The Rebirth of a Nation?

by Osagie K. ObasogieColorlines (Sept / Oct 2007)
September 19th, 2007

300 is arguably the most racially charged movie since D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. In true post-9/11 form, Zack Snyder's film turns Brown into the new Black; Persians are depicted as bloodthirsty savages thwarted in the Battle of Thermopylae by a small contingent of freedom fighters – with noticeably paler skin – looking to preserve democracy at all costs. This eerily resembles Birth of a Nation, the 1915 epic celebrating the Ku Klux Klan's rise during Reconstruction to defend Southern whites’ dignity and honor against what were then seen as recently liberated Black insurgents. Like Griffith's film, this mixture of race, racism, sex, and violence has been astonishingly profitable: 300 has grossed nearly $500 million worldwide since hitting box offices in March and hundreds of millions more are on the way with its recent DVD release.

In many ways, 300 has already become as much of a cult classic as ‘Birth‘ was in its heyday. Like ‘Birth‘, 300 is likely to be remembered more for its groundbreaking cinematography and technical achievements than its racial overtones. What's interesting, however, is how both films’ critically acclaimed screenplays were brought to life by manipulating skin color; the digitally airbrushed complexion of 300's characters emphasizes, exacerbates, and racializes the Persian/Spartan conflict in a manner not unlike Birth's use of blackface.

In a time of growing unrest between the West and the Middle East, this racialized depiction of freedom, nation, and democracy becomes central to 300's take home message. But closer inspection reveals a subtler, yet similarly troubling idea that has gone largely unnoticed: 300's unapologetic glorification of eugenics.

Within the film's first few minutes, audiences are introduced to a practice presented as key to Sparta's heroic culture: breeding better humans. Every newborn was inspected for health, strength, and vigor; those showing defect or disability were abandoned to die. The film suggests that this rather crude form of eugenics is put in place for military reasons: every Spartan child should either be able to become a soldier or give birth to one.

Initially shocked, audiences are quickly reassured that this is all for the greater good: nation, freedom, and the Spartan family. How else can Sparta defend itself – and inspire modern democracies – unless it reserves scarce resources for the strongest? 300's crafty narration, erotic imagery, and blue-screened dramaturgy give sympathy to these practices. After all, Spartans are brave, noble, and beautiful; the ends here seem to justify the means.

This pro-eugenics trope is magnified by the film's dramatic climax, which implausibly suggests that but for the Spartans’ betrayal by Ephialtes – a physically disabled Spartan hidden from the authorities as a child – the 300 eugenically selected soldiers would have outlasted Xerxes's minions. The impression left in viewers’ minds is that were it not for the failure of Spartan eugenics to catch Ephialtes at birth, King Leonidas might very well have led his outmanned and overmatched army to victory.

Like other readings of the film, this would hardly be noteworthy except for the specific cultural and political contexts in which audiences engage these images, thoughts, and ideas. Just as the West's growing conflicts in the Middle East bring attention to the film's racial commentaries, so too do rapid and unregulated developments in reproductive and genetic technologies – what Slate's Will Saletan calls in a different context “our gentle descent towards eugenics” – heighten sensitivities to 300's portrayal of eugenics as not only morally justifiable, but also sound public policy.

What's noteworthy here is that eugenics is not simply an idea of the past. As we mark the centennial of the world's first eugenics law (Indiana, 1907), reflections on the harms perpetuated in the name of “breeding better people” have yet to produce any meaningful federal legislation to prevent human biotechnologies from being used in a manner that might repeat this shameful history. People today are developing and using embryo-selection procedures to “weed out” babies with disabilities or select their sex. Some scientists are developing technologies that might lead to “designer” children who would suit various social preferences for hair color, skin color, and more. In fact – not unlike what happened in Sparta – other technologies are being researched to enhance humans to fit certain military specifications.

