[spectre] The spectre of the "east" still haunts us....

Eric Kluitenberg epk at xs4all.nl
Thu Dec 16 22:27:57 CET 2004

Dear Spectrists!

Im affraid I need to pour some oil on the fire.

It is interesting to see that the simplest expression of personal 
interest in an unfolding social / political situation as we see now in 
Ukraine, is again immediately framed as a conspiratorial institutional 
gesture within an undead east / west imaginary. This imaginary is not 
only highly counter-productive, but also is a sinister instrument of 
divisionism. It serves exactly that institutional agenda of the 
"establishment" that was supposed to be under attack in the reaction of 
luc to my little posting on this list about the situation in the Ukraine.

Imaginaries such as east/west, communist/capitalist, 
protestant/catholic, muslim/wetsern, serve mainly one purpose: to keep 
people divided, to prevent them from constructing lasting and productive 
colllaborations that cut across ideological and political dividing 
lines, and thus deny the dominant power structure - even if they only 
create temporary and utterly marginal spaces of difference.

Furthermore, these divisionist imaginaries posit false dichotomies and 
antagonsims. For instance the dichotomy muslim/western is utterly absurd 
if I look out of my window in the hyper-multicultural neighbourhood I 
live in, where mix and hybridity define the outlook of the street, the 
people, the street culture, the language, behaviour, food, shops, 
clothes, houses - all is mix over here. This is not to say that 
conflicts do not exist or do not emerge - the murder of filmmaker Theo 
van Gogh happened just a few blocks away from where I'm writing right 
now, but the supposed antagonism is a sheer absurdity, yet it performs a 
clear (and sinister) political function.

When during the preparations of Next 5 Minutes 4 somebody in the 
international editorial team (not me at first) proposed a debate on the 
topic of "enduring post-communism", intense discussion immediately broke 
out. The notion was derogative, out of place, out-dated, insulting, the 
wrong framing of a very complex series of poltical, social and cultural 
changes that cannot be captured within such a singular and simplistic mould.

I would agree to much of that criticism, but still we saw a whole set of 
conditions that seemed to persists, and extended the so-called phase of 
post-communism. But how far? Into infinity...?
This was not just a mental construction, but also a question of 
infrastructures, financial mechanisms, dependencies, unwillingness of 
local authorities to take responsibility for basic needs of society, 
enduring corruption, unchanged power structures, etc etc...

It lead to one of the most interesting debates of the festival, probably 
because it touched on issues that had remained sensitive, that many of 
us involved in the festival and the wider field of media culture were 
most eager to get beyond, but that continued to haunt us like a spectre 
of the former "east"....

Yesterday I was very happy to see also a remarkably different reaction 
come in from people who are actually trying to do something (at least 
something) right now. But I must say that I was suprised once again by 
the virulence of this old imaginary that we cannot seem to escape.

I have no suggestion what to conclude from this, I'm simply amazed, 
intrigued maybe even more....

best wishes,

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