Šefik Šeki Tatlić
SOCIAL PERVERSION IN THE PROCESS OF TRANSITION – THE CASE OF CROATIA
The two most popular Croatian daily newspapers, Jutarnji list and Večernji list, attacked the new Croatian Minister of Defense, Branko Vukelić, because he, as the newspapers found out, used to declare himself at the beginning of the 1980s in Yugoslavia… as Yugoslavian. Jutarnji list published those “news” on the front page with the screaming title “He declared himself as Yugoslavian,” illustrating this “shocking” claim with the picture of an obscure facsimile, where it was possible to see that Vukelić under “nationality” really did write “Yugoslavian.” Reactions by the minister to these “accusations” consisted of pathetic excuses that he was Croatian after all, etc; they consisted primarily in indulging the readers of the newspaper. His reaction was in fact a typical reaction in Croatia, in situations when somebody is “accused” of having “bad” blood, which can be (depending on the political trend) any blood that follows an ethnic sense from Slovenians, to Serbians, to Bosnians or Jews, or can be based on other “sins,” such as being atheist, homosexual, socialist… Croatia can be seen as a great subject of analysis of the dominant forms of organization of the social in countries that are to be integrated into the great Euro-Atlantic community, and it presents similarities to the dominant social forms within the countries of the First Worlds of capital as well. We can also extend these Croatian features onto other colonies of capital in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia like Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. In a situation when even the right-wing Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica), under pressure from the EU, has masked its nationalistic rhetoric with fairy-tales about a “European future,” Jutarnji list continues to keep their sales high by promoting chauvinist, nationalistic “values.” As far as I know, the only appropriate reaction to such a situation has come from the Feral Tribune, a newspaper that is seen as one of the few, rare critical and counter-media spaces in Croatia.
Love thine enemy
Marina Gržinić1, in her recent analysis of the types of contemporary social totalitarianism, lists four possible types. The whole idea of this classification is to see the relations between archaic, dogmatic, nationalist/chauvinist domains that are “experiments of the social” within neoliberal capitalist societies today. The first type to be given credit, is what she, referring to Henry Krips, terms as the “hysterical exclusive neoliberal populist type.” As it is written by Gržinić: “The hysterical exclusive neoliberal populist type that I am drawing in reference to the theoretician Henry Krips, coincides with a type, in which ‘the enemy,’ identified with a persistent virus or scum within the social body, is excluded. The hysterical exclusive neoliberal populist type, in contrast with the classical liberal populist type, forms a ‘people’ by identifying an enemy that people can actively exclude rather than dispute…. Krips stated that the hysterical form of institutional totalization maintains an aggressive discourse of social division; the division in question does not divide society into two antagonistic camps in the strict sense (as was the case with classical liberal capitalism) as the neoliberal exclusive type, the other camp does not exist, so to speak; it is nullified through exclusion.”2 Why call this type of society “hysteric exclusive”? As Gržinić explains, the subject of clinical hysteria recognizes its symptom, puts it at the center of attention, but does not take responsibility for it.
