Muharem Bazdulj: The unpleasant reality is better than „the blind spot“

Interviewed by: Žikica Milošević, Photo: Irfan Redžović

The media should be classical „agora“ where the personal truths and conflicting views are met and exchanged, rather than living in parallel realities of social networks. Muharem Bazdulj, Sarajevo-born polytical analyst, moved to Belgrade and continued his work in the oldest Serbian newspaper, Politika, giving fresh air and a new perspective to Serbian media and public. We are talking to him about the burning question in our, sometimes schizoid region, and in the world in whole.


The situation in the former Yugoslavia is a bit schizoid: we have young people who are completely unbiased – I met in Croatia young people who had learned the Cyrillic alphabet by themselves, who regularly go to the Exit and INmusic, studying in other republics… and others, heavy nationalists, although they have never met other nationalities in reality. How do you explain this parallel reality?

The modern world is a world of parallel realities, we are not any global exception. More and more people form themselves in some form of their own digital “subsets” without contact with the rest of the world. This is, I think, the biggest flaw of the concept of social networks, this “ideology of the blind spot” that prevents you from looking at anything you find uncomfortable. I feel inclined towards the old-fashioned concept of public media as the agora to which everyone has access and where you will hear the opponents and eventually, you can clash your views. So this schizoid behaviour you are talking, is, for our times, I would say, the default value. We have to learn to live in such a world, the world that you nicely dubbed “the world of parallel realities”. Because these parallel realities have to meet eventually, at least on every elections, but then you have this shock and wonder, how-these-guys-have-won when I do not know of anybody who vote for them. The fact you do not know them, bro’, does not mean they do not exist. It was said that people know poorly the people from neighbouring countries, and yet they know very little about the people from neighbouring flats and houses, often much less than they know the like-minded people from neighbouring or distant countries.

What is the power of reconciling, “quiet” diplomacy, such as tourism, music, cultural exchange among peoples of the former Yugoslavia? Can it compete with narcissistic politicians who use quarrels as the only way to stay in power?

Its power is large yet limited. As they says, it is actually on the ground and it creates reconciliation there, but it is powerless when confronted with the real political force. It’s like in that story of Hollywood producers who have the “final cut”; the director is the creator of the film, but this guy has the right to decide whether the ending is happy or not, whether the hero dies at the end or stays alive, all in line with the projections of earnings. It is comforting that at this moment, both to the ordinary people and to narcissistic politicians, peace appears to be a far better option. At least, in terms of this basic orientation, these two trends will not clash. Again, according to the logic of profit in the game, and in parallel with the Hollywood film industry, more money is currently spinning in peacetime trade than in the alternative scenarios.

“Narcissism of small differences” is always fatal, and the similarity between the two peoples is bigger, the pathological desire to act differently is more pronounced, as in the case of the former Yugoslavia. Now the issues of identity are present in Ukraine. Will Slavs ever learn how similar they are, as Scandinavians have learned it, and how weak they are when they are quarrelling?

It all depends a lot on global circumstances. In the context of the Cold War, the Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and Slovenes and the Croats after all, thought that their belonging to Central Europe was more important than Panslavism. It is not impossible that the historical pendulum goes to the other side and that this can changes. I agree generally with a thesis on Freud’s concept that you mentioned, but it is something that is more or less given and we need to learn to live with it. It is not the same whether your narcissism makes you gossiping about your neighbour or you decide to burn his house. If we go step by step, we will come to Scandinavians some day. Not even their relationships were always heroic and harmonious, as it would not have to be the case in the future, if the economic situation changes. Perhaps Rambo Amadeus simplified it all a bit when he said that the political problems differ in countries where the average salary is 2,000 euros and in the countries where the average salary is the 400 euros, but it is not that he did not hit the point.

How much will victory of Donald Trump and Brexit change the world? Will the ruling elite, tucked into a two-party system, get the voters’ message, instead of repeating that the “people are wrong”?

Already those events have changed the world. I think that within the ruling elite there is a fierce insider struggle over paradigm shift. The message of the voters was clear and established parties must be changed in order not to disappear. On the other hand, these changes affect not only the ruling classes in the individual countries, but are perhaps even more important in the context of the geopolitical dynamics. And all possible directions are still actually very difficult to trace.

Can we expect that by the end of the second decade of the 21st century the West is going to fall into the same trap into which we have fallen into the 90’s? Nationalism, identity, fragmentation, “the others are to blame because my wallet is full enough”?

I do not believe so. After all, if it happens, it would not be the first time for the West. The context of the problem is now much different. Yes, on one hand, there is a growing fear of the dark-skinned migrants, but on the other hand if there were no such people, who whould be involved in many jobs that locals think are beneath them, in the West? The demographic situation in the West is such that it will have to allow a strict form of a controlled immigration. In this regard, the long-term gettoisation is a wrong target. She would have to go towards integration. All this, of course, is valid for a rational framework. Without it, it is always possible that all goes to hell.

Shall we, if Trump, Putin and the new French president really unite in the fight against IS, be witnesses of increased terrorism around the world and “revenge of the warriors returned from the battlefield”?

I would not dare speculate about this. This is, in a way we talk about the betting on football macthes an “1X2 bet” – all the outcomes are possible. It may lead to an exacerbation, or a weakening of terrorism in the world, as well as to the status quo. There are too many unknown variables in the this equations to be easily solved.

How much the help to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the secular socialist government of Naji Bullah who was supported the Soviet Union, was actually a mistake that started the whole process of militarisation of fundamentalists and their transformation into a genuine army?

With this knowledge we would probably all agree that it was a mistake. But from the perspective of the eighties, no one thought long-term. The point is, therefore, at least from this perspective, very instructive. Who knows what today feeds the key bad guys from the future, from the mid-21st century? If we live up to that time at all…

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