Take as an example the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Department of Defense bureau responsible for developing military technologies. It has become increasingly interested in funding research into human enhancement that can build better soldiers, which Wired describes as an effort “to let [soldiers] run harder and longer, operate without sleep, overcome deadly injury, and tap the potential of their unconscious minds.” Though these techniques would be aimed at young adults rather than at embryos or newborns, they are closely related to eugenics in that they embrace a similar belief that we can and should design individuals to suit social and political ends. And, as in ancient Sparta, national security and militarism can become easily intertwined with these conversations.

If enhancing today's soldiers is already on the table, are we also headed toward a truly eugenic militarism that starts from scratch and uses reproductive and genetic technologies to select, design, or engineer “freedom fighters”? What would this rebirth of a nation – through enhancement, eugenics, or otherwise – mean for our country's social, political, and military future?

If it wasn't already clear that reproductive and genetic technologies could presage a new eugenics, 300's blockbuster message should draw attention to this as much as it might foreshadow ongoing conflict in the Middle East. A disturbing number of scientists, fertility specialists, biomedical researchers, and others are pushing a market-based eugenics founded on parents’ private choices. Yet throwback eugenics based on Spartan-like freedom and democracy could also be around the corner. Only better oversight and clear regulation of human biotechnologies – as we see in Canada and the United Kingdom – can help us navigate these impending challenges. Otherwise, to paraphrase King Leonidas, we may very well end up dining in hell.

Osagie K. Obasogie directs the project on Bioethics, Law, and Society at the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, CA. He also regularly contributes to the blog Biopolitical Times, where an earlier version of this essay appeared.


Kako smrdi dr. Nele Karajlić: Suicide Note Predraga O., snajperiste

∫ the life of the wife is ended by the knife ∑

“Suicide Note” Predraga O. – snajperiste VRS, koji je ubio sarajevsku devetogodišnju djevojčicu DIJANU

Dijani je oduzeo život vojnik Čosićeve, Miloševićeve i Karadžićeve ideologije, Predrag O., koristeći snajper negdje sa srpskih položaja oko opkoljenog Sarajeva, tako da ona ne može slušati Neletovo “snajperisanje” Sarajeva, u ime te iste ideologije, danas.

Sarajevo '92 siege - djeca zrtve snajpera
Dječak ubijen na Marin Dvoru, u opkoljenom Sarajevu, pogođen iz snajpera sa srpskih položaja negdje na Grbavici – dječak nije sin Nenada Jankovića i njegove supruge

Snajperist Vojske RS, rođeni Sarajlija, Predrag O., koji je ubio sarajevsku devetogodišnju djevojčicu Dijanu, iako, ustvrdiće, do tog momenta nikada nije pucao na one za koje je “postojala sumnja da su isključivo civili”, u oproštajnoj poruci objašnjava zašto će sebi u Beogradu 2000. oduzeti život :

“Ne znam kakav je đavo ušao u mene tog dana. Sjećam se, bio je vreli ljetni dan, avgust 1992., rano popodne. Kroz magično oko durbina oprezno sam posmatrao ulice. Vidio sam civile. Uglavnom starce i žene, kako oprezno izviruju iz kuća. Nastalo je zatišje i oni su se uputili na česmu na obali Miljacke da dopune zalihe vode. Vidio sam jednu stariju ženu kako odmiče od česme i jednu ženu sa djetetom, djevojčicom, kako brzo potura balone pod lulu česme… Uhvatio sam lice djevojčice i shvatio sam da se ona smije, baš kao da se oko nje ne dešava nikakvo ludilo… A onda je ludilo, iznenada, uhvatilo mene. Šta se ona smije, mislio sam, da li se ona to meni smije?! Ja se tu zlopatim, krvavim u životu bez života, a ona se smije kao da mi prkosi – kako uostalom smije biti toliko zadovoljna i sretna, mislio sam. Nećeš ti meni, vala, rekao mi je neki pakleni glas i ja, u tom trenu, shvatih da mi se prst, baš kao da ga ja ne kontrolišem, spustio na obarač i počeo da ga stiska… Zaustavi se, zaustavi se, vikao sam u sebi, ali moj sopstveni prst nije me više slušao… Nisam više ni nišanio, samo sam osjetio trzaj puške, a onda sam je odbacio, sav u goloj vodi. Sve je to ličilo na noćnu moru, kao neki san na javi. Ma, tješio sam se, to i jeste neki san, ništa se od toga nije desilo… Uzeo sam dvogled i pogledao u pravcu česme: djevojčica je ležala na zemlji, u krvi, a njena majka je stajala pored nje, sa urlikom na zgrčenom licu.”