In the case of Croatia, its dominant majority3 similarly recognizes its symptom, (the declaration of who the enemy is, shifts according to the needs of the moment, it can be Serbians, Jews, Bosnians, Slovenians, homosexuals…), but refuses to take responsibility to “clear up” this relation towards its own identity that dictates a relation towards an other, therefore, itself. In such a way, it allows seeing the “enemy” in every possible threat, which works hard to destroy “the people and the state.” This of course implies other people as a threat, which results in a re-actualization of xenophobic/chauvinist concepts with which the dominant majority identifies with. Therefore, an enemy as a figure must be reinvented constantly as a kind of virtual threat; it must function as the unconscious, cohesive material for the social body, which procures meaning to its dogmatism, basing it on this enemy figure. The constant reinvention of an enemy prevents it, however, from coming “closer” to the main social body. This neo-liberal point of view is the sine qua non of today’s global social sensibility that bases its archaic sensibility – cannibalized by capital and covered with a glaze of modernity – in order to mask precisely its archaic structure. In Croatia, this type of the social is “reflected,” among other things, through the answers to recently popular public poll questions such as “To whom do Croatians believe the most, and who is the least corrupted?” The answer in most cases is “the army and the church.” Do better examples of exclusive institutions than the army exist or even more dogmatic institutions than the church? As Gržinić claims, in the neoliberal exclusive type, the other camp does not exist, so to speak; it is nullified through exclusion. Therefore, this type of social totality makes every practice inside it relative and the other is not only excluded from a biological life, but this process of nullification completely takes the dignity from the other as well. This type of social totality does not recognize its symptom as a symptom, but as a confirmation of its pathology, and it even wants to promote this pathology on the level of national identity in Croatia. In Croatia, we have the well-known case of Vice Vukojević, for example, who was accused by victims for torture, rape and abuse in concentration camps for Bosnian Muslims, established in the so-called Croatian para-state territories within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Vukojević, nevertheless, served, until his retirement recently, in ultimately high positions within the Croatian judicial system. In the judicial context, this type of a social totality or body (according to Krips and Gržinić) is the type that ensures the following obscene situation that puts a young man for possession of 20 grams of marijuana in jail for two and half years, while a (Catholic) priest that was found guilty on charges of pedophilia gets a year or two on parole, and he is even permitted to work during that time…
In the daily political sense, this totality through the state apparatus, appropriates the humanist’s rhetoric (it is all for the protection of the citizens, towards the EU dream, strategic goals…); in this context, the ruling class is the class that has nationalist (chauvinist) predispositions for coming to power, and it systematically “plunders and sells” Croatia for nothing more than securing its remaining in power. In Croatia, since its independence, this exclusive type of social totality wishes, and unfortunately succeeded in high measure, to additionally impose that the prime social imperative or the most important “profession” today in Croatia, is to be a “real Croatian.”
Gržinić presents, among the four types of social totality, as the second case, the “perverse inclusive totalizing social type.” This one, according to Gržinić, “displays all the characteristics of the capitalist welfare states of capitalism with a ‘socialist’ facade. According to Krips (who introduces this type), the capitalist welfare state legitimizes the enemy and pushes it into a niche within the established order.”4 This type, as Gržinić claims further (by referring to a global, not to a Croatian level), is the type that is most generally speaking as the one who stands in a position of defense of human rights, but only within the matrix of global capitalism, and in agreement to local structures, which construct this type of totality. This type of social totalizing body, addresses the issues of human rights, but at the same time does not address the political context that generates the mentioned issues. It functions by attacking the locally performed human rights violations, but will never address the inclination of the establishment towards certain EU strategic solutions that actually lead to further human rights violations and even more radical class inequalities. This type, primarily reflects the work methods of various non-governmental organizations that react against locally, politically structured problems, but that never question fascism’s “sensibilities” created by these same political structures nor the EU context as a larger framework of the described social body. In Croatia, this applies to reactions by the NGO sector against the Croatian Democratic Union and similar far right-wing parties, when they tried to shut down certain radio stations (such as Radio 101 Zagreb), but did not react in the past, against concentration camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina that were indirectly supported by these same parties. The context, which is not criticized within this type, is created by the implication that there is a consensual agreement that the only strategy possible leads towards establishing supranational organizations like the EU or NATO through the free market economy of global capitalism. The political parties who foster nationalism and chauvinism accept such ideology of the free market and change their political rhetoric. They are aware that they will profit more from the free-market economy and integration with supranational structures (such as the EU) that impose these same directions. On the other side, mainstream media, while showing how “independent” and democratic they are, and while knowing how dependent on the majority of the population they are as well, continue to foster chauvinist sentiments in their reports. As an example, I can just recall when the Croatian NOVA TV station presented the case of a child that had been killed in a tram in Sarajevo with the news headline: “A Croatian killed by a Bosnian!” Although, there had been no evidence at the time of the report that nationality was a motive for the attack, and that the child had been born to an inter-ethnic Bosnian-Croatian couple, did not prevent such fascist and profit-based reporting. This is becoming a rule in mass media reporting that supports sensationalism through developing an atmosphere of inter-ethnic distrust that only leads to “real” inter-ethnic conflicts. The “civilization” values that are dominant in Croatian mainstream media are illustrated well enough by the fact that journalist Hloverka Novak-Srzić, currently a head editor of an informative program on Croatian state TV, once concluded her television news report in the past, with the words “Happy anti-fascist day to all who celebrate it.”5 While Croatian nationalist parties (who have used Serbian chauvinism against the Croatians to transform it in Croatian chauvinism toward the Serbians for the sake of keeping themselves in power) slightly changed their presentation, the mainstream media, listening only to the logic of capital, constantly assure conditions for social pathology to be left untouched, while they reaffirm processes of “positive” segregation as well. Gržinić notes that the basis of this perverse-inclusive totalization is “the complete and perverted instrumentalization, in which the subject who wants to be integrated repeats in a ritualized set of almost sadomasochistic relations, what the other wants to hear.”6 In daily political sense, this perverse-inclusive totality reflects itself in a way that shows that Croatia, as well as other ex-Yugoslavian countries, does not really have a foreign policy. It is nothing other than the policy of cloning trends, and the approval of conclusions and political directions of the ruling classes imposed by the European Union, where its principles are only conducted in relation to market laws, where life and dignity only depend on the financial power of the endangered subjectivity.
