Slavenka Drakulić on Tackling the Virus of Nationalism

Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulić, whose work for most of the past two-and-a-half decades has focused largely on the 1990s conflict in Yugoslavia, in conversation with Ángel Villarino in an interview for Spain’s El Confidencial (via Eurozine) on the rise of nationalism in Yugoslavia and any parallels in today’s crisis in Catalonia:

How was it at the very beginning? How did the situation start to become critical?

The media were crucial in this process of creating the enemy. My colleagues – journalists and writers, intellectuals and academics – were willing participants in the nationalist propaganda; they were either true believers or opportunists. You have to know that, learning from history, you must first identify the enemy. This is what nationalist propaganda is all about. It is easier if there is an historical enemy, if there were earlier conflicts that you can built on – like WWII in the case of Serbs and Croats. With the help of elements of history (‘ancient enemies’) plus myths and half-truths, you can create an explosive emotional mixture. Ideology, it seems, can overcome economic interest and reason. We all underestimate the power of emotions. At the bottom of these emotions is fear, fear that ‘the enemy’ would, in this case, take your territory. If the nationalist propaganda manages to create fear in people, then the main step towards the conflict is taken, the main obstacle overcome.

After the first bloodshed, the conflict becomes real. The smell of blood is the trigger for the real confrontation. But even that is not real war, because at the beginning the victims are few, so they are still individuals: we know their names. My definition of war is that it starts when there are so many victims that we no longer know their names. War starts when victims become anonymous.

Read the rest. The original interview in El Confidencial (08 Oct).

 

To delve further into Drakulić’s works, check out her 1993 collection of essays, ‘The Balkan Express‘, and her 1999 novel, ‘As If I Am Not There‘.

 

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