Are Hutu and Tutsi smarter than Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, Albanians and others?

Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian

By: Robert Čoban, Chairman of the Color Press Grupa

These days it will be exactly one hundred years since the “centuries old dream of the South Slavs to live in a common state came true”. What happened with that state from 1941 in 1991 and 1992 is well known to all of us. But what we are interested here is what does this common place look like today, a century since the founding of the common state and nearly three decades since its last breakup, in terms of media and marketing industry.

The sunny terrace of the Bernardin Hotel in Portorož. A coffee break at the Sempl conference, which brings together people from marketing and media from across the region. My fellow Belgrader, Zoran Torbica, has been working as an advisor to the mayor of Kopar for several years now. He says that life in the small Slovenian town has recuperated his soul and body, and that he feels ten years younger. At the same table is Bojan Jelačin, a Slovenian who has been running the Pristop agency in Belgrade for nine years now. A little later I ran into Ekrem Dupanović, whom, it seems to me, I see everywhere else more often than in his city of Sarajevo, or in my city, Novi Sad. Our Skopje director, Aleksandar Nakov, sent me the photos to show everything is ready for tomorrow’s Pro Femina conference in the capital of Macedonia, and all the while I am following our Innovation Talk conference at the Kombank Hall in Belgrade via livestream. The conference includes innovation ministers from almost all countries of the region.

People from Belgrade, Split, Slovenia, Montenegro … the entire region, spiced up with a few foreigners. This is an image of almost every similar gathering in the cities of former Yugoslavia – at the Weekend Media Festival in Rovinj, at Sempl in Portorož, or at Digital in Belgrade. Everyone still speaks “our language,” although the younger generation of Slovenes and Macedonians are finding it harder and need additional explanations for some words, but still I have the impression that everyone understands everyone. Most of the foreigners I mentioned come here to explain to us over and over again that Content is King, and that it’s better to be young, beautiful and rich than old, ugly and poor. They are telling it to us – people whose leader was greeted with highest honors in all the world’s capitals 50 years ago, people whose companies have built bridges and skyscrapers all over the planet. They tell it to us who are the only counter-proof to the current claim that mankind is living in the best of possible realities so far and that “Besser war es nie”, as the German Stern wrote on its cover a few weeks ago.

Aleksander’s Yugoslavia broke up in the 2nd World War. It was renewed by Tito, only to break apart in the wars of the nineties. Today, there are 6 or 7 countries in the region, some of which have entered the EU, and some are on the road to get there. We speak the same or similar language, we listen to the same or similar music, we love the same recognizable brands, we enjoy each other’s food and drinks. And don’t get me wrong, this is not only true of “elitist and cosmopolitan circles”: taxi drivers, waiters, market sellers – for the last 10 years – I haven’t heard from them a single bad thing or experienced an outpour of nationalist animosity.

And then I open the newspapers, I turn on TV or launch an app of some news portal, and realize that I’m stupid and uninformed. According to them, it’s all but war out there: Serbia prevented Kosovo from entering Interpol, in retaliation Kosovo raises taxes on Serbian goods from 10% to 100%, with Bosnia as a collateral damage because the same tax applies to them as Kosovo is afraid that Serbs will export their Plazma and Moja Kravica to Kosovo through Republika Srpska. Then the Mayors of Serb municipalities in Kosovo got angry, resigned and went to Belgrade. They took pictures in front of the Presidency building, at Andrićev Venac,

Then I read how a Sarajevo-based journalist says she will never come to organized media tours in Serbia. Reason: after telling a waiter in Belgrade she doesn’t eat pork, he replied “What would you want me to serve you, a lion?” I go to my room, turn on the TV, switch over to Croatian HTV. A round table is on, in which a Public Attorney says that it is not a “communal problem” that someone is drawing swastikas and the letter “U” on containers and walls in Zagreb. Before she said that, Croatian Justice Minister said that this was “more of an issue for communal services, rather than a political problem.” A friend shared an article about the shamefully lenient verdict of the High Court in Belgrade for the vicious crime against Karmena Kamenčič (18) in Bosanska Krupa, from July 1992. And below the post, an outburst of hate from all sides.

I went to sleep. The next day I flew back to Belgrade. As I was leaving the airport, I look at the headline of a daily newspaper: “Recognition of the genocide in Srebrenica – condition for Serbia’s accession to the EU!” Subtitle: “The resolution was endorsed by a Slovenian!”, Next to that: “Book on Luburić in Croatia: Now they celebrate the commander of Jasenovac!”, “Sloba’s brain stolen in The Hague!”, “Montenegro expands list of Serbs banned from entry”.

The question I pose to myself and to others on TV shows, conferences, and at cafes every day: Why are the political elites encouraging the media under their control to constantly keep the region in a state as if the war will break out tomorrow? Because they know that it resonates with those who have income of less than €200 a month, as Rambo Amadeus once explained it. Is it because these are people who don’t know how to do anything else than rule over warring tribes?

How is it possible that Rwanda, 24 years after a vicious genocide, is now “the Switzerland of Africa” with the largest economic growth on the continent and the largest percentage of women in parliament in the world. Are the Hutu and Tutsi smarter than Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, Albanians and others? Have we been drunk for 100 years since that “November night” that Krleža wrote about, and are we more stupid and more primitive today, 23 years since Dayton?

This is a question that must be answered by those same social elites who, in pauses between two panels or case studies, leisurely drink their espresso on the terrace of Bernardin, drenched in the November sun.