The deviation of meaning
As Gržinić suggests, a third should be added to these two types of social totality, and as she states, this one is out of the picture of serious political analyses of contemporary global capitalism – a psychotic of a socialist or communist type. In psychosis, as Gržinić notes, a subject is in relation with an irregular, bizarre other. For this type of social totality, it is characteristic that the symptom does not represent a subject, but the other that is irregular. The other as a grotesque, pathological, irregular entity is an ultimate identification reference for the “member” of the psychotic totality, who is in fact a kind of hybrid of the hysterical and perverse totalities. Hence, the whole symbolic structure for the psychotic is being perceived as corrupt, and as such, does not deserve effort to try and function in accordance with any universal ethical values. Why should he/she function ethically, when “everything” has already been “corrupted?” This subjectivity perceives every argument that criticizes the psychotic totality, not as a critique that is coming from some independent or humanist position, but as an argument that presumably comes from the subjectivity that ALSO perceives the other as bizarre and irregular. This totality in Croatia is a kind of summa sumarum of the previous two totalities. When one criticizes the fascist chauvinism of the Croatian moral majority, the same subjectivity will not perceive the content of the critique. It will only try to present the position of the critic as part of some other psychotic totality, not as an objective position in any case. This is some kind of totalitarian rhetorical twist, turning any critique (more precisely an insight) of the pathology into a confirmation of the pathology in itself. When somebody in Croatia publicly criticizes the effects of the previously mentioned totalities, the psychotic mechanism within the Croatian public space primarily and solely “scans” the ethnic heritage/political inclinations of the person who performs the critique, and therefore, the responses focus on these points and not on the content of the critique. This is why being a Yugoslavian (which is a rough and unclean concept anyway) in Croatia is a stigma – the worst imaginable thing – because it associates with a “Yugoslavian” concept of brotherhood and unity. Brotherhood and unity is, from the subject of the psychotic totality of a fascist profile, perceived only as somebody’s (in the Croatian case, it is the “agenda” of an enemy), mostly because brotherhood and unity presume the possibility of some other social totality; the one that does not see the symbolic as pathological. In addition, Serbian hysteric and perverse totality also finds brotherhood and unity references as something utterly unacceptable, so it is no wonder that members of WW2 fascist formations receive the same pensions as the members of the anti-fascist movement in Serbia today…
Therefore, within Croatian transitional society, all three types of social structures are active. The first, the hysterical exclusive type, the one that excludes the enemy in order to keep it at some kind of distance, so as to relate to it as to a cohesive tissue of proper prejudices in Croatia, still has not cleared up its relationship towards WW2 Croatian Nazi-collaborators (the so-called Ustasha or Nazi quislings) for example, which as the result, is making a constant effort towards rehabilitating and making their crimes relative, while the constitutive role of the Croatian anti-fascist movement (without which today’s Croatia probably would not even exist) is constantly negated. The second, the perverse inclusive type, is the one that has the social face or the face of a “social state,” as stated by Gržinić, which is the face of integration that integrates the otherness (regardless of heritage), but does not accept authentic diversity. This type is the one that presents already integrated otherness as its contribution to the biopolitical matrix of liberal capitalism in order to be able to react to accusations of being totalitarian by saying “it is not true, anyone can achieve what I have achieved.” Where “everything achieved” is just that which is allowed by the capitalist matrix, hence this type is the one where an “enemy” is in a position that would confirm the social “sensibility” of the capitalist state and the one, which would make the effects of capital relative to a social. The third, the psychotic type – that sees the other (as inscribed into a symbolic order) as bizarre, irregular, grotesque – as the instance which allows the making of any other perceptions as the culturally predisposed