Eating salt



During our civil wars CNN showed us as tribes with complicated names and strange political habits. Against this backdrop were the groomed and coherent CNN reporters, in pristine shirts, putting order into the chaos, explaining the mess in plain English. Did it work? Western intellectuals would often catch me at international conferences and ask me in hushed voices: “What exactly is going on down there?” So CNN did manage to make one thing clear: that we are incomprehensible. “Don’t bother to understand them?”

This is unfair and it hurts me. And I know how my mind works when I am hurt. I am ready, as the saying goes, to eat a kilo of salt. Let me shift gears here and stray from my essay into a dramatic monologue in my atavistic voice: “You think I’m incomprehensible? You ain’t seen nothing yet. I ’ll show you incomprehensible! Yes, I know I’m making a fool of myself and eating salt in front of you while you shake your heads. And I do it just to spite you. Just to damage myself. Because I have learnt in all of Dostoevsky that the only way I can prove I am free is to work against my better interest. My Protestant wife will never understand this. She refuses to accept this as reasonable human behaviour. And I agree with her. But I only behave like this in unreasonable situations, under unreasonable pressure. Only when you step on my foot. So now you’re telling me I’m an irrational monster. You, who’ve seen me before and who know I’m not usually this way. You, who’ve told me yourself how generous and hospitable and warm and bighearted and soulful I am. You say you’re not happy with my story! You tell me I should change it? And unless I do, you would? You know what? Fuck you! How will you change my story? With a bombing campaign? With the Hague Tribunal? With UN Resolutions? With bribes and blackmail? With theatre festivals? I don’t think so. I will change my story when I want to and if I want to. You think I’m not sexy? So what. As the poet said: “We’re ugly but we have the music”. Now you have me on the barricades! And this battle will go well into the next millenium. And in the one beyond it!”

Back to the essay! Let me make one thing clear. I am ranting here against the ugly, invisible multitudes who make and maintain a cliche. I am attacking public opinions which are being discussed in bar and pubs. I’m certainly not addressing here my friends in Frankfurt and Stockholm and Avignon and Kilburn who feel as much trapped by all this as me. I’m not addressing the idealists who went to the Korcula philosophy school and who, in 68, adored my ex-country. And whose ideals now lie smashed as much as mine. Who can now see how the banks and international companies buy their own Western goverments, as much as ours. Their world and my world are closer than ever.



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