This article originally appeared on 20 December in BalkanInsight
“The night was…”
I am Billy Crystal in “Throw Momma from the Train”, trying to write about Doomsday.
The end of the world. Of all there is. Or was. Because this is a retrospective. Or rather a retrospective in the lack of a future, which is one day away. One day that didn’t change the world. It ended it. And with it all memories.
What I am doing here is as logical as people stock-piling food and batteries for the day after the end. Why? Because they cling to what hundreds of movies and TV series taught them – the happy few, the chosen ones, they always survive. So why not my text?
But then again – I live in the Balkans. It is not the part of the world where logic has been invented. Okay, Aristotle, but that was another time, another era. What? So was Alexander? Yes, I know. He is more present than ever. Just imagine. Resting in peace in wherever his grave is (and we know that Macedonia’s Indiana Jones knows, but doesn’t tell us, because we are all not worthy of facing the truth) for two thousand years, and then, a god’s cough before the end of the world, they all start remembering him and referring to him, naming places after him, roads, buildings, bars and what not. There he is, turning into a whirling dervish in his grave. Hadn’t it been for the end of the world, it would have been worth investigating whether there is a place where Alex cries on Mother Theresa’s shoulder and vice-versa.
The two are in a head-to-head competition about being misunderstood, misquoted, and in the end not only misused, but downrightly profaned all over the mundus balcanicus. Just imagine the stories they would have to tell each other. It would have been a thing to see the two nearly 30 metre high statues within sight of each other on Skopje’s overcrowded main square converse. But we’re going to be deprived of the privilege. By a calendar carved in stone…
The abyss of nothingness will turn oblivious to celebrations of national grandeur. All this effort. One hundred years of Albanian statehood, dozens of square kilometres of red cloth and eagle applications; endless hours of patriotic monophonic and polyphonic sound carpets; hundreds, if not thousands of pamphlets and poems; hundreds of thousands of keqes – foomp! Gone.
All the efforts of our curator civitatis, our visionary mayor – gone up in smoke. It is a philosophical question – will the end come in a tsunami of fire or will the universe just turn the switch? I wonder if we will have the time to find out… But back to our efforts here.
Skopje’s green spaces, which had the charm of wilderness left to dialogue with the brutalist urban landscapes, have been turned into a dream come true. Surely, one may argue that it is a petit bourgeois dream gone haywire, with fountains featuring popular singers, flower arrangements depicting peacocks, with training grounds for “our darlings” i.e. pets, with Japanese cherry trees, with an original copy of the historic Garden of Eden, the odd equestrian statue etc. But hey, a dream is a dream. And making it happen is certainly worth other people’s money. Until – bloody Mayas!
Speaking of the Mayas: How dare they! They were not even really an antique civilisation.
They were never here, let alone first. They do not belong to the long line of nations claiming to have first colonised the region and assimilated all the late-comers, imposing their supremacy through the genetic code. And much of the Mayan knowledge originates from Balkan sources anyway: the Bosnian pyramid at Visoko or the prehistoric solar observatory at Kokino. And how did they thank their teachers? Like any churlish student – by playing pranks on them. Actually one prank only – the ultimate one.
It is really not the moment to vanish. Too many grand projects have to be finished still. Highways, corridors, border delimitations, new buildings – older than the old ones, and statues, statues, statues. There is still need for more statues. The old heroes have gone out of style; statues of transitional heroes were either removed or never built – Bruce Lee in Mostar and Samantha Fox in Cacak. And now when finally the monuments started mushrooming just like comrade Hoxha’s bunkers back in the day, the people will be deprived of the pleasure of enjoying them. No wonder no one ever erected a monument for the unknown Maya.
Now when nation-making is en vogue: ethnic nation, cultural nation, no-nation, denied nation, supreme nation, antique nation, historic nation, tribal nation, dominant nation, subdued nation, emerging nation, multi-… no, doesn’t work, when there is finally the chance to seriously enter the competition of differences, the Mayan made nothingness will drop everything back into a state of primordial communism.
Now when the fragile and cosmopolitan anti-national culture has finally been cornered and is about to be taken over by the periphery, by the palanka; now when turbo-folk has finally established itself as the ultimate expression of the cultural mainstream; now when independent minds are finally publicly discredited as the traitors they are; now when there’s no need any more to censor media and arts because they do it all themselves; now when religion and family values are finally back; now that the pious people can freely show those gay urbanites in Belgrade, Skopje and Prishtina who’s in charge; now when the uniform and uniformed group, the clan, the pack has the chance to show its supremacy over the liberal, weak individual, now? Really? Now?
Now when it finally doesn’t matter anymore whether public promises are kept as long as opinion polls can be bent to show the needed picture; now when politicians can tell their people just any story and get away with it; now when parliaments have become the contemporary incarnation of the circus maximus, where party gladiators fight for their survival. It is such a waste to destroy such a well-functioning system, while the rest of the world is in deep crisis.
But since this text is meant for the posterity of a few chosen ones, let me finish on a happy note. Fortunately, there is no accession process to the apocalypse, no benchmarks, no criteria. We’re all equal in this: one abyss each, next exit left. Happy annihilation. Next!
A deep source of inspiration for all the leaders around could be this old story, in which God tells Franjo Tudjman that there are three more days to the end of the world. Tudjman goes live on TV and announces: “I have two good pieces of news. First – God asked for an audience with me, and second – I shall be your president until the end of days!”