Lesson #401 (sort of): Serbia’s Ultras Problem

I turned in my term paper for my Ethnic and Cultural Conflict class today (three days early!). I’m really pleased with how it turned out on its fourth iteration. It began as an examination of football clubs’ interactions as reflections of Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian relations with one another. Then it was how Croatian and Serbian football clubs’ interactions with each other and with European fans is reflective of the overall regional politics. Then it was how football violence in Croatia and Serbia is reflective of each country’s position in Europe. And finally it was what it is…

an explanation of contemporary Serbian politics using four football matches: Croatia/Serbia in March of last year (how Serbia is coping with its lingering resentments and learning to work with its traditional rival); Partizan/Tottenham in September (how the rise of the right is spurring anti-Semitism and homophobia in Serbia); Serbia/Albania in mid-October (how the Kosovo question is affecting Serbia’s relationship with the EU and why its transition has been so slow); and Partizan/Red Star at Halloween (how Serbia is allowing its ultras to destroy it from within).

Short version: all of Serbia’s current political troubles stem from using football ultras groups as paramilitary units during the Homeland and Bosnian Wars.*

It’s 15 pages of awesome. That I had to work for.

But…

…good research will get you everywhere. If I hadn’t done the leg work, paring down enough to get a *good* paper into 15 pages would have been impossible.

*You’re either going to have to trust me on that or do the research yourself. I’ve done the work.

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Lesson #400: Yugoslavia’s Dwindling Football League

I’m  writing a paper on how, as Serbia is Europeanized as it moves towards EU membership, football hooliganism is the last outlet for expressing lingering ethno-cultural anger. And I am learning all sorts of interesting stuff about the way football operated in the former Yugoslavia. For example:

Eager to maintain some sense of “normalcy”, and despite the fact that six teams from Croatia (5) and Slovenia (1) had already withdrawn from the league, the Yugoslav League continued the business of football through the first two seasons of the war in Croatia (and the first season of the war in Bosnia) with an ever-dwindling number of teams in its league as teams withdrew — or, in the case of Željezničar Sarajevo, abandoned the league when their stadium was destroyed. The Yugoslav League collapsed after the 1992-93 season.*

I find that fascinating. The article that information comes from also talks about how for the big teams in the top flight, getting to and from matches in the months leading up to the war wasn’t particularly difficult since they could fly from Belgrade to Zagreb, but for second division teams and smaller first tier teams that traveled by bus, getting to away matches in Croatia was a lot of crossing your fingers and hoping no one killed you on the way. Which is mad.

*This comes from Richard Mills’ article, ‘It All Ended in an Unsporting Way’: Serbian Football and the Disintegration of Yugoslavia, 1989-2006.

 

 

Lesson #393: Structural Violence

This is (sort of) a cheat. This is a very pared down version of something I have to turn in for class tomorrow. The original version was five pages, which for the purposes of this assignment was way, way too long, but will serve as the backbone for an upcoming paper. This one’s two, which is much more reasonable for what it is — a glossary page for my classmates. On the plus side, I got to play in my vast library of Northern Ireland titles for a bit.

Funnily, I think this is the first time Northern Ireland has ever appeared on this blog. I say funny because when I started this blog, I was doing my PhD on Northern Irish politics, specifically on the Falls Road Curfew as the instigation for the second phase (mass excitement) of revolution. I have to say, it’s been very nice to be back in a program where I can talk about NI and people (well, okay, person…my program director is well versed on the subject, though he’s more into the policy where I’m more into the grit) know, generally, what I’m talking about. I love my friends, they’re great, but they couldn’t possibly care less about Northern Irish politics and/or revolutionary theory. I’m really looking forward to the day we cover NI in my ethnic and cultural conflicts class because the first paragraph of the text talks about it as a religious conflict, which it isn’t. I’m going to have a field day!

Anyway, this is cited differently from my usual posts because it’s all academic-like.

