Prof. Dr. Miroslava Kortenska,
Theatre critic and cultural analyst, professor at the South-West University “N.Rilsky” in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria.
GLOBALIZATION AND BALKANIZATION OR FROM THE COMPUTER TO THE LIVE ART
Since the beginning of the 21st century the vision of the modern society has been associated with the modern technologies and media which create common standards of awareness and life. The world, being turned into an observable, however huge village, has found its definition in globalization. The situation on the Balkans is fundamentally different. So the differences outlined in the standard of living, the motivations and the forms of communication at the beginning of the 21st century are highly indicative.
Globalization- Balkanization, Modernity- Balkans, Live Art- Audience.
Since the beginning of the 21st century the vision of the modern society has been associated with the modern technologies and media which create common standards of awareness and life. The world, being turned into an observable, however huge village, has found its definition in globalization.If we have a look at the daily life of the European, the American or the Japanese, we clearly see that it is indispensably related to computer communication and INTERNET and hardly ever to immediate live contacts with people. The ring of the digital clock, the coffee machine, the car, the office, the computer, the exchange of e-mail, the TV broadcasts… The modern individual communicates more with non-living matter. That is why he probably compensates with psychoanalysts, Eastern meditations and collective spectacles.
The situation on the Balkans is fundamentally different. The average Bulgarian, for example, due to his standard of living cannot complain of lack of contact with his environment. He stands in queues for all kinds of things, pushes through the tram or bus, and lives in a small flat with his family. The Balkan man still does not need a psychoanalyst because he has friends to share his problems with, and the ties between parents and children are still pretty well preserved within the family. It’s a fact that at the beginning of the 21st century the Balkans do not quite look like the global village.
So the differences outlined in the standard of living, the motivations and the forms of communication at the beginning of the 21st century are highly indicative. Here – on the Balkans, and there – in the global village. This is an important fact which is not to be ignored. The technology of cohabitation between these two different types of scenery, way of life, communication and need of spirituality is the issue for debate and resolution in the dawn of the new millennium. The integration of the Balkans into the standards of globalization is a process related to the overall development of the region.
One of the main problems which is a serious obstacle for the dynamics and advancement of this process is the so-called balkanization. This is the enclosure of our problems on the regional level and their escalation to ethnic conflicts, religious separatism, wars. I am convinced that in the era of the global village there are three spheres on the Balkans that could help for our affiliation to the standards of the 21st century – civility, dialogue and integration. And these spheres are: education, culture and Balkan cooperation. These are areas related to the new values, attitudes and priorities of our region. They must be driven more actively towards processes that are important for the 21st century – to change the closed cultural elites of the Balkans, to activate on a modern level the dialogues and mutual knowledge in our region. Any average Bulgarian, for example, is interested in and knows better the French, German, English, American history and culture than that of our neighbors. Unfortunately this is the profile of the intellectual elite not only in Bulgaria but in the neighboring countries – in terms of one about the other. Namely ignorance is probably the reason to a large extent for the confrontation, antagonism and aggression on the Balkans. Education and knowledge of the history and culture of the neighbors is a very important part of the foundation of convergence. And it is namely the intellectuals that could help to avoid the replacement of the past of the region, to avoid the instigation of hostilities in the present and to build a new strategy for the 21st century. Artists and intellectuals from the region have the mission to join efforts and turn into a corrective of present occurrences, to stand up flatly against the massiveness of nationalism and religious hostilities, against the insanities of war.
Within this regional specificity, this “balkanization”, some stereotypes have been formed to which people obey. There are stereotypes, in the framework of which an idea exists of the Turkish as cruel and aggressive, the Greek as cunning and insidious, the Albanians as dumb outsiders. A large share in the formation of those stereotypes on the Balkan belongs to artists who have strengthened them through their works. The art whose mission is to oppose stereotypes should realize its importance today. Here I will give an important example from the European cultural practice which us emblematic for the modern world. The great theatre director Peter Brook has been working for years on end on the universal theatrical language that he created with his international group in Paris. In his theatre Bouffes du Nord Brook gathers actors from different races, religions and cultures. Their common projects which became hit performances at the end of 20th century outlined the example and experience of the men of arts to work in an integrated manner and demonstrate the model of the 21st century – a world where arts and culture defend common values. The religion is also perceived as a system of values and as any such system that has lived through time and preserved humans, it has its place in the palette of the modern world. The remedy is the intellectuals of the Balkans to start a fully fledged dialogue – with no prejudices between each other, which will be a guarantee for the new climate in our region. Because this is namely the intellectuals and artists who are the real corrective, they are a real force, they exactly can bear responsibility for the values and directions of development of their own countries and the Balkan region as a whole. The direction is towards the building of dialogue and integrity, as well as of responsibilities for the future of the Balkans. Hatred, enmities, confrontation, separatism, religious intolerance is a part of the road we have already passed. Let’s not carry these in the 21st century too. This depends on us to a great extent. Because the way to the civilization of the 21st century passes through the Balkan community.
The Balkans as a crossroad connecting the East and West have been and continue to be a strategically important place both for the East and the West. The natural sociability, hospitality, openness to dialogue and tolerance, characteristic for the nations inhabiting such a big crossroad as the Balkans, have been dominated during certain periods by violence, wars and antagonism. This dualism in the destiny of the crossroad man living on the Balkans, this dual nature that has marked his character and culture, are a rather interesting object for research, quite often incomprehensible for the European – with the absurd match of incompatible manifestations. When the world is moving towards globalization and integration, when the borders are no longer important, there are wars waged on the Balkans, for new borders, for rewriting the history of our region. But if today namely the Balkan intellectuals and artists are making a stand against that insanity, turning to the positive side of the crossroad man, if they impose exactly those values and that vision for development of the Balkans, we will really succeed to escape from the recurrent traps of confrontation which turned the region into a powder-keg and the Balkan people into suspicious characters. Scientific research and arguments in the building of a common history of our region, discussion and also the confession through art of accumulated aggression, the release of our ancestral and emotional memory of all tragedies, absurds and catastrophes on the Balkans is the way along which all the deformations of Balkanization may be discharged. Besides, that’s the way all significant works of art in the region were created that have given an identity to its specificity, nurtured the imagination and provoked the admiration of Europe and the world.
The Balkans are the cradle of world culture, many cultural layers have piled up here – from the Thracians, through the Slavs, ancient Greeks, Romans to the original modern cultures of the Balkan countries. These cultural layers are hard to differentiate in their pure form. It is precisely the reason why the cultural nationalism on the Balkans is a utopia. The crossroad man has lived for centuries exactly with the values of a multi-layer cultural environment. Today it is extremely important to update this truth for the Balkan cultural community not only as a centuries-old tradition, but also as a modern practice. This is the reason why the artistic collage existing nowadays between the Balkan cultural phenomena is an important trend in the modern landscape of our region. There can be many examples, what is important is the direction towards dialogue, integration and community on the Balkans.