After the Rain: How the West Lost the East

After the Rain: How the West Lost the East

by Sam Vaknin
     
 

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Sam Vaknin came to my country (Macedonia) in 1996. In the space of 18 months, he succeeded to become a public figure, known for his courage in standing up to what he perceived to be a kleptocracy. Subsequently, he left Macedonia and lived in Russia and in the Czech Republic - only to return, a year later, as the Economic Advisor to the Macedonian government during and

Overview

Sam Vaknin came to my country (Macedonia) in 1996. In the space of 18 months, he succeeded to become a public figure, known for his courage in standing up to what he perceived to be a kleptocracy. Subsequently, he left Macedonia and lived in Russia and in the Czech Republic - only to return, a year later, as the Economic Advisor to the Macedonian government during and after the Kosovo crisis.

I published Sam's previous book ("Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited", also available from Barnes and Noble). "After the Rain" was a natural extension.

The book contains articles and essays of differing nature but can be roughly divided to three. One part - social critique in an almost biblical style, true Jeremiads. Sam's main thesis is that the West missed a unique historical opportunity to unite Europe and that the peoples of Central, Eastern and Central Europe are beyond salvation, deformed and pathologized by communism irreconstructibly.

The second part comprises articles about the economies of the region. Quite a few articles deal with the history of the region with emphasis on Yugoslavia, Albania and inbetween (Kosovo). This is the third part. I cannot say that I fully agree with Sam. I can't even say that I MOSTLY agree with him. Yet, he deserves to be heard with the same passion and love that he wrote. —Lidija Rangelovska, Narcissus Publications

Sam Vaknin was born in Israel in 1961. A financial consultant and columnist, he lived and published in 11 countries. An author of short stories, the winner of many literary awards, an amateur philosopher - he is a controversial figure. This is his tenth book.

Editorial Reviews

John Harris
The essays in the second part, "Economy," stand better on their own feet. Vaknin is on his scholarly turf here, apparently. His unusually lengthy analysis of the International Monetary Fund is highly informative. Still, I must say that I find the moments of frenzy to be the book's most fascinating feature. In any state of advanced social decay, such as a civil war, there comes a point when more "facts" merely move one to impatience. What does it matter how many dozens were assassinated yesterday, or which banker transferred how many millions to his private account? Names and dates become irrelevant when such facts designate a daily routine. I can see that Vaknin is quite capable of reporting a scandal in detail; I think I can see why he doesn't. There's just too much of it. The relevant datum is the great cloud of stench obscuring the heavens, not the location of isolated fires. What we ought to learn--but won't--from the Balkans is that (to use Vaknin's recurrent metaphor) an infection is sometimes best left to spread until it activates sufficient antibodies. The Western solution of treating symptoms and amputating limbs has condemned these people to a hopeless decline. The Foreward is right: the book's sub-title misses the point. I suspect that Vaknin was being diplomatic here, for he might well have written Why the East Detests the West After Attempting an Embrace.
Blue Iris Journal
Brendan Howley
Life Is Cheap, History Is Dear

"When Milosevic falls, there will be a reckoning that will shake Europe from Berlin to the Bosporus to Moscow," writes Brendan Howley, reviewing After the Rain: How the West Lost the East by Sam Vaknin.

For us in the West, the Balkans are a kind of condensed Russia, dark, knotted, unknowable. Macedonia, where author Sam Vaknin is an economics advisor to the government, is the fulcrum of the Balkans, historically the most polarized and violent of the Balkan mini-states; Macedonian terrorists fomented a guerilla war in the eerily beautiful country south of Serbia in 1912 and set in motion the events which culminated in the assassination of Archduke Franz-Josef and his wife in Sarajevo in July 1914.

The roundrobin Bosnian wars and the recent Kosovo campaign created a number of subgenres of writing about the Balkans: the exegesis of war crimes; deconstructions of the blood imperative expressed in ancient enmities still on the boil; propaganda by all sides. Most Western journalism on the Balkans is well-intentioned but often dangerously narrow in compass. In the media surrounding the bombing campaigns against the Serbs in 1993 and again in 1999, the West's reportage was often dismally biased, largely through ignorance, lack of real access, and the consequent temptation to scoop at all costs.

