OF A GLOBAL PARANOIA
The Ježevo Motel at the
end of the European grand narrative
was once an idyllic Moslavinan village on the Zagreb to Belgrade
Fraternity and Unity Highway.
It was known for being known for nothing at all, except for
fire brigade high-jinks and the ex-territorial motel to which
tired truckers, tarts, tinhorns and hustlers would drop in.
The Ježevo Motel thus has a metaphysical dimension. The village
along the highway can count only on total oblivion if it doesn't
live on it by some nocturnal vampiric strategy. Since I live
only a dozen kilometres away, in Ivanić Grad, I can determine
with historical precision the role and place of Ježevo in the
World Revolution. Nor in the case of the tedious resort for
the Balkan transient wise guys of the eighties was the motel
anything but a temporary doss for the demimonde. In the previous,
ideologically clearly determined period, the motel had the function
of a transit, semi-tourist style blockhouse. Nothing spectacular,
it is true, ever took place there. As it did not in the Buzatti
novel The Tatar Desert, but it is absurd in that the
motel did fulfil its original purpose: to make money from that
same transit demimonde in its journey from Hamburg to Istanbul.
The change of function took place literally after the collapse
of the Yugoslav 'grand narrative' of brotherhood and unity.The
spectrally empty hotel on the flatlands had the appearance at
night of being a provincial tavern from a horror movie. War
put an end to the transit zones of life between West and East.
in Ježevo is an indicator of the global ideological situation.
Just as in the preceding, palaeoindustrial period it preserved
the values of the Yugoslav economy and its hospitality industry
(poor services, bad service and primitive petty gambling),
thus in the post-ideological void after the myth of Croatian
sovereignty it soon became what Croatia truly is today - a
blockhouse for the Western Balkans or, if you prefer it, the
last Schengen station for Others. Immigrants, nomads, des
misérables, all those who are careering towards the West
believing it to be the promised land, feeling the consequences
of the neo-liberal pillage of globalisation and, not less
important, their own political dictatorships, all, but all
of them, tricked and cheated by the people-smugglers, come
up sharp against the barbed wire of the Reception Centre of
the former Ježevo Motel. The irony
here lies in that in this very orderly place they experience
both their own damnation and their own temporary home.
After the stressed-out adventure of a journey in a refrigerator
truck like frozen meat, the finding of a group of desperate
and pathetically wretched nomads (Kurds, Chinese, Afghans,
Turks, Iranians...) from the lands of the so-called Third
World has a fearful effect on them.
The adventure of flight to the West ends
up in some flatland, back-of-beyond dump in a doss house for
the multicultural dross of history. People without a home
for some time at least have a home. Bitter experience presumes
the horror of going back to the place they have been forced
to flee from. The West in their eyes comes over as a total
cheat, a lie and an object of undisguised loathing. The
West is actually that imaginary and metaphysically ill-omened
place surrounded by barbed wire - the Ježevo Motel.
Is there anything here at all apart from human suffering?
Just how can someone who grew up on the enlightenment ideals
of freedom, fraternity, equality and justice meet the look
of the Other, and lock up that Other in a reception centre
before his return to that homeland whence the nomadic masses
of economic immigrants set out? Who is guilty for the callousness
and the impossibility of altering the state in which the head
of the Ježevo Reception Centre is nothing more or less than
a personable mask of the system, just as the frozen Kurdish
stateless, homeless and perhaps fatherless child is nothing
more or less than a symbol of the universal discredit of capitalist
globalisation and fundamentalist dictatorships?
It is easiest to affirm that who is to
blame is of an abstract origin. For all the ills of the world,
the finger is pointed at global capitalism. It produces victims
and executioners. The riches of the West are the result, put
very simply, of the economic exploitation of the poor. This
kind of vulgar dialectics not only clouds the problem, but
in its fighting Manichean logic stops an insight into
the complexity of the problem of the relations between capitalist
globalisation and contemporary politics. Even proselytised
radical neo-Marxist theorists are no longer so keen to beat
the drum of the revolutionary rhetoric of the class struggle.
