Until recently the EU overlooked the Serbian regime’s disregard for democratic standards, preferring to trust assurances about the country’s commitment to the European path. But support for Russia’s war has made Vučić’s dissimulation impossible to ignore.
Final Address: Jean Baudrillard, Serbia
‘A specter is haunting Western culture – the specter of the Balkans.’
Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, 1997
This text will not deal with the reception of this famous “fin-de-millenium” intellectual, and an undoubtedly very important author of the theory of simulation.1 That academic task should be left for the diligent historians of ideas, sociologists and archaeologists of knowledge. They could determine a real extent of Baudrillard’s influence in recent debates about the “hopeless politics of postmodernism.”2 On this occasion I will not enter the analysis and the theoretical summary of the polarized discussions on postmodernism. It is my intent to emphasize in this text the political, not theoretical, background of a perverse taking over of the social function of the sign, which stands in an inverse proportion to Baudrillard’s description of the “emancipated sign.”
Let me point to the preliminary thesis right away: Baudrillard arrived to Serbia in the sign of an unequivocal misunderstanding, through devious culture paths, a wild political shortcut. A sudden interest in the author of the “hegemony of the sign” corresponds to a sudden demise of a normative process of rationalizing. The beginning of the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the arrival of Baudrillard to Serbia fall in the same time period: all translations of his books and articles, most of the comments, review articles, and reviews were published after 1999! How to explain this logic of coincidence, how to understand this sudden attractiveness to the “figure of Baudrillard” in Serbia?3
A wide spectrum of inarticulate and totally diffuse interest in Baudrillard in this part of the Balkans does not have a purely theoretical sense and intellectual background. “The Baudrillard case” could be interpreted as a symptom of the dissolution of a relatively homogenous and stable image of the society. Without a clear perspective, disoriented culture looks for the new ones, and, simultaneously, resurrects through signs the old cultural codes. Generally speaking, Baudrillard is a symbol of a restaurational reviving of the tradition, which enveloped the society at the very moment of its demise. A passionate mutation of the simulational model (“production of the real that does not originate in reality”) represents an act of the self-defense of the disintegrated society that wanders between demands of the future and calls of the past. A diffuse use of the ethnocentric simulation is aimed at acquiring the proof for its own national singularity, devoid of its own identity.4 Moreover, simulational models (“mechanism of deterrence of one’s own real process through its operative double”) could secure the cover after the fact, to produce a new order, different configuration of the signified state of things.
Baudrillard came at the right time! He soon became a mask for the parading simulation, with national hallucination hiding in the background. He has, in a way, provided a phantom cover up, an obscene paradigm for a retouched image of society. 5 Baudrillard points to the simulational mechanisms that could, through a hyperreal suspension of any real, empirical evidence, free us of demands for objective responsibility. In the serniological image of society, reality is reduced to the social function of the sign, to production and reproduction of the symbolic order. A society lives off production and consumption of signs of reality – not off reality itself, it lives off the new, giant screen, where it watches itself, self-pleasantly. A classic difference between the object and the representation, things and ideas, does not function any more. Relieved of the burden of referential obligation, signs float freely, circulating in the general symbolic exchange. The social and the political function of sign has been radically altered. The political economy of the sign is a result of the “domestication of meaning”, getting used to and taming of the sense. A referent is now the effect of the creative sign– not its cause or occasion, which means that signs are capable of constructing reality as a simulation. Since the sign is capable of securing its own alibi, there are no effective means of delimiting a brutal lie from a charming simulation.6
A society is quickly preparing itself, beatifies, reworks, archives, bunkers, and fortifies through the media. Serbian “cyber-spaces” are skillfully reworking earthly pasts, preparing the present for the Heavenly future. Who could not enjoy the bliss of a media immunization of reality!? It is too late for any settling of accounts with either real or phantom history. In the global struggle for economic survival, in the overall media war for contentious images of reality, everything is allowed. There is no mercy. Technopredators, those media executioners of objectivity, exterminators of reality, are today announced as new culture heroes. A visionary guru of this virtual elite has become a great preacher of simulations – Jean Baudrillard.7
A general (mis)use of simulation in Serbia, systematic staging of the hybrid connection between causes and effects, a constant crossing over of good and evil, of victims and executioners, forcibly announces a coerced suspension of the common sense principle of obviousness. Even today, according to all the field reports, the majority of the citizens of Belgrade genuinely believe that the Bosnians (Muslims) were the ones who bombed Sarajevo! Should that be so, if there is no objectivity, should a sovereign difference between the real and the imaginary be abolished, a reasonable question arises: who has the right to declare the amnesty for the facts? What really happens is a media and symbolic mutation of the real events and their real consequences. What we are witnessing is a transfer from the historical to the mythic stage of animation and re-actualization of reality. The transformation energy feeds on the production and consumption of the very mess of signs of reality and the reality itself. The intensive use of simulation tricks, ploys, and cunneries in Serbia and in the Balkans, points to the mimetic zeal of a “periphery” discovering hidden messages of a “center”! If a post-colonial thesis that the “West” took over the mandate to create new and monopolize old signs is true, then the “East” can only imitate and uncontrollably recycle them. A local imitation of the global empire of signs is based on the superficial belief that everything in the East is the same as in the West, just slightly different!
Far away from their place of origin, removed models of Western simulation do not belong to the order of hyperreal, but to the order of surreal.8 The nationalist iconography and populist discourse produced by this environment overwhelmingly belong to the mythological order. For example, a favorite metaphor, “Heavenly people,” forms a semantic fields within which descendants of “the oldest people in the world” do believe that they live in a miraculous collusion with God! Such a quasi-religious attitude stages everywhere a pagan image of Reality where, like in the Ripley’s Museum, a “Wunderkammern”, a bizarreness of life is exposed in higher, magical, quasi-religious forms. Such a symbolic locality does not construct the world of Disneyland, but establishes the world of Fantasyland.9
Paradoxically, Baudrillard’s name has in Serbia become a prestigious metaphor for a model of reverse Simulation that produces firm, mean, “self-referential Reality,” Hell of the Same – and not, as one would expect, a fluid Hyperreality. Indeed, there are sovereign symbolic orders today, whose signs and codes, images and discourses, still dwell within a representative, mimetic image of the world. Frozen in their Sittlichkeit, such mimetic locations function in accordance with the rigid order of their own self-exposition. In such environments, simulation, as a rule, plays itself as a barren imitation, or its own past, or someone else’s future. One could claim that the Serb imaginary field originated within the horizon of that mimetic constellation. Baudrillard’s images of the hyperreal world have nothing in common with the exotic construction of nationalist reality in Serbia. I will try to show that mass rituals of the nationalist symbolization in Serbia produce a culture of radical exoticism, dominated by the fluid logic of everywhere-denied-obviousness. In other words, I want to suggest a thesis that every simulation is in fact a doubled manipulation!
