The 4th story

A co-worker recently told me that there are 4 stories in this country: the three ethno-national perspectives and then the truth. Deciphering between all of these and determining the 4th story can be difficult.

Throughout my time in this country, I have been constantly reminded of how complex situations are here. Even things that may appear black and white seldom end up being so clear cut. There is always another element underneath the surface. Some other piece of information that confounds the scenario. Always another layer. Another side or at a minimum a different slant or angle to view a situation. Two people can take part in the same event or observe the same thing, yet have drastically differing viewpoints on what happened. Additionally, they may hold these antagonistic viewpoints as absolute facts.

Everyone looks at the world through their own lens; however this process seems to take on a new level here in Bosnia and has been difficult for me to adjust to. Which one is correct? What actually happened? What do I choose to believe? These questions and their answers are not always clear to me.

As an example take the recent spring riots in Bosnia. Was it solely the result of activists fed up with the current economic/ political/ social situation and demanding changes? Or did a government official orchestrate and fund the riots in order to gain political power? I have heard people tell me with absolute conviction that one or the other is correct. Sometimes heatedly putting down the other viewpoint when I ask about it.

As a foreigner trying to better understand this country, I have realized that I need to let go of my desire to find the “4th story.” Each perspective is truth to that individual. Every worldview is its own reality. Anymore I no longer view the truth as a separate entity to seek and discover but instead I view the 4th story as an interweaving of the other three. It may be logically impossible. But it seems to better encapsulate my experiences here.


2 thoughts on “The 4th story

  1. Jon, it is impossible to find one story that encapsulates Bosnians or the events in the not so distant past. In order to find peace, I had to accept the fact that there is no 4th story, there are thousands of stories! I also, had to accept the fact that there is no objectivity or that one truth; our experiences, our feelings about the events I our lives, our voice in telling those stories make them our own, and that’s why there are so many different versions of “Bosnian story”.

  2. I think with much of history, especially the history of conflict, that 4th story, the “truth,” is somewhere in the middle of all the other stories. In some scenarios figuring out what actually happened matters, in others it’s much more important to figure out what people believe/ feel happened.

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