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May 15, 1999
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 10-Special

Harold Pinter and Pinteroids

Fate is smiling upon the great British dramatist Harold Pinter, giving him the welcome opportunity of becoming an honorary member of the Serbian Writers' Association (UKS).  The daily newspaper "Politika" claims that on last Saturday's session of the UKS, the members of the Association already voted him in, while "Blic" daily writes that he was merely proposed for membership: in any case, if he eventually does get an official offer, we should not be surprised if this man, in his boundless generosity, accepts the offer.
This is certainly not bad news, for the "joining" of Pinter to the UKS, on a symbolic level, would mean the same thing as the appearance of Gascoigne under the stripes of the Football Club of Cukarica: that is to say, the "specific weight" of this dramatist, both aesthetic and moral, is such that he could easily outweigh the majority of the UKS membership put together.  However, I fear that a major misunderstanding is at issue which, if it is not cleared up, could cause a considerable amount of discomfort in the future.  That is why it is worth taking this up right now in the same way that a priest at a wedding ceremony asks if anyone present has anything to say against the marriage of the newlyweds which is about to take place: if there is, let him speak before it's too late, otherwise, let him remain silent for all time.

BURLESQUE ELEMENT: Beside the fact that he is one of the most significant playwrights of the latter half of this century, Harold Pinter is also a serious and responsible man, a public personality who fights with passion and principles, most often against popular opinion, standing up for his own beliefs and defending values he believes in, even when the popular mediocrity (in the name of human rights, of course) believes that he should be burned at the stake.  Now Harold Pinter is waging a crusade against NATO, above all against the American-British military intervention in the FRY, explaining to everyone willing to listen to him that this is a bullying, infantile, irresponsible and illegitimate act which not only will not solve the many problems already existing in the Balkans, but will in fact multiply them.  Pinter is by no means alone in this in the "intellectual community" of Europe and the World, for similar positions are held by Georg Konrad, Claudio Magris, Pierre Vidal-Nake and may others.  A lot of sympathy in this (bombed) country has arisen for Pinter and other writers who speak out and write, which is only understandable: when you are being beaten into pulp, you're glad to hear someone admonish the culprits!  Especially if that someone is not personally threatened or has some ulterior motive (of a political or financial nature) for defending you.  The problem with the sudden jump in the value of intellectual stocks belonging to Pinter (and others) on our stock (black?) market is in the suspect purity of the motives and the even more suspect ability for

nderstanding Pinter's position by those who are celebrating him as the newly discovered "friend of the Serbs."  Namely, this British gentleman is no island- variety Daniel Salvatore Fisher, and is not peddling some traveling circus around Europe in the search of some forgotten people which he will love publicly and which, in return, will celebrate him even more publicly.  He is famous enough without needing such eccentric excesses.  As a British citizen and English language writer, Harold Pinter is publicly and uncompromisingly fighting against his government's actions abroad (as well as those of its overseas ally), standing up in this way against military violence wherever and in the name of whatever it might crop up.  At the same time both Pinter and Konrad, and all other intellectuals worthy of their reputations, never miss the opportunity to point out how much they are against the policies taken in Yugoslavia, including those concerning the Albanian national minority.  Our press wisely glosses over this point, and since many of those who are now leading the UKS who out of patriotic precautions did not want to learn any foreign language (in order not to come under dangerous influences), and who think that the Internet is a clever imperialist ploy for the spiritual murder of the Serbian National Being, it is quite understandable that they are not sufficiently familiar with this.  In this deficit of information they draw conclusions which are tragicomic, in this way increasing the elements of the burlesque that much more.  Sooner or later, this could lead to serious conflicts between the uninformed hosts and the quickly-promoted "friends."

These are difficult times, and this is a difficult matter: intellectuals who think critically about this cowboy-like military intervention in which the political-military establishment of the West managed to ruin everything it lay its hands on and to create chaos in everything it supposedly stands for, are responsible individuals who believe that they should say that their countries should not fight a battle against violence and violators by dramatically increasing violence and by promoting violators into "brave protectors of their nations."  They are not led by any sympathy or lack of sympathy for any single people, but rather they are governed by their beliefs and conscience.  There is no reason to believe that Pinter and others would not have responded with equal force had NATO attacked, let us say, Albania or Croatia with this kind of enthusiasm.  That is why the calls to reason coming from them are as clean as a whistle.

