Sunday, December 03, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [4]



I've already devoted two posts to the first three sentences of this section. Time to get moving.

The first paragraph, after the three sentences parsed in the previous two posts--concludes thusly:

"However, by portraying Serb attachment to Yugoslavia as an aggressive nationalist plot to create "Greater Serbia", the secessionists transformed this obstacle into an asset. Serbs' desire to stay in Yugoslavia was transformed into the main argument for destroying it."

I assume most readers of this blog already know enough of the chronology of events leading up to the violent dismemberment of Yugoslavia to detect the dishonesty in that statement. While her cavalier dismissal of recent history isn't really worth dwelling on, it is, again, instructive to note how complete and absolute her collectivist mentality is; she has all but anthropomorphized the Serb people as a single unit, with a single identity, capable of experiencing history and aspiring for the future with a unified, singular consciousness.

The first sentence of the second paragraph serves as something of a slightly belated thesis statement for this entire chapter:

"Different historical experiences have indeed created differences in national consciousnesses between Yugoslavia's peoples."

Johnstone never defines what she means by a "national consciousness." I am not arguing that there is no such thing; however, an intellectually honest and genuinely inquisitive writer would want to clarify her terms. Most likely, she would need to examine the complex phenomena by which an ethnic, cultural, or religious group interpret and remember shared experiences. She would need to consider how members of a national group identify with each other and with their shared myths; in other words, how individuals come to identify with a shared experience even when the living members of that group haven't experienced those events themselves.

Again, none of this is to suggest that there is no such thing as a "historical consciousness." But it is to say that one must be clear on what one is talking about. Johnstone is, as we shall see, extremely sloppy, vague, and imprecise. The "historical consciousness" that "the Serbs" of her imagination supposedly interpret contemporary events through is much less solid and well-defined than she seems to realize. Johnstone's mistake--a deliberate error, I believe--is to simply ignore the reality that a "historical consciousness" must be, to some degree, self-consciously created and maintained. My comment that she anthropomorphizes the Serbs relates to this point. She talks a great deal about the different national groups and their various national consciousnesses, but she says nothing about how these ideas and concepts are articulated, interpreted, or passed on through time.

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