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Campo Belo São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

...As you read about Bosnia and Kosovo in your daily newspapers I remind you of the words of Socrates spoken at his trial in his own defence: "I do not know what effect my accusers have had upon you gentlemen but for my own part I was almost carried away by them; their arguments were so convincing. On the other hand scarcely a word of what they said was true."....

четвртак, 16. фебруар 2012.

The Serbian Roundup

The Serbian Roundup

Feb 12, 2012

Heroism Reduced to "Inat" and the Lost Parts of Serbdom

source: smedia.rs
Inat is a Serbian word for “defiance.” A word and a trait of national personality Serbs are very proud of, without a doubt, ask any Serb. Any Serb can name a number of historical instances in which the Serbs heroically defied a powerful enemy or two, or three. You don’t flip the bird to Adolf Hitler just because you don’t like his mustache. You don’t go dancing under NATO bombs just because the bridges were closed for traffic. However, inat is also a Turkish word for “defiance.” I’m not an etymologist and I can’t tell you which language the word originated in. What I can say is that defining inat as a Serbian national trait is misleading and traditionally costly, although very emboldening. No, I’m not diminishing heroically righteous feats – and sacrifices – some Serbs tend to ascribe to inat, but there must be a word said about the other side of the coin that is this inat thing.
Mihajlo Latas, a Serb from Janja Gora, Lika, became Omer-pasha, the most fearsome and celebrated general of the Ottoman armies of the mid-19th century and a man who almost suffocated the free Serb principality of Montenegro in 1853. No, he wasn’t a devshirme victim; he converted as a grown man. About 20 Ottoman grand viziers were of Serb descent. Numerous other Serb converts served in the Ottoman armies since the time of Ahmed Hercegović, the son of Herceg Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, conquering and pillaging the very lands they were born in. Some very bold estimates project a figure of 9 million of present-day Turks descending from the Serbian people. The accuracy of the number is not even relevant, the principle is: Serbs converted to Islam as much as they defied Islam and the Ottoman rule. For every Lazar, there was a Konstantin Dejanović and even Marko Kraljević, that fought against the Serbs, if not in Kosovo, than in other battles. Which inat are we talking about?
Thousands of the Military Frontier Serbs converted to Catholicism due to political and economic pressures as well as opportunities. The fact that there is no Catholic Serbs today tells us a little something about the ancestry of a large chunk of the Croat nation. I’m sure the Serbs that were expelled from Croatia in 1995 would claim inat as one of the determinants of their rejection of the renewed Croat hegemony. But where was inat when their relatives chose to cross over or succumbed to the pressures of the Vatican agents a century or two back?
Where was inat in the Arnautash Serbs out of which at least one third of Kosovo Albanians descend?
Where was inat in Sandor Petofi, born Aleksandar Petrović, the greatest Hungarian poet of the 19th century? Communist partisans were overwhelmingly Serbs that turned against Serbdom for the advancement of a hostile foreign ideology, not for the sake of inat.
source: en.wikipedia.org
Where is inat in Montenegrin Serbs that are openly betraying Serbdom for a job offer in the Djukanovic mafia state? Where is inat in Vojvodina Serbs who are way too easily allowing the ideas of separation from Serbia to take root? Where is this famous inat in Serbian leaders and their NGO accomplices who are eagerly handing Serbia over to her enemies, who are aiding and abetting foreign interests in dismembering and ravaging Serbia? Is this inat thing exclusive to Serbs who claim it or is it somehow applicable to all of Serbdom, as one would be prone to conclude from boisterous chest-bumping of some among us? Which Serbs are inatli, Tadic’s sycophants, Čeda Jovanović’s fifth column, or perhaps Nenad Čanak’s separatists? The only thing these Serbs are in defiance of is Serbdom itself.