 

Structural Violence

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” -Dr. Paul Farmer

 

Structural violence is a term introduced by Johan Galtung in the 1969 article, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research”.[1]  Generally bereft of physical violence, structural violence is a form of institutionalized, psychological, avoidable, and sometimes unintentional repression that affects a portion of a population, and there is often no one person to blame for it. “There may not be any person who directly harms another person in the structure. The violence is built into the structure and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances” (Galtung 1969).

As a rule, structural violence is instituted to keep power among those who already have it by systematically depriving those underneath of certain needs, thereby creating a system of haves and have-nots and making it difficult, if not impossible, for those suffering under some form of structural violence to raise themselves into a better socioeconomic position. In the current global landscape, this is most often seen in the form of education, medical care, and food, and in many places, structural violence and physical violence are found together.

Many scholars, including Dr. Paul Farmer, Ronald Hill and Justin Rapp, and Yunus Kaya, believe that structural violence is a natural byproduct of globalization, that the influence of the West in developing countries is keeping the rich powerful and the poor systematically repressed. With consideration for many places in post-colonial Africa where structural violence was the modus operandi for hundreds of years, and where dictatorships are still a considerable factor, there is no shortage of examples of this form of repression.

Structural violence may be seen in various forms across all cultures including, on the larger scale:

  • Racism
  • Classism
  • Sexism
  • Nationalism
  • Ethnocentrism

Structural violence on the smaller scale can take the form of:

  • Lack of access to education
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Lack of access to food and/or shelter
  • Biased hiring/firing practices
  • Gerrymandering of voting districts
  • Parades
  • Movement restrictions such as travel bans and curfews

In an applied case, the resurgence of violent conflict in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s is directly tied to structural violence. When the period known as The Troubles began, the movement was purely an ideological push for civil rights; the IRA had been disorganized since the failed 1956 border campaigns. When the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) formed in February of 1967, its aim was to tackle the gerrymandering of Catholic voting districts, repeal the Special Powers Act of 1922 — which restricted the use of the Irish tricolour, allowed for internment without trial, and issued a ban on nationalist and republican meetings and parades while allowing unionist and loyalist meetings and parades, including the incendiary July 12th parades, which marched (and still march) through Catholic enclaves of Belfast including the Ardoyne in North Belfast and the Short Strand in East Belfast — the introduction of a compulsory points system to ensure fair allocation of public housing, and the disbanding of the Ulster Special Constabulary (B Specials), an exclusively Protestant quasi-military force.[2]

Later, in 1970, the Catholic community suffered both the mass expulsion of 500 workers from the Harland and Wolff shipyards following a shootout in the Short Strand in late June and an early July curfew in the Lower Falls Road area of West Belfast.  Between 3-5 July, the British Army contained 20,000 people in their homes for 36 hours using barbed wire barricades to block off the area, did a full arms search of each house, arrested 300 men, shot three unarmed civilians dead and ran one over with a tank, and allowed the son of former Prime Minister Brookeborough to tour the area while leaving Westminster MP for the Falls, Gerry Fitt, outside the barricades.[3] Adding insult to injury, it was later discovered that the entire operation had been illegal.

The Falls Road Curfew is the specific event that pushed the Provisional IRA, which had split from the Original IRA over ideological differences the previous December, into its active participation in the conflict. No longer willing to tolerate systematic and — in some cases, physical — violence under the Stormont government and the British military forces, nationalists began to vocalize their support for the civil rights movement and several hundred new republicans joined up with the Provisionals. Prior to the curfew, the Provos counted fewer than 100 men; by the beginning of December, they numbered 800.[4]

Further reading

Paul Farmer  – An Anthropology of Structural Violence. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/382250

Tord Hoivik – The Demography of Structural Violence. http://www.jstor.org/stable/423311

 

[1]Journal of Peace Research, 6(3), p. 167-191. http://www.jstor.org/stable/422690

[2] Bew, P., & Gillespie, G. (1999). Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles 1968-1999 (p.1) Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.

