when the Serbs started talking about "ethnic cleansing" back in 1992 (you know, before we bombed them and they discovered they were pacifists), it was seen as a horrible mealy-mouthed euphemism, but now it's an accepted term and everyone knows that it means killings and forced deportations.

ajay

Similarly, in the 50s and 60s it was fairly common for people to refer to "the Final Solution", until the term "Holocaust" became more generally used.

Chris Williams

"before we bombed them and they discovered they were pacifists" - really true? Serbian nationalists have seemed consistently able to claim being pacifists from 1991 onwards (but with that ol' pacifists' mission to protect unthinking decadent Westerners from the yellow peril or version thereof), and to be bellicose and nasty way after the bombs stopped dropping.

_Why_ is modern nationalism so entwined with self-pitying whining? What's wrong with the old-fashioned "We just want to take over the world: it's our thing"? Seems it went out of fashion in 1815.

Phil

Serbian nationalism seems to be imbued with self-pity to an unusual degree - even the Field of Blackbirds was a historic defeat. It's reminiscent of the mentality of the abused kid turned bully (or the weakling turned jobsworth). All they want is for people to be nice to them - and if people won't be nice, well, they can't say they weren't warned.

Power and grievance is a persuasive combination, oddly - much more so than weakness and grievance (you can get that anywhere). One of Misha Glenny's books has a horrible section where he drinks slivovic with Ratko Mladic, and concludes that Mladic has a powerful personality, a large and well-equipped army, and concerns which while perhaps a little overstated centre on some very real issues which we would be wise not to ignore. It's "My day out with the school bully", essentially.

The mentality was starting to fester a while before 1991, too - you only need to look at the Memorandum in 1986, which caused a certain amount of head-scratching in dissident-friendly circles over here. (As I remember, a key piece of evidence for the supposed "genocide" of Serbs in Kosovo was a recent rape case, which was all part of a Muslim plan to contaminate Serb womanhood, or something.)

ajay

"before we bombed them and they discovered they were pacifists" - really true?

It was a lift from a Neal Stephenson line about the Japanese, but I thought it appropriate. I remember distinctly the Serbs massing on the bridges in Belgrade to stop Nato bombing them during ALLIED FORCE and thinking "that just wouldn't have worked on you guys when you were bombing Sarajevo and Dubrovnik, would it?"

Serbian nationalism seems to be imbued with self-pity to an unusual degree

Yes self-pity; but unusual compared to other nationalisms? China and its Century of Embarrassing Military Ineptitude or whatever it's called? Russia? Interwar Germany? Pretty much everyone in the Middle East? It's often either "we are threatened now and therefore must strike first", "we have been oppressed in the past and have therefore earned a free hit at our neighbours", or "we are deeply concerned that the rest of the world inexplicably refuses to recognise our immense awesomeness".

"We are going to run the world because frankly we just think we'd be better at it than the people who are doing it at the moment, most of whom are an absolute shower and don't even speak Latin" is a bit of an exception.

Interesting link to the memo, Phil. I like the side note that Slobodan Milosevic thought it was a bit nationalist and right-wing.

Barry Freed

Flushing is actually in New York City, not New Jersey. (Sorry for the nitpick, but I spend quite a bit of time there so I know!)

Homeboy! Yeah, it's in Queens and very near where I've been spending a lot of time this past semester.

On the Serbian thing I highly recommend Michael Sells' The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia where he traces the history of Serbian nationalism and sees it rooted in what he calls Christoslavism, the idea that the Slavs are naturally Christian so Bosnian Muslims are a species of race traitor.

Chris Williams

ajay, I'm not sure how many of the people on the bridges were the same as those who'd supported Seselj and Milosevic. Although if my experience of UK-based Serbian nationalists in is any guide, there may well have been some overlap - but my (slimmer) experience of Serbian oppositionists would suggest it wasn't total. And a gratifyingly large number of Serbian men legged it to Hungary to avoid conscription.

I picked up on the Stephenson ref, and it surely fits the Japanese rather better, given the marked contrast in Japanese state aggression before and after 1945.

Phil

I think that 'target' logo, sported at the time by some anti-war people here, had official backing. I remember a friend who'd been active in Bosnian solidarity being particularly unimpressed.

ajay - at least part of the mood music of the British Empire was "sorry, but we need the stuff".

"Then what can I do for you, all you Big Steamers,
Oh, what can I do for your comfort and good?"
"Send out your big warships to watch your big waters,
That no one may stop us from bringing you food.

For the bread that you eat and the biscuits you nibble,
The sweets that you suck and the joints that you carve,
They are brought to you daily by All Us Big Steamers
And if any one hinders our coming you'll starve!"

