For once, a positive take on the situation in Bosnia. The Economist has an article from a couple of weeks back about how the old Yugoslavia is no longer a country but the countries that came from it are now developing a Yugosphere, where business and cultural aspects are binding the area back to a semblance of normality, despite their politicians.
The article is a couple of weeks old now, and must have been published when all the politicians were away on holiday because now they are back at work we are being treated to a few articles with headlines like 'Politicians "lead Bosnia to the verge of war"'. All kinds of the usual political shenanigans are going on with various political parties throwing all their toys out of the pram and behaving like, well, my children really.
Usually I come down on seeing the positive side of the situation in Bosnia. Despite what all those politicians are up to, I can see that in everyday life people are getting on with the business of living. They have coffee with each other. They create business together. They listen to the same sort of music and love to travel to Croatia or Serbia. They live together. To some extent they view with their politicians with a hint of exasperation, but also don't see much of a connection between the latest shenanigans in Sarajevo will affect their day to day lives.
This week though, I'm feeling more pessimistic about Bosnia's future having had the (mis)fortune to have had a coffee in the company of a die-hard nationalist. Whilst practically every other Bosnian I have met (whether Serb, Croat or Muslim) has been the most generous, kind hearted, well natured person, this man was odious. The bile he spewed was jaw dropping to listen to. The certainty in his own beliefs was frightening. The venom he had for people who were not like him was really frightening.
I have struggled to understand how it was that the war in Bosnia became so vicious and nasty. The people I've met have all been such unlikely characters to participate in such a thing. They were neighbours before the war, I couldn't understand how they got to the point that they did. How was it that they came to listen to their politicians and embark on such a lunacy?
Having met this man, I could suddenly see a glimpse of how it might have happened. He is not someone I would want to meet at a roadblock. He is not someone I would like to have negotiate with. He stands out to me as the exception in Bosnia, I have not met anyone quite like him before. Suddenly I understood that it wouldn't take so many of this type of man on each side to create a situation where things became nasty.
But the really frightening thing? The thing that really depressed me? He was in a position of influence and there were 5 or 6 18 year olds hanging off his every word.