26 december 2005

Short Reflection on the Origions of Violence (pt. 2)

Ese texto es para vos, Damián. No tenía ninguna intención de traducirlo: tenés que decirle gracias a Anja si al final lo he hecho. Lo he traducido en inglés porque todavía no sé escribir en castellano. (La semana pasada tuve que escribir nada más que tres frases a mis tíos en Argentina - felicitaciones de Navidad y tal. ¡Me duró una media jodida hora!) Y que lo sepas: eso vale un favor :) ¡Hasta pronto!

A definite sign of a good movie (besides of not leaving you cold when you get out of the theater) is that your mind keeps going back to it, even after a lot of time. On Saturday evening I came across an interesting experience that made me recall the movie “Crash”, which I saw on the Ljubljana Film Festival (LIFFE). It’s about racism in the USA; although the topic sounds worn out and boring, I can assure you the movie is (at least according to my criteria, which I believe a lot of people would be prepared to question) just excellent! And to those who find it hard to stand the moralism which is usually stuck to the subject: don’t worry, there isn’t any (and where there is, it’s very discrete).

So, what happened to me? Nothing particularly unusual, actually. In the late evening hours, me, my friend and her Argentine boyfriend /yes, that’s you/ were coming home from Orto Bar where (this data is not unimportant for the understanding of the future developments of the story) I’d got involved in a - let’s say so - minor misunderstanding with the doorman. Before splitting away, we decided to pay reverence to the old Ljubljana habit, stopping for a late-hour burek. The soon we entered we got the confirmation that something strange was in the air that night (this was, by the way, the night in which 17% of all Slovenes took part of the final voting for the winner of “Bar”). The burek-keeper /whose English denomination I’ve just now invented to match the ironic charge of the Serbian word “burekindžija” used in the original text/ gave us a suspiciously bad look; he’d soon uncover that what was bothering him was the fact that we- Slovenians- would talk Spanish among ourselves. “Couldn’t ya teach ya frend some Slovene”, he finally uttered in his typically burek-like Slovene while getting our orders. Me and my friend tried to explain to him, as kindly and cheerfully as we could, that the chap was from a distant land and could thus not speak our language. “Not true! I remember you people well. You were here also last month.” I certainly found the man’s memory suspicious, because it clearly showed we had in some way offended him, although I didn’t have the slightest clue, how. While he continued grumbling something as to “how are we Slovenians like, requesting from the southerners to learn Slovenian, yet bowing submissively to westerners”, I caught, with a glimpse, two guys not much older than us (which means in their early twenties), entering the place and greeting our burek-keeper in broken Serbo-Croatian, as if they had known each other well.

We had already sat down, and while my friend and her Argentine boyfriend were absorbed in the food and romantic flirting, I realized things were taking a clearly negative road. The guys placed themselves standing next to our table, giving the impression it was more of a strategic positioning than a casual queueing up for a burek. After a minute or so of silence, they addressed our Argentine guy in English: “Where are you from?” Clearly I was not the only one who found the whole thing suspicious and thought fight was in the air, since my friend carefully answered: “From Bolivia.” (Here an explanation would of course be needed, but I lack the time and I guess you lack the patience. Let me only say that a couple of hours before, we had been talking about the unpopularity of Slovenian tourists in the Balkans, and he replied in a joke that, when abroad, he likes presenting himself as a Bolivian: they are apparently the only Nation that nobody seems to hate.) Anyway: guessing that Bolivia wasn’t going to do any good here in Slovenia, I already started checking our strategic chances. I soon realized the two guys weren’t particularly strong /here I could in no way find the proper English counterpart to the nice and slightly rurally flavoured Slovene word postaven which means “straight”, “well-shaped” and “strong” all in one/, but from their approach I assumed they were quite proficient in the matter of fighting. The main problem, of course, was that they had an absolute logistic superiority: they were standing, in full state of preparation, while me and the Argentine were sitting; and besides this, we had a woman to take care of, if we can say so. /I swear: the phrase doesn’t sound half as sexist in Slovene/

And then one of the guys says: “I bet the girl ain’t no stranger. Only Slovenian girls are so beautiful.” Very well, I said to myself, so we’re having a fight. Two Neanderthals have seen a Slovenian woman with a foreigner (and a latino, in addition) and they can’t figure it out. Ok, I said to myself, if it must be a fight, it must be a fight. I actually sincerely hate violence, but if these two mongoloids attack us, we will defend ourselves. /in the original, I used the small, blessed Slovene word pač, which is so small and so often (mis)used, that most native speakers don’t even realize how terribly absent it is in all other languages; it means something as “of course”, “unfortunately”, “just”, “indeed”, “things are just like this” all in one: “we will pač defend ourselves”/. I calmly put my gloves on, waiting for the first blow to come.

In the meantime, I thought the whole thing through: since I’m an extremely clumsy person, they’d probably quickly put me out of action, especially since I was sited. Therefore I quickly realized I’d have to count on the only weapon I possess: my raw and brutal force, which can be (so I’ve been told) pretty destructive. In the moment our friends would had moved, I would have picked up the chair and smashed it up with all my force on one of them.

Then the unexpected happened: they got their burek, kindly bided us farewell and left. I was completely chocked: after all, they actually wanted only a nice chat and had no bad intention whatsoever. I couldn’t come to my senses for a couple more minutes: how could have I made such a mistake in my judgment? The next morning I thought the whole thing over again. What could have happened if, when I was in my full war readiness (and with a somewhat limited capacity of judgment), one of them had given me a pat on the shoulder (maybe asking me for a cigarette or something)? A catastrophe!

The lesson I got on my personal account on Saturday, is very similar to the lesson of the film “Crash”. From all sites we hear about assaults that take place in our cities, of attacks with a crazy and stupid dynamics, so we slowly start to foster the conviction that danger in disguise waits for us everywhere we go. We see a potential threat in every fellow human being and act accordingly. Sometimes it happens that we completely misinterpret a completely innocent situation. Reality gets colored by fear, prejudice, and of course, negative experience, and suddenly we are prepared to hit, to defend ourselves, and even worse: to strike the first blow, preventively. In such cases, all the importance of Government policy towards arm control comes to light: if you are unarmed, in the worst of cases someone will end in up in the hospital, but if you carry- for personal protection, of course!- a gun with you …

Anyway, if you see the movie anywhere around, don’t miss the chance to watch it. Until then, try to enjoy the magic moments when a fellow person, who you were sure to hide an enemy, suddenly appears to you as an innocent and maybe even good-meaning neighbour.

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