In every generation that defied, there was a pretty large contingent that succumbed, in one way or another. Succumbing didn’t only mean openly betraying, joining the enemy and taking up arms against your own. Succumbing didn’t always mean converting to an occupier’s religion, either. Succumbing meant inflicting damage to the vitality of Serbdom by abandoning it, turning against it or failing to defend it. After each of these processes of inflicting the damage ended, Serbdom found itself poorer for the contingent that succumbed. We came out of all of these battles smaller, sometimes ostensibly victorious, but always boasting defiance, conveniently forgetting those that didn’t defy.
As a side note, there was most often a formula to this dual response to foreign advances. The advance came in two ways, the physical assault and the soft power. The head-on attack would inflict comparatively lighter losses on Serbdom than the process of a gradual takeover. Most Serbs didn’t convert to Islam as a way to avoid that head-on assault, but during the post-conquest centuries, when they attempted to get integrated into the Ottoman society and pursue social and economic opportunities. Conversions didn’t always have as their goal the protection of estate or the continuation of privilege, but were considered a legitimate social mobility option. To avoid being frowned upon, a convert would simply have to move to less diverse Muslim areas and blend in. In the Military Frontier, most Serbs who converted to Catholicism were offered “a middle ground” option of the Church Union, which only served to eventually catholicize the Serbs completely. Cajoling and conning historically worked much better against the Serbs than aggressive physical power. And it had nothing to do with inat.
source: serbianna.com
Again, I’m not here to downplay the heroism of those generations of Serbs who, wisely or unwisely, stood up and defied oncoming assaults, but I am trying to put inat, an attribute that caused a lot of false perceptions about Serbian reactions to hostile advances, into a perspective that shows the banality of ascribing this trait to all of Serbdom. I will even question its application to Serbdom as an identifying trait at all. The feats of heroic generations should be seen for what they were, isolated from any kind of superficial inscriptions on our collective Zodiac card. These feats were not caused by inat, but by the natural need of our people to defend itself, to correctly respond to assaults on its freedom and dignity…
Kingdom of Serbia did not reject the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum in 1914 for the sake of defiance – let’s not diminish the act. Serbia was a free country whose independence would have been seriously undermined if she succumbed to the pressure from Vienna. It was not an irrational response; it was a conscious, deliberate, political decision, albeit an extremely brave one. If we would write it off to inat, we would seriously devalue it. The defiance of Hitler in 1941 was expressed with the purported egging on from the intelligence agents of the British Empire, but it was still completely within the Serbian ever-present desire to reject foreign rule, again, not for the sake of defiance, but for the sake of freedom. General Draža Mihailović wasn’t the only anti-fascist resistance fighter in the entire Nazi-occupied Europe in 1941 because he wanted to defy and stop Germans and Croats, but because he wanted freedom for his people. It would be unjust to ascribe his heroic struggle to such an irrational reaction as inat. Even in 1999, Slobodan Milošević, for all of his ill-advised decisions, did not reject the first Rambouillet “agreement” because he was playing a defiant warlord, but because it imposed such unjust terms which no self-respecting independent state could afford to succumb to. (In a more current example that Serbs like to cite, Novak Djokovic is not wreaking havoc atop the men's tennis world out of Serbian inat, but after years of hard work and tightening his skills, he reached the mental and physical heights that allow him to be one of the most dominant players ever.)
Defiance for its own sake is an irrational reaction and while Serb leaders committed many a nonsensical, irrational decision in their history, most of them were not due to a defiant nature of their character, but due to a plain amateurism and an inability to lead. As I said, our history is replete with examples of ambiguous responses to foreign advances. In every case, only one part of the Serbian nation could claim inat as its trait, and even that would not be warranted. We, as a people, should begin looking at our history in less of a romanticized and superficial way to recognize its real values and to judge it more honestly.