This opened the doors to the likes of the KLA, an avowed terrorist organization (now, it seems, armed and bankrolled by a multinational narcotics web) metamorphosed into a romantic army of liberation. That's but one example. Since 1993, one Pultizer Prize winner has openly questioned the objectivity of his own prize-winning (and policy-changing) work in Sarajevo, and a senior BBC-TV assignment editor has likewise questioned that esteemed newsgathering organization's failures - such as failing to balance reports of Serb atrocities at Sarajevo with Croat atrocities at Mostar - during the Bosnian wars.

No, the Balkans are not a place where one can simply parachute in and start writing and filming and hope to be relaying to an uncomprehending, comfortable audience at home something like the truth. But then what is journalism to be in a region so marinated in internecine conflict that there may well be no single reportable truth?

I first met a Macedonian in a Toronto parking garage late one winter's night after an evening at the theatre. He had maps and flags on his grimy wall and spoke at once poetically and brutally about his lifelong enemies so far away. He was in his late forties, a grandfather-to-be, who, when he discovered I had been to Serbia and Montenegro in 1993, wanted to know what I thought of the women there, rather as if I'd been to a new wing of some distant human zoo. He proceeded, in an easy, conversational way, to detail for some long minutes his hatred of these women, who had done nothing to him that he chose to mention. His rant was as chilling as it was base. I am by no means singling out Macedonians in this: I have been subjected to this off-hand barbarism dozens of times in the Balkans, as has many a writer. A Croat professor told me that Muslims are best set against one another, to save Christians the trouble of killing them off - and then served coffee on superb bone china, in a bizarre setpiece of hospitality. One effusive Serb priest told me much the same thing at a famous Montenegrin shrine one fine afternoon and a moment later invited me to lunch with his bishop. "A very cultured man," he told me, as if he himself knew what civilization is. I mention this because, in a profound way that Vaknin understands, life is very cheap in the Balkans because history is so dear. We in North America fail to understand this in a realistic way, because our own history is shrink-wrapped and diluted by the immigrant experience and vast geographic isolation. Rather, as Vaknin so rightly underlines in his dissections of the West's failure via the IMF to do very little correct in Russia but a great deal that's pernicious, we persist in believing in a culpably ignorant way that Balkan peacekeeping will be a finite commitment, or that streamlined neoliberal economics can be grafted onto deeply crippled societies and resurrect them in an eyeblink.

I agree with Vaknin that most of the Balkan diseases are not those of the heart, but rather stem from corruption and - much the same thing - prolonged economic idiocy. Tito has a great deal to answer for in the Balkans, not least the avalanche of paper debt he allowed the West to sell his kludged-together country in the name of keeping first Stalin and then Khrushchev and finally Brezhnev out. The average guy, as Vaknin well knows, does not go hunting for his neighbour with an AK-47 unless the wheels have well and truly come off his world. When, eleven years after Tito died, the fiscal fiction that was Yugoslavia disemboweled itself, the bloodthirstiness was rooted in religious bigotry, that's true, but hate was the symptom, not the disease. One should never forget that the first war in Yugoslavia was a short and sharp one, fought for the Slovenian customs posts on the Austrian frontier, fitting metaphor for the economic disaster suppurating under the Yugoslav skin.

What distinguishes Vaknin's writings on the Balkans from those before him? He is an Israeli, trained in physics, with supplemental degree work in financial theory. His technical mindset and skeptical but humane Jewish ethos permeate his writing. Both are exceedingly useful in deconstructing the mess the pseudoscience of Communism left behind in the countries where he's worked, and the mess that Western pseudoscience of the New World Order/IMF sort is currently brewing.

