Understanding Evil: Lessons from Bosnia

By Keith Doubt | Go to book overview

4. EVIL’S VANITY

What protects us is that in nuclear war the event is likely to elim-
inate the possibility of the spectacle. This is why it will not take
place. For humanity can accept physical annihilation, but cannot
accept to sacrifice the spectacle (unless it can find a spectator in
another world). The drive to spectacle is more powerful than the
instinct of preservation, and it is on the former that we must rely.

—Jean Baudrillard

While it is easy to identify the political motive behind ethnic cleansing, it is more difficult to understand the social motive. The costs were too high not only for the victims, but also for the victimizers. The perpetrators destroyed not only the homes, the communities, and the lives of people who had been neighbors, but also the social fabric and cultural conventions upon which they, too, had depended. In the video documentary Killing Memory: Bosnia’s Cultural Heritage and Its Destruc tion, produced by the Community of Bosnia Foundation, Andras Reidlmayer says that ethnic cleansing was an assault not just against people and their lives, but also against the historical buildings and cultural monuments of Bosnia:

Earlier versions of this chapter were presented as “The Ritual of Shame and the Western Response to Bosnia” at the Bosnian Paradigm International Conference, Sarajevo, Bosnia, November 1998, and published in Sociology after Bosnia and Kosovo: Recovering Bosnia and as “Evil and the Ritual of Shame: A Crime against Humanity in Bosnia-Herzegovina” in Janus Head.

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