The theory of imperialism can, it is true, be replaced by
the tale of the anti-globalisation league of the counter-empire.
But without the revolutionary violence and the justification
of terror as the last resort of the ideologically desperate.
The best example here is the book or manifesto of Michael
Hardt and Antonio Negri Empire. The prisoners of
the global paranoia, of the frontal conflict of global capitalism
and political fundamentalism that rests on mutual terror,
like the one-time balance of terror in the cold war period
between the superpowers of America and the USSR, are precisely
these people with the characteristics of being foreigners,
Others, marked with the sign of universal wretchedness. They
are the products of the ideological ghosts in the world in
the period of the End of History. Not being at all to blame
for the external causes of their own inability to work their
way to survival within the borders of their own homelands
or for the internal frenzies of the pre-modern dictatorial
regimes, they are condemned to emigration and immigration.
There are no longer any dissident minorities of intellectual
The question of exile, a fundamental issue in the spiritual
history of the 20th century West, is a tale that is over.
This is a question of economic asylum-seekers, of a mass as
the universal subject of a second history that will decisively
colour the 21st century. And that is why Ježevo is a paradigm
of a regional (European) ideology, a special case of the general
ideology of globalisation. The problem here is that it is
impossible to identify an actual guilty party who is the recognisable
subject of the inculpated or self-inculpated misfortune. Who
can the enraged, arrested nomads that on Sunday afternoon
play football in the former car park of the motel find to
be angry at? The smugglers and their appalling acquisitiveness?
Bush or Bin Laden? God?
Illegal immigration was an insoluble problem for European
states even before. At the end of the Pol Pot dictatorship
and the Vietnam War, French committed intellectuals, instead
of abstract human rights, started standing up for the right
of the junk people to human dignity in the world of the western
democracies. Multiculturalism in Europe
is an ideology of cultural relativism derived from fear, and
not from a continuation of enlightenment through other means.
The Ježevo Case is a definite confirmation of the illusion
of a Europe without borders, even when for defensive reasons
(fear of terrorism, the mob, people-trading, uncontrolled
prostitution) it carries out a rigorous policy of immigrant
quotas. It would be worst to adopt a fatalistic stance and
come to terms with the fact that Ježevo will indeed be the
last watchtower or station of the end of the European grand
narrative. The cynicism of such a logic says that the Croats,
because of their figments about their European spiritual inheritance
have once again got the role of sentry and mopper-up for Western
civilisation. From the bulwarks of Christianity to the last
watchtower of the EU. History is being repeated, as both tragedy
and farce. In the case of Ježevo, the problem is insoluble
to the extent that everything is reduced to sheer placebo.
In front of the wall of desperation of the people who are
the prisoners of a global paranoia, every form of protest
is condemned to failure, even if it tells itself it is radical.
Ježevo is the local paradigm of the global policy of the absurd.
How can one help these unhappy people? For them, there is
just one solution: the way to the West. Everything else is
just a humanitarian or Jesuitical stance of ideological charity,
the other face of ruthless cynicism.
"We sympathise with you, and so we leave you not a hope
of salvation." The problem of Ježevo is a prime
political problem of the ideological conflict between the
West and the so-called Third World. As long as there is no
radical deconstruction of the neo-liberal market metaphysics
on which global capitalism rests here and now, and thus the
way in which borderless Europe actually functions, as well
as of the threats of fundamentalist tyrants about a return
of history as religious fanaticism, Ježevo is going to survive
as a permanent twilight zone for immigrants from the edges
of the world. The nostalgic can only call to memory that time
when "wishing still helped", as Peter Handke writes
in his poem Living without Poetry. And regret the
weary lorry drivers, the bedraggled hookers and the gamblers.
This, now, is something quite, quite different. An image of
the desperately irreducible Other in a space without time,
where the future is nothing, and the past is a present that
goes painfully on and on.