Saturday, November 17, 2007

A dialogue on Conservatives, Serbs, and Albanians

Well, I'm afraid I didn't get much response to my posting last weekend asking why it seems that for so many "Conservatives", being Pro-Serb and Anti-Albanian is part and parcel of being a "true" Conservative. But one response I did get, from a Croatian Serb blogger who grew up in England named Alan Jaksic, I found particularly interesting, and so I decided to post it here, as well as my response to the writer's points.


Alan Jakšić said...

Hi there Peshkatari, or Mirdita!

Dobro Dan, Alan. :) (I think that's how you say "miredita" in Serbo-Croatian.)

I'm the writer of the Balkan Anarchist blog, which you can visit here.

Thank you for the link. I must give you credit-you do write an interesting and articulate blog. I'm somewhat familiar with Anarchism, thanks both to a lifelong interest in politics, as well as being involved in my local hardcore punk scene for a time about 25 years ago. I can't say that I honestly support anarchism (though I've known many fine folks who support and advocate it), but that's because after 46 years of living on this planet, I've seen enough to more than convince me that human beings are nowhere even near ready to handle such a concept.

I've been to your blog before, and you present lots of realistic views and opinions. However, what I find rather unpalattable is your far-reaching condemnation of the pro-Serb side when it comes to Kosovo, or Kosova as you call it.
Thank you for the kind compliments! I do need to say that actually, if you've read my blog entries throughly, you've probably noticed that in reality, I've written very little about the Kosova (I trust you will not mind me refering to it as such, as that is I am comfortable with and used to, just as I would would expect you to refer to it as "Kosovo") independence issue. To wit, to the best of my recollection, I have only a couple of times explicitly addressed the matter of Kosova independence in this blog. While I most definitely do support independence, my advocacy on behalf of that matter is not the primary focus of this blog. Rather, its purpose has been, from the "get-go", to refute slanders, lies, and half-truths against the Albanian people as a people, as perpetrated by various Serbian (and Greek) Nationalists and their supporters, as well as hypocritical and disingenous manipulations of both evidence and arguments by them designed to make out the Serbian (and/or Greek) people to be wholly "angelic" in comparison to the "evil", "barbaric", "nazi-islamo-fascistic" Albanian-an effort that I honestly believe goes far beyond a "mere" attempt to sway opinion on Kosova independence.

Something else I should point out: I have always tried to make clear that I feel there's a difference between "The Serbs" (or "Normal Serbs", as my occasional contributor Francois refers to them) and "Serbian Nationalists". I do not believe that all Serbs are Nationalists; in fact, I know this is not the case. Which is why I have even made positive posts on Serbs who are trying to escape/working against "the old hatreds" and Nationalism. On the rare occcasion when I do use the term "The Serbs", it is usually meant to reflect the point of view of the "Haters", rather than my own, since they seem quite unable, or more likely unwilling, to differentiate between "Serbs" and "Serb Nationalists". Such was the case of the title of the post you responded to, in fact (something I should have made clearer, but evidently erroniously assumed I didn't need to).

Ok, some of the protagonists of that camp may say things that are either factually incorrect or perhaps convey facts in an incorrect manner. But those members of the public who oppose Kosovo independence, however much you may personally justify it, do deserve some form of decent representation at the very least. And there are moderate advocates out there who do just that without having to apologising for Milosevic. Do have a look.

All due respect Alan, but I think you are putting it waaay too mildly when you say "some of the protagonists of that camp may say things that are factually incorrect or perhaps convey facts in an incorrect manner". I trust you have visited at least some of the websites and blogs of the "Haters", such as Svetlana Novko or Julia Gorin? If you have, then surely you have seen how practically all of them have tried to demonise the Albanians as a nation, i.e. as a people. Finding stories about Albanians engaged in any sort of misdeed, even half a world away, and making it out like "they're all like that", refering to the Albanian people as a people as being "beasts" and worse isn't just "saying things that are factually incorrect" or "conveying facts in an incorrect manner"; it's a cold, calculated attempt by way of using misinformation, "spin", and half-truths to foster misunderstanding, mistrust, and even downright hatred of an ethnic group en toto!