BARBECUING HUMAN FLESH: On the other hand, let us see how things used to stand with regard to war and violence with the self-proclaimed friends of Pinter at the Association's address.  Many Serbian intellectuals, writers, scientist and journalists should be proud of the fact that in the most difficult times, confronting not only the authorities but also crazed public opinion and heated street sentiments, they spoke out honorably, reasonably and bravely against the sadistic three-year siege of Sarajevo, against the destruction of Vukovar, the siege of Dubrovnik, against forced ethnic separations in Bosnia, etc.  However, the numbers of such people were the fewest at the Serbian Writers' Association; on the contrary, such people were subjected to a lot of mudslinging from the Association, being called traitors, fifth columnists, foreign sycophants and abortions (beside the fact that their reputations have been ruined and that to this very day everything they say is subject to suspicion).  While Sarajevo went without electricity and water for three years (and not three days!), while it went hungry and thirsty, while its people were at the same time burnt and froze to death, the gentlemen (and occasionally ladies, also) at the USK strained to spin patriotic tunes through Belgrade, gamboling with Karadzic on the hills of Pale, and not resisting to celebrate the "sacred fire" which is burning a city.  Therefore, they were not like Pinter against violent actions by their regime, but instead tried to add more fire to the Balkan human barbecue!  And now they want to "forge ties" with Pinter and others, thinking that such people are of their ilk!?  Only a granite coalition of amorality could have caused these people to think that there is something for them in this entire story, and that they can be on par with intellectuals who uphold moral principles, above all standing up against any kind of state and military violence, and not against "our people" and "their people", against the "correct" and the "incorrect", against "Serb" and "non-Serb" ethnic groups.  Had NATO in this insane war only killed the three-year-old Milica in Batajnica   whereas in fact, by now many hundreds of innocent people got killed in it   that would have been enough for this war (in fact any war, for that matter) to be condemned as an unthinkable crime; Harold Pinter knows that his country and his government killed Milica, and is not willing to accept this, let alone to sadistically applaud Our Brave Boys who are courageously killing children sitting on chamber pots; and how many Milicas   or Munevras, does it matter?   were killed in Sarajevo (Zvornik, Srebrenica, Brko, or wherever you like) in "our" name, while these false pinteroids from the Writers' Association did not find it appropriate to say anything, let alone write something of the sort about the behavior of their country, in the way Pinter has done: "we are criminals guilty of murder."  And what if fact were our false pinteroids doing at the time?  The same things as Jamie Shea, the Spokesman: they treated all such murder as unavoidable, collateral damage of an otherwise absolutely just Serbian National Dream.  "Oops, Sorry," is all that Jamie has to say when reporters confront him with the daily murder tally.  These guys were unable to say even that much.  What's more, all those who warned them of the fate of Milicas or Munevras of Sarajevo and elsewhere were summarily branded hired traitors.  Now, when the hurly burly of war is at their doorstep, overnight they remembered that war   what a surprise!   is a very unpleasant thing: it kills people!

The bloody history of the 90's in the Balkans is in fact a grim history of their wallowing in the scum of morality, an unbecoming fascination with "a just war for our cause" and fitting ethnic exclusiveness which competed in rhetoric with the same ethnic exclusiveness of neighboring peoples (no less amoral, only less well militarily equipped at the time).  That is why all tugging at the sleeves of Pinter and other serious people is merely shameful, cowardly parasitism of their reputations, so slimy and disgusting that one can only turn ones head away in order not look at someone else's dirty laundry, like some voyeur.  All those who were so loud when it came to proclaiming witch hunts (in epic couplets) for all those who think differently, in the same way that pound men go after stray dogs, have about as much in common with Pinter and others like him, as the cheerful Jamie Shea has with Shakespeare.  The dog pound in fact is their spiritual and moral equal.

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