The ideology of madness
by Mirko Kovac
History is developing before our eyes much faster than we are able to follow it.
NATO's attack on Serbia has produced a controversial reaction. At the same time
it has once again homogenised the Serbian people, who behave as if in a trance.
The official-speak appears anachronistic, while the population is confused and
its lack of understanding about why NATO has intervened appears unreal. The fact
is that many of those who were Milosevic's greatest opponents, those with a
democratic and civic world view, have failed the test where Kosova is concerned.
What is the root of this stubbornness?
The time will come when someone will provide an analysis of all those jolly,
comfortable forms of opposition to Milosevic's dictatorship and pose the ques
tion whether it was all a joke, or a search for some collective refuge, in order
the better to deal with a sense of depression. Most of the oppositionists have
joined Milosevic's government. So we have to ask ourselves whether we are indeed
dealing with an unserious people, with a state of general sickness, or with what
Bogdan Bogdanovic once said: namely, that the leader has managed to infect the
whole people with his madness. We should recall those ludicrous demonstrations
in the winter of 1996-7, when normal and serious human beings - intellectuals,
artists, students, etc - spent three whole months walking through the streets
with whistles in their mouths, and every evening at the time of the TV news
banged kitchen pots supposedly in order to silence the regime lies broadcast on
the TV, and abused Milosevic by comparing him with Saddam Hussein. Today, how
ever, when their Duce is at war `with the whole world', they trust only their
television, that same factory of lies, and once again compare Milosevic with
Saddam but this time as a compliment - they are now brotherly fighters against
the international plutocracy.
This is what Kierkegard called `sickness unto death', because the same people
who once walked along streets and squares and were beaten by Milosevic's police
are now united around their leader. In fact they are united for the first time
around a programme, which is the expulsion of the Albanians from Kosova. Speak
ing of Kierkegard, he says that `sickness unto death is despair of the soul',
and this is the best possible diagnosis for a whole nation which sees itself as
heroic, whereas in fact it suffers from `despair of the soÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ
ul'. Berdyaev wrote a
wonderful essay in which he says that a time comes when whole nations can go
mad. A mystical link with history is also a kind of madness - they are mysti
cally tied to Kosova.
Although all bombings disconcert me, although destruction and ruin horrifies me
and I reject every kind of revenge, the fact is that this is precisely what Mi
losevic has been doing for the past ten years and now we are supposed to feel
sorry for him because he has met someone stronger than himself. Only recently
the Serbs were destroying beautiful Mediterranean and other cities, were annihi
lating a whole civilisation in Bosnia and committing unbelievable massacres,
just as they now doing in Kosova, and I ask myself what kind of mechanisms there
are to prevent this `ideology of madness' and remove the Balkan butcher, since
if he remains who can guarantee that he would not use the same violent means in
Montenegro or Vojvodina and, in the final instance, bring about a civil war. I
myself feel sorry for those people [in Serbia] who suffer and have suffered for
others and felt pity for them! I really feel sorry for them. What I don't
understand is why they are ready to die together with their dictator, why they
agree that this `man of death' forms their life and decides their future. Writ
ing about Saddam, Hans Magnus Enzensberger said: `The only privilege which this
man craves is to be the last to die.'
This excerpt from `A spiritual emigr‚', an interview with Mirko Kovac, is trans
lated from Zarez, Zagreb, 14 May 1999.
Mirko Kovac, one of the best-known Belgrade writers since the sixties, when war
broke out in 1991 moved to Croatia, became a Croatian citizen and decided to
write henceforth only in Croatian. Living in Istria, he has remained an
independent spirit, strongly critical of the Tudjman regime and especially of
its policy towards Bosnia.