Alex

I like this quote: During the last 50 years Serbs have been twice victims of destruction, assimilation, changing of religion, cultural genocide, ideological indoctrination and saying that they do not have any importance.

the last 8 words, especially.

Barry Freed

During the last 50 years Serbs have been twice victims of destruction, assimilation, changing of religion...

There's your Christoslavism right there.

Phil

and saying that they do not have any importance

Now that really hurt.

To be fair, Serbs aren't the only people in the region who speak fluid Grievance. I once made the mistake of Mentioning The War to a colleague with a Croat background, and he immediately launched into a potted version of the Nedic Was The Real Fascist speech (prefixed with "My Dad says"). At least, I assume that's who he was talking about - I didn't recognise most of the names at the time.

There is a case to be made that Pavelic wasn't a real Fascist, but only if you add "he was worse than that" - Mussolini dumped him when he found out what a genocidal psychopath he was.

ajay

There is a case to be made that Pavelic wasn't a real Fascist, but only if you add "he was worse than that" - Mussolini dumped him when he found out what a genocidal psychopath he was.

That reminds me slightly of the bit in Eastern Approaches (Barry, could you stick that on the B&T Annotated Reading List if it's not there already? Ta) discussing what happens to ideas in the Balkans... the Bosnians no sooner got converted to Christianity than they all embraced the "peculiarly tenacious" Bogomil heresy, and when they were Islamised they promptly decided that no one else in Muslim world was really properly Muslim and set out on a jihad to reconquer the Ottoman Empire for the true faith.

Richard J

"Then what can I do for you, all you Big Steamers,
Oh, what can I do for your comfort and good?"
"Send out your big warships to watch your big waters,
That no one may stop us from bringing you food.

Reading 'With Our Backs to the Wall' then, Phil?

As the descendant of Border Reivers, I do have some sympathy with the whole Serb/Croat/Bosnian thing, while being uncertain, bar religion (which is a pretty big caveat, I'll grant you)and which non-Slavic language group oppressed them, what the actual fundamental difference is.

Cian

_Why_ is modern nationalism so entwined with self-pitying whining?

Israel being a somewhat extreme and paradoxical case. Often the whining and boasting will be in the same sentence (Oh why do they hate us, we're so uniquely threatened, yet we have the best army in the world and we can destroy anyone). Consistent brand messaging not really being an Israeli thing.

Though the US fear of Nicaraguan/Cuban invasion during the 80s also has to be up there.

Chris Williams

I'm willing to give Israelis more of a free pass on this particular issue. Yeah, their state's evily imperialist and is in the middle of ethnically cleansing its territory in a 1945 stylee, but the leadership can credibly point to What Happened to Great-Aunt Rachel in order to justify themselves. Even the Serbs never had it that bad.

Phil

Even the Serbs never had it that bad.

Although they think they did.

I do have some sympathy with the whole Serb/Croat/Bosnian thing, while being uncertain, bar religion (which is a pretty big caveat, I'll grant you)and which non-Slavic language group oppressed them, what the actual fundamental difference is.

Serb: southern, Orthodox, Cyrillic. Croat: northern, Catholic, Roman. Bosniak: in between, Muslim, either or both. I read somewhere that there are linguistic differences within the Serbo-Croat area, but they run east to west (mountains to coast) rather than south to north, making them downright inconvenient for ethnic demarcation purposes.

Barry Freed

Not to mention all the downright inconvenient pockets of each group scattered throughout the region. Of which Krajina was only the most well known.

(Ajay, it might well be there already, it's a godawful mess, but in any case: done.)

Barry Freed

Though the US fear of Nicaraguan/Cuban invasion during the 80s also has to be up there.

Other than a few typically stupid statements of Reagan's and Red Dawn (confession: a guilty pleasure) I never really had the sense that anyone, even on the right, took this seriously. Of course in those days we didn't have Rush Limbaugh and ilk ranting about it constantly on AM talk radio.

Cian

I never really had the sense that anyone, even on the right, took this seriously.

Neither did I until I moved to South Carolina. Apparently some people did.

I'm willing to give Israelis more of a free pass on this particular issue.

Oh the paranoia sure. Its more the apparent cognitive dissonance. Nobody boasts like the Israelis do about their military power and general awesomeness. And nobody whines like they do about how threatened they are by pathetic 3rd world nations/refugees.

It also seems to be brewing a rather ugly militarism with fascistic overtones. So not that dissimilar from the world's most put upon Balkan people.

jamie

Re the Nicaraguan invasion thing, Mencken is very funny on the panic occasioned across the east coast by the Spanish-American war back in 1898.

chris y

Though the US fear of Nicaraguan/Cuban invasion during the 80s also has to be up there.

There was a poll published at the time which suggested that a good proportion of USians thought Nicaragua was a state of the union. I suppose the prospect of, as it were, Georgia invading Alabama would be more alarming than the perceived threat from a tiny country the other side of Mexico.