To answer your other point, I have never said that the Serbian government or Serbs (Nationalist or not) have no right to have their "side of the issue" represented. As a strong free speech advocate, I am a firm believer in both sides being able to express their take on that matter, or all sides on any matter to begin with. (And no, being opposed to Kosova independence does not make one a priori a "Hater" in my book, BTW.) And there may well be relatively "moderate" arguments out there for why Kosova should remain a part of Serbia forevermore. But all of them overlook, IMO, two things. One is history. The oppression and violence that took place under Milosevic was not the first time Albanians had suffered such things on the instigation of Belgrade. I'm sure you're aware of Aleksander Rankovic's using his post to conduct an ongoing vendetta against the Albanians of Yugoslavia (part of why Tito eventually sacked him in 1966), the mass killings of Albanians who resisted Communism in the Drenica Valley in 1945-46, and of course the attempts at outright genocide during the First and Second Balkan Wars. The other is political reality. Let's be honest: No matter what promise Belgrade makes, it could be swept away (and probably would be) in a heartbeat should the Stranka Radikala gain a majority of seats in parliament, and thus the primeminister's office. As long as a good many of the Serbian electorate still view Seslj and Nikolic, Karadzic and Mladic as heroes, and the SRS as potential national saviors, no Albanian within the bounds of Kosova can feel safe as long as it remains even nominally a part of Serbia, no matter what is promised.
And why add "New Serbian Optimism" to your list of haters? Ok, I've seen the YouTube video on their site, and let me assure you that I don't agree with everything worded in that film. But that is a site devoted to bolstering the positive side of Serbia in the world of sport; there's nothing wrong with "tooting Serbia's horn", as you put it, "over any sort of sport achievement". That's the best way to promote any country and nation!
Two reasons I added New Serbian Optimism to the Haters list. The first, as you rightly guessed, is the disingenous video Moler (the blogger who's blog that is) did on why Kosova is an illegitimate version of the Serbian name "Kosova". By his argument, the name London for the capital city of the UK is also illegitimate, since it is a corruption of the Roman name "Londinium", and means nothing in the English language. What he overlooks (deliberately IMO) is that Kosova is the proper way to say "Kosovo"-according to the rules of the Albanian language. (But then, I suspect if you asked him, he would likely say, like Seslj, that Albanians living in Serbia should speak only Serbian, and in fact, should identify culturally and ethnically as Serbs only. ;-) )

The other is because he, like Svetlana Novko of Byzantine Sacred Art Blog, takes such an over-the-top, "in your face, world!" attitude when "tooting" that aforementioned "horn". To be honest, I'd find it annoying even if I was totally neutral on Balkan affairs or Kosova/Kosovo. And no, I have no problem per se with a people being proud of their nation's or countrymen's sporting achievements-but like a lot of Americans, I find such hubristic trumpeting of it to be distasteful at the very least.

I notice where you mention in the article how you first heard from the "Pro-Serb/Anti-Albanian Conservative" crowd only in 2004. May I remind you that 2004 was the year in which the 17th March pogrom in Kosovo took place, followed later in that year by the November presidential elections in America between George Bush and John Kerry, who basically gave his support for an independent Kosovo. So it's not surprising that the anti-independence voice started to become louder at that time.

Yes, but as I said, I later discovered that at least a few of the "Haters" on the "right" were active well before that point-including people like Gorin and Feder. Also, I have real problems with calling the violence that took place in Kosova after the drowning deaths of the three lads in the Ibar a "pogrom", since usually a pogrom is a deliberate, well planned and organised act of racial/ethnic violence. And while there does appear to be evidence that some of the violent acts that took place at that time by Albanians were instigated by opportunistic political groups, taking advantage of a high tension situation where all the facts were not yet "in" at the time, a good bit of it also appears to have been a spontanious response. (Note: However much I may understand the emotions that were running through the Albanian community in Kosova at the time, I denounced then and continue to denounce the violent reaction to the incident, especially in light of the fact that all of the facts surrounding the incident were not yet known at the time. IMO, it was both a horrific thing from a moral standpoint, and a counterproductive thing from a practical/political one.)

You ask why so many Conservatives support Serbia and the Serbs, in your opinion, "so vociferously". I say why not, why not support Serbia and the Serbs? Is it a criminal offence to oppose Kosovo independence? I certainly don't think so. And is it so wrong to support a nation that, let's face it, has been so manipulated and grossly mislead by its many idiotic leaders during the 1990s, like the one mentioned above and the one you mention here? I think precisely such a people, like the Serbs, deserve and actually need, hear me out, need the support of other nations, even if some of its own members clearly don't deserve it.