Most writers who have taken on the Balkans with some proficiency have been English or English-educated: Rebecca West, Nora Beloff, Neal Ascherson, Misha Glenny. Vaknin's considerable intellectual armory reminds me of that of the ex-MOSSAD people I met in Poland in the early 1990s, retired spooks now running trading houses: utterly realistic, Talmudically concise in their opinions, and damn relentless. Vaknin is living in a political hothouse in Macedonia; his fertile output for Central Europe Review is fired by the urgency I recall when I first worked in post-communist Poland: events demand recording, but the sheer rate of change of the society itself is as draining as it is exhilarating. I admire Vaknin's ability to keep his intellectual balance, no mean feat in the circumstances. He is in the right place at the right time, because when Milosevic falls, there will be a reckoning that will shake Europe from Berlin to the Bosporus to Moscow. What will the West do if there is a Serb civil war? Or a Serb incursion in Montenegro, Serbia's last link to the Adriatic - a mobilization requiring only that the barracks gate be open for the tanks to roll into Podgorica and Cetinje?

My father urged me to prefer small books over thick tomes, arguing that small books meant the author saw clearly enough to write precisely. It's advice I have rarely had cause to regret. After the Rain is the title of the most famous Macedonian film of the past decade, a circular parable of memory and blood feud and journalism that many film people of my acquaintance swore was a new kind of storytelling. I am not so sure, but I do know it lived on in my imagination for days after I saw it. I have the same memory of Vaknin's small and beautifully produced book.

After the Rain is that rarest of reading experiences: principled and thoughtful and irritating and prescient, all at once. Vaknin will be proved right or wrong as history grinds on in the Balkans, but his is a book I will return to.
Blue Ear: Global Writing Worth Reading

Paul Lappen
This is a series of short essays, written and published over the last few years, on the politics and economics of present-day Central and Eastern Europe.

More specifically, it is about the breakup of Yugoslavia, written from the perspective of someone who has spent the last several years living in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Therefore, the author has seen many things from the "inside" (a very rare perspective here in the West).
 
When politicians or government agencies in the West are accused of corruption or gross stupidity, no one bats an eyelash. When the same thing happens in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the offenders are subject to heaps of scorn, diatribes and/or sanctions. The West firmly believed that if the communist hierarchy was removed in Eastern Europe, millions of common people would embrace capitalism like a long-lost relative; all the West had to do was provide the opportunity. The West didn't realize that communism was a mutual undertaking, a decades long symbiotic relationship between all parts of society.

"Post communist societies are sick and their institutions are a travesty." Privatization, the selling of state assets to private companies to encourage capitalism, is little more than a "spastic orgy of legalized robbery of state assets" where millions lost their jobs while a few people became rich. Large amounts of foreign aid, intended to help the suffering people of Kosovo, ended up in markets, both white and black, all over the region, still carrying the stamps of their donors. UN forces have
been known to require bribes to let goods into Serbia. A system of winks and nods, plus lots of palm greasing, came into existence between the multilateral institutions and the "ruling mob families that pass for regimes in these parts of the planet."
 
Some knowledge of present-day European politics and economics (more than comes from watching the TV evening news) would help in reading this book.

Otherwise, this is a very good and well-written group of essays from an extremely needed perspective (here in the West). This one is well worth reading.

Bookreview.com

Syndicated review also appeared in Dead Trees Review, Under the Covers Book Review, Footle.net Book Review and Blether Book Review, January 14, 2001

Subar Ghosh
When a man writes with his pen dipped in vitriol, a compilation of his articles are foreordained to make the reader react. Or they might even leave her/him numb, for Israel-born Sam Vaknin is hard-hitting. He does not mince his words, calls a spade a spade and has a sardonic-laconic way of putting things across. The subtitle of After the Rain says it all: the West has, for all practical purposes, lost the East. Vaknin landed in Macedonia in 1996. Between then and 2000, he was a prolific writer who penned down his thoughts mostly in The New Presence and Central Europe Review. The essays in the book in question were published mainly in these journals during the period.

Vaknin is severely critical of the West's duplicity. He quotes Edward Thompson, managing editor of Life from 1949 to 1961, as saying, "Life must be curious, alert, erudite and moral, but it must achieve this without being holier-than-thou, a cynic, a know-it-all or a Peeping Tom." The West has violated Thompson's edict and drive Europe to the verge of war and the region it "adopted" to the verge of economic and social upheaval. Vaknin says, "The Wst lost Eastern and Southeast Europe not when it lied egregiously, not when it pretended to know for sure when it surely did not know, not when it manipulated and coaxed and coerced -- but when it failed." The panacea of free marketry cum democracy that was shoved down the throat of the countries that had just broken free from Communism could not have worked.