Unlike Western systems, where symbolic exchange does not exist any more as an organizational form of contemporary societies, in the East, and in the Balkans in particular, that exchange still haunts the society like its own death. Perhaps Baudrillard was invoked as a secret Devil’s advocate of the general process of cyclic reversion: reversibility of production in destruction, or, even more dramatically, the reversibility of life in death. A general flirting with Baudrillard’s jargon looks like ghostly scene of a degenerated order, whose simulation still maintains a “demonic” balance of the whole. Indeed, in the period of a general dissolution of the system, when everything is destroyed and sinking, a need for the nostalgic reanimation of the so-called “primary Reality” is amplified. The difficulty lies in the fact that each staging going in the direction of reviving of the function of the real, strengthens a spiral organization of the first-degree simulation. Peripheral simulational machines of the Balkans do not belong to the third generation simulacrum, they are not hyper-simulations. Only expansive systems of the West are absorbed by hyperreality of symbols, codes, and signs. Their simulational models act in the exclusive space of the Hyperreal. (Hyperreality – a world of self-referential signs.) In the Western version, Baudrillard has become a theoretical advocate of the emancipated sign, the simulation models where all the symbols cross and mutually exchange in the general circulation. In the Eastern version, signs still have to pay their dues to Reality, they are forced into the equivalent exchange with the reality principle. Through a series of extraordinary circumstances (agony of the Real that goes not towards the Hyperreal, but towards the Surreal!), the symbolic space of Serbia has unexpectedly become a privileged place of the disbalanced use of mimetic simulation. After the fall of the old, normative paradigm, a specific geo-political zone appeared, in which a social self-reflection became reduced to the level of the reversible simulation, a paradoxical processing of the sign’s transcendence within immanence. in other words, just like Peter Weiss’ “documentary theater,” Serbia’s simulation models produce a (Sur)-Real Scene, and the Western ones just a Hyperreal Obscene.10
The ambitious attempt of the symbolic machines of Serbia to cosmetically imitate a simulational model of the West in a period of the so-called “transition,” brought a disturbance into the historical order of the Simulacrum. Let me remind you, Baudrillard identified very precisely adiachronic logic of the successive phases of the appearance of simulacrum. According to his insights, through the history, there was a first order simulacrum, Imitation– which speculates with the “natural laws of value,” a second-order simulacrum was Production– speculating with the “market value laws,” and a third-order simulacrum. is Simulation– speculating with the “symbolic value laws.” Balkans was the site of the pathological blending of the natural and the market value laws, that completely deformed the internal logic of the symbolic value law. In a Foucauldian sense, the order of things and the order of words have intermingled and intermixed, forming the ultimate, hegemonic order. In such a system, there is a blending tensionbetween the natural laws and the social signs, between the real and symbolic, between the true and the imaginary. A reconciliation of that internal tension of the system, which in Serbia forcibly plays itself in the name of the Nation, just renews the brutal order of thingsin which only cruel codes, heavy and obligatory signscould function. When the emancipated signs are self-pleasantly advertised under the guise of such a system, that is to say, signifiers referring to the barren universe of the signified, that is the first sign that the symbolic order is ill with a sort of arbitrariness towards which no one has any obligations. A fake arbitrariness of the semiotic order constantly produces an ideological mystification of a liberated social order. On that level, any writing about the nature of signs, their rational determination, their real and imaginary, their suppression and abuse, becomes erased and eliminated.
In a culturological sense, Serbia is one of the most extreme systems of hybrid simulation. In the name of the rediscovered Nation, one flirts with equal vigor with the seductive codes of Occidentalism, as well as with the obsessive icons of Orientalism. A whole spectrum of national icons, images, signs and discourses has metastased mimetically – a forceful imitation and general flirting with “Western” and “Eastern” heritages fashionably draws towards a theatrical sociability that wishes to please itself A barren inertia of transformationhas entered all the zones of the state and society, inhabited the most elementary forms of everyday life. In other words, ghostly images of the nationalist simulation intrusively operate within the “frozen base” – Baudrillard would say, “cloned reality” – producing a “stereotypical superstructure,” a pure progression of the growth of the Same. Unlike Western models, where reality became structurally hyperreal, a brutal Balkan and Serbian reality is increasingly becomingsurreal, but only in privileged periods of nationalist imagination. Such a reality appropriates a simulational dimension of the surreal only in an absolute decor of the Nation.
That anachronistic giant screen in which almost whole nation self-pleasingly watches itself functions through repressive re-animation – and not through, for example, transformation of a “zoo-phyte reality.” Simulational fluctuations in Serbia unstoppingly organize a hybrid order, almost a “jelly-fish-like-reality,” devoid of space for pure forms that marked the high Modernity. In that curved space, a paranoid economy o muddying rules, the whole society looks like a Magic Bazaar, like a real flea market of tricks, where every one is at the same time both the subject and the object of deceit. Simulational energies of the phantom signs market do not produce doubled hyperreality, but symptomatically operationalize the existing mythical Reality.11
There is not a trace of seductive charm of the tird-order simulation that belongs to spectacular models of the hyperreal West. In the Western world, the capital does not belong to the order of political economy any more – quite on the contrary, it uses political economy like its own simulational model. In undevelopped systems, where a belated installation of the market is just being planned, and, related to it, the establishment of the value law, understood as a law of equivalency (only equal value between the signifier and the signified enables an orderly and symmetrical exchange of referential contents), each simulation in the system of the so-called national economy demands ritual or real sacrifice. It is not enough to de-mystify a normative program, according to which the so-called material production and the area of signs have to exchange contents. All the perversion of the apparently rational economic project offered by new simulational teams in Serbia should be made public. They would want to lead us to a general production screenplay, rational work emancipates society, even through its own negation, actually, just like the goods whos epotential exceeds a simple value reproduction. The economic rationality simply hides an old non-economic secret that a figure of laborfunctions as an exemplary metaphor” of the apparently “elevated form of emancipation.” Not production of labor, but the reproduction of calls to work is at stake here, the reproduction of the giant rituals of the signs of laborthat spread above the whole society. Citizens are not asked to really produce, but only to socialize, to actively take part in the ritual values of the society, and to function, like symbols and signs, in a genereal screenplay of the production and reproduction of the sociaty as a community. This coerced fabulation of work is endless – people do not stop using it in Serbia even in completely absurd circumstances, like the episode with a mad bureaucrat of a ruined factory, who sent a note of dismissal from work to a worker who has already been fired and who died in the meantime! Unlike Western simulation models, our simulational models function dangerously close to the real, not symbolic, death. They are the proof that reality does not disappear in an illusion, but the other way around – that every illusion disappears in reality.
