By JOSEPH BRODSKY, August 4, 1993
As America lies in its state-induced moral stupor, lots of people die violent deaths all over the place, particularly in the Balkans. When it comes to externalizing evil, few things can rival geography or, for that matter, history.
What’s happening now in the Balkans is very simple: It is a bloodbath. Terms such as “Serbs,” “Croats,” “Bosnians” mean absolutely nothing. Any other combination of vowels and consonants will amount to the same thing: killing people. Neither religious distinctions — Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim — nor ethnic ones are of any consequence.
Evocations of history here are nonsense. Whenever one pulls the trigger to rectify history’s mistake, one lies. For history makes no mistakes, since it has no purpose. One quotes history to avoid responsibility or pangs of conscience.
Besides, the Balkan bloodshed is essentially a short-term project. Set in motion by the local heads of state, its main purpose is to keep them in power for as long as possible. For want of any binding issue (economic or ideological), it is prosecuted under the banner of a retroactive utopia called nationalism.
All this needn’t have happened. Once it began, it could have been stopped. The fact that it hasn’t been stopped means that its continuation is to somebody’s advantage. We may ask, to whose? After all, ethical as we are, we are also a country of the bottom line. If somebody who can stop a bloodbath doesn’t do it, it means that he profits from it.
JOSEPH BRODSKY was a poet who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987. He died in 1996.
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