The West was naïve to believe that the masses who were waiting all these years to be liberated from the Communists, would one fine day revert to capitalism and onwards to development and prosperity. The West never understood how lethargic the Rip van Winkle institutions could render people. Vaknin asserts Communism "was a collaborative effort - a symbiotic co-existence of the rulers and the ruled, a mutual understanding and an all-pervasive pathology." The West failed to see through this incestuous relationship, just as they were fooled by the appearance of law and order. The courts, the police and the media were ossified skeletons that had been drained of any real power. What happened in the bargain was that one criminal association was substituted by another. More often than not these comprised the same people. "Post communist societies are sick and their institutions are a travesty." The kernel of good people here, a stifled, suppressed and mocked lot, should be the ones who must be given voices.

The socialist/communist professors of yesterday cannot be teachers of capitalism today. Intelligence and knowledge do not matter since capitalism is not a theoretical construct merely, but a way of life. Inefficiency, corruption and pathological economic thinking has castrated them emotionally and intellectually. Workers and managers of the communist era cannot function efficiently in a capitalist system for the same reason. Vaknin scoffs at Balkan intellectuals too insisting that they have no fire in them.

Vaknin derides instant education in a society where everything is up for sale; where students of economics have not heard of Kenneth Arrow and students of medicine offer sex or money or both to their professors to graduate. He delves into linguistics and semantics and argues that this is a solipsistic world where communication is permitted only with oneself and the aim of language is to throw others off the track. Vaknin examines the issue closely since he believes language is a leading indicator of the psychological and institutional health of social units.

He stresses on the imperative need to bell the cat in a system where graft and fear rule. But then the West, particularly the United States, is in a morbid habit of "creating pairs of villains and heroes, monsters and saints where there are none". He believes the wars in Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia were nothing short of gangland warfare. These were skirmishes between gangs of criminals, disguised as politicians etc. Crime prevails since free market flourishes. Criminals, after all, are private entrepreneurs.

Vaknin also writes about his impressions on the economy (or, whatever is left of it) in these liberated countries. It is, however, the essays classified under the head "The People" that are more acerbic and provocative than the ones categorised under "The Economy". Maybe, because it is finally the people who matter.
The Reviewer

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9788023851731
Publisher:
Narcissus Publications
Publication date:
03/01/2000
Pages:
273

Read an Excerpt

From The Mind of Darkness:

"'The Balkans' - I say - 'is the unconscious of the world'. People stop to digest this metaphor and then they nod enthusiastically. It is here that the repressed memories of history, its traumas and fears and images reside. It is here that the psychodynamics of humanity - the tectonic clash between Rome and Byzantium, West and East, Judeo-Christianity and Islam - is still easily discernible. We are seated at a New Year's dining table, loaded with a roasted pig and exotic salads.

I, the Jew, only half foreign to this cradle of Slavonics. Four Serbs, five Macedonians. It is in the Balkans that all ethnic distinctions fail and it is here that they prevail anachronistically and atavistically. Contradiction and change the only two fixtures of this tormented region.

The women of the Balkan - buried under provocative mask-like make up, retro hairstyles and too narrow dresses. The men, clad in sepia colours, old fashioned suits and turn of the century moustaches. In the background there is the crying game that is Balkanian music: liturgy and folk and elegy combined. The smells are heavy with musk-ular perfumes. It is like time travel. It is like revisiting one's childhood."

From The Caveman and the Alien:

"The West has grossly and thoroughly violated Thompson's edict. In its oft-interrupted intercourse with these forsaken regions of the globe, it has acted, alternately, as a Peeping Tom, a cynic and a know it all. It has invariably behaved as if it were holier-than-thou. In an unmitigated and fantastic succession of blunders, miscalculations, vain promises, unkept threats and unkempt diplomats - it has driven Europe to the verge of war and the region it "adopted" to the verge of economic and social upheaval. Enamoured with the new ideology of free marketry cum democracy, the West first assumed the role of the omniscient. It designed ingenious models, devised foolproof laws, imposed fail-safe institutions and strongly "recommended" measures. Its representatives, the tribunes of the West, ruled the phlebeian East with determination rarely equalled by skill or knowledge. Velvet hands couched in iron gloves, ignorance disguised by economic newspeak, geostrategic interests masquerading as forms of government characterized their dealings with the natives. Preaching and beseeching from ever higher pulpits, they poured opprobrium and sweet delusions on the eagerly deluded, naive, bewildered masses. The deceit was evident to the indigenous cynics - but it was the failure that dissuaded them and all else. The West lost Eastern and Southeast Europe not when it lied egregiously, not when it pretended to know for sure when it surely did not know, not when it manipulated and coaxed and coerced - but when it failed. To the peoples of these regions, the king was fully dressed. It was not a little child but an enormous debacle that exposed his nudity. In its presumptuousness and pretentiousness, feigned surety and vain clichés, imported models and exported cheap raw materials - the West succeeded to demolish beyond reconstruction whole economies, to ravage communities, to bring ruination upon the centuries-old social fabric, woven diligently by generations. It brought crime and drugs and mayhem but gave very little in return, only an horizon beclouded and thundering with eloquence. As a result, while tottering regional governments still pay lip service to the Euro-Atlantic structures, the masses are enraged and restless and rebellious and baleful and anti-Western to the core. They are not likely to acquiesce much longer - not with the West's neo-colonialism but with its incompetence and inaptitude, with the non-chalant experimentation that it imposed upon them and with the abyss between its proclamations and its performance. In all this time, the envoys of the West - its mediocre politicians, its insatiably ruthless media, its obese tourists and its armchair economists - continued to play the role of God, wreaking greater havoc than even the original. While knowing it all in advance (in breach of every tradition scientific), they also developed a kind of world weary, unshaven cynicism interlaced with fascination at the depths plumbed by the local's immorality and amorality. The jet-set Peeping Toms resided in five star hotels (or luxurious apartments) overlooking the communist shantytowns, drove utility vehicles to the shabby offices of the native bureaucrats and dined in $100 per meal restaurants ("it's so cheap here'). In between sushi and sake they bemoaned and grieved over corruption and nepotism and cronyism ("I simply love their ethnic food, but they are so ..."). They mourned the autochtonal inability to act decisively, to cut red tape, to manufacture quality, to open to the world, to be less xenophobic (while casting a disdainful glance at the sweaty waiter). To them it looked like an ancient natural phenomenon, a force of nature, an inevitability and hence their cynicism. Mostly provincial people with horizons limited by consumption and by wealth, they adopted cynicism as shorthand for cosmopolitanism. They erroneously believed it lent them an air of ruggedness and rich experience and the virile aroma of decadent erudition. Yet all it did is make them obnoxious and more repellent to the residents than they already were.

Ever the preachers, the West - both Europeans and Americans - upheld themselves as role models of virtue to be emulated, as points of reference, almost inhuman or suprahuman in their taming of the vices, avarice up front. Yet the disorder in their own homes was broadcast live, day in and day out, into the cubicles inhabited by the very people they sought to so transform. And they conspired and collaborated in all manner of corruption and crime and scam and rigged elections in all the countries they put the gospel to. In trying to put an end to history, they seem to have provoked another round of it - more vicious, more enduring, more traumatic than before. That the West will pay the price for its mistakes I have no doubt. For isn't it a part and parcel of their teaching that everything has a price and that there is always a time of reckoning?"

From Who is Guarding the Guards:

"Izetbegovic, the nominal president of the nominal Bosnian state, the darling of the gullible western media, denies that he and his cronies and his cronies' cronies stole 40% of all civilian aid targeted at Bosnia - a minor matter of 1 billion US dollars and change, in less than 4 years. The tribes of the Balkans stop bleeding each other to death only when they gang up to bleed another. In this, there are no races and no traces - everyone is equal under the sign of the dollar. Serbs, Bosnians and Croats divided the loot with the loftiest of egalitarian instincts. Honour among thieves transformed into honour among victims and their murderers. Mammon is the only real authority in this god forsaken, writhing rump of a country.

And not only there.

In Russia, billions (3 to 5) were transferred to secret off shore bank accounts to be "portfolio managed" by mysterious fly-by-night entities. Many paid with their jobs when the trail led to the incestuous Yeltsin clan and their byzantine court.