According to Baudrillard’s refined description, unburdened signs of the West float fluidly.12 In Serbia, signs are forcibly mobilized in order to bring things and events to a despotic reality. Signs are strategically divided, so that they could inhabit the enchanted field of the national Truth. In that ideological waste, in that hallucinatory national depot, there is in principle enough room for everyone, and in particular for the ones ready to plunge into their own void. A simulational turbulencein Serbia is spreading breathtakingly, there is no end to that general mess. In the ever growing vortex of various national simulations, big national crooks are functioning as well as the small nationalistt tricksters. They represent a symbolic avant-garde of the “primary accumulation of sign” in Serbia. That unbridled imitation of the “accelerated and unlimited circulation of signs that have in the West already reached a level of mobile balance of floating currencies” has the task to prevent, or at least to postpone, a traumatic encounter with reality.
On this occasion, I would call for an additional caution especially towards the political implications of such simulational maneuvring. I share the concern of those who point to post-colonial implications of the completely unreal and irresponsible nationalist self-representation. However, my concern does not go much further from a pure denouncing of a simulational fogspreading over these part of Europe. Most concretely, I am worried by the extent to which nationalist simulation has managed to destroy any political and moral sensitivity for the issues of real, true life. I am especially worried about the fact to what extent have today’s nationalists (sworn enemies of Europe, America, West, and the so-called New World Order!) managed to revive a classical, stereotypical image of the Westabout the so-called “dark Balkans.” That masochistic orientalizing of the modem Balkans paradoxically shows how nationalist self-identification in Serbia is actually a product of a Western imagination. Namely, self-pleasing orientalization of Serbia – Self-0rientalization– taking place under the slogan of new return to the old myths (Byzant, Russia, Orthodoxy, Dynasty, Crown, People, Nation, etc.) is merely a symptom of the blind identification with “their” image of “us”. In the long run, such an approach makes harder a formation of the rational response to the question to which extent is our symbolicfleld determined by Western imagination. On the other hand, the euphoric insistence on ethnic specificity and, in relation to that, on the national identity, could limit our under-standing of the growing anti-Western feeling. Pro-Westem sterotypes about the threatening “Balkanization of Europe” is directly replied to by the anti-Western accusation for a general “occidentalization of the world.” One should not have any understanding for this “comparative trivialization” (Peter Gay), which in its exclusiveness cannot maintain a delicate balancebetween the Global and the Local, the Center and the Periphery, and, finally, between Cosmopolitism and Parochialism. A strangely sedimented Balkan history, in which the Orient and the Occident are unbalancedly crossing and antagonistically intermingling, will remain a permanent excuse for a de-regulative polarization of the Lifeworld in Serbia. That geopolitical disbalance is today re-absorbedby a consensual using of the mimetic simulation. We are greedy followers of the New World, and at the same time, the New Sentimental Order. It is common is Serbia for political and cultural factories to force their own image of the world, whether imitating our past, or someone else’s future. Hence, no wonder that the Balkan Sittlichkeitis easily left to the rich spectacle of poverty.
Let me remind here of the belated effects of the Enlightenment, that stood in the core of a long modernization process, understood as a structural rationalization. A modernist fetish of a universal ratioestablishes a global order without any space for claustrophobic national localities. Serb traditionalism suffers from a particular paternalsim, hyperinflation of the special, an autochtonous stubbornness that prevents a formation of the universalist culture. Provintial loyalty and national fetishes are real enemies of the civic cosmopolitism. This old-fashioned cosmopolitism deepens the schism and strengthens the effects of deranged relations between the local and the universal. The return of the sectarian tribalism in Serbia has its origin in the fact that global systems are increasingly marginalizing peripheral, local sub-systems, depriving them of their own individuality. As suggested by Terry Eagleton: “For the most obvious obvious political fact about our world is that we are growing both more international and more tribal simultaneously, and the more phoney the internationalism the more morbid the tribalism.13 That pathological tension between the local and the global, phoney universalism and dangerous parochialism is particularly visible in the “re-awakened” Serbia, where terrorism of the regime is simply replaced by the despotism of the majority, both of which equally endanger minority rights. There is a violence which is not just violence of the social or political realtions, but the violence of all the relations, violence which is both exponential and promiscuous.
The New World Order
Exalted makeup people of reality represent a special simulational level, that only recently appeared on Serbia’s public scene. Pragmatically speaking, that new designer elite lives off passionate imitating of the West and hidden masking of the East. Unlike their parents’ generation, who gave us a long and very dark history of falsification, a history that functioned on the energy of the evil spent, the new designer generation appears quite orderly. Their program motto is: “One should not die in truth, one should enjoy the Simulation!” The simulation does not require sacrifice, and it is also less risky. Without a provincial complex, these snobs of the differenceintrusively advertise a seductive story, according to which “the reality is not what it used to be” (Walter Anderson). That “pro-Westem” mimetic elite of Serbia is systematically promoting an ideology of a disappearance ofreality, at the very moment of its brutal return. The makeup people respond to the dizzying disaster, nightmare, and general disintegration, with sweet imitation of Western images, signs, and discourses. In the enthusiasm of a mimetic mannerism14 they support everything, from Coca Cola, to democracy. A “production of similarity” operates following the logic of imitation, which was in the Middel Ages a prevailing form of mimesis. What we have is a genuine magical invocation of the West. At the very moment when Serbia broke off from Europe, floating through space like a lost satellite, at the very moment when this country became the most horrible historical backwater, designers of reality shout: “Belgrade is the World! “The exalted scenes of a wooing seductionsometimes appear grossly exaggerated. It is not enough to reach for a mythology according to which Belgrade is international and transnational center of humanity, based on a short-lived gestures, no matter how pretty they may appear. Is is possible for parade simulators from the periphery of the world to represent the avant-garde of the Serbian future, an exclusive option of its historical advancement?
