I believe that my contribution to regional reconciliation started a long time ago, with active engaging in non-governmental organizations and their work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after completing Masters course in United Kingdom. I realized that it really matters whatever project you undertake (of course, having in mind projects that aim to reconcile and bring peace), you are making a very small step, but it is still very important. Thinking about what happened in our region in the beginning of the 90s reminds of ‘worst nightmare’, but as the conflict ended, many individuals and communities became more aware of the overall need for reconciliation.
On the other hand, political space remains poisoned with discourse of terror, even taboo, and hate-speech, and an individual has to be very aware and critical in order to be able to fight against this and in order not to undertake, even subconsciously some twisted system of values that is based on racism or nationalism. The problem are often facts that intellectual elite of many countries or nations is always the first and the most heard when it comes to politicizing human rights and fundamental freedoms, making us stories and history that will bring new conflict and blurring innocent youth, even when it is taking the left-wing direction.
In ‘our times’ and that is also the beginning of 21st century, the number that recalls ‘future’ by all means, we often feel that we need to be part of a certain group, community and party that fits our opinions or seeking, and so that we can, in the way we wish, somehow change the reality that dissatisfies us. But, the sad truth is, as Emerson wrote in his essay on Politics that: ‘We live in a very low state of the world, and pay unwilling tribute to governments founded on force’. Furthermore, we have to be aware that: ‘There is not, among the most religious and instructed men of the most religious and civil nations, a reliance on the moral sentiment, and a sufficient belief in the unity of things to persuade them that society can be maintained without artificial restraints, as well as the solar system.’ (Emerson, Essays and Lectures, The Library of America, 1984. page 570). Since we are not in an ordered and perfect solar system, we have to be ‘activists’ or at least, indirectly involved in the politics and rule, in order to be able to change something.
Each group, to which we temporarily or permanently belong, manages to modify us slightly and in a certain way and to perhaps even fortify or change our opinions. The good side of this ‘belonging process’ is that we are more and more turning away from materialist or worldly things, at least some of us, and we are not thinking so much about money and how to spend it, but we ponder in sorrow over our polluted planet, and the war that rages on the continent next to us, or even in the country nearby. This is how we try to suffer, since we don’t experience much suffering in our real and busy lives, while doing our everyday duties like robots, and not having time to be emotional.
Thinking about the others who are in trouble is also what matters in the process of reconciliation, because today it is them, and tomorrow it can be any one of us, we can become new victims of the conflict that we think and sincerely believe we have nothing to do with. The point in reconciliation process is, besides acting in small groups, academies or even just criticizing behaviour that will lead to or bring again the conflict, according to my opinion, also to be very original. And we need to be original in order to be remembered. For me this means that if I work in non-governmental organization I will try to initiate original projects, the ones that will have long-term impacts and products, and that will spring among the sea of non-governmental projects (that are happening right now implemented by dozens of civil society organizations), for their originality and as very inventive. I believe it is also important to make small initiatives oriented towards several or limited number of people in order to be effective. Though, it can be only a few hundreds of beneficiaries, but the voice is still heard and it leaves its trace to be remembered.
Another important thing, when we talk about the region, and if we wish to achieve reconciliation, is to work on education and also on literacy. There is no better way of showing your views, directly but also discretely, and with great impact, than writing a book or translating an author that you like, about the topic that you are interested in. If it has to do with reconciliation, you get one more point for common good and the whole process gets new dimension, besides private satisfaction, and the educative power of the action reaches individuals, and eventually influences or changes their views. People in the Balkans have always been more greedy and jealous than in some other parts of the world, and why, because they were always more ignorant, and rather than improving themselves, they were criticizing others. Emerson in his essay Self-Reliance also suggests that: ‘There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at conviction that envy is ignorance…’ (Emerson, Essays and Lectures, The Library of America 1984, page 259). The point is that in order to be a good critic, one first has to be very knowledgeable, and must never be satisfied about the level of their present knowledge, even if a person is really an erudite, but has to be aware that knowledge is fragile and it has to be renewed every day.
Still, speaking about Bosnia and Herzegovina, among the three countries that joined the programme ‘Reconciliation Ambassadors’, it seems that it is the country that has more problems. It is interesting that many ordinary people even some of the lecturers don’t know about our ‘pains and sorrows’, like for instance the fact that the Constitution of RS establishes the ‘death penalty’, at the time when we are awaiting entrance to the EU, and the ‘death penalty’ was abolished in Europe centuries ago or has never existed since the beginning of 20th century in the European space. We can only hope that this is the mistake of the unknown author who prepared the Constitution of RS as online material for public exam takers.
In relation to the above mentioned that important projects will try to insist on literacy and education is also the fact, as it was mentioned during the first lecture in Belgrade Introduction to Yugoslavia? Ideas and Experience, that our region was primarily and for a long time agrarian, and that it was not so refined or aristocratic as the society of big European countries like England, France, Italy, even Germany and Russia, at about the same historical period. One has to go back to the Middle Ages to understand what happened in the Balkans in the 90s. Reconciliation process is much easier if diversity is on the lower scale than it is in our region, but consoling is the fact that the pure national states like that that existed in 18th and 19th century are not so common any more.
Thinking about the national conflict stops when we have to think about other conflicts, small conflicts at work, in the family or in smaller types of communities to which we may belong, like political parties or academia. However, all these types of conflict often show the same causes and results, and of course if we offend someone, we can expect that the person will not treat us nicely, or is we feel offended and hurt, or even discriminated, we will not act friendly and we will rage about our status whenever possible. These laws of cause and consequence exist on all levels, and we know them though at times, we may pretend that we don’t. It is important that we think about ourselves, and that we are aware of our behaviours, our speech, statements, maybe even the prejudice that may be hidden. Then, in combination with knowledge that we build up on, from day to day, and the original idea or even good team of co-operators, we can maximize the chance of resolving conflict and we can act as true, original and erudite ‘reconciliators’!