Andrej Nikolaidis was born in 1974 in Sarajevo, to a mixed Montenegrin-Greek family. In 1992, following the breakout of ethnic strife in Bosnia that soon evolved into all-out war, Nikolaidis’s family moved to the Montenegrin town of Ulcinj, his father’s hometown. An ardent supporter of Montenegrin independence, anti-war activist and promoter of human rights, especially minority rights, Nikolaidis initially became known for his political views and public feuds, appearing on local television and in newspapers with his razor-sharp political commentaries. His writings aroused controversy and he “received threats, including death threats.
Nikolaidis has published four novels in Montenegro and Croatia. In 2012, two of his novels were published in English in the UK; one of them was published also in German two years later.
In October 2009 Nikolaidis accepted a job as the adviser to the politician Ranko Krivokapić, who has been the speaker of the house in Montenegrin Parliament since 2003. Nikolaidis resigned in February 2014.
The trend has been around for decades, ever since Friedkin’s “The Exorcist”: almost every Hollywood exorcism movie has seamlessly made its way into the ten most viewed movies in American cinemas. The narrative that these films use is deeply rooted in Western tradition. Finally, the Bible describes Jesus as an exorcist, from whom unclean spirits flee. He also gives his disciples power to “heal from sickness, and to cast out devils.” The Gospel of Mark describes the moment when the scribes of Jesus accuse the persecution of the devils with the help of the Devil (Mark 3:22). Jesus then says, “How can Satan cast out Satan? And if the empire itself is divided, it cannot remain a cart; And if the home itself is divided, it cannot remain the home; And if Satan stands up alone and splits, he cannot stay, but will perish. ”
It was this biblical episode that served as one of the foundations of René Girard’s wonderful book, “I watched Satan fall like lightning.”
According to Girard, man is not much different from an insect in Del Toro’s film Mimic – Del Toro’s insect imitates people, while the man imitates his neighbour. The insect on the film does this in order to go unnoticed in New York, in the human anthill, while the human does it because it is driven by mimetic craving. In short: a man wants what the other man has. This puts the human species in a state of permanent war of all against all. When the order is threatened and before firing, the situation will turn into a war of all against one. The so-called scapegoat will be thrown before the crowd. This story flows from archaic myths into the Bible, where Jesus plays the role of sacrifice. What makes the bible story of the crucifixion different is the height of the stakes: the sacrificed son of God. The act of violence will have a cathartic effect and will strengthen the community again. The problem is that catharsis is false and its effects transient. The thing will happen again. That’s why Girard looks at history in a series of mimetic cycles.
Here is one example that Girard refers to: Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tiana. The second century is our era. Apollonius’ glory, thanks to the miracles he performed, is greater in the heathen than Jesus.
Ephesus is affected by the plague. As a last hope, he was summoned by Apollonius, who immediately made a promise: “I will end the epidemic that has come down on you today.” He takes the people to the theatre, where a large image of the patron god of the city was placed. At the entrance to the theatre, the magician notices a blind beggar blinking, as if he were blind. What a repulsive man, Apollonius thought.
In the theatre, he tells the people that the blind man is guilty of all their troubles and calls on the Ephesians to stone the “enemy of the gods” with stones. People, however, saw not a demon in front of them, but a powerless man who begged them for mercy.
Someone eventually threw the first stone. Then it was all over: the mass, as he would always do, followed him. Philostratus writes that just under the rain of stones, the beggar showed his true face: He sent the Ephesians a “penetrating view full of fire.” And when the people unfurled the stones, they saw that their victim was not human. “In his place was a beast that looked like a big dog, but as big as the largest lion.”
For the record, the plague subsequently withdrew from Ephesus.
As Girard interprets it, the above example illustrates the outbreak of a mimetic contagion that, after the first stone has been thrown, directs the entire population against an innocent beggar. He writes: “The initial rejection of the Ephesians is the only ray of light in this dark text, but Apollonius does everything he can to shut it down and succeeds in that.” In the end, after committing a crime, the Ephesians naturally “see” the monster – otherwise they would have to face their guilt.
The story is reminiscent of that of the Bible, in which Jesus, doing the exact opposite of Apollonius, saves a prostitute from stoning. For Girard, the point of the biblical story is clear: since men will imitate, it is in their nature, God sends them his son, to imitate him. People will be warned not to follow false idols. Because if they imitate other people, they will in fact imitate the Devil. For Satan himself is a jealous, grotesque imitator. “His kingdom is a caricature of the kingdom of God. Satan is a monkey of God”. Therefore, through Jesus intervenes in mimetic desire, in human desire itself.
The story of Apollonius’ “miracle” in Ephesus illustrates what it looks like when “Satan exiles Satan.” This exorcism, like everything from Devil, is false, so everything will continue: the mimetic cycle will be repeated, again… and again.
That is until today. In communist totalitarian regimes, the mechanism providing the mimetic cycle were intra-party purges and terror over the “internal enemy.” During the post-Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, the enemy, the one who needed to “ethnically cleanse” the community, was a member of another nation and religion. In liberal democracy, it is an anti-corruption struggle – which, like purges in Stalinism, is permanent. If liberal democracy perseveres in the fight against corruption, it is because corruption is inherent in liberal democracy. Because it is inherent, the anti-corruption fight will never be over: corruption will never be won.
Because it is a system in which, as Jesus says, Satan drives Satan out, it is possible that at the centre of a civilization that is in the constant fight against corruption are the banks, the most corrupt institutions in human history.
