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Ancient Greece
Photo: GothPhil (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Another week, another selection of journalistic gems, compiled by one of E&M's editors: Frances Jackson on a modern use for ancient philosophy, remembering Srebrenica and a couple of disconcerting developments in Russia.

Frances, Diaphragm / Baby editor

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A word of advice from the ancients

In the run-up to last Sunday’s unprecedented referendum, much was written about the future of Greece, not all of it, I fear, especially helpful. One article, however, that seemed to buck the trend was William Irvine’s piece for the BBC on Stoicism and its applicability to the current situation.

Reminding us that the word crisis comes from the Ancient Greek for "decide" (a point that was incidentally also made by German polymath Joseph Vogl at a discussion I went to last week in Munich), Irvine disabuses his readers of the misconception that the Stoic approach is merely that of the stiff upper lip and highlights instead its inherently practical, vigorous nature even.

Though Irvine focuses on how the Greek people might achieve a degree of control over events in their country, I suspect that we could all probably benefit from the wisdom of the Stoic school of philosophy.  You never know – taking time to consider how things could be worse might actually give us some much-needed perspective on this issue and others.

Published in Good Reads

Part 3: More dead than alive – Srebrenica, Republika Srpska

I apologise in advance, because there are some facts I have been holding back: the political situation in Bosnia is far more complicated than described so far. I have already written about the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how they mostly live in a kind of interethnic apartheid. But the segregation isn't only done by invisible lines like in Mostar. The whole state is divided into two entities which hold most of the legislative and administrative powers. The two federal states are The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina where mostly Croats and Bosniaks live, and the Republika Srpska (the RS, meaning "Serbian Republic") where mostly Serbs live. Additionally, there is the Brčko District - a small neutral area, too mixed to assign to any of the federal states. Federation and Republic - sounds like Star Wars? Well, this is real and unfortunately it is also less easy to distinguish good and evil.

GRAVEYARDS AND FUGITIVES

After having spent three days in the Federation I now wanted to see the "other" side. I reach Srebrenica at noon two days before the anniversary of the massacre that took place here on 11th July 1995. About six kilometres before the town sign, the bus passes the Potočari Memorial with the graveyard for the massacre's victims. More than 5600 bodies from the mass graves have been identified and buried here so far. When the bus reaches Srebrenica the first thing I see are graves again - this time not the white Muslim but the black Orthodox tombstones. The town itself is nearly empty due to the great heat. There seem to be more dead than alive here.

Srebrenica massacre

On the 11th July 1995 Bosnian Serbian forces under Ratko Mladić took over the UN safe area without the UN soldiers firing a single shot. More than 8000 unarmed Bosniak men and boys were systematically killed. Women and children were raped and tortured and eventually deported to areas that weren't under Serbian control. It is considered one of the worst crimes in Europe since the Second World War.

I meet Nedim at the motel in the middle of the town. He is here for the summer, as a volunteer to help former inhabitants who fled the town during the war and need to come back now for registration. The Council of Europe is coming to town today to monitor this registration process. Allegedly, human rights violations take took place that they want to investigate, but it seems questionable whether the Serbian police will let them in.

Nedim is a tall, dark haired young man with a three-day beard who orders Gulash soup and frequently has to interrupt our conversation because one of his two mobile phones rings. He is project coordinator at "Youth Initiative for Human Rights" (YIHR), a regional NGO-network with independent offices in Sarajevo, Belgrade, Zagreb, Potgorica and Priština that aims to promote laws and legal mechanisms to improve the protection of human rights and democracy in the ex-Yugoslavian states. The transnational approach sounded too good to be true and I am excited to find out more about what to me seems like a truly 'European project' and its approach to reconciliation.

Published in Imagine Europe
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