[3] Warner, G. (2006). The Falls Road Curfew Revisited. Irish Studies Review, 14(3), 325-342., Coogan, T. (1997). The Troubles: Ireland’s Ordeal 1966-1996 and the Search for Peace (p. 109). Boulder, Colo.: Roberts Rinehart., McKittrick, D., & McVea, D. (2002). Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland (p. 62). Chicago: New Amsterdam Books.

[4] Bardon, J. (1994). A History of Ulster (p. 678). Belfast: The Blackstaff Press.

Lesson #390: Protracted Refugees

I was reading an article, recently, about how the UN’s daily food allotment for roughly 450,000 African refugees is 850 calories. That’s not a lot. It’s about a third of what the average American consumes on a daily basis.

This got me to thinking about how long that’s sustainable. Obviously, that’s an untenable situation — because math, science, and common sense say so — and something will have to give, but I was curious about the length of time the average refugee is dependent on UN food resources.

According the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a protracted refugee situation is one in which 25,000 or more people from the same country seek refugee status in another country (or countries) for a period of at least five years. Of the 15 million refugees worldwide, roughly two-thirds are living in protracted situations. But here’s the thing…in 1993, the average length of protracted refugee situations was nine years; by the end of 2003, it was 17 years. Seventeen years. That’s very literally half my life. 17 years stuck in a foreign country, often without the resources or recourse to find employment, or housing, or access to education. I’ve spent more than 17 years of my life being educated by actual institutions. Seventeen years of being stuck in a place with few, if any, options to move, work, and learn is just unfathomable to me.

Anyway, there’s a challenge that exists to go a single day on 850 calories. It’s honestly not that bad if you do it right…I did it for a week and wasn’t any the worse for wear as a result. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it still sucks. But it’s not that bad if you can eat a variety of things. For me, it was a lot of chicken, fresh vegetables, hard boiled eggs, beans, and a lot of spices. No bread or pasta — which aren’t things I eat a lot of anyway, so that wasn’t a huge challenge — no crackers, no pecan butter, no cheese, (mostly) no chocolate, no juice or pop — also fine because apart from limeade, I rarely drink either — and definitely no booze.* Basically no drinks other than water and one glass of chocolate milk a day.** But refugees don’t have access to grocery stores/farmer’s market and fresh fruits and veggies and eggs and lean meats. They have access to lentils, rice, and a spoonful of salt. Every day. If I’d had to do a week of that, there’s barely a sliver of a chance I’d have succeeded — in no small part because unless you put it in jambalaya, I’m not really very keen on rice. I’d encourage you to give the challenge a go, though. If nothing else, it was really interesting to pay that close attention to what I was eating.

For more on protracted refugee situations, including which nationalities are listed among the displaced, see the state department’s website, here. Or Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre’s website, here.

*I find I drink more frequently during the summer — because, as I’ve already noted, everyone knows beer consumed outdoors tastes better than beer consumed indoors and everyone enjoys being out in good weather — but giving it up for the football match was the harder aspect. Beer and football go together and always have. I gave up drinking for five weeks between the end of the Premier League season and the start of the World Cup, and that was fine. I went and hung out on patios for happy hours and to friends’ barbeques and whatnot…no problem. I spend one Sunday 8:30am match not drinking with my footie mates, and it’s two hours of agony. Even with a 4-0 victory for Spurs.

**Because secretly, I’m eight.

Lesson #372: The Right-Hand Man

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes questions will pop into my head for no reason at all and nag me to answer them; I was literally washing my dinner dishes when this question wandered into my brain unprovoked.

