There is something with those small towns everywhere in the world. There must be a good reason for Stephen King to always set his horror novels in them. They were usually a part of old rural area that lost its agricurtural or logging purpose under "careful government planning" that favorized big agricultural businesses over small farmers. The local elected official - I am talking here about the former Yugoslavia, but the U.S. does not differ a whole lot in this matter (you know the Burroughs's County Clerk) - would get some pork factory built near the hamlet as a sort of a pay-off. The factory would, of course, never prosper, and the township would decay and die slow and painful death. The individuals would get wealthy, send their kids to good schools, and the kids would never come back, except mabe to visit and then run disgusted away. My father, for one, never went and never took us kids to the place where our grandpa was born (Livno in Croatian populated Bosnia). Some, who took that as a profession would do anthropologic or social surveys. Those surveys would show stastically significant increase in alcohol abuse, drug abuse, domestic violence, TB cases, unemployment rate, suicide rate. In the U.S. they would call it Aberdeene sindrom - as in Aberdeene, WA: that's where Nirvana and the rest of the grunge scene came from. The depression, anger and fear turn that region to a state of cancer. People feel lost and betrayed by the society at large. They don't believe any more in government, in laws, in the system. Every such a small town in the world is an instable enclave of the global silent discontent. If you push them just a little more they'll burst. Cancer will spill all over the place devouring on the urban culture that despised them. With the exception of Slovenia, and that's, perhaps, one of the reasons why Slovenia did not see the kind of bloodshed the rest of post-Yugoslav societies did, the process of urbanization in former Yugoslavia was very uneven, which created deep and irreconcilable diffrences between urban and rural, that resulted in this hatred: psycho-pathology that sought violent ways to resolve itself.
There is also something particular with the thirtysomething single males from those communities. In a patriarchal society (and which society today is not patriarchal?) males are taught from early childhood that they have to assume the upper hand in their relations with other human beings. Otherwise, they are taught, they'd be perceived as failures, loosers, slackers. In a place that never became effectively urbanized, the definition of succesfulness is very narrow: males are expected to either get abroad to provide foreign currency, or to find a stable job in some state corporation and wed and have kids. Those who fail to do that till their early thirties, become an object of malicious gossips, what in a small town equals ostracism. So the rage they feel just as a members of a depressed community impounds with their pariah status. The third thing, that is common to entire Eastern Europe, is the impotence. In the totalitarian regimes, like fascism or communism, there is no freedom for anyone else except the leader, so there is no outlet where those males may excerscise their upper hand and get at least the illusion of self-importance, that is so important for a healthy self-image. So, their rage, depression and fear that cannot be expressed publicly, turn inwards - on their family and kids, if they have them, or on themselves alone if they are single. They begin to hate themselves for their incapability to take a stand. They loose belief in themselves, let anybody else.
They do not exist as human beings any more. And their behaviour follows that premise. Since they hate themselves, they don't care if anything would happen to them. Since they do not believe, anything physically possible becomes ethically acceptable. What does it mean then to gang-rape? What does it mean then to kill a 12 year old girl?
Why am I asking that question? Because in 1994, Croatian auxiliary policeman, Munjib Suljic, a refugee from Bosnian township
Nemila ("she-who-is-not-dear" in English translation) near Zenica, the steel
capital of the former Yugoslavia, did just that.
Once the largest Yugoslav steel producing place, Zenica, sited on the bottom of the valley and obscured by greenish-yellowish smog stinking of sulphur, was one of the most polluted cities in the world (competing with Bophal) before the war. The sunshine was curiously absent from the Zenica misenscene, as it is absent from the Highlander, Blade Runner or Crow set. I met a guy from Zenica, Muso, in the psychiatric department of military hospital in Skopje (Macedonia) when I was getting myself the hell out from the Yugoslav Army on the grounds of insanity. He was a bright lanky guy with asthma (disease popular in Zenica almost as much as it is in the South Bronx) and a mohawk haircut. He took some speed and some acid, loaded bullets in his AK and wreaked havoc in his military base. He told me the story enthusiastically, with a lot of eerie Bosniak humour. Somehow he managed not to kill anybody, and not to get killed himself. He asked me if I have some pot. How familiar. The third guy that was in the room with us didn't ask anything. He slept for three days, sedated by Haldol (a German drug by Jansen that my mother calls a "chemical strait-jacket"; German Health Ministry at some point forbade exporting of that drug to Soviet Union, because there the police abused it on dissidents - prolonged use may induce schizophrenia and fuck you up for good). He stinked as a rabid skunk. Doctors were kind of afraid of him, too. He was a big guy, and he chased the Major of his division with the hatchet. Of course, he was from a town near Zenica, a small town of which I forgot the name. Nemila, maybe? Who knows.
