Thursday, September 07, 2006

In the Army Now

In the woods of central Bosnia, young Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians and Serbs fought a fierce battle. This time, fortunately, they only used paint, the teams were mixed, and it was all in good spirit. Ironically, I spend the weekend ahead of the start of my civilian army service playing paintball. There goes my “objection to arms” argument. Hopefully no one will know.
As always when I find myself surrounded by people that I used to share a country with when we were just children we get along perfectly. Whether it was student seminars in Slovenia or festivals in Bosnia or now this meeting with my colleagues from the region, my generation seems open and genuinely nostalgic of times it hardly remembers.
But it’s not easy to forget what happened. It’s never far away, especially in Bosnia. Hiking in the mountain you can’t help but think whether there are landmines if you step off the beaten track, and every once in a while you come across a burnt house riddled with bullets. Paintball perhaps isn’t the perfect sport for that country. One of my Bosnian colleagues said it was rather disturbing when the “bullets” started whizzing past her head. I can understand.
All the war games bring me back to the beginning - and the army. In Montenegro, army duty has just been abolished. In Serbia we still have to serve, albeit with a civilian alternative. The good news is that I got what I asked for, an institution which is flexible enough so that I can continue working.
I am however angry that this outdated concept still exists. I am angry that for the next nine months I am only allowed to work in my company on contract and not full time, which technically makes me unemployed, all because the army is officially paying me 5 Euros a month! I even feel a bit guilty about the watered-down request I submitted for civilian service. Instead of saying what I really feel I wrote some general observations on pacifism. Yes, the result is favorable for me, at least as favorable as it gets. I did what was practical and pragmatic, I played a along. But by playing along we maintain a system which is rotten and should be dismantled. Such things really annoy me.

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