I had always maintained the view that the ethos of a country represents the ethos of its people. A very simple example : The acts of Germany in WWII were tacitly supported by its people. When the majority of people in a country stand for something, the country itself stands for it. Although a broad generalization, it captures what each nation represents in a global arena. Another simple example: When the U.S. invades Iraq, it is because a majority of Americans supported the invasion — representative democracy in action.
A while ago, I was speaking to my friend from Serbia. An inevitable discussion came about the Serbians and the ethnic cleansing. My friend told me about the days of constant shelling of her city and the meager supplies of food. I raised the question that was bothering me, “So why didn’t you do something about the genocide?”. Her reply was : “Do you think the average person cared about what her government was doing? Making ends meet was an ordeal by itself. Not all of us are evil.”
I could see the validity of her position. A few minutes later, we started talking about the Albanians and their insistence for their own land carved out of Serbia. And then she told me,”Those Albanians – they are an uncultured bunch. They multiply like crazy and now they want their own country”.
The dichotomy of her position didn’t escape me. She could divest herself of her national identity when the situation required it and use it when she needed to. I realized that I too am guilty of this convenient separation.
And thus my realization, that a country’s people are not always representative of the country as a whole. This might seem a trivial fact to some, but it always seemed to me that those who are proud to call themselves Indians and Serbians should take responsibility for India’s and Serbia’s shames too.