In social psychology, ‘siege mentality’ is defined as a psychological defence mechanism of a collective that experiences trauma shaping their political identity. Any group-directed criticism sets up a defensive response, acting as a reminder of the feeling of fundamental vulnerability, a threat to the ability to control one’s destiny.
Remembering the historical trauma, the members feel more strongly connected to the extreme of uncritically supporting the behaviour within the group. Intra-group concessions are seen as too risky, considering the orientation of factors in the environment. In juxtaposition with external criticism, this encourages a special mentality, a perception that the group is under siege by enemies from all sides. Even mild criticism of, say, an ally, can have the opposite effect.
It was somewhat encouraging to recognize that in the latest crisis of government, a kind of resistance to the exploitation of an uncritical siege mentality has emerged. The Federation lives and Bosnia and Herzegovina likewise. The government has been formed and the citizenry, if it is not taboo to identify it, now has the possibility to speed up the European path through collective mechanisms. That path may struggle with its teleology, and numerous compromises will be necessary for it, but a precedent has been established.
Rejecting the siege mentality can be the first sign of acknowledging the fact that cultural heterogeneity is not the basis for political conflict. That those who proclaim such a thing are doing themselves political favours. That a homogeneous system would require homogeneity at least in intention. As a reflex of a diffuse political-historical mentality, BiH can offer more than any stand-alone view of it. All theories positioned as singular historical references, also signify the impossibility of rising beyond the particular. Whether they are Westernized, East-ernized, or Oriental, they add to the impossibility of overcoming the position occupied as an object in someone’s political program. Accordingly, multi-ethnicity, or inter-ethnicity, cannot be valid solely until the first criticism of the dominant narrative.
Defining the mentality does not question the phenomenological basis of being threatened. The observation of psychological characteristics is not superior to reality the moment it is signified. Moreover, a strong political consciousness is created only when supplementary principles are not imposed on the historical one, the principle of continuity. However, it is a principle that requires constant dynamics, and a moving balance of possibility and actuality, reinforcing its composite character. It is not a fragility that would be compensated once it is collective.
The current political situation yields two messages.
Firstly, it is necessary not to look at Peoples as pathologies, contrary to political reality. The (self)assessment of feelings, thoughts, and intentions must arise within the collective, and creating political awareness belongs to the peoples. At the same time, one needs not mistake the rule over the people for the freedom that the people enjoy. It is the individual who judges which policies are existential, which are collectively imposed, and which are projections based on historical experience. On top of that, a sort of profit analysis of public activity can help in recognizing the abusers of the mentality.
Secondly, there is currently no basis for a ‘social contract’ other than the one that exists in form. The one mandated by a peace treaty, where the final authority to interpret belongs to an external factor. Legalistic one, supplemented by unspoken cultural assumptions. If anything is possible from this knowledge, then it is a historical beginning, not in time but in the mind.
Highlighting the number of laws that now need to be adopted is not the point of this article. It is much more important to take advantage of the cultural momentum brought by the unprecedented level of introspection and self-questioning expressed by certain politicians. Extending this type of observation through social structures will deliver easier-to-implement legal solutions. Once an ethos is constructed, relationships develop more easily. And the ethos has been established, even if it gets lost in the noise of pathos.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is inseparable from its philosophy, and so is its politics. The basis of that philosophy is the mutual historical causality of the peoples who inhabit it. The history that emerges based on BiH-specific pattern is not the sum of individual, particular systems, but a whole and complementary one. It is not burdened with distinct interpretative cognitive blocks. If the difficulties with the formation of the FBiH Government succeeded in demonstrating anything, let it be that BiH is inseparable from the complexities it pertains to. A small mankind apart…