Tag Archives: Sunday Express

Balkan Killers and British Paedophiles?

Can we allow ourselves to see the man behind the stereotypes?

Can we allow ourselves to see the man behind the stereotypes?

It has been a long gap since my last blog post – which has more to do with relevance than lack of commitment. I have decided only to write when I feel there is something important to say. And today, I’d like to get something off my chest which has been bothering me for a few days….

Last Sunday, in his review of Tim Butcher’s fascinating new book – ‘The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin who Brought the World to War‘, John Lewis-Stempel (author of The War Behind the Wire: The Life, Death and Glory of British PoWs 1914-18) summed up this in depth and sympathetic account of Gavrilo Princip’s life, politics and motivations thus:

”Ultimately, Princip was just one killer among many Balkan killers. Butcher’s first travel book, about the Congo, was called Blood River. He could easily have called this one Blood Land.”

Like many uninformed and lazy observers of the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s, Lewis-Stempel obviously feels that a little research into the politics and history of the region would be too much trouble, given his obviously low opinion of that part of Europe. In a wonderful piece of imperialist condescension, he classifies the conflicts of that time as ”that decade when Bosnia descended into a whirligig of violence inexplicable to the outsider and maybe not much better understood by the participants.”

Belittling what happened in Bosnia as ‘inexplicable’ and thereby inferring that the people and the place are inherently violent and that blood-thirsty conflict is therefore likely to explode anytime without sufficient reason was a line that many politicians took in the 90s in order to justify their lack of military intervention and inability to take a stand against fascist aggression and thereby stop humanitarian disasters like the Srebrenica Massacre (see veteran war reporter Ed Vulliamy‘s many articles on this phenomena). This attitude no-doubt instills in them a self-satisfied sense of the unavoidable tragedy, which comes ‘guilt-free’ to all those who subscribe to it.

But apart from the ignorance and arrogance intrinsic to such attitudes, there is the even nastier withholding of sympathy and empathy towards the thousands of victims killed in these conflicts. Is there no glory allowed the soldiers of this conflict, of the kind which is obviously endowed to the soldiers on ‘our’ side in Mr. Lewis-Stempel’s above-mentioned book?

Last but not least, I would like to ask Mr. Lewis-Stempel – and any others who agree with his analysis – if by the same token, and in light of the recent uncovering of decades of perversion and criminal activity in such great ‘British’ institutions as the BBC and the Public school – can we assume that men such as Jimmy Savile are simply part of a nation-wide, cultural predisposition towards child abuse? Can he therefore be summed-up (and therefore dismissed) as simply ‘just one paedophile among many British paedophiles’?

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Filed under Balkan Literature, Balkans, Contemporary European literature, culture, europe, UK publishing