Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Sarajevo Daily" by Tom Gjelten [7]

Chapter 5: Hatred

Hatred of the other has to be learned. And even once learned, it needs constant reinforcement. Hatred is a powerful motivating tool if you are willing to accept the consequences, or remain blind to them.

The leadership of the Bosnian Serb separatists desperately needed the outside world to believe that Bosnia was a land riven with ancient, immutable hatreds. To believe so made the war seem inevitable and beyond the scope of international concern. It also legitimized ethnic partition. Many in the international community were willing to oblige; none more enthusiastically than Lewis MacKenzie, who mocked any possibility of a peaceful solution and seems to have arrived in Bosnia with his mind already made up. It is worth noting that Gjelten makes note of the fact that MacKenzie was offered financial compensation by the American advocacy group SerbNet to give two speeches propagating such views to the American public. This book was published in 1995. The only people who ever took MacKenzie at his word on Bosnia in the years since he was there were people who were clearly not paying attention.

The Bosnian government, and the Muslim plurality, just as desperately needed the world to believe that there was a long tradition of coexistence and tolerance in Bosnia. Not a strife-free, utopian paradise like MacKenzie so contemptuously accused those who differed with his "they all hate each other" condemnations, but a land of long-standing intermixing and cultural sharing. It was an argument grounded in both history, and demographic facts--particularly in Sarajevo. It was a compelling argument, and an inspiring one. It should have carried more weight with the Western democracies. But the Bosnian Serbs had tanks, and heavy artillery, and an overwhelming military advantage. If they couldn't find hatred already existing, they would will it into existence with propaganda and violence.

Because they didn't just need to convince the outside world. They needed to convince the people of Bosnia, Serbs and non-Serbs alike. It wasn't enough to win territory; the Muslims needed to leave and never come back. The culture of this new Bosnia--a Bosnia devoid of that special ethnic and religious mix which made the country what it was--needed to be cleansed just as thoroughly as the demographic map needed to be. Mosques needed to be dynamited and bulldozed from memory. Orthodox priests needed to sanctify racial violence and ethnic segregation. Bosnia's Nobel-Prize winning author Ivo Andric needed to be remembered for the violence he wrote about, but not the historical continuities which framed that violence. Remember the hatreds he described, but forget that the Bridge over the Drina was, indeed, a bridge that connected people to each other.

Keep teaching that hatred, because otherwise ordinary Serbs might forget it and make the unforgivable error of thinking that they can trust their neighbors and stand by their fellow Bosnians. Oslobodjenje was targeting because it was a symbol of the cosmopolitan tolerance which Sarajevo represented; both needed to be destroyed. The Serbs who stayed in Sarajevo, the Serb reporters who continued writing for its beloved newspaper, were obviously failed Serbs. How could they be otherwise? They had failed to learn to hate.

Perhaps the Bosnian Serb leadership got to them too late. That mistake was not repeated with at least one 12 year-old Serb boy in the newly-cleansed town of Hadzici. Echoing the same sentiments of thousands of Bosnian Serbs who had learned how to hate, he told a reporter "I do not miss my Muslim classmates one bit. It has been explained to me that while we were playing together, they were actually plotting behind my back."

Gjelten lets that boy have the last word in this chapter on "Hatred." And so shall I.


Anonymous said...

Yes, and the hatred has been learned very well. Look what I found today. I tried to post it once but I'm not sure it came through. Here it is again, without any comment of mine:
"Such a small nation, such a big issue,.. Why? Because all of you imbeciles, cultural thieves, insecure and confused individuals you wish you were Serbs. You wish you had the guts to stand up to powers much greater than yours whose odds of winning are much more favourable. We rather die fighting than live on our knees. You just don’t get it. We all have to die one day and till that day we want to live in peace, but putting us in the corner, without any choice of dignifying compromise, time after time again-cannot be good for any one. So, eat your words all of you haters of anything Serbian. You want to debate on genocide? Bring it on!!! I’m 'Bosnian War' veteran somehow still alive, I was at the thick of it, and you name it,...currently living in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve served JNA in Pristina 1991. I believe somewhere around there is biggest NATO base outside USA. That doesn’t intimidate me, it flatters me. I loved Yugoslavia and had had no religious beliefs or Serbian identity in me. Only time I was aware of primitive believes rather than logical was when my school mates in Dobrinja with names like Muhamed or Ahmed would be eating their ham rolls in secret. I mean I love pork too, but I don’t hide while enjoying it. I became conscious of Serbian identity only as a reaction and last resort against my “Turks wanna be” mates preaching of how good SDA, Alija Izetbegovic and Islam are, organizing ‘Muslim only’ football tournaments and so on. Quickly becoming a minority in my fatherland as a result of the Muslim strategic procreating in huge numbers (like they never heard of contraception) and migrations from Sandjak I had no choice but to start playing musical instrument called AK-47."
What do you think of that?
Abdul Majid (I post as "Friend of Bosnia" on Balkan Insight)

Owen said...

Kirk, I'm catching up again, sorry to be so slow off the mark. This post is an excellent summary of the key failure of those who had the power to influence the course of events. The true nature of "Hatred" and its manufacture was the key reality they should have sought to understand.

Kirk Johnson said...

Thanks for your feedback, Owen. I always appreciate hearing from you.