Saturday, October 02, 2010

Beauty, and beasts

In Auschwitz I bought two books (packaged as one) by Primo Levi, an Italian Jew who survived a year at Auschwitz. "If This Is A Man" details his time in Auschwitz, and "The Truce" recounts his long journey home. The books are heartbreaking, of course, but they're so much more - they're a subtle and probing look into the human heart in the context of maybe the blackest period in human history. Here's a passage that's relevant for me right now, as I try to understand the Yugoslavian wars:

The scars of the outrage would remain within us for ever, and in the memories of those who saw it, and in the places where it occurred and in the stories that we should tell of it. Because, and this is the awful privilege of our generation and of my people, no one better than us has ever been able to grasp the incurable nature of the offence, that spreads like a contagion. It is foolish to think that human justice can eradicate it. It is an inexhaustible fount of evil; it breaks the body and the spirit of the submerged, it stifles them and renders them abject; it returns as ignominy upon the opressors, it perpetuates itself as hatred among the survivors, and swarms around in a thousand ways, against the very will of all, as a thirst for revenge, as a moral capitulation, as denial, as weariness, as renunciation.

I am barely scraping the surface of how Yugoslavia ended up being Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, and Kosovo (did I forget any?) - some disputed, some not, all confusing to me. It's safe to say, though, that emotions runs deep in certain circles. Look at this section of (foul) comments I saw on YouTube, from a clip about the Bosnian War, where 100,000 people were killed (mostly civilians?), and documented atrocities and war crimes were widespread.

SeRbDeLiJe:  albanians r poor/dirty/animal raping/cousin marrying/sell their own mother for money/steal other peoples land cuz their own is shit/inbreds.
51hhh:  Suck my dick you fuckin chetnik!!! You serbs sell your own mother for money and kill babys for politiks!! And bllade55 bosnian,albanian and turks for ever fuck orthodox!!!!
telepatik200:  if some on hear u they will be have such a good smile to be serbian u will be shy in this world and do not never say to some on what ur because every on they know's so serbian people are shit and peadophile and go shut up and fuck offf
U574:  during Turkish live nobody cant touch bosnia, and none strength cant stop us Bosnia, macedonia, ablania are brothers foreva
vu4u2:  fuck serbs! bunch of goat raping nazis!

Wow. Sorry for that. But I think they're saying, less eloquently but more forcefully, that Primo Levi nailed it on the head.

Love, love, confused love,

p.s. A park ranger and former "professional soldier," as he put it, in the Croatian army told me, "When there is war, there are war crimes. War means war crimes." I thought of his comment this week as I read the news about the sport killings of Iraqi's by American soldiers.

This is another photo from inside the former emperor's palace in Split.
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An intense game of bocce in the town of Omis, Croatia. (Pronounced Oh-mish.)
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This is the same guy (I think) launching the ball far down the court, and smacking the opponent's ball out of the way, as planned. It's amazing the accuracy they have, whether rolling the ball slowly or throwing it the length of the court.
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I love this guy's pose.
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One of the beautiful old squares in Omis.
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The full moon from the wharf in Omis.
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I camped just south of Omis, and a spectacular sunset was preparing itself. These two fisherman were chatting to each other.
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Cameras aren't nearly as good at seeing different light sources as our eyes are. So if a bright sky is exposed correctly, the dark trees will appear almost black. If the trees are exposed correctly, the sky will just be white. This photo is a compilation of three differently-exposed photos, which software combines into one photo, and looks more like you see with your eyes. 
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A fisherman putting out his nets.
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This is part of my clutch, which I had replaced in Omis. The clutch started making a whining noise, and a Czech mechanic who spoke no English said in German that I needed a new clutch. He was right. A mechanic was recommended to me, and I liked him. Big bastard, no-nonsense, but friendly and spoke just enough English for me to say yes. He finished the work in one day, and it's a big improvement, $440 later. I thought it might be dramatic and painful and make a good story, but alas, it wasn't to be.
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Omis sits at the mouth of the Cetina River, which has cut a big gorge through the substantial mountains. I'm standing on the ruins of an old pirate's fortess high on the sheer cliffs.
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Another view of Omis. Directly across the river is where my van was being worked on.
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The fortess.
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Walking down from the fortess into the old town.
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I'm thinking one owner is very unhappy with the other owner. I'm just guessing.
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The view from one of two restaurants that are open here in Zaostrag, an hour south of Omis. Great pizza! On Monday this restaurant is closing for the season. Time to go! In mid-summer this town has 2,000 people in it, and there are maybe 100 tourists here now. 
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What the heck?! How did this photo get here? Oh, I remember now. As a prudish American, I love being incensed by the depraved moral values of the French, as displayed so bountifully (gloriously?!) in this large bus-stand poster. Isn't it awful? I keep coming back to this to remember how terrible it is. Over and over and over...  (If an American company put a poster up like this, it would make national news. U-S-A! U-S-A!)
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(The End)