other. This is the option that is inclined to stigmatize all options that do not agree with the nationalistic vision of Croatia, where they would say that all (!) other European countries are nationalistic and everything is just another multi-cultural lie and/or Jewish conspiracy. The misunderstanding of the impact of these different types on social interaction within Croatia, results in some really bizarre perception of social reality, in which even homosexuals, as the default targets of the hysterical and psychotic types, show affinity to backing up totalitarianism, saying that fascism and anti-fascism are “matters of the past”, and that one should turn “toward a future.” Analyzing this, we have a situation, where if one starts to criticize fascism, then he or she can expect to be accused of supporting Stalin’s gulags by the same homosexual individuals. Therefore, “a gay-totalitarian” does not have to just be a part of some obscure trash movie, but can be a very real factor inside certain social realities as is the case with Croatia.
The democratization of pathology
The domination of the first, hysterical type, changes into the domination of the perverse type exactly in a situation when an external element appears; let’s say when a supranational organization (like the EU) asks to change the nation-based exclusivity into market/class-based exclusivity. It is connected to the accumulative processes of capital within this territory, and can be explained as an ethnic-based homogenization of social changes that turn into value systems of global free-market capitalism. In South East Europe, we see this process as a situation in which ethnic-based, hysterical type homogenization from the 1990s, changes into an accelerated perverse type ruling class that accepts “European values” for nothing other than preserving “money stolen” in the past. Hence, the hysterical exclusive type is a masochistic type of social totality, the one that excludes foreign bodies (not just an ethnic, but also a political body opting against this totality), and with this, the potential for the perception of trauma as pathology. This is a type that pretends to elevate trauma to the level of national identity. The perverse type is a sadistic type. This type, in contrast to the hysterical, integrates alien bodies into its own social matrix, but only in order to convert the alien body into itself. The weapon of this type is the rationalization of social reality, exclusively as the part of the real of capital. The role of the perverse type is the rationalization of totalitarian, supranational and market-based segregation. Therefore, one type of pathology is replaced with another. Although Croatia as a political subject (or maybe not), has anti-fascist roots that (definitely don’t) guarantee its modern sovereignty, and although a minority fosters some humanist thoughts that could lead to genuine anti-capitalist politics, all of these three dimensions, generated by the unconditional acceptance of capitalism, primarily act against the politicization of society, leaving society itself to disintegrate through a proper fragmentation, which in this case, consists of ethnical on the one side, and of a class fragmentation on the other.
In short, the relations of the European Union (as a supranational organization that protects the interests of capital) and Croatian dominant sensibilities, could be seen as the relation between an evil psychiatrist and a psychotic patient, where the first heals its own social tissue, cannibalized by capital, by convincing the other that they are healthy as long as being the patient of the first is accepted. Or, rephrasing the latter, I can state that as long as this pathology is being rationalized, glorified and presented as authentic culture, the trauma coming out from this pathology becomes even more intensified and capitalism reconfirmed as the only possible system. Enjoying the trauma through intensification monopolizes the very definition of the ethical in a culture that sees this kind of trauma as a basic identification matrix.
1 Marina Gržinić “From transitional post-socialist spaces to neoliberal global capitalism,” in Third text, vol. 21, issue 5, London 2007, pp. 563-675.
3 Dominant sentiment or moral majority is the name for those subjectivities that derive their ethical from a certain dogma, ideology or national mythomany, and not from humanist-based values.
4 Cf. Gržinić, “From Transitional Post Socialist Spaces to Neoliberal global Capitalism,” op.cit.
6 Cf. Gržinić, op.cit
Šefik Šeki Tatlić is a theoretician from Sarajevo. He is enrolled in PhD programme at the Faculty of Sociology, University of Zagreb.