To reiterate, I do not consider myself to be "Anti-Serb" or "Anti-Serbian", and I do differentiate between "Serbs" and "Serb Nationalists". And when I used the term "Pro-Serb", I meant to have that understood as representing the viewpoint of the "Haters"; that THEY see THEMSELVES as "Pro-Serb" and "Pro-Serbian", and not simply "Pro-Serbian Nationalist". And I have no problem with Europe, "The West", etc. trying to support those whose vision for Serbia is one of a country that is fully integrated with the rest of Europe on all levels. But that is not what the "Haters" are supporting-in many cases, they are voiciferously and vehemnently opposed to it, as should be obvious to anyone reading their writings. They do not support "Serbia", they support "Serbian Nationalism". And that issue goes back far further into history than Milosevic or Seslj. It's a legacy that goes back at least to Ilia Garasanin, if not even further.

You condemn those who are "pro-Serb" and "anti-Albanian". Instead, how about you ask yourself, and your readers in turn, do you have to be "anti-Serbian" to be "pro-Albanian"?

To answer your question in short, no. But to be honest, I see a lot less polemic coming from Albanian sites and blogs (in fact virtually none) against the Serbs as a people in comparison to the hate-filled rants I see from Serbian bloggers towards Albanians as a people. Everybody in the Balkans has baggage to overcome before there is a chance for peace to "break out", but I'll be both blunt and honest: IMO, I think the Serbian and Grecian peoples have a lot more of that work ahead of them than the Albanians do.

I certainly ain't anti-Albanian myself, I can tell you that for sure.

Do visit my website when you can Peshkatari. I hope to write and post a decent and balanced article on Kosovo soon. And please don't add me to your list of haters, 'cause I don't hate any nation under the sun.

Alan, I have no intention of putting you or your blog on the "Haters" list :-), and I do believe you when you say you're not "Anti-Albanian" (I highly doubt you would have greeted me in Albanian if you were!). And you are welcome to post a response to things here anytime. We may not agree on certain things, but at least you are a reasonable voice-and I can deal with reasonable disagreements a lot better and easier than I can unreasonable ones!

1 comment:

Alan Jakšić said...

Hey Peshkatari,

I just found this new blog post tonight as I was checking for anything new on the blog post I originally contributed to. And I must say I'm honoured to have my comment to one of your posts receive an entire blog post devoted to it! Thank you very much.

And it's "Dobar dan", meaning "Good day" like "Mirëdita" in Albanian.

I'm glad that you admire my work at my blog, and in fact I've just posted my own article on Kosovo tonight, or Kosova according to Albanian pronunciation. In it I do make clear that I do not support independence for Kosovo, but unlike the "haters" you expose in your blog, I don't blame the West wholesale for the causes of the problems that the people of Kosovo face today. And of course, I show that I at least respect the right of the Kosovo Albanians to want independence, even if I don't personally support such a conviction.

Ok, I understand that your site is not devoted to discussing the Kosovo issue! Same with mine.

You'll see that I provide the reader with my own Anarchist views with regard to the issue. I do like your opinion on Anarchism, and it does look as though "human beings are nowhere even near ready to handle such a concept".

Thanks for clarifying your opinion with regards to "Normal Serbs" and "Serb Nationalists". Differentiating between the civilians, who are often subjected to many influences, from those who engage in influencing people (they can be either positive or negative influences!) is actually a very important thing for us to be able to do in the modern world.

Yes, I am rather euphemistic when explaining some things, as you've very much pointed out! But having lived in England for so long, ie. the "land of Political Correctness" so to speak, it's kind of rubbed off on me! Which is why I'm rather careful with my words. In my opinion, my part of the world would be better off with more of it, and specifically geared towards fostering an atmosphere of tolerance in those societies.

I must tell you that I'm not particularly familiar with Aleksandar Rankovic. I know that fighting continued in Kosovo well after WWII was over, but not in great detail. But I do know that when Serbia expelled the Ottomans from Kosovo that Albanians were brutally victimized by Serbian troops as was recorded at the time. That I am aware of. And it was Dimitrije Tucovic who famously spoke out against that, saying those immortal words, "Serbia not only doubled its territory, but also its external enemies". How unfortunately very true. (I don't go so far into history in my article; I mostly concentrate on the present with reminders of the 80s and 90s!)

So yes, we will agree to disagree on some things. Nevertheless, we have shown through our writing how civil discourse can be applied to and also should prevail when discussing controversial issues regarding the Balkans and relating to its particular nations.

All the best and tungjatjeta (I know what that means as well)!