I should add here a remark related to the balance of the political simulation of the West in Serbia. The authoritarian regime in Serbia has long ago usurped the space of the real. Those who do not belong to this stupid, selfish and raw fratry, interconnected with reactionary interests and poli cies, have just one way out – the space of the imaginary. A ritual populist consensus is formed around the anti-democratic regime, but that is just a temporary faQade, behind which there is a total devastation. Already damaged state faQade has been vigorously attacked by a simulated opposition which embodies an illusion of the national politics. Despite the fact that the immature opposition flirted with the regime the whole time, bar gaining about re-distribution of power, and, naturally, re-distribution of the privileges, one cannot deny that it did disturb the balance of power. Even with the simulation of a multi-party system, parliamentary democracy, human rights, etc., political opposition managed to disturb a hard political tissue of the government. Part of the citizens really freed themselves of political fear, symbolic power of the state and its rules. That real effect was paid by a series of concessions and bargains that deleted political existence of the democratic opposition. In the following period, it will parasitically vegetate in the pragmatic hold of power. All the differences have been abolished and all the conflicts settled before the hegemonistic demand of the Serb national interest. Unavoidably easy to bribe, the democratic simulation did not create a relevant political void, a free space in which not just the pushy opposition, which is obsessively directed towards the Government and towards the Parliament, but the whole political society as well. Quite on the contrary, it produced a political phantasmthat it is possible to depose the holders of power, that the power circles and that it is at disposal of any citizen, and even that it is owned by the society. A fake transfer ofgovernment to the peoplehides the fact that the authoritarian forms of the regime were never free, except in cases of risky endeavors that were both heretical and criminal at the same time. That smoke screen of democracy constantly delays the public proceedings during which the issue of who represents the people, nation, and the citizens, and in what way, could be determined in a most responsible way. At this moment, the principled struggle of the interests for governing, determined competition for the power, has been stopped in Serbia. Despit mutual suspicion, both the Government and the opposition work on a common program of appropriating national legitimacy. They form the front of “the majority speech,” through a unanimous Parliament, which is mythically permeated by the general will. That collective (ir)responsibility, that uniform nationalist discourse is constantly staging the egalitarian enthusiasm that will be the source of all the future manipulations, conflicts, and clashes. Not even the propaganda calls upon democratic legiti macy that was canceled in the blind alley of degraded legality will be able to stop the violence that will come. We should not hope that a simulated democracy will soon manage to depose a homogenous field of nationalist power, which in today’s Serbia shines with even brighter, pluralist glow!
The political glory of the makeup people is exhausted by futile deterrence from what modernists denounced as “the return of the same.” Because the other, different, so-called oppositional discourse is nothing but a mere ghost of the political promise that was explicitly given only to be broken! Like a street organ, that alternative speech has incessantly announced everything: emancipation, democracy, free market, wealth, human rights, return to Europe. Only traces of disinterested illusionsand, eventually, miraculous appearances of a deranged nostalgia for some kind of reality have remained from that boring political metaphor, which is just a seductive form of the metaphorical violence! These experts of distance have for too long lived off the calculated trap that they have set for others, particularly to their own followers and sympathizers, which became their own used and lost political shadow. In a general conspiracy against the everywhere-denied-obviousness, there are also the babbling actors of democracy. Conniving with the brutal owners of political illusions, these sweet second-hand sellers of fog bear a part of the general responsibility for the greedy expropriation of Reality.
Before the threat of general apathy, the energy of the makeup people of reality is skillfully moved into the advertising and marketing space, which became a privileged place of the new world sociability. Some time ago, the first television generation has announced a spectacular crossing from the historical into the media image of the world. Although excessive and overdimensionalized banality of evil in Serbia does not allow for any designer mystification, the aestheticized make up of reality is used extensively. Thevisual elite developed a sophisticated culture that lives off the corrective energy of the former artistic wish for an illusion. In that regard, Lacan was right: linguistic and symbolic infra-structure not only points to the sense, it is there instead of the sense. Following a disappearance of art and the end of aesthetics, “modem art has lost its wish for an illusion,15 smart reality designers move onto the field of advertising and video clips, which are nothing but “a sentimental form of merchandise.” The marketing and commercial success functions under the condition of a one-sided awe of the uninformed masses. As suggested by Bruno Latour, only the one who “have never been Modern” could believe into the animistic power of the image. Savages had masks, citizens had mirrors, we have our images and screens! Media and marketing sights of the life of abundance produce everywhere the effect of frustrating fascination. In the middle of the general poverty, the strategy of media seduction onto “marketing transparency” – which is too beautiful to be real – appears politically incorrect and intellectually anachronistic. In the political sense, an obsession with the “madness of the visuaP most often tied to baroque, has a pretension to take over the position of an elevated gaze, God’s eye, before which a banality of the everyday life disappears. We already have the intellectual anachronism of this designer disfiguration of reality in Brecht’s and Benjamin’s commentaries about the aestheticization of politics. It is important to blind the sight, to enchant the senses with that panoptic, visual paradigm that protects us from a trans-regressive fall into a gloomy reality. Our experts of designer re-animation are very well aware that the sublime, devoid of nostalgia for displaying of beauty, exactly the aestheticized sensibility of the high Modernity. A sublime strategy is welcome, since it registers the impossibility of the return of any kind of originality, purity, or innocence, the impossibility of a full presence of truth that would be at disposal of the gaze itself. Those who advertise images of the world in a “vacuum-packed packaging” do not respect the transparency of the facts of life – they are simply not interested in the evidence of the already seen. Anyway, everything is already known and very boring in the transparency! Marketing, advertising, advertising tricks in general, publicly announce the fact that the market of merchandises, economies – like the whole society – live off their own “media commemoration.” “Cool” simulants are the tautological experts of the marketing language, fairy-tale-like stagings of the Western market, the magic of goods, in front of which anemic citizens and resigned consumers stand. The aestheticized aura of a designed life is not meant for the order from which a vigorous inertia of reality lurks. The disappointed pride of damaged life can wait, it should be left for the future.
