By Selwyn Duke
It is 1991, and Yugoslavia, born of the ashes of WWI, is starting to break up. It is a violent affair that will be long, painful, bloody, and complex. Numerous wars in the multi-ethnic region will be fought, with Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia declaring independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia and, in turn, Serb minorities seeking independence from the last two regions. Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians (virtually all Muslim), and Albanians (largely Muslim) will battle Serbs. Croats and Bosnians will unite to battle them — then fight each other as well — then unite again; and Albanians will take up the sword against Macedonians. Muslims will burn churches, and minority populations will be purged from many of these regions. They are the first conflicts since WWII to be formerly deemed genocidal, and these wars will introduce English-speakers to a new term: ethnic cleansing.
None of this was any surprise. Ethnic and cultural ties ultimately trump citizenship status just as family ties do. This is why East and West Germany were reunited two decades ago: Their peoples were both German and shared the same culture, making their separation artificial and, therefore, temporary. Yet artificial unity tends to be no less temporary; it teaches us that, sometimes, the sum of the parts can be greater than the whole. And while Yugoslavia may be the current poster boy for this phenomenon, many other states are similarly diverse and, to varying degrees, struggle with ethnic/sectarian turmoil. Some, such as Iraq and Rwanda, are still making history; others, such as the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, are history. And then there are yet other nations. These are not places conceived in the ashes of war or the minds of colonial masters, but lands, such as the United States, Britain, and France, in which unprecedented immigration is creating a situation described by another term born of that tumultuous part of southeastern Europe: balkanization.
For most of man’s history, the norm was to keep foreign elements out of your land. When a people couldn’t, it often meant their conquest and subjugation — if not subsumption, as happened to the Ainus on the Japanese islands. Things have changed in modern times, however; the practice of inviting foreigners to your shores, known as immigration, has become a Western norm. But man’s nature doesn’t change. Thus, invitations cannot prevent the clash of civilizations that will inevitably result when a flood of new arrivals overwhelms a society’s ability to acculturate them.
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