Western culture* has a tenet that one’s most loyal and trusted advisor/soldier/business partner is one’s “right-hand man.” But why? My immediate thought was that it’s born of religion because I’ve studied both the Tanakh and the Bible at some length, and I know the lyrics to ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ and ‘Heaven on Their Minds’.** It’s also the most obvious answer because that phrasing shows up nearly three dozen times over both scriptures.***

But it’s not the right answer. It seems those two documents absorbed some combat history.

In all likelihood the concept of the person to your right being the person you trust the most because he’s the person on whom you rely the most (and therefore being your “right-hand man” comes from the phalanx formation. In the phalanx, the person on your right was the one using his shield to protect your entire right side — including, since roughly 85% of the population are right-handed****, your sword hand. This actually raises a whole separate question about where they put lefties. Did they have entire phalanxes of lefties that were mirror images of the right-handed phalanxes? Did they simply train lefties to fight right-handed? If I can find that answer, you can be sure I’ll let you know.

Anyway…

Interestingly, though we generally associate the phalanx with the ancient Greeks — specifically the Spartans if you payed attention in grade 9 World History — the first known depiction of the formation is actually a fragment of the Sumerian Stele of the Vultures, which dates to the 25th century BCE.

You can read more here. Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that there’s no definitive answer to this question and if you google the origins, many, many (most) people submit JESUS! as the answer. Which is fine, if not particularly logical. Just because it appears in scripture doesn’t make it the origin; I choose logic.

*I don’t know enough about Eastern culture to comment on the validity of the idiom there.

**I’d urge you to take those two pieces for what they’re worth.

***1 Kings 2:19, Ezekiel 16:46, Ezekiel 21:22, Zechariah 3:1, 1 Chronicles 6:39, 2 Chronicles 18:18, Psalms 16:8, Psalms 77:10, Psalms 80:17, Psalms 91:7, Psalms 109:6 and 109:31Psalms 110:1 and 110:5 — the first of which is directly referenced in Matthew 22:44, Mark 12:36Luke 20:42, and Acts 2:34, and Hebrews 1:13  — Matthew 26: 64, Mark 14:62, Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, Acts 2:33,  Acts 5:31, Acts 7:55 and 7:56Romans 8:34Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 12:2, and 1 Peter 3:22. Lest you think I just know those offhand, remember I’m really good at finding things and very patient in my research. Also, given that John is our non-synoptic friend, his absence from this list shouldn’t be particularly surprising.

****Though, as with the blue eyes, a disproportionate number of actors are lefties. Pay attention the next time you see an actor writing something onscreen. I promise you more of them will be left-handed than is representative of the actual population.

Lesson #370: Hitler’s Record Collection

I absolutely love this kind of history. In part because I find the way things change hands over time fascinating. Like how a painting by one of the masters gets written off as a forgery and then spends 200 years in someone’s personal collection before being stuffed in an attic. Or how Hitler’s classical record collection wound up in Moscow. But I also find it interesting because I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about a person by what books they have, what’s on their iPods, what TV shows/movies they watch religiously, and what football club they cheer for.*

The story itself isn’t particularly exciting. After Hitler’s bunker was captured, a bunch of Russian Intelligence officers took it upon themselves to liberate some of Hitler’s possessions. For strategic sheep purposes or whatever.** Anyway, 60 years later, upon the officer’s death, his daughter came across the records in the attic (naturally).

What I find most interesting in this is the inclusion of the Russian greats like Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky (who wrote my favourite piece of music ever), Borodin, and Rachmaninov (who is responsible for a surprising piece of pop culture), as well as some recordings of other peoples’ work by prominent Jewish artists like Huberman and Schnabel. In case you’ve all forgotten everything you learned in school, Nazism considered both the Jews and the Russians subhuman.

So it turns out that if you’re a brutal dictator spearheading a campaign to rid Europe of all the groups of people you don’t like, you don’t actually have to take your own orders. You can listen to Russians, Jews, and Russian Jews to your heart’s content. Because who is going to complain and to whom?

You can read more here, herehere, and here.

