Do you want a typical question? Here you go. What is regional reconciliation? What is this expression people use to coat their words with profound and popular meaning? No, I am not asking you to try to give me an official definition, everyone can do that and everyone can be typical. What I am trying to achieve is to make you think of yourself and of others. To think of those you are supposed to hate and to think of yourself because someone is supposed to hate you. Forgiveness, that is the lack of it, is omnipresent in this process. Can we, the (un)fortunate people living in this region, find a way to embrace the past and courageously move to our future? Simply put and without any unnecessary esoteric meaning – can we be smarter?
Contrary to certain beliefs, I was not always interested in politics and state-running affairs. I was a kid who, like many others, enjoyed living in his own fictive bubble of reality. Growing up in the late nineties, I was not aware of demolished buildings in Sarajevo, I did not think grenade holes on pavements were anything unordinary and not having a father, who died as a soldier in the war when I was merely two years old, did not seem to bother me that much as long as my mother was there to shower me with her sincere love and undivided attention. I played with my friends in our neighbourhood from dusk to dawn, read Mickey Mouse magazine every second Thursday and watched Cartoon Network on television. Acting and science were my childhood passions which continued to evolve with me throughout my life. Everything seemed to be perfectly fine, when it fact it was not. I was living in a raptured country, torn to many pieces along its delicate social seams and yet, I did not care. Nor did I want to care. However, that would soon change.
When I was in fifth grade of elementary school, I was shocked to realise how complicated my country actually is. During my geography class, I could not comprehend the intricate system it was based on, nor find the rational approach behind it. I decided I want to learn more and I took a rather shallow approach back then due to limited information sources. Republika Srpska and our neighbour Serbia were the bad guys, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia were cool and Bosnia and Herzegovina was the best country in the world. I was content with my understandings and did not want to delve any deeper in this topic. To be completely plain – politics was simply not my thing. Whenever someone asked me what I thought of a certain event I replied: “I do not care nor do I want to care. I will just get upset if I think about it.” Upset did I get.
After I turned twelve, I started watching more and more news programmes. One evening, there was a video of members of Armed Forces of B&H taking an oath before being proclaimed as soldiers. The battalion in question was from Republika Srpska. In the end of their oath, they were supposed to say “We pledge allegiance to Bosnia and Herzegovina”, what they said was “We pledge allegiance to Republika Srpska”. All in one voice. I was outraged. I felt shocked, betrayed and furious. I know what I felt, but, back then, I did not know why I felt like that. And more importantly, why they said it. This marked my full involvement in politics.
As I was slowly getting inside this vast sphere of self-interest and to some point noble intentions, I tried to react less emotionally and managed to use my rational side to analyse things which happened and were happening. Needless to say, I was surrounded by many inconsistencies. Political leaders admitting the wrongdoings of their country in the past, yet supporting those who disregard committed atrocities. Those in power or with a social influence using beautifully-phrased apologies and in the end ruthlessly stomping on them with their opposite actions. More than ever, we now need deeds which echo loudly and truthfully in our societies. We need leadership in different areas which will show us that what we do and how we do it is far important than what we say. Of course, this does not mean that our words mean nothing. In certain situations phrasing events, things and people carries a significant weight in the society, but in order to build regional cooperation and the functionality of our states, we need to carry out actions.
Perhaps too idealistic and hallow, but can we inspect the reality of the previously written words and hope they will be realised? We can try, but we will most likely be unsuccessful. In weak countries such as ours, where societies give birth to mismanaged ideals and leaders who are, despite the selected few, incompetent to produce truly positive results, it is hard to predict that regional reconciliation is gaining momentum. We cannot enjoy the process of thinking we are doing the right things, when in fact we are not – we are doing just the opposite. We victimise ourselves, our ethnicity and nation and transfer the culpability to the “others”. Yes, the “others” are always to be found guilty for everything bad which happened in the past, whereas all our actions are always looked upon as beacons of hope and pure goodness. If “our side” did something wrong, it was merely because the “others” did something wrong first. We justify our mistakes by mistakes of “others” and find great pride in doing so. We battle with numbers in a horrific, almost child-like game hoping they could exemplify our losses. More dead people we have on “our side” means that we win? Do we actually win? Of course we do not! Delusional state of mind which is sweeping across all of countries is the only winner. Society, with all its people regardless what they do in their lives is the loser.
More than forty years passed after Willy Brandt, the former chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, made a move which was an epitome of heavy greatness and critical responsibility. His famous Kniefall von Warschau was an accumulation of accepting the malevolent actions Nazi Germany carried out and mourning the losses of the tragically killed victims. He did not need to speak, yet his action spoke. His kneel was loud enough and he later went on saying that “Under the weight of recent history, I did what people do when words fail them. In this way I commemorated millions of murdered people“. Willy Brandt proved that for regional reconciliation to work need to act. Of course, more effort needs to be underway in many different social aspects, yet, it is our simple and sincere actions which bring the best result. No more shallow declarations in parliaments and governments, dishonest remarks on fancy diplomatic dinners and gatherings or misleading statements in media. By using them, we only achieve a state of inept stagnation, even degradation. Social orouroboss.
The question from the introduction lingers – how do we become smarter? Even though the answer is simple, the effort behind is not. We need to constantly educate ourselves and be willing to critically evaluate our opinions. Learn the facts and not take emotionally charged and manipulative statements for granted. Be prepared to accept that a victim is a victim, regardless of their religion or ethnicity or nationality or any other determinant. Saying this does not mean that I have fully achieved this mindset. Just like others, I struggle against imposed patriotism which to some extent requires only honouring your own victims while casually admitting the losses of “others”. Yes, I am well aware that we are not mature and as long as we do not reach that level of maturity, most of our words and even actions aimed towards regional reconciliation will not be sincere and impactful. That, however, does not mean we need to stop progressing and moving forward. On the contrary, the current situation of gloominess our countries are found in should serve as a catalyst to change. Responsible leaders who are capable of seeing truth the way it is should be moulded from the society itself. I do not ask for forgiveness right now, since I am aware it is hard to reach it, especially for those who experienced death of loved ones. My lost father will not be for me a burden of hatred and anger aimed towards “others” for because of him I will find strength and compassion within me.That is what I also want for others, to find strength and willingness inside themselves to move on. Until that moment comes, until we become mature enough and until we create conditions for our own Willy Brandt, we have to keep trying. Keep trying and hope. Dum spirospero.
 Willy Brandt, retrieved from http://bio.bwbs.de/bwbs_biografie/Kniefall_in_Warschau_B172.html; 20.1.2014.