Sarajevo na dlanu

Predrag O. je napisao i to da nikad poslije tog događaja “nije bio isti”. Dok je rat još trajao ubica je pobjegao iz Sarajeva, živio u Njemačkoj jedno vrijeme, a kad se rat završio, pazi sad ovo Nenade Jankoviću, snajperista se vratio da živi na mjestu zločina, u svoj rodni grad, gdje je bez problema vratio svoj prijeratni stan i zaposlio se u Pošti !!!

Sarajevo '92 siege - snajperska gnjezda
Snajperska gnijezda oko opkoljenog Sarajeva

Jedne noći je vidio djevojčicu koju je ubio i ona ga je pitala: “Zašto si to učinio”?
Od tog dana ga je, stoji u oproštajnom pismu, “utvara nevine djevojčice posjećivala svuda i na svakom mjestu”.
Kad to više nije mogao podnositi, ubica je odlučio da izvrši samoubistvo.

U “Udruženju roditelja ubijene djece opkoljenog Sarajeva” su za pismo saznali nedugo nakon njegove smrti.

Top Lista Nadrealista - ratna
Neletovi prijeratni prijatelji i saradnici u Sarajevu pod opsadom

Koliko zaista vrijedi riječ i djelo jedne hulje, Nenada Jankovića, poznatijeg kao Dr. Nele Karajlić. ?
Koliko zaista njegovi poštovaoci znaju šta je tačno i koliko ovaj uhljup dao “Zabranjenom Pušenju” i “Top Lsti Nadrealista” u kreativnom smislu ?

Sejo Sexon : Ne može pravi Sarajlija pjevati ispod slika Karadžića i Mladića

∫ the life of the wife is ended by the knife ∑

Decembar ‘09

Da­vor Su­čić, po­zna­ti­ji kao Se­jo Sexon, li­der ben­da “Za­bra­nje­no pu­še­nje” u raz­go­vo­ru za “San”, sa­svim otvo­re­no i bez dla­ke na je­zi­ku go­vo­rio je o no­vo­nas­ta­loj si­tu­aci­ji ve­za­noj za su­kob sa Emi­rom Kus­tu­ri­com i Ne­le­tom Ka­raj­li­ćem, Sa­raj­li­ja­ma ko­ji ve­li­ča­ju ra­tne zlo­čin­ce na svo­jim kon­cer­ti­ma u Beo­gra­du i ci­je­lom svi­je­tu.

Ko­men­ta­ri­šu­ći ne­da­vnu izja­vu Ga­ne­ta Pe­ci­ko­ze, me­na­dže­ra ben­da “Emir Kus­tu­ri­ca & No smo­king Orchestra”, za “San” da je “Za­bra­nje­no pu­še­nje” to­li­ko us­pje­šno da je pro­šle go­di­ne u Beo­gra­du pro­da­lo sve­ga 350 ka­ra­ta, kao i to da je Ne­le bio i os­tao li­der sa­ra­jev­skog Pu­še­nja, Se­jo je na­gla­sio da su to sa­mo Ga­ne­to­ve pus­te že­lje.