The New Sacrificial Order
The nationalist enthusiasts posit to the idyllic image of the New World Order, the New Sacrificial Order, an extreme and uncontrolled prolifera tion of suffering. In that kingdom of cruelty, there is no room for humble defeatism and reconciled pacifism. A zealous, nationalist populism is most vigorously opposed to an werly sweet liberalism, that “superior apathy of the world.” Everything is subsumed to the unconditional belief that “the new world order”16 has lost its geopolitical reputation and democratic importance. In the post-colonial era, an usurping expansionism of the West, a global occidentalization of the world, has been neutralized by vengeful particularisms. A new version of the parochial closing off comes into being reactively, like an inherent contrast to the liberal openness and democratic universalism. A vengeful return to the national tradition and ethnic self-determination has been re-actualized. Local identities form an anti-hegemonistic bloc aiming at settling the old and preventing of any new injustice. The restorative forces of Serbdom are in the frontline of the struggle against “the new world order” and a universal process of rationalizing. They are the elite units of the new world disordery.
The restorative forces of Serbdom enter the political calendar of Europe at the very moment when communism has collapsed into its own void. That void is now inhabited with ghosts who speak the language of the dead, demons of the past and specters of the future! The symbolic horizon of Serbia has collapsed into the endemic autism. The ethnocentric epidemic rules the whole of society. The restorative forces of Serbdom and their sick signs globally cover the whole spectrum of the public, political, and cultural space. A burning nationalist energy frantically liberates destructive forces that settled the whole country, all of her institutions, signs, and symbols. With complicity of the people and some citizens, it has entered the deepest pores of the civil society. In the ghostly space of the Church and the Serbian Academy, in the enchanted field of the national museum, film, galleries, and university, the whole epidemics of consensusrules. Only the real or the virtual enemies, the neutral ones, the indifferent, and the asocial have no place on that blending stage. They have nothing left but to live quietly, and to die a second-grade death! A new, warring spirit of the local community rises from the sectarian and conspirative plot against the world community. That impatient spirit does not invoke a new meaning, but represents just an appeal, a zeal of the antagonistic resurrection. It irresponsibly turns on its head the logic of provocation, and brings a local gesture of rebellion to the global space, with the always threatening urgency. The Western world cannot understand that risky playing with the new world order, that stubborn and uncontrolled humiliation of the old ally, democratic Europe. In a liberal order of power, wealth, and competition, death of the “other” is demanded, so that one could take its place. “By contrast, what these refractory, incompatible cultures want, what they demand, is not to take the place but to see the death of the West, even at the risk of dying themselves.”17 That suicidal pretension coming from another space, the space hit by a disaster, could hardly be neutralized.
The converted nationalist elite, grown out of the communist rites which have already invoked a forced allegiance to the nation, mobilizes for the popular uprising against the world community and the international order. First on the list is the despised America, that world center of inauthenticity, and the Europe herself, which increasingly looks like the more noble Third World. A xenophobic relation to the Otherrises from a long accumulated fear of small nations, afraid of being absorbed by great, imperial nations. A doubled boredom of isolation and self-isolation is forced upon the society, the people is sent into adventures, into the euphoric celebrati ons of war and peace. The return of the favorite figure of war corresponds to a desperate wish for a forced self-legitimization, for a new distribution on the world market of sovereignties. A staged war, that collective stage of death, has renewed the illusion of the great historical moment, in which death appears like a hero myth. In this locality, war campaigns and mass deaths quite frequently destroyed regular accumulation and transfonnation of the Life-world. A nationalist staging of war does all in its power for the imaginary and real death to enter the public scene and become a general equivalent of the social exchange. Frequent conflicts in the Balkans, in which Serbia has a dominant role, are a genuine testimony for a warrior culture, in which life is damaged if it is denied a heroic death.
An arrogant denial of the Western culture’s liberal achievements is built into the intellectual habitus of Serbian traditionalists. In the process, their secret admiration for fascism, as well as an anachronistic resentment towards democracy, have yet to be exposed. It seems that the nationalists of today, until recently internationalists, inherited from communism the most horrible scars and the worst consequences. They continuously and stubbornly resist a general modernization and do not want to be drawn into a liberal order, that provoked a strong expansion of democracy throughout the world. They are particularly cross when it comes to the human rights. Their superior indifference towards the juristic superiority of the West is fascinating. The Serbian elite likes unlimited and, if possible, uncontrolled, power. For them, the society is a diffuse archipelago of power that could localized in its historical, geographical, and, naturally, national specificity.
