Autumn-winter 2004
 

 

  Autumn-winter 2004

  A PERFECT ENDING
  Nermina KURSPAHIÆ
 
 
“Verdi e morte!” a dwarf shouts at the beginning of Bertolucci's film Twentieth Century and by doing so announces the end of the 20th century – a century that exuded optimism, humanity’s hope that the industrial and scientific development, that was in full swing, would bring existential improvement. Verdi’s music, and above all his opera, even when they are thematically immersed in the past, have perhaps best symbolised the spirit of the times and the romantic expectations of the people that progress meant improvement for all. Bertolucci’s film only partially depicts the 20th century – a century in which the hopes of the previous one were totally betrayed. Even in that film the 20th century was represented and continued in an unexpectedly bad light. Instead of progress – which perhaps was taking place somewhere in the background – and its consequences, the centre stage was occupied by wars, ideologies bred in the sick minds (fascism, Stalinism), unrest, human suffering… Bertolucci could not even imagine how things would unfold. What we would go on to experience… More wars, more fascism, more killing of the most morbid kind…and more suffering. The 20th century will go down in history as a century of wars, of the human suffering, and of the natural disasters. Concerning the social segment the trends were just as dramatic. The ambitious governments of some countries created great suffering and destruction for others, as well as for themselves (Germany, SSSR, USA). The wars were spreading, multiplying, poisoning and devastating continents such as Africa and Asia. The great and the wealthy became wealthier, the poor became even more destitute. To think about the world, to ponder themes which at one time represented the essence and gave meaning to human existence and its communities (themes in the realm of philosophy, sociology, psychology, anthropology) became the privilege of the few belonging to wealthy societies. A divide which was created between those who were in a position to think, for they were, more or less, living in peace and those who lived a wretched and a difficult existence, became a real Derridian “abyss”. Those who understood and had a conscience about it, felt uneasy, like Sartre for example: “What is all my writing compared to a tear of a child dying of hunger" (the words with which he turned down the Nobel Prize). Even now many individuals, artists, and writers most of all, are feeling uneasy. Those who like the knights defend and unflaggingly protect human dignity before the onslaught of all sorts of modern barbarians. In that respect, the chivalry of one lady, Susan Sontag is unsurpassable…
The 20th century, with all its wonders and improprieties was portrayed as a stubborn monster that is impossible to subdue – ideologically and literally. Not one single philosophical or artistic movement has grasped its essence. (Maybe because it does not exist). But, one philosopher represented and challenged that time. Jacques Derrida, with his “deconstructivism” offered the world a real “structural revolution.” His view represented not so much a theory but a new way of interpreting everything – truly everything, from simple everyday events, philosophical systems, art, literature, architecture, politics, morality, television, death, friendship (“Oh friends, there are no friends”), and a great deal more. Not a single philosopher had that charisma. Paradoxically, he worked as a sui generis theologist. Deconstruction, if something like that exists, his followers would say, became an “experience of the impossible”. And that’s exactly what the 20th century was – an experience of the impossible, impossible events, things that became reality and certainties of the 21st century. For this reason the words of Jacques Chirac, “Jacques Derrida est morte,” have the same power as the words of that dwarf from Bertolucci’s film. This time we were told that the 20th century has now truly ended. Concerning the (impossible) themes, which seem to be the main characteristics of the 21st century, themes such as terrorism and its global, social and ideological implications, evil and the types of crimes and torture, their discussion will follow. To begin with, a knight of reason and words, Jean Bauldrillard, offered us his view of the spirit of terrorism, America and the “perfect crimes.” But it seems that he hasn’t said everything. Perhaps, after everything that has transpired, no one ever will.