Sunday, February 10, 2008

Monkey see, monkey do

Yesterday afternoon about 20,000 people took to the streets of Sarajevo. This town has not seen a larger protest since the anti-war gatherings in front of the parliament building in 1992. That same day, a long 16 years ago, two of the first victims of what would be the longest siege in European history were killed. Yesterday the masses gathered to protest another kind of killing, one that horrifyingly mirrors the current state affairs in Sarajevo and indeed all of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A few months back a taxi driver in the nearby town of Visoko was killed by a 17 year-old kid. A few weeks ago three underage boys doused an old woman with benzin and lit her on fire as she was returning from the bakery. She died a few days later from the burns. A few days ago three young men, one under the age of 18 stabbed a 17 year-old to death on a crowded tramway for no reason whatsoever. No one intervened on the tram. The underage boy, after murdering one of his peers, went home to the comfort of his warm home and bed. There are no laws on juvenile violent crimes, except that they get to go free. There are no centres. No punishments. No justice.

This fact has been well known to our beloved government. They have been too busy fighting for their respective thrones to bother to notice the 26 violent crimes committed by underage boys in Sarajevo alone. All of them home with mom and dad, walking the same streets they terrorized whilst our 'leaders' fight for the hefty booty from BH Telecom, Elektroprivrede, and the abundance of national resources that they consider personal property.

I was moved by the show of support for young Denis. I was pleased to see the anger spill over into something other than apathy or kalishnikov toting thugs. They were angry that no one did anything to stop it. They were, and are, angry that this government is so acutely inept that juvenile delinquency is becoming an epidemic. I am not surprised by this though, let me tell why.

Although this outpour of emotions in undoubtedly the most positive collective expression since the Dayton Peace Accords of 1995, i fear people are not seeing it fully through to the core of the problem. Yes, there is an alarming growth in the number of violent crimes by 16 year old boys in this country and in particular, the capital city of Sarajevo. The answer for our politicians, however, is that we must build jails and detention centres to punish them. Perhaps part of the solution, but certainly not addressing the real problem. The real problem is the utter moral bankruptcy of our community. Complete and utter bankruptcy.

Our children have been taught that in Bosnia and Herzegovina no one is responsible for anything, let alone their own actions. We teach them that if you lie, cheat, steal, or murder that you're more likely to become premiere than to go to jail. We have taught them that ultra violence is tolerated or at the very least justified because of what someone else may have done to deserve or provoke it. Remember what mama always said, 'two wrongs don't make a right.' Never have. Never will. But we forgot to teach our children that.

Our schools are segregated. We want to teach our 5 year olds that they should be separated from each other because our parents read the bible and the other the q'uran. The thugs and criminals of our society can regularly be seen having coffee with our ministers. Having a beer with our policeman. I'm not exaggerating to say that you can even find some of them working side by side with our highest ranking 'representatives.' These have become the role models for our youth. Be ruthless. Use your smarts to cheat the system. Intelligence means how to get ahead at any cost...and if that means stomping on anyone and everyone in your way, so be it.

Corruption and immorality are infectious at every level. Most things seem to function here on who you know and how much you slip them under the table. The buildings may have been rebuilt. Some of our roads paved over. Our system of values, however, is bleeding us to death. It is our no-so-silent cancer that drives us to the highest suicide rate in Europe. Highest unemployment rate in Europe. The most corrupt government in Europe. The largest percentage of youth who want to leave the place of their birth in Europe. Heroin and drug use has skyrocketed. And now we are climbing to the top of the latter for murders by youth in Europe.

We continue to not ask the right questions, though. We keep looking for the drug dealers or detention centres to ease our fears or end the misery of our children. But the misery of our children does not come from the lowly dealer. It comes from our homes. Our communities. Our government. Monkey see, monkey do. Are they much different than us? Are these violent youth the scum of our collective or simply a reflection of it?

Our apathy has got to stop. Our finger pointing has got to stop. Our anger is good. Let us have the wisdom to channel this aggression - and indeed to help find ways for our children to channel their rage. If i were a teenager, I would, quite frankly, be out of my head with rage. I would rebel. I would be disgusted. Disappointed. Feet betrayed. Their rage and misguidance should be a flashing neon sign to all of us that we are not doing our jobs well at all.

We will see change and hope only when we, as individuals and a collective, are finally ready to take FULL responsibility for the mess we are in. For the moral bankruptcy that we have let overtake every aspect of our society. And believe me when i tell you my friends, we are in the shit and we are in it up to our eyeballs. Do believe.


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