However, there is a global power of the New World Order, a more or less absolute, hegemonic power which secured better than ever. That imperial power acts in the name of liberal and democratic ideals, that it gene ralized through the power of law and, at the same time, through the law of power. The mystical foundation of the unconditional authority of the new world order is in the fact that it has, almost consensually, taken over the absolute right to right. Just because the original, initial consensus was not ideal, it has to function as it were ideal, until the real power of disagreement knocks it down. In a miraculous logic of aligning and a biased history of positioning, Serbia found itself on the other side. The founding violenceof the national order turned against the effective power of the new world order. An uneven struggle of powers is going on in that closed field. At the end of the 20th century, a burning national energy has ventured into a secret, and increasingly public, alliance against the New World Hegemonism. The conspiracy was not brought into being only to confront the lower forms of Government to the higher ones, to defend a peripheral (im)potency from the global potency. In a trans-political sense, the lan guage of conspiracy carries a ‘Vandering surplus of value” (Jacques Derrida), a promise that that which is hidden will still be there in the end. A conspiracy is like an incantation, it evokes a magician-like, magical fascination, it pushes away the doubt, it encourages and invokes the magic of salvation. Like the old European conspirators, the restorative forces of Serbdom believe that a long awaited salvation lies in an earthly flash of an ethnic community. The body of the nation, its tradition and culture, myths and Sittlichkeit, family and race, language and blood, and, finally, “the holy land,” bring back the memoryof the heroic times, removing the illusion through which the enemy fools us that we are in an ordered, quiet, rational world. Order, work, peace, justice, and order are rationalist ghosts, pragmatic magicof the new world order that intends to fascinate, seduce, cultivate, and neutralize us. Liberal freedoms and democratic laws, human rights and pacifism, sexual abuse and political correctness, are all rejected as post-colonial tricks. A cosmopolitan narration from the period of high modernity is distrusted. Quiet on the contrary, as the nationalist discourse commands, a fabula mundiis confronted to it.18 A great power of myths and a fountainhead of the folk language are renewed with the greatest enthusiasm. From the first Roman annalists, until the late Middle Ages, and perhaps even later, warned Michel Foucault, the pur pose of the heroic reciting of history was in emphasizing the power of might, and in intensifying of its splendor! Only an ecstatic return to religion, rituals, myths, and legends can revive an unrepeatable past and a unique present, to strengthen a spirit of national immanence. The earthly flash of the ethnic community does not tolerate transcendence, in which anyone who wishes can participate. The awakened patriotism enflamed the faith in people and fatherland in all the segments. An all-encompassing enthusiasm develops under the wing of a disturbing politicization of the Church, which drew the religious energy from her intensive reciprocity with the masses, which increasingly besieged and permeated her. In a pseudo-religious exaltation of the people, any interest for subjective mercy has objectively vanished. Moreover, mass participation of religious rituals greatly endangered a religious economy of the individual salvation. One recognizes a renewed interest for a canonic justification of the Christian suffering in the dogma, this time harnessed in the glory of the Nation. Rites and rituals are imbued with spiritual redemption for all the sufferings that were taken in by the demands of an established irrationality. The unheard of hospitality for the cruelty that represents itself as an advanced spirituality. This ethical and religious cynicism is hopelessly immature – that moral and spiritual inferiority is not in need ofjudges, but of international caretakers.
Political leaders and national leaders have once again abused people, tradition, and religion, so that the state could function in a safe ideological-mythical landscape. A special effort to reach a full symbolic dignity of a new state sovereignty was made by the Serbian nationalist “elite,” masked in an amoral robe of a soft nationalism. The Serbian intellectual elite, servile towards the government, hungry for glory and power, built an apology of “a newform of deceiving”, a frightening whirlwind of national language, a collective hum and murmur of voices that, like a storm, descended upon the society~ A linguistic roar and an auto-didactic noise has some time ago forced Barthes to serenely denounce language in general, and especially the one that forces to the constant speech, as a fascist one! A tectonic force of the liberated language and speech (that could be discerned only by the versed science-fiction readers!), murmur in parliaments and churches, fairs and seminars, streets, squares, and in the media, stigmatizes a society that is completely permeated with itself. A horrifying roar and noise is the basis of a linguistic policy of the storm troopers of the new world disorder. Those who were not enough brave to speak during communism, now are engulfed by a logo(dya)rea. A language of the past, tired of communist lies, exaltation, and futile announcing of the future, is now confronted by an illusionary language of the past. A Serbian sentence has become made of lead, and the newspeak cannot formulate even a most elementary sentence in the future tense. New language soothsayers in Serbia confront a prophetic language of the past, a quasimythological speech of the everywhere-denied-present, to the died out language of the future. That linguistic turn of the nationalists points to an internal cohesion between the bankruptcy of the utopian perspective, and a real-political metamorphosis long ago passionately announced, although unrealistic, promises of the future. A new conflict between the inability to promise and a necessity of the promise will once have to become the central issue of the Serbian language, and not just language, but the Serbian cause itself as well.19 For now, “the new forms of deception” are met with the same, mass reception, which could be interpreted by the history of a mentality, not by the history of rationality, with the history of gestures, not history of ideas.
The cultural space has become a stage for shamanistic rites, which produce everywhere tribalizing effects of the national sacrifice. The intellectuals have again usurped the place of culture, national heroes, who, like miraculous shamans, have the task to keep the nation in a collective trance. A national pedagogy insists on monotonous gestures and linear rhythms, organized around the endless dissemination of the ethnic. The whole society has become reduced to an ethnic substance20 – a tragic “victim’s discourse” is being created around it, stating that life is by itself suffering, both ontologically and anthropologically. Compared to a noble quest in the field of sorrow, mourning, great losses and defeats, which marks the classical epoch of the ecumenical tragedy, with Serbian “dramatists” the figure of suffering and pain acquires harsh overtones, which fill the citizens with horror, devastating fear, and revengeful hopelessness. A climate of distrust is spreading everywhere, a myth of the global world conflict of small tribal groups and large civilizational coalitions. According to the “victim’s discourse,” the world is the stage for ethnic and national groups, constantly watching for each other, under an ever-wide open eye and a constant threat of the New World Order. One could understand the mass response to the suicidal call of the Leader, a devastating support for the state-owned nationalism and chauvinism only in the background of this tragic discourse (by the way, there is no room for the comic, since it is as such incapable of bribing our consciousness, to flatter our sensibility!). Serbia’s cultural workers have tried to secure for the nationalist brutality a “convincing theoretical, literary, and philosophical cover.” Anyway, who could formulate more skillfally a program of national selfredemption than the intellectual elite of Serbia? Unlike Greek tragedy, which remained an elevated institution of the Greek society (albeit limited by a hegemony of its political order and state frame), there is nothing left behind Serbian “victim’s discourse” -just a pile of debris (and worn out biographies), witnessing that the nationalist storm had passed through. That horrific sight is the historical result of the “persuaded nation” which promised itself that it will make a greater Serbia out of the small one.