*I like things that are very, very dark. Which you probably should have picked up on by now if you’ve been reading for a while. But also, come to my house, take a look at my library, skim my iPod, and/or have me list off my favourite TV shows for you; you won’t be at all surprised by most of what you see and hear. Except for where Clueless is concerned. It’s the Zdeno Chara of my collection — the outlier that’s going to skew all the rest of the data.

**I love the internet. I literally just googled “strategic sheep” and it came back with exactly what I was looking for. Technology!

Lesson #367: The Lebensborn

As you may or may not have learned in school,* the Germans did some pretty unconscionable things during the Second World War.** Among their more horrible attempts at perfecting a race of tall, blond, blue-eyed*** people was the Lebensborn program.

The Lebensborn program an office within the Schutzstaffe (the SS) and was born of the concept of racial purity and incorporated a two-prong attack, as it were, in perpetuating that purity. It was put in place in 1936 with, according to Heinrich Himmler, the express purpose of:

1. Support[ing] racially, biologically and hereditarily valuable families with many children;

2. Plac[ing] and car[ing] for racially, biologically and hereditarily valuable pregnant women, who, after thorough examination of their and the progenitor’s families by the Race and Settlement Central Bureau of the SS, can be expected to produce equally valuable children;

3. Car[ing] for the children; and

4. Car[ing] for the children’s mothers.****

However — and this is a big however — it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and taking care of women and children. Though Lebensborn was implemented as a form of social welfare, especially for unmarried women, two of the main modus operandi for the program were a. removal of Polish children (anywhere from 10,000 t0 200,000…all records were destroyed, so there’s no way to come up with an accurate count though the most likely number is somewhere around 20,000) from their parents — though some were orphans — and b. the impregnation of often unwilling, but genetically desirable, women, especially outside of Germany. The Norwegians fared especially poorly in that regard. Though literally all of the German records of the program in Norway were destroyed, the Norwegians, it turns out, kept very good records; according to Eva Simonsen’s article “Into the Open — or Hidden Away?: The Construction of War Children as a Social Category in Post-war Norway and Germany“, while about 8,000 children were counted among the Lebensborn in Germany, there were roughly 12,000 in Norway.

The first clinic opened in Munich in 1936; the first clinic outside of Germany opened in Norway in 1941. It should also probably be noted that the clinics were often housed in homes that had been confiscated from the Jews. All told, there were eventually facilities — though some were merely field offices — in nine countries, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland.

For more, see here, herehere, and here.

*Seriously, I read an article yesterday about a poll done by the Anti-Defamation League that found that nearly half of the world’s population doesn’t know the Holocaust is a thing that happened. To some extent, that makes sense. But half?

**It should go without saying that this doesn’t mean other parties didn’t also do unconscionable things. The Russians, for example, threw under-armed soldiers at the Germans during the Siege of Leningrad and when some of them said, essentially, “f**k this noise!” and opted for desertion, the Russian commanders ordered their troops — who, let’s remember were already dealing with a shortage of ammunition and, if they had a rifle at all, were equipped with a Moson Nagant, which isn’t the easiest weapon in the world to operate when you’re at the shooting range, nevermind being shot at — to shoot any Russian soldiers abandoning their posts in the back. It’s just the the Germans are the best-known offenders.

***Fun story: I have a friend whose ancestry I had just assumed was Scandinavian, because like the overwhelming majority of my Scandinavian (actually Scandinavian, not Scandinavian-descended) friends, he’s very tall, very blond, and very blue-eyed. But it turns out, his family are mostly Austrian. When I expressed my surprise at this last week (my exact words included, “you’re like the poster child for the Volkish Movement” — for more on that, read George L. Mosse’s superlative work, The Crisis of German Ideology), he said, “I know. I’m Hitler’s wet dream.”

****That can be read on page 465 of the 5th volume from the Nuremberg Trials, which can be found here in its entirety.