The vicious ideology of “humanitarian wars” invests war with merit while cancelling responsibility for consuming the lives of hundreds of millions of human beings. The new wretched of the earth are fleeing the American and European wars and the miserable impoverishment of their countries, rich in resources and lands, by the wars’ mother-ideology—rapacious neoliberalism. A report by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War informs us that, following 9/11, the victims of humanitarian wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan alone were 1.300.000 people. This body count excludes the victims of the subsequent wars in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the Donbas—as well as Somalia, the symbol of this epochal turn to the balkanization of the world, which also expressed itself in the actual Balkans in the 90s, killing Yugoslavia.
I still remember the shock in the 1980s when I returned to Italy after a five-year absence and saw my first beggar–the first since the war. It’s not that I didn’t already know theoretically that market fundamentalism would have this result. But seeing a mother with a child in one arm and the other stretched out begging in the street of a post-war Italian city felt uncanny. And nothing in the mid-1980s had happened yet–nothing like the monumental misery that followed the West’s peacock strut across the globe after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
As I write, 1.2 million people in Yemen are internally displaced; a lorry with seventy-one decomposing corpses of Syrian refugees was found abandoned on an Austrian highway. Vacationers on the Greek island of Kos, sunbathing on the beach throughout August, beheld the surreal emergence from the sea of exhausted “migrants”—and watched behind cold, dark sunglasses, without the wonder or solicitude of a Nausicaa, this new Odysseus shipwrecked by the phony “War on Terror,” collapsing on the beach. On the coast of dismembered Libya, “migrants”—30,000, reported in July– waited in terror on land to escape by terror on sea: fifty asphyxiated bodies found the previous week by Italian sea patrols. “Migrant,” is a legalistic cynicism to avoid using the legally binding term, “refugee,” which requires asylum.
Then, there was the Syrian little boy–drowned and washed up on a beach in Turkey.
But all this was preannounced.
Trieste, my city, borders on Croatia and Slovenia—Yugoslavia, once upon a time. In the so-called Cold War, Trieste was where the “Iron Curtain” ended in the south—and a “Cold War” hot spot. Fear of “commonism,” as Eisenhower and LBJ pronounced it, was propagandized by the military allied occupation, which governed the city until 1954. The American military base in Aviano, with nuclear capability, lies today fourteen kilometers from Trieste. From here, the bombers took off, headed for Serbia every day between March and June of 1999 at 7:30 am, my mother told me, shivering as she remembered the roar of the engines overhead.
Back in what I still call Yugoslavia in summer of 2000, a few kilometers east of Trieste, I was in Opatjia, on the Gulf of Kvarner, at the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea.
Before 1918, Opatjia had been the Riviera of the land-locked Viennese aristocracy and bourgeoisie. After 1945, Opatjia was in Yugoslavia, and after the fratricidal wars of the 1990s, it found itself in Croatia. Sumptuous art nouveau villas perched on white karst rock over the emerald sea; luscious parks and gardens; shaded, wisteria-scented paths winding above lapping waves, the resort town’s beauty seemed both intensified and diminished by a sense of desolation, as though ruing that it no longer belonged to itself, or even to a country, but to something transient and mercenary, calling itself the market.
Neo-capitalist entrepreneurs from Zagreb were buying up the villas for a song. I was buying all I could from the street vendors, who were actually beggars–exquisite lace work; artifacts in wood, even Tito’s bust in a junk shop. One woman told me her mother worked all winter to make the lace to sell in Optajia’s streets to feed the children.
The lace I bought from her is my loot from the “triumph of the West” over “commonism”–way too cheap for its incomparable skill and beauty, worked in little light and less warmth by old, patient hands somewhere in the hinterlands of Croatia.I had to fight hard in my youth to get from under the induced spectral fear of “commonism.” Coming to New York City, ironically, helped: I realized that the United States, the capital of the “Free World,” was an apartheid society with an impeccable history of aggression, then displaying itself spectacularly with genocidal zeal in Vietnam. But I still held some tiny residue of the erstwhile illusion of a reformed, anti-fascist, anti-imperialist, social-democratic Europe—more humane than the United States. The begging mother was, therefore for me, the last corrective sign to false consciousness.
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November 25, 2015
November 22, 2015
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The Stanford Prison Experiment
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Once upon a time there was this amazing land, placed on mountainous Balkan Peninsula, called Yugoslavia, built on ideas of brotherhood, equality and sharing. I grew up there living together side by side with many cultures and religions. I had wonderful childhood.
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
"Let me not prey to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them."