Tag Archives: “Imagining the Balkans”

Catalans’ second thoughts: ‘…the last refuge of the wallet-minded’: nationalism in all its petit bourgeois glory

17 Oct

From the Times, by

14caparros-inyt-superJumboDemonstrators in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday protesting Catalonia’s push for independence. Credit Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images

On Oct. 1, Mr. Puigdemont’s separatist cause seemed on the road to victory as images of the Spanish police beating grandmothers circled the globe and sympathy aligned with the Catalan cause.

Then came the counterattack. King Felipe VI led the charge. He stated that neither the government in Madrid nor the monarchy would negotiate with the pro-independence Catalan leaders.

But it was the joint offensive between the Spanish state and major Catalan corporations that really did the trick. On Oct. 4, the government issued a decree that would help businesses relocate from Catalonia to Spain. In the days after, the headquarters of the major Catalonian banks — Caixa and Sabadell — and the water and gas companies announced they would leave the region. Democracy also works this way: Millions of voters cast only one vote, while a few use their millions to weigh in as if they were millions…

The banks’ departure felt like a cold shower for independence supporters, willing to give it all for their motherland — except their savings accounts and their European lifestyles. For Mr. Puidgemont and his party, historically tied to those same banks, it was more like an ice-cold tsunami. [my emphasis].

It’s really tiring — and tiring, especially, is feeling the constant scathing condescension towards these idiots — to see what a playground for the puerile identity politics are.  Caparrós continues:

With the economy in danger among the waving flags and patriotic chants, it became increasingly evident that independence was more a desire than a project. For years, there has been talk about creating a new country but little discussion of its economic and social structure, which is why it was never clear how much actual social energy — how much struggle, how much sacrifice — was necessary to achieve it.

Creating a country is a complex, expensive process: To take such a step you need a huge amount of support. Usually, independence is achieved after a long war, or the fall of a colonial power. At the least, it requires the gathering of an overwhelming majority. In Catalonia, I’m glad to say, the first two options seem impossible. The third one is not in place. To start as a new but divided country would be a recipe for disaster.

Like the make-you-wanna-pull-your-hair-out Brexit: it seems — what? — nobody thought of these things?

One important thing that may have come out of, as I wrote, rethinking Yugoslavia, and the thing that Catalans and Basques, Croatians and Slovenians, and Lombards and Romagnolos, and self-righteous Brits and Germans bitching about Greek irresponsibility, should really rethink is how their supposedly parasitic South is also their major market.  See the dim shape Croatia seems to be unable to pull itself out of since independence, I’m happy to report with just a touch of schadenfreude; Croatia, which a New York Times editorial in 1992 gallingly called to be accepted “…into the West, in which it always belonged”, (see Bugarian historian Maria Todorova‘s enraged reaction in her Imagining the Balkans)…Croatia has now fallen behind the poorest countries in the EU, Romania and Bulgaria, on many indicators.

_98146567_puigdemontkingPuigdemont and Spanish King Felipe VI at recent press conferences.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Maria Todorova and “A Falcon drinks water from the Vardar”

2 May

I wrote in “A Falcon drinks water from the Vardar”: Good-bye to Macedonia”  that:

“The six simple lines of this beautiful Macedonian song:

A falcon drinks water from the Vardar.
Oh Jana, white-throated Jana.
O falcon, hero’s bird, Have you not seen a hero go past?
A hero go past with nine heavy wounds?
Nine heavy wounds, all from bullets.
And a tenth wound, stabbed with a knife.

…encapsulate all you need to know about the Balkan cult of blood and tragic masculinity, which is the root of everything horrific you’ve read and heard about the region, yet, fortunately — or unfortunate, at least,  for those who, as they say, can’t hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time — the foundation for everything so stunningly beautiful about it.”

imagining the balkans

Maria Todorova, the Bulgarian historian, writes in her Imagining the Balkans, a book which does for the Balkans what Said’s Orientalism  did for the Arab Middle East, that — I don’t have the book with me, this is a very rough summary and paraphrase — the West’s constantly describing the Balkans as “male” is one of the primary ways of exoticizing it and stigmatizing it as inherently violent and backwards.  She’s right.  I want to avoid that.  And yet, it’s hard.

(Click on all photos.)

Men in Montenegrin cafe, date unknown.

Montenegrin men in cafe

Traditional Montenegrin male costume, all red and gold braid — I’ll find a color one.IMG_0409Men in traditional costume in Cetinje, Montenegro’s old royal capital – date unknown — and traditional coffeehouse in Cetinje.IMG_0535

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Žablak, Montenegro, the town kafene today.

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FK Rudar Pljevlja won the first double in the four-season history of Montenegrin football, with their three trophies also making them the young nation’s most successful club.

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Serbia’s water polo team at London Olympics 2012.

3511340708_6831b076e3_o copyThe Montenegrin team.

London Olympics Water Polo Men

The cover of Said’s Orientalism contained a detail from the 19th-century painting The Snake Charmer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904) — painting used on first edition of Said’s book. (Click)

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

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