Munjib, however, is from Nemila indubitably. And he was born in 1959. Also, he is single, and frustrated. There was scarcely any future for him before the war. Now, since Nemila is reduced to rubble by Serbian forces, and his family, relatives, friends and peers are either dead or non-persons in some Serbian concentration camp, he does not have anything to care about. So, he does not care at all. He can kill without any remorse, and he kills.
Croatian military was defeated in a lot of battles, because the old military
counterintelligence network of Yugoslav Army remained active in Croatia during
the war. In part YA relied on Croatian citizens of Serbian nationality. With
growing number of destroyed cities in Croatia, the population of refugees in
Zagreb grew larger and more violent. All those Croats who lost their families and
homes were left to roam the streets of Zagreb with their guns like auxiliary
police. Shortly after, a list of supposed Serbian collaborators with YA, got in
their hands, courtesy of Croatian military intelligence with the eager blessing of the defense secretary Susak and president Tudjman. Munjib had one such list. A Serbian butcher, who owned his small
meat-processing enterprise in Zagreb, Zec (Rabbit), was a name on the list. So,
he was a fair game. Munjib gathered his small army - few really young guys from
Vukovar, who lost everything and everybody in this town of 50,000 where the war
did not left a single inhabitable building - and they paid a visit to the Zec
family. Zec the butcher tried to run through the back doors, and one of the
Vukovar boys, Sinisa, shot him. Sinisa never graduated high school, because his
high school, along with other high schools in Vukovar, was destroyed by shelling
before his time of graduation. However, he became a fine fighter and a marksman.
He caught a glimpse of the butchers wife and her daughter hiding behind the
doors. Undoubtedly, they saw everything. So, he and the others took two women
with them to their gangland. Sinisa, upset with the event, told Munjib that he
would not shoot unarmed women. Other Vukovar boys were not eager to do it either.
Munjib just said: "Aw, don't worry about that. I'll do it. All the same."
All the same.
He shot them in their heads.
Later, Munjib and his boys were arrested and investigated and acquited by a HDZ rigged court due to the legal technicality: their lawyers were not present during the investigations. They eventually still ride Zagreb avenues in their van heavily armed in search of twelve years old quislings.
You go in any Bosnian, Serb or Croat watering hole and you'd meet them. People like Munjib. They are loud. They are drunk. They are judgemental. They disagree with anything you may say. They disagree with anything that they might have said earlier. They do not listen, because they don't have anything to learn. They already know: those who are stronger, they have the right. I doubt that Socrates would be able to persuade them differently.
Therefore, I was immensely happy when I met Franjo. Franjo is from Zivinice near Tuzla, a west buttfuck that means "little beasts" and he is 30+, so he'd be a perfect killer there - and here, in New York city, he's a nice guy in pursuit of his own happiness.
Late evening on a Fourth of July I paid him a visit to pick up some pants he wanted to give me. A pair of those that can't be exchanged, because they were never really bought. The pants were too big, but I took them anyway. He also gave me a collection of baseball caps that looked like they were wind-blown off heads of participants of the last Sunday's gay parade. Kind of white-pinkish. I took them anyway. We'd paint them in some more reproachable colors. Inevitably, Franjo then, as he always does, complained about the garbage that he, as he was the superintendant of the building, had to throw out on the street. Maybe, I should have taken that, too.