If we accept Girard’s theory of mimetic cycles, it also leads us to a very provocative and certainly anti-mainstream interpretation of the ritual executions of Saddam and Gaddafi. We know from Lacan that, whether or not the wife is truly unfaithful, the jealousy felt by her husband is certainly pathological. The same is true of the act of mimetic sacrifice: sometimes the victim is a scoundrel, sometimes an angel, but this does not change the pathological nature of the act.
We notice what I will call it the paradox of a fallen tyrant: the only thing that is his miserable existence, wasted on the illusion of power, is perhaps, only perhaps, partly redeemed by the crowd that ultimately drags him down to the mud. This is not what the tyrant deserves. What he deserves is an end in safety without rest, in the environment of his own misdeeds, without any possibility of redemption.
Today, it is not enough for the state to participate in the fight against corruption. No: citizens need to be involved in order to succeed, personal initiative is needed. Therefore, the system invites citizens to spot and report corruption through newspaper ads, billboards, TV, radio and internet advertisements. Cities are full of public calls for informality. Thus a new version of Christ’s command is formed: snitch on your neighbour. A corporate intellectual figure that functions as a paid public moralizer has been installed as an ethical role model. The public space is full of professional first-stone pitchers.
Citizens are filming corruption and delivering the footage to the police. NGO’s detect fraud and require action by the Prosecutor’s Office. The media detects affairs and alarms the public. They all function as an extension of the repressive system, which mobilizes the entire society. There is a continuing state of emergency, a permanent war on corruption. The whole public space is being transformed into a battlefield. New arrests are constantly being sought – European officials in their Stalinist epistles welcome the citizens of the Balkan states for each new arrest, but adding that this was not enough and that they were expecting more. The paradox is this: more arrests mean a more successful fight against corruption. If there are no arrests, this does not mean a drop in the crime rate, does not mean that corruption is suppressed, but rather that there is no “anti-corruption initiative”. The goal is not a society where they will not be arrested, because there is nothing to do but the opposite: a society that will constantly be arrested, because there is always a reason. After all, arrests must never stop, the process of self-purification of the system never ends, because the entire anti-corruption network, as an opaque veil, covers the essential corruption, the black heart of the system.
When a system based on financial institutions that leave people without homes and savings calls for us to report doctors and bribes, the only credible answer is necessarily cynical: “So corrupt police officers, ministers, even leaders, the entire political class, belongs into those whose corruption is not acceptable? But they are all just expendable employees of speculative capital, which remains outlawed. Can we therefore agree on this: well, we will make an arrest if we have to hang up our corrupt leaders in the city squares? But when we’re done, can we move on to the public executions of bank presidents and hedge funds? No? Ah, then nothing. ”
Let’s return to our leitmotif: The corrupt cannot drive out corruption. But it can sporadically pursue the illusion of justice, in fact its parody, called the rule of law, in which law is permanently separated from justice and truth, in fact it functions not only independently of them but also as their substitution. There is one more thing: it can enforce its sacrificial mechanism that, at the height of the clutter, restores order in the community.
Girard says: “This is why the human communities of Satan owe the kind of order they enjoy today. As far as they are concerned, they are all in debt and cannot be released on their own. ”
So: the rule of law. And Nazi Germany was a rule of law. They were just obeying the law. They even shaped the Holocaust legally and constitutionally. If someone had appealed to the German Constitutional Court (maybe you did?) claiming that the extermination of Jews was unconstitutional, the appeal would have been rejected with perfect legal reasoning.
The Nazis felt that legal precision could not be overstated: so, finally, they hired one of the greatest jurists of the time, Karl Schmitt, to give a legal definition: who, as far as the law is concerned, is Jewish? Yes, then, it defines who will be killed.
On the other hand, we lived in Yugoslavia whose Marshal once said that we don’t always have to obey the law, “like a drunken plot.” In which country would you rather live: the rule of law of Nazi Germany or the circumvention of the law prone to Tito’s Yugoslavia?
Legal Nazi Germany has committed some of the greatest horrors and injustices in history. Tito’s non-rule of law was, with all its (great) shortcomings, an unfinished Enlightenment project. How is it possible?
Because the rule of law and the just state are two completely different things. Law is, in theory, a neutral procedure, in practice a procedure that works for those who make laws – which, let’s not be lying, are rich. Still, in his brilliant and devastating critique of the state, Saint Augustin noted that robberies also exist (and if there is no – and no – justice, the state is just a robbery the family says) they distributed the spoils on the basis of some rules, that is, of some laws. Both then and today.
The supreme legal act defining the distribution of loot is called Constitution, and the matter has been elaborated in detail in laws. Sometimes loot is distributed beyond the Constitution and law, and then one group of thieves hires the police and judiciary to punish another group of thieves who killed them in the loot division. Then we see the rule of law in action.
An Oxfam study found that 80 people on this planet have more money than 3.5 billion. Anyone who has not been reduced to an idiot – a victim of humanitarian-democratic propaganda – knows that so much wealth can only be gained by robbing or exploiting a slum and producing a new slum. Most of these 80 people live in democratic and rule of law states. Which means that robbery and exploitation are legal (though not every robbery and not every exploitation, so there are, say, the Constitution and laws), because otherwise the rule of law would prevent them from doing so, right?
Justice, on the other hand, is an idea. And it is attempted sometimes through revolutionary, sometimes through legal means. Revolution is the youth of an idea, the moment when it seems to the Idea that it is right in the name of Justice to do injustice. Then when that idea is finally legalized, and it must be, because the terror of the idea must somehow be stopped, the decadence of the idea begins and its end is near. The idea of justice is certainly dying: whether it burns in its own terror, or perishes in its own laws.