Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Dirty Harry

I didn't blog about Prince Harry's costume party and the brouhaha it had created. I didn't have much time, and I believed that other, more informed people will have much better things to say. It seems that I was, at least partially right. This piece, more or less, corresponds with my thoughts on the whole issue.

Furthermore, if someone indeed tries to use this incident as an excuse for EU-wide ban on Nazi insignia, this will be the worst thing to come out of the whole affair.

First, I'm more than aware that some people in Europe and elsewhere are very sensitive and more than uncomfortable when anybody using such insignia in any kind of context. However, I'm ready to give Prince benefit of the doubt and conclude that his choice of costumes was nothing more and nothing less than another example of irresponsible behaviour so typical for Europeans of his age, not so different from public drunkenness.

Two years ago, on this very blog, I gave the same benefit of the doubt to Ivica Kostelić (Ivica Kostelic) only to realise that there was, sadly, that his problematic statement indeed had some basis in his personal ideology.

In any case, whether Harry is indeed a Nazi or not, his, or any other case, shouldn't be the reason for such insignia to be banned. If the proposed legislation is indeed adopted it would do more harm than good. It won't suppress Nazism – those who are inclined to such ideology will embrace it one way or another.

One thing that such legislation might achieve is to turn many young and irresponsible, but otherwise harmless, people into criminal. Another, more problematic, consequence is forcing neo-Nazis to go underground and sweeping the whole issue under carpet. The Nazis won't disappear – they will only learn how to hide and the smug self-assured Europe will treat any warning signs about their existence with the same way it reacted to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in their own cities.

I'm also reminded of a similar case which happened in a country that was as anti-Nazi as anyone can imagine and which laws were as strict as those recently proposed for EU.

In second half of 1980s former Yugoslav public was shocked with the scandal which bore great resemblance to Prince Harry's youthful prank. One night there was a huge party in Sarajevo, attended by Bosnia-Herzegovina's equivalent of young royalty – children of top generals, Party officials, newspaper and television editors, state-run company managers etc. The party was supposedly wild, but one thing offended the guardians of former Yugoslav "political correctness" – all attendees were supposed to wear Nazi uniforms, Nazi insignia was part of the scenery, huge cake with swastika was on the menu etc. Needless to say, the press was up in arms, Party committees had emergency conferences and there was palpable anger against the "decadent" and "spoiled" children of Party bureaucrats. In the end, there wasn't any major consequences – some of those youths had their political careers extinguished, but in soon-to-be-ex-Communist Bosnia it didn't matter much.

One of the attendees, however, later did some great things. Miljenko Jergović (Miljenko Jergovic) first became a reporter from besieged Sarajevo and later found enough talent to become one of Croatia's best known and most popular writers. His successful literary career also corresponds with his career of liberal and left-leaning political, cultural and social commentator.

While it is hard to imagine Prince Harry having such epiphany, it is uncomfortable to think that Europe might deprive itself of their own Miljenko Jergovićs if the proposed law is accepted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interresting. Whence did they get the costumes?

Secondly, why doesn't anybody care about the EU wanting to limit free speech? Do they really think that this will endear them to the populations of the countries having a referendum?

2:05 PM  

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