Feb 6, 2012

Deretic Against Porphyrogenitus: Advantages of Guerrilla Warfare

source: en.wikipedia.org

Serbs were a Slavic tribe that settled in Macedonia at the beginning of the 7th century, invited by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. They didn’t like it there and decided to make a U-turn and ride back to the unknown parts of Central Europe - Bohemia, most likely - that they came from. As they were passing Singidunum, they changed their mind and asked the Byzantine commander of the fortress to broker another deal with the Emperor and give them another land to settle. Heraclius obliged and directed them to Dalmatia. This is according to Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, a Byzantine Emperor from the 10th century, who wrote it in De Administrando Imperio, the most relevant source about the origins of the Serbs. Can anyone with a bit of knowledge of historical circumstances at various times actually believe this? How many of these Porphyrogenitus’ Serbs were there, fifty, no women and children? I mean, expecting me to believe that an entire people could move this fast and this large in numbers, on horses or on foot is plain offensive to my intelligence, let alone economically impossible. But this is what’s become the official Serbian history kids learn in school.

A people’s history is what shapes its identity, for the most part. Not knowing your history means not knowing who you are and why you are the way you are; in other words, it means not knowing your own self. Serbs, so proud of their history, appear to have generally known very little of it. Entire premises that our understanding of our own past is mainly based on, stand on very shaky legs, are easy to challenge and should be revisited and revised, if found false.
I am not going to dissect and try and overthrow the Serbian historical delusions. The point I want to base this diatribe of mine on is that the Serbian history, including its oldest periods, is crucial in crystalizing dimensions and components of our identity, that these delusions were a great contributor to the Serbian disorientation of the present and that an effort must be made to renew the study of our history earnestly, honestly and scientifically, to identify and remedy the errors, even it meant revising the entire school of historical thought.
source: svastarnica.com
While understanding the ancients’ lack of sources and a lack of knowledge of the world beyond Greek colonies of the Pontus and Danube, I cannot accept or condone historical fabrications intended to fill this vacuum. The fabrications, generalizations, misinterpretations and substitutions, so outrageously abundant, are especially unacceptable in the light of the political motivation behind them. And of course, there has hardly ever been historical knowledge, and especially a lack thereof, that wasn’t manipulated to political ends. I know this because I and all my contemporaries are witnesses to the manipulation and fabrication of information going on presently. If a Serb in Belgrade in 2012, influenced by a set of fabrications, has a hard time believing that the Army of the Serb Republic did not commit genocide in Srebrenica only 16 years ago, how can we ever expect that the events of 1500 years ago haven’t been misconstrued and one point or another to serve a political purpose?
The central question of the Serb origins deals with the determination of whether Serbs were native to the Roman province of Illyricum or we settled it as invaders. This is a watershed question as the correct answer to it opens a truckload of conclusions that undermine the entire established school of not only Serbian history, but of our understanding of the Late Antiquity and the Great Migrations. Assessing historical sources and conclusions about this period necessarily lead to Jovan I. Deretic, the standard-bearer of the so-called ''Serbian historical school.'' Deretić claims that Serbs are the autochtonous people of the Balkans and the oldest civilized people of Europe. He added to the Serbian history entire eras, stretching back to the Vinča civilization of the 6th millenium B.C. I won't even touch trying to prove or disprove his theories, not necessarily because I agree or disagree. All I can say is that I strongly support his challenges and accusations directed towards the official version of the history of Serbs, although I do have a thing or two to object to his chosen ways.
source: rovasirasforrai.hu
The information age didn't start with the advent of new technology. It's a trick played on the common people to make them think they are more informed now because their access to more voluminous and diverse sets of information is easier and more versatile. The points of this access have indeed multiplied in numbers, but so have the controls of the access points. The relationship between the access points and their controls is under an investigation that is greatly influenced by those same controls. Essentially, we are still being fed the information about our world, no matter how many different capabilities, aiding us towards obtaining the feed, we have acquired in the meantime. The basic assumption of Deretic's “historical school” is that the Serbs have been fed their own historical data and conclusions from sources unfriendly, even hostile to our identity and our integrity as a nation. Of course, we know who our historical enemies were and we must assume that a physical obliteration has not been the only manner in which they have tried to subjugate us. In accord with some of my earlier writings, one of the key problems of the Serbian psyche is that we are not capable of seeing an enemy assault until it manifests itself physically, which often is too late. This being said, Deretić correctly proposes reconsideration of the value of information about our own self that we have been fed in the past and that we have based the knowledge of our history on, mainly because our enemies have been providing us with that information and that fact alone should make the reconsideration a must. One has to be stupid to take the information provided by an enemy for granted, right?
Thus far in this diatribe, I have stood by Deretić and his frame of thought. Where we differ is crucial. Deretić came up with a whole alternative version of the Serbian history, intending to replace the knowledge generations of Serbs acquired. According to him, everything the young Serbs have been taught since the Berlin Congress of 1878 was based on false premises stemming from falsified, misinterpreted or incomplete historiography. Where we differ and what I oppose is the way he has chosen to attempt the substitution.