Baudrillard's name has become a general password of that "discourse of the end," the end of history or the end of a certain conceptof history, which marked the intellectual climate of the second half of the 20th century. A gloomy theme of the end of history, man, society, etc., acquired specifically French overtones since, forty years ago, Maurice Blanchotpublished his "La fin de la philosophie," No. 80, 1959. In Baudrillard's version, the idea of the end and the announcement of a new era of simulation, does not belong to ontology or epistemology, but to the area of the semiological function of the sign. In contrast to the Fukuyama's highly politicized version of the end, and which includes some American naiveté, Baudrillard speaks about the end of the linear discourse, about death of a dialectic of the sign and the signifier that enabled the accumulation of knowledge, the development of society and the progress of history. In other words, he announces disappearance and the end of an anachronistic reality discourse that belong to a classical epoch of the referential sign. In numerous reactions and comments, Baudrillard has rightfully been marked as a charismatic theorist of "the end of an epoch." See Douglas Kellner, "Jean Baudrillard in the Fin-de-Millenium," in Douglas Kellner (ed.), , pp. 1-23, Blackwell, Oxford, 1994, as well as Patrice Bolon's interview with Baudrillard, "Baudrillard's Seduction" ("I interpreted fatal strategies as a treatise on your own personal metamorphosis, a sort of Confessions of a fin-de-siècle intellectual"), in Make Gane (ed.), , p. 39, Routledge, London and New York, 1993.
For postmodernist, it is simply too late to oppose the momentum of industrial society. They merely resolve to stay alert and cool in its midst. Consciously complying and yet far from docile, they chronicle, amplify, augment it. They judge it as little as it judges itself. Determined to assail nothing, they are passionately impassive" (Henry S. Kariel, , p. ix, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1989). Baudrillard has often been criticized as being a theoretical and political defeatist: 'It then becomes possible, in a cynical 'left' wisdom, to celebrate this catatonic state as some cunning last ditch resistance to ideological meaning - to revel in the very spiritual blankness of the bourgeois order as a welcome relief from the boring old humanist nostalgia for truth, value and reality" (Terry Eagleton, , p. 38, Verso, London, 1991).
Post-communist Serbia has become a perverted addressee of the post-Marxist Baudrillard. A hypertrophied abuse of simulation points to the environment in which nationalism turns out to be the highest stage of communism. Although in his early phase, marked by the books (1968) and (1970), Baudrillard formulated his concept on "consummation of objects as consummation of codes," he still used the arguments within the materialist paradigm. Being a Marxist, he claimed that "the reproduction of the ways of production depends on the expansive consummation." Somewhat later, in the book (1972), Baudrillard made a visible steep away from Marxism, although one could still notice traces of the Tel Quel group and influences of the intellectual community gathered around the journal Utopie, in the sociological analyses of the structural aspects of the sign. The real turnaround is marked by the book (1976), published at the same time when Baudrillard, together with Paul Virilio, founded a new theoretical journal, . This book marks the definitive break with Marxism. Logic of the political economy of the sign does not belong to the economic order any more, but to a simulation model. A hyperreal world of the self-referential signs functions as a mobile diagnostic paradigm for future analyses. A substitutive logic of the sign abolishes the intrinsic connection between the signifier and the signifig and the image of a society is presented as a sign hologram, where in each individual segment one could see the whole of the coded society. The central Baudrillard's claim in this period is that "the objects have become signs whose value is determined by the cultural codes." See Gary Genosko, , p. xiii, Routledge, London, 1994.
Pre-modern organic community, just like the "postmodem non-community," is an answer to the social panic facing challenges of the radical modernization and secularization. These are phobic systems that react with an implosion ("sudden decrease of the volume of some body due to the external pressure"!) or an explosion ("bang, tearing apart, bursting") to the fear of separation(rationalization as differentiation!), The defensive retreat, just like the offensive advance, are anti-phobic mechanisms of the endangered systems which have"phantasm of a lost community"or "retrospective awareness on a lost community.", "What this community has 'lost'- the immanence and intimacy of a communion - is lost in the sense that such a 'loss' is constitutive of 'community' itself"(see Jean Luc Nancy, , p. 12, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1991).
Charles Levin, Prentice Hall, harvester Wheatsheaf, London, New York, 1996. Symbolic spaces of the endangered environments produce a specific "metaphysical culture," whose aim is organize singular, frustrated and phobic social forms into a solid and stable community. Marquis de Sade denounced this collectivist maneuver by noting that each phantasm of a community "ends in a Republic of Crimes."This is valid both for an entropic community, such as Serbia, as well as a turbulent community, such as America. In that regard, we could interpret Baudrillard as a theorist of a phobic, panic community, as a panic theorist. See Jean Baudrillard, "Panic Crash!" in Arthur Kroker, Marylouise Kroker and David Cook (eds.), , p. 67, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1989.
From the chapter "Metaphysics of the Referent: In Baudrillard's terms, every time there is signification, there is lying, for the reason that what is real is an effect of the sign, and thus, every referent is an alibi: signification simulates reference to a real state because no real states correspond to the sign" (Gary Genosko, , p. 40, Routledge, London and New York, 1994).
At least in part, Jean Baudrillard's popularity comes from his writing talent, a theoretical prose that was often subject to appraisals and criticism: "Baudrillards Schreffien hat die monotone Dynamik eines Rauches. Das soll nicht heffien, daB dar Leiser sich immer betrunken vorkornmen miffite, wenn er aufwacht - es gibt Passagen von außerordentlicher Luzidität -, aber dieses Schreiben lebt doch ganz von seinem Sog und davon, daß seine Spirale immer enger und zwingender wird. Werm Baudrillard von "scwarzen Löchem" spricht, so gibt er, scheinbar von Gegenständen sprechend, das Herz und Geheimnis seines, eigenen Schreibens preis." ("Baudrillard's writing has a monotonous dynamics of enthusiasm. That does not mean that a reader always has to feel enthusiastic, when rousing himself, he can see that there are passages of extraordinary lucidity - although this writing lives fully off the whirlpool it creates, and from the fact that its spiral is becoming narrower and steeper. When Baudrillard mentions 'black holes,' then apparently discussing objects, he leaves the heart and the secret of his own writing." Wolfgang Welsch, Jean Baudrillard oder Indifferenz und Hypertelie - Posthistorie statt Postmoderne," in his book , pp. 152-153, VCH Acta humaniora, Weinheim, 1991)
There is a point of disagreement between Baudrillard's opponents and critics. The objection relates to the claim that a "radical semiotization of reality"has put into doubt the objective parameters based on which we could establish a precise difference between the real and the fictitious. See William Bogard, "Sociology in the Absence of the Social," 12-13, p. 232, 1987. The epistemological status of the "new field of reference" is analyzed in the book by Solomon Fischer, , Garland Publishers, New York, 1988.
