Bosnia and Nationalism

Bosnia and Nationalism

Two general attitudes seem to surface in all arguments about the post-Yugoslav wars. The first is the one with which Denitch begins: Slays of all sorts are annoyed if it is suggested that some special historical curse attaches to them and their region—that they are more fated or imprisoned by the past than people in the West. The second is the one he then goes on to defend: ex-Yugoslays are pretty much like anyone else, with similar quotients of soccer hooligans, family concerns, and citizen disgruntlements. If they are currently behaving differently (therefore) this must be because they have been pushed or lured into it, by the “new political elites” and intellectuals who provide legitimation for widespread thuggery.

There is a more general thesis behind this view of Bosnia. If the Bosnians are like anyone else, then their dilemma could (at least potentially) be fairly typical too. The whole post-1989 world — “increasingly integrated and cosmopolitan” — may be threatened by such elites and intellectuals, and the ideological form this threat takes is nationalism. Because the latter is essentially atavistic— “anti-modern and anti-democratic” —it should be contested in equivalently general, uncompromising terms. A sense of hurt and rage informs this comment, most recognizably in the remarks on that “godawful stuff” about people being communities, and democracy’having to assume national or ethnic forms.

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Lima