Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Post-Conflict, post-apartheid countries

"Belgians and French and Dutch had been brought up in the war to believe that their patriotic duty was to cheat, to lie, to run a black market, to discredit and to defraud: these habits became ingrained after five years.

      -- Paul- Henri Spaak (Foreign Minister of Belgium)

I'm often intrigued by the attitudes of foreigners  regarding the ethics of contemporary Kosovar culture.  Few would argue that there isn't corruption in the system, that lying, theft and fraud aren't  systemic problems.

But I came across the quote above in Tony Judt's PostWar (p. 41) a couple of days ago and was struck.  I was struck mostly  because I have a good friend who is Dutch.  He's one of the most ethical and moral people I know.  His father grew up during the war and had still has memories of German troops marching through town.  The impact of five years of WWII was so profound that previously occupied countries were widely seen as morally decrepit. 

Most of us, myself included, only poorly understand  the dynamics of post-conflict countries.  Given that most Kosovar Albanians believe that the ninety percent population was under foreign occupation for decades (if not centuries) it's no supervise that there are parallels between the ethical situation of Kosovo and the occupied countries of post-WWII Europe.  Most of us just have really, really short memories.

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