I do want future generations of Serbs to learn their history presented in as accurate a manner as possible. Now, we don’t have to know what’s impossible to know and we don’t have to present a clear picture if the clear picture just isn’t available. For that reason, an attempt to entirely replace one, dominant and standing version, albeit built on shaky foundations, with another version, which, I have to notice, possesses some fairy tale-like traits, points towards amateurism in both historical methodology and strategic negotiation of educational and marketing hurdles. Needless to say, the confirmation of the latter amateurism calls into question the strength of the building blocks of the Serbian historical school as a whole. If Deretić is going about educating the public and marketing his findings in an amateurish way, how could we take him for his word that he went about his research in a scientific way? If I have a reason to doubt efficiency of the educational approach, it will lead me to doubt the validity of the historical research the theory as a whole was based on.
The official version of the Serbian history is not only accepted by most of the living and educated Serbs, but also by the relevant international scholarship, as no people’s history is an island. It is not simple to overthrow it. No substitute can take its place in a meaningful and lasting way until the standing theory is overthrown, however. Of course, a change in the political climate can lead to a ruling political option imposing one theory over the other, but isn’t that what Deretić claims happened in 1878? Does he propose his version to come to dominate in the same way? Does such an overthrow make his version more legitimate just because he will support it with a set of data and notions that will go unchallenged? How does that make him different from Stojan Novaković, whom he accuses of planting the Trojan Horse that became this official version? It doesn’t.
source: eupedia.com
I know he’d say that he disproved every one of the historical fallacies we have been taught, and that alone makes his version legitimate. Even if he did so, which relevant scientific or educational circles have accepted his claims, his research and his version? To many quite educated Serbs, his claims sound off the wall, and I don’t mean it in any kind of derogatory or condescending way. Confronting an established historical knowledge, accepted by almost entire relevant scholarship for over a century and taught in school for generations, with an alternative version of that knowledge that, honestly, does sound far-fetched in many of its elements, is not a very good strategy. Deducing that every place name in Europe and Middle East containing an S and an R in a sequence somehow has Serb associations attached to it is plain linguistically unfounded and indeed amateurish. Deretić should have first attempted to overthrow fallacies in the official version through a scientific debate acceptable by the relevant mainstream historians. Many of his claims do sound legitimate and valid and are logical, if isolated from this greater theory, but it is hard for me to accept the greater theory whose other elements are just far-fetched and grounded in premises that are not solid. The Serbian public first had to accept the logic by which Dušan’s Empire did include Bulgaria, that Serbs did win the battle of Kosovo, that there were evidences of tampering with the relevant chapters of Porphyrogenitus’ De Administrando Imperio… These specific notions had to be adopted, had to enter textbooks, in order for the official version to be undermined further. A series of small battles had to be won before someone like Deretić could become an authority that could claim the entire official version of the Serbian history is based on false premises. A gradual conquest of the field would have accelerated the acceptance of the very idea that there was something inherently wrong about what we have been taught. Trying to overthrow the official version from the position of weakness, Deretić only caused further confusion in the mind of common people. He has his followers, but are they going to be capable of effectively furthering his war for historical revision or will they just be another current in the Serbian ocean of incoherent ideologies? Are they just going to parrot his findings until veins pop out?
Strategically undermining rather than frontally assaulting the enemy is the main trait of the guerrilla warfare. The Serbian historical school is incomparably weaker than the official version, the so-called Berlin-Vienna school, and some form of guerrilla warfare would be the only manner in which a gradual substitution may take place. ‘’Substitution’’ is probably too strong a word; ‘’merging’’ of the versions in which fallacies get scientifically removed is the optimal way. Serbo Makeridov should be left for some future generations of archaeologists and historians to search for.
source: nationalgeographic.com
Finding of the Serbian organic self would be greatly expedited by filtering through our history, weeding out fallacies and confirming what can be confirmed. An arrival to more solidly founded conclusions would strengthen our belief in who we are, which in turn, would do wonders for the purification and reorientation of our national being. Proving, for example, that we, as Serbs, or under another name, did live in our historical lands before the 7th century, that the arrival of smaller or larger number of Slavs or some other invaders under other names were just additions to our nominal, racial and cultural definition, that our ancestors, born in Sirmium, Salona or Naissus actually got to rule as Roman emperors, would solidify our historical rights to our lands, better our understanding of historical cycles and improve our functioning in unity and in our surroundings. In order for this rise in consciousness to occur, the true history has to penetrate Serbian minds from the earliest age, through formal education, and that can be accomplished only if both the fallacies and the truth are officially accepted as such. Positing the two versions like Deretić did, as standing against one another, in confrontation, in mutual denial, the official one way stronger the one challenging it, only did a disfavor to the effort to recognize the organic self, by dividing the Serbian public further and facing it with a referendum on its own history.

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