Convoys snake across the mountainous Kosovo, bringing smuggled goods at exorbitant prices to the inhabitants of this parched territory - all under the avuncular gaze of multinational peacekeepers.

In Romania, Hungary and Greece, UN forces have been known to take bribes to allow goods into besieged Serbia. Oil, weapons and strategic materials, all slid across this greasy channel of the international brotherhood of cash.

A lot of the aid, ostensibly intended to ameliorate the state of refugedom imposed upon the unsuspecting, harried population of Kosovo - resurfaced in markets, white and black, across the region. Food, blankets, tents, electrical equipment, even toys - were on offer in bazaars from Skopje to Podgorica and from Sofia to Thessaloniki, replete with the stamps of the unwitting donors. Aid workers scurried back and forth in expensive utility vehicles, buzzing mobile phones in hand and latest model, officially purchased, infrared laptops humming in the air conditioned coolness of their five star hotel rooms (or fancy apartments). In their back pockets they safeguarded their first class tickets (the food is better and the stewardesses ...). The scavengers of every carnage, they descended upon this tortured land in redundant hordes, feeding off the misery, the autoimmune deficiency of the syndrome of humanism.

Ask yourselves: how could one of every 3 dollars - 50% of GNP - be stolen in a country the size of a tiny American state - without the knowledge and collaboration of the international organizations which ostensibly manage this bedlam? Why did the IMF renew the credit lines to a Russia which cheated bold-facely regarding its foreign exchange reserves? How was Serbia awash and flush with oil and other goods prohibited under the terms of the never-ending series of embargoes imposed upon it?

The answer is that potent cocktail of fear and graft. First came fear - that Russia will collapse, that the Balkans will spill over, that Bosnia will disintegrate. Nuclear nightmares intermingled with Armenian and Jewish flashbacks of genocide. The west shut its eyes tight and threw money at the bad spirits of irredentism and re-emergent communism. The long arm of the USA, the "international" financial institutions, collaborated in constructing the habit forming dole house that Eastern and Southern Europe has become. This conflict-reticence, these approach-avoidance cycles led to an inevitable collusion between the ruling mob families that pass for regimes in these parts of the planet - and the unilateral institutions that pass for multilateral ones in the rest of it. An elaborate system of winks and nods, the sign language of institutional rot and decaying governance, took over. Greasy palms clapped one another with the eerie silence of conspiracy. The world looked away as both - international financial institutions and corrupt regimes - robbed their constituencies blind. This was perceived to be the inevitable moral cost of stability. Survival of the majority entailed the filthy enrichment of the minority. And the west acquiesced.

But this grand design backfired. Like insidious bacteria, corruption breeds violence and hops from host to host. It does not discriminate, this plague of black conscience, between east and west. As it infected the indigenous, it also effected their guardians. They were all engulfed by raging greed, by a degradation of the inhibitions and by the intoxicating promiscuity of lawlessness. Inebriated by their newly found powers, little ceasars - natives and financial colonialists - claimed their little plots of crime and avarice, a not so secret order of disintegration of the social fabric. A ghoulish landscape, shrouded in the opaque mist of the nomenclature, the camaraderie of the omnipotent.

And corruption bred violence. The Chicago model imported lock, stock and the barrel of the gun. Former cronies disappeared mysteriously, bloated corpses in stale hotel rooms - being the only "contracts" honoured. Territories were carved up in constant, unrelenting warfare. One billion dollars are worth a lot of blood and it was spilled with glee, with the enthusiasm of the inevitable, with the elation of gambling all on a single spin of the Russian roulette.

It is this very violence that the west tried to drown with its credits. But unbeknownst to it, this very violence thrived on these pecuniary fertilizers. A plant of horrors, it devoured its soil and its cultivators alike. And 120,000 people paid with their lives for this wrong gamble. Counting its losses, the west is poised to spin the wheel again. More money is amassed, the dies are cast and more people cast to die."

From Is Transition Possible:

"The intellectuals of the Balkans - a curse, not in disguise. a nefarious presence, ominous, erratic and corrupt. Sometimes, at the nucleus of all conflict and mayhem - at other times (of ethnic cleansing or suppression of the media) conspicuously absent. Zeligs of umpteen disguises and ever-changing, shimmering loyalties.