Umberto Eco pointed to the structural difference between the hyperreal Disneylandand the surreal Fantasylandin his book , pp. 1-59, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, London, 1986. Mike Gane pointed to the difference between the extremes and the extremities: "Baudrillard must be read in this context. His project must be regarded as an assault on the 'disenchanted' world from the point of view of a militant of the symbolic (enchanted but cruel) cultures. In this he is prepared to appear in theory as a terrorist, as seducer, as devil's incubus. His latest essay, , 1990, has as its epigraph (in English) 'since the world drives to a delirious state of things, we must drive to a delirious point of view'. He adds: 'll faut mieux perir par les extrêmes que par les extremités'. This can be taken as a basic Baudrillardian maxim: 'better to perish by extremes than by extremities.' Baudrillard is a cruel, theoretical extremist, and must be read accordingly." Mike Gane, , p. 7, Routledge, London and New York, 1991.
In his text "The World According to Jean Baudrillard," Zygmunt Bauman suggested that the difference between the simulational models could be reduced to "the difference between the contactual and the contractual world (, p. 152, Routledge, London, 1992). While one model almost atavistically develops a pseudo-organic community living off the force of the ethnic self-identification, the other model installs a contractual screenplay within which all the social forms are arbitrary, all the roles contextual, and all the relations contingent. The first model belongs to the oral, tactile culture, and the other one to the literate, contractual culture. The first one is local, static, and down-to-earth ("Familiar Territory"), and the other one is global, dynamic, and extra-territorial ("Indifferent Space").
"The trouble when people stop believing in God is not that they thereafter believe in nothing; it is that they thereafter believe in everything"(Walter T. Anderson, , p. 187, Harper, San Francisco, 1990).
Proliferation of the simulational models arose from the strategic needs of the US military industry. Models have been operationalized based on precise mathematical calculations, and they do not tolerate old cultural codes. A permanent expansion of "War Games" ("Kriegsspiel") is connected with a spectacular advance of high technology and digital culture. In a symbolic sense, virtual wars (Cyberwars) represent continuation of war through the means of simulation. In that sense, " 'simulation' also has the obvious advantage of sounding more serious than 'gaming,' and of carrying more of a high-tech, scientific connotation than modeling" (James Derian, "Simulation: The Highest Stage of Capitalism?", in Douglas Kellner [ed.], , p. 193, Blackwell, Oxford, 1994).
Terry Eagleton, "Local and Global," in , Nos. 1-2, p. 211, Belgrade, 1996.
The mimetic operations (Mimesis - "Production of similarity") produce symbolic imitation, imitation, not transformation. In that regard, mimetic processes have a conservation effect: "Mimetic processes are not unequivocal; they are better understood as ambivalent. Mimesis leads one to adapt to destroyed environments and processes of simulation. The aestheticization of the world is continued in the images of mass media, which are related mimetically to presupposed realities. They create ostensible or constructed realities, change and absorb them; images are miniaturized and accelerated in video form; they become a surrogate experience of reality. Realities are not becoming images here, but images are becoming realities; a plurality of image-realities come into being. Distinctions between realities, images, and fictions break down. The world appears subject to a making in images. Images come into mimetic relation with other images. Floods of images drown the imagination and cancel the inaccessibility and oppositionality of the Other." Gunter Gebauer and Christoph Wulf (eds.), , p. 2, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1992.
Jean Baudrillard, , edited by Nicholas Zurbrugg, Sage, London, 1997. The defeatist overtones in recent analyses of art and aesthetics have led critics to conclude that Baudrillard became a prisoner of the "dark authors of citizenry," Nietzsche in the first place: 'Ve have argued that Baudrillard is a controversial figure. Baudrillard provokes, unsettles, continues to annoy In some respect, Baudrillard's style and impact are not unlike the Nietzsche of ( ... ) which is wonderfully rich in provocative metaphors, maxims and morals. The word "gay" in might also be translated as "joyful" or "blithe", but these terms do not catch the feeling of exuberance in Nietzsche's language. Perhaps, Blissful Knowledgemight be a possible translation. Despite Baudrillard's interest in fatefulness, there is also an exuberant, playful, destructive aspect to Baudrillard's reflections on the simulations of the modem world. Perhaps, Baudrillard's oeuvre in respect might be regarded as a fröhliche Theorieas much as a fatal one" (Chris Rojek and Bryan Turner (eds.), , p. xvi, Routledge, London and New York, 1993.
he analysis of a disbalance of world economic power usurped by the USA is in the core of the criticism of the new world order, delivered by Noam Chomsky in three lectures at the American University in Cairo in May 1993 (Noam Chomsky, , Columbia University Press, New York, 1994). Another book by Chomsky, , Odonian Press, Berkeley, 1986 (, Institut za evropske politicke studije, Beograd, 1995) became a manual for the nationalist showdown with America and the new world order in Serbia.
Jean Baudrillard, , pp. 48-49, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1994. Baudrillard also writes: "The West, naive as ever, believes it is resented for its power and wealth and, even more nalvely, believes in the compatibility of all cultures. But even when the 'others' seem to be demanding their share of the cake, this is still an allegorical way of desiring its death" (ibid., p. 49).
"According to the first, it is the present that makes sense of the past, thereby also, inevitably, making it into a work of art; according to the second, it is the past - but an artificial past, a fabula mundi- that gives meaning of the present" (Leszek Kolakowski, , p. 243, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990.
According to Peter Sloterdijk, the crisis of the prophetic future has marked German language following the Second world war:" Nothing could have been promised in German any more - as the language of predictions, the German was severely damaged, and in its power to announce the future destroyed as much as the German cities" (quoted from Peter Sloterdijk, , p. 141,Decje novine, Gornji Milanovac, 1991).
Johan Georg Reissmüller, , Verlag den Buchladen, Berlin, 1993; Urs Altermatt, , Verlag Neue Züricher Zeitung, Zürich, 1996.
Published 28 February 2002
Original in English
First published by Belgrade Circle Journal
Contributed by Belgrade Circle Journal © Obrad Savic / Belgrade Circle Journal / EurozinePDF/PRINT
Three years after the mass anti-regime protests in Belarus, the pro-Russian state continues to brutally repress all expressions of national identity. But people have not forgotten their experiences in 2020 and believe that Belarus’s long history of foreign rule is nearing its end.