– Ga­ne Pe­ci­ko­za je ve­li­ki sa­njar. On je to mo­žda sa­njao, pa re­kao va­ma. Pri­če da smo na kon­cer­tu u Beo­gra­du pro­da­li 350 ka­ra­ta su obi­čne la­ži i izmiš­ljo­ti­ne. Svi zna­ju ko­li­ko je bi­lo po­sje­ti­la­ca u Beo­gra­du. Čak sam se za Fe­de­ra­nu te­le­vi­zi­ju ja­vio uži­vo iz dvo­ra­ne ko­ja je bi­la krca­ta. Ali, na­vi­kli smo mi na nji­ho­ve po­dva­le. Osim to­ga, Ga­ne je me­na­džer ko­ji po­drža­va na­ci­ona­lis­ti­čku re­to­ri­ku za­je­dno sa Kus­tu­ri­com i Ne­le­tom Ka­raj­li­ćem. Ne za­ni­ma me šta on go­vo­ri. On je sve svo­je već da­vno re­kao.

O če­mu se za­pra­vo ra­di?

 – Kao prvo, ko je Ga­ne da go­vo­ri me­ni ko je Ne­le Ka­raj­lić? Va­ljda ja znam bo­lje Ne­le­ta, ne­go on. Ne tre­ba me­ni ni­ko go­vo­ri­ti bi­lo šta o nje­mu. Znam ja do­bro ko je i šta je on.

Re­ci­te nam ko je Ne­le Ka­raj­lić?

– Oso­ba ko­ja se u Beo­gra­du pred­stav­lja Sa­raj­li­jom, a pje­va ispod sli­ke ra­tnih zlo­či­na­ca Ra­do­va­na Ka­ra­dži­ća i Rat­ka Mla­di­ća, mon­stru­ma ko­ji su uni­šti­li nje­gov vo­lje­ni grad ubi­ja­ju­ći na hi­lja­de ne­du­žih gra­đa­na, ne mo­že bi­ti pra­vi Sa­raj­li­ja. Eto ko je Ne­le Ka­raj­lić! Nje­go­va re­to­ri­ka je da­vno pre­ra­sla u mržnju. Ve­li­ča­nje po­gre­šnih ide­ala. On i da­lje ži­vi u vre­me­nu is­kriv­lje­nih vri­je­dnos­ti i kse­ono­fo­bi­čne ide­olo­gi­je. To ta­ko ne ide. Ja sam Sa­raj­li­ja i u Za­gre­bu, i u Beo­gra­du, ali i u ci­je­lom svi­je­tu. Ja vo­lim ovaj grad, ne mrzim ga. Znam ja do­bro ko je Ne­le. Zbog to­ga mi je glu­po da mi Ga­ne Pe­ci­ko­za go­vo­ri ko je on. On ga ni ne po­zna­je.

Šta će­te vi, kao li­der ben­da po­du­ze­ti po tom pi­ta­nju? Oči­gle­dno da Ne­le, iako tvrdi da ne­ma ni­šta sa Pu­še­njem, ipak pje­va va­še pje­sme?

– Ne­ka pje­va, ne­ću ni­šta po­du­zi­ma­ti. Ov­dje ni­je pro­blem u autor­skim pra­vi­ma, kra­đi…, ne­go u ne­če­mu što se zo­ve na­ci­ona­lis­ti­čka kom­pa­nja. Ne že­lim da se pje­sme “Za­bra­nje­nog pu­še­nja” pje­va­ju ta­mo gdje su sli­ke ra­tnih zlo­či­na­ca. Ta­mo gdje oni po­zi­va­ju pu­bli­ku da skan­di­ra­ju nji­ho­va ime­na. U to­me je naj­ve­ći pro­blem.

Jes­te li mo­žda ra­zmiš­lja­li o tu­žbi?