They exert no moderating, countervailing influence - on the contrary, they radicalize, dramatize, poison and incite. Intellectuals are prominent among all the nationalist parties in the Balkans - and rare among the scant centre parties that have recently sprung out of the ashes of communism.

They do not disseminate the little, outdated knowledge that they do possess. Rather they keep it as a guild would, unto themselves, jealously. In the vanity typical of the insecure, they abnegate all foreign knowledge. They rarely know a second language sufficiently to read it. They promote their brand of degreed ignorance with religious zeal and punish all transgressors with fierceness and ruthlessness. They are the main barriers to technology transfers and knowledge enhancement in this wretched region. Their instincts of self preservation go against the best interests of their people. Unable to educate and teach - they prostitute their services, selling degrees or corrupting themselves in politics. They make up a big part of the post communist nomenclature as they have a big part of the communist one. The result is economics students who never heard of Milton Friedman or Kenneth Arrow and students of medicine who offer sex or money or both to their professors in order to graduate.

Thus, instead of advocating and promoting freedom and liberalization - they concentrate on the mechanisms of control, on manipulating the worn levers of power. They are the dishonest brokers of corrupted politicians and their businessmen cronies. They are heavily involved - oft times the initiators - of suppression and repression, especially of the mind and of the spirit. The black crows of nationalism perched upon their beleaguered ivory towers.

The intellectuals of the Balkans failed miserably. Terrified by the sights and sounds of their threatened territory - they succumbed to obscurantism, resorted to the nostalgic, the abstract and the fantastic, rather than to the pragmatic. This choice is evident even in their speech. Marred by centuries of cruel outside domination - it is all but meaningless. No one can understand what a Balkanian has to say. Both syntax and grammar are tortured into incomprehensibility. Evasion dominates, a profusion of obscuring verbal veils, twists and turns hiding a vacuous deposition.

The Balkan intellectuals chose narcissistic self absorption and navel gazing over "other-orientation". Instead of seeking integration (as distinct from assimilation) - they preach and practice isolation. They aim to differentiate themselves not in a pluralistic, benign manner - but in vicious, raging defiance of "mondialism" (a Serbian propaganda term). To define themselves AGAINST all others - rather than to compare and learn from the comparison. Their love affair with a (mostly concocted) past, their future-phobia, the ensuing culture shock - all follow naturally from the premises of their disconsolate uniqueness. Balkan intellectuals are all paranoids. Scratch the surface, the thin, bow tied, veneer of "kultur" - and you will find an atavistic poet, fighting against the very evil wrought by him and by his actions. This is the Greek tragedy of this breathtaking region. Nature here is cleverer than humans. It is exactly their conspiracies that bring about the very things they have to conspire against in the first place.

All over the world, intellectuals are the vanguard, the fifth column of new ideas, the resistance movement against the occupation of the old and the banal. Here intellectuals preach conformity, doing things the old, proven way, protectionism against the trade of liberal minds. All intellectuals here - fed by the long arm of the state - are collaborators. True, all hideous regimes had their figleaf intellectuals and with a few exceptions, the regimes in the Balkans are not hideous. But the principle is the same, only the price varies. Prostituting their unique position in semi-literate, village-tribal societies - intellectuals in the Balkans sold out en masse. They are the inertial power - rather than the counterfist of reform. They are involved in politics of the wrong and doomed kind. The Balkan would have been better off had they decided to remain aloof, detached in their archipelago of universities.

There is no real fire in Balkan intellectuals. Oh, they get excited and they shout and blush and wave their hands ever so vigorously. But they are empty. It is full gas in neutral. They get nowhere because they are going nowhere. They are rational and conservative and some are emotional and "leftist". But it is all listless and lifeless, like the paces of a very old mechanism, set in motion 80 years ago and never unwound.

All that day of the eclipse of the last millennium, even the intellectuals stayed in their cellars and in their offices and did not dare venture out. They emerged when night fell, accustomed to the darkness, unable to confront their own eclipse, hiding from the evil influence of a re-emerging sun."

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