Phil

not that dissimilar from the world's most put upon Balkan people.

Also, Muslims!!1!! The similarity has been remarked on by some Israeli right-wingers, notably the late Tommy Lapid.

Reading 'With Our Backs to the Wall' then, Phil?

No, but I am singing Kipling.

dsquared

Though the US fear of Nicaraguan/Cuban invasion during the 80s also has to be up there.

YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!

(the 'truth', in "A Few Good Men", being that the liberty of Americans who slept easy in their beds, was entirely protected against the Cuban menace by the ability of a small and badly-run garrison to occasionally murder each other for minor disciplinary infractions. As I can never get any fans of that film to explain to me, even if it was the case that the USA was in imminent danger of invasion by Cuba, how would beating your own soldiers to death with a bar of soap help?).

ajay

Ironically, within a decade of that film being released, it would be seriously argued that the continued liberty of Americans who slept easy in their beds was entirely thanks to the ability of the small and badly-run garrison of Guantanamo Bay to occasionally beat people to death.

...I think that fans of the film miss the point that Jack Nicholson is playing the villain who is nuts.

Cian

There was a poll published at the time which suggested that a good proportion of USians thought Nicaragua was a state of the union

I think what these polls show is that average intelligence is not particularly high - and that we forget this at our peril. So back to Mencken then.

I suppose the prospect of, as it were, Georgia invading Alabama would be more alarming

Few would notice, and those who did would probably call it progress. Now the other way round I grant you.

My state's motto - at least we're not Alabama.

Richard J

Not to mention all the downright inconvenient pockets of each group scattered throughout the region. Of which Krajina was only the most well known.

Oh, I quite understand that, Phil - my confusion is about this point, really. My rough understanding is that the whole Croat/Serb/Bosnian fixed identity seems to be a precipitant of 19th century nationalism, based on the ebb and flow of the cultural influences of the varied dominant powers over the centuries (e.g. a peasant near Zagreb would have been Catholic mainly because Herr Graf von Schlachtenbummler or Báró Háborústréber was particularly ultramontane, while his counterpart near Belgrade would have remained Orthodox because his Pasha didn't really care as long as the taxes were paid) What I don't really get is why it was such a patchwork - the border didn't shift that much in the 18th century, IIRC.

Barry Freed

I'm retracting my statement that I never really had the sense that anyone, even on the right, took this seriously. on the grounds that it's been some 25-30 years and while I certainly felt that way at the time - being that it's a fucking absurd thing to believe - I'm probably filtering out my memory of those who did think that - being that it's a fucking absurd thing to believe.

Rirchard, I think that was me you're quoting there, and again, on the 19th century Serbian nationalist background to the whole godawful mess I recommend the Sells book I mentioned above.

Barry Freed

Argh, sometimes even preview is not your friend.

Jakob

Barry: is the B&T reading list up anywhere public?

Richard: Is the Stevenson good? I still have his Catalysm on the to-read pile, and have heard good things about that.

jamie

Whoa, Barry, if you have got a list, email me and I'll publish/blog it. (jamiekATntlworldDOTcom)

skidmarx

As Wikipedia records:
The first official dictionary in the Bosnian language was printed in the early 1630s, while the first dictionary in Serbian was printed only in the mid-19th century.
My Bosnian friend (who's a Serb/Croat from Banja Luka, a reminder that Bosnian nationalism and Titoism aren't reducible to ethnicity) elaborated that the first Serbian lexicographer appropriated chunks of Bosnian vocabulary for the Serbian.

Barry Freed

Jakob, Jamie: Frankly it’s a mess. For a while now I’ve just been adding to it whenever anyone makes a recommendation. I usually copy and paste the recommending text along with the link so as to preserve as much context as possible but as it exists now it's basically a disorganized mishmash of copied and pasted text from the posts/comments or even just links with my very helpful notes like "The whole damned thread! ==>”. It's one of my projects to clean it up and add some organization to it, ideally by topic, but, hell, you know this blog so you know what that’s gonna be like. I’ve also thought about making a quick and dirty version, just the titles and authors and no context but that would be far less interesting and not nearly as useful I should think. I would like to make it available when it’s in decent shape and I’ll gladly send it to you, Jamie, if I’m ever able to do it.

alle

On the similarities between Israeli and Serbian whino-nationalism, I recall that a website called The Emperor's Clothes was for a while in the 90s the main source of pro-Milosevic arguments for some of the very hard left, who figured that Srebrenica and Trnopolje was all about Bosnian CIA Jihadis attacking the Serbs. Then sometime after 2000, with the Intifada I guess, the site suddenly turned rabidly anti-Palestinian, but it seems it has now also branched into a curious strand of 9/11 conspiracy.

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