– Ne že­lim da žu­rim. Ne­ću da se tog ma­ča la­tim. Me­đu­tim, uko­li­ko nas­ta­ve sa pro­pa­gi­ra­njem na­ci­ona­li­zma na kon­cer­ti­ma gdje pje­va­ju na­še pje­sme, za­što ne?! To je vi­še van sva­ke pa­me­ti. Na­ma je cilj sa sao­pće­njem bio da upo­zna­mo na­še fa­no­ve šta se us­tva­ri de­si­lo u Beo­gra­du i za­što ni­smo nas­tu­pa­li.

Okre­ni­mo se ma­lo ve­dri­jim pi­ta­nji­ma. Šta je sa va­šim no­vim al­bu­mom “Sha­drvan Co­de”?

– Al­bum se ra­di. Mi­slim da će za ne­što ma­nje od mje­sec da­na bi­ti sve go­to­vo. Vje­ru­jem da će bi­ti odli­čan, jer pje­va­mo i sa 20 že­na ho­ra “Ara­bes­ke”. Bit će tu sve­ga. Mi smo ro­ke­ri, ko­ji po­sli­je dvi­je ra­ki­ji­ce, ople­tu po sev­da­hu.

Mi­sli­te li da će pu­bli­ka do­bro pri­hva­ti­ti al­bum, s ob­zi­rom da se da­nas svi okre­ću sev­da­hu? Ne­ki su miš­lje­nja da sev­dah do­no­si pa­re?

– Ka­ži­te mi vi ko se to opa­rio pje­va­ju­ći sev­dah? Ni­ko. Mi smo bend ko­ji je odras­tao uz sev­da­lin­ku i sev­dah. Uvi­jek se na der­ne­ci­ma pje­va­la sev­da­lin­ka, bez ob­zi­ra ko­li­ko mi ro­ke­ri bi­li. Kod Pi­onir­ske do­li­ne je bi­la je­dna ka­fa­na gdje je uvi­jek tre­sla sev­da­lin­ka. Mi smo još k'o dje­ca to slu­ša­li i uži­va­li. Ni­je to sad, daj da se mi opa­ri­mo. To je ne­ki naš ćejf na ko­ji smo na­vi­kli.

Ho­će li na no­vom al­bu­mu mo­žda bi­ti ne­ki du­et?

– Ne vje­ru­jem. Ni­smo o to­me ne­što pre­tje­ra­no ni ra­zmiš­lja­li. Sve za­vi­si od pje­sme. Gru­pa “Za­bra­nje­no pu­še­nje” ni­ka­da ni­je sni­ma­la du­ete da se ne­ko­me do­dvo­ri. Ono, ka­ko ka­žu, pje­vat će­mo u Beo­gra­du, pa daj da sni­mi­mo du­et sa Ce­com. Mi sa­ra­đu­je­mo sa lju­di­ma ko­ji ni­su zvi­jez­de, ali za­to je­su ve­li­ki mu­zi­ča­ri i ve­li­ki lju­di. Onim, što ka­že ra­ja, ko­ji vo­le za­ro­šti­ljat, na­smi­ja­ti se…. Zbog to­ga nam le­že lju­di po­put Ar­se­na De­di­ća, Ibri­ce Ju­si­ća, Ha­li­da Be­šli­ća. Ko zna, mo­žda upra­vo sa Ha­li­dom ne­što sni­mi­mo – re­kao je za “San” Se­jo Sexon.

No­va hi­mna za Že­lju

– Ne­da­vno smo sni­mi­li no­vu hi­mnu za FK Že­je­zni­čar ko­ja je, za sa­da, još uvi­jek u de­mo ver­zi­ji, ali će se na­ći na na­šem no­vom al­bu­mu. O to­me ka­ko smo do­šli na ide­ju, su­vi­šno je bi­lo šta re­ći. Že­ljo je klub za ko­ji se ne na­vi­ja, Že­ljo je klub ko­ji se vo­li. Me­ni je to bio me­rak. Već su ne­ki na­vi­ja­či ima­li pri­li­ku da je ču­ju i mi­slim da će se i os­ta­lim svi­dje­ti – ka­že Sexon.