If the reality is a jungle of propaganda, can our words cut the path?

Our friends from VCV Serbia and GAIA Kosovo share with us what they learned on the  last activity of Balkan Myth Busters, a project aiming at creating a more critical understanding of nationalism and the tools of propaganda and political mythology amongst young people from Balkan region and Germany.

“I think for a long-time people were making up theories in order to classify people- and through this of course also history. But for me personally, things like nationalism are theories that are made up by people for egoistic, selfish reasons, with the aim to build differences between people, to make up hate and war.”

Participant of Balkan Myth Busters Youth Exchange in Trstenik, Serbia (September 2017)

From 13th till 18th of November, 15 young people from 6 Balkan countries and Germany, came together between fortress and river, mosque and churches, between smog and stories of living together, yet living with the history of war in Prizren, in the south of Kosovo.

They came together for the last activity of Balkan Myth Busters, a project carried by VCV Serbia, in cooperation with GAIA Kosovo*, aiming at creating a more critical understanding of nationalism and the tools of propaganda and political mythology amongst young people from Balkan region and Germany. Our journey started one year ago, on the north of Serbia, next to the Hungarian border.
In a training-seminar of youth workers in November 2016 in a Croatian village Tavankut, in Serbia, in a traditional house, for 10 days we've tried to dive deep into ourselves to find out who actually we are, how we work together in societies and which roles do the stories that we hear all around -which role does history that we grow up in- play for the formation of our identity. How much we act and react within the boundaries of those stories and create stereotypes, preferences and dislikes according to the stories that fill our ears, heads and lives. We've also discussed the role of the media, education, religion, family, peers, on the formation of our identity, but we also discovered some of the myths that are used to change the narratives according to the ruling ideology.

The aim of the training-seminar was to prepare the youth workers for the youth exchanges that followed. In Velika Hoca, a Serbian village in Kosovo, and on a mountain near Trstenik, Serbia, we've organized two Youth exchanges. During the 10 days we spent on each place, we were exploring how people there really live. Those were the first stories were created. And they were about real people, in real life situations. About a friendship of a Serbian and an Albanian- so, true stories. We started to understand the power and aim of propaganda and had the need to change the narratives. This is how it started, the Mything Point blog. Organizing the project in communities that are minorities and have a complex history, and having a direct contact with the people living there, brought us to the idea of how identities are built, how media and the politicians manipulates by using national myths to create identities and how easy it becomes to turn people against each other when these fragile national identities face. People are usually, at least formally, against the war, but do we understand what war is,  and do we really understand how the mechanizes work? In the end, are we strong enough to change that, at least by changing the dominant narratives that are celebrating mythology? We were and are collecting stories from our hosting communities and our life-surroundings in order to break the single-minded narratives that are so predominant in our separated world. Mything point is the spot where you can find them. (www.facebook.com\Mything-Point)

The stories that bust the single narrative are just one of the outcomes of the project that lasted for almost two years. The most significant, but not so visible outcome is the experience of the participants and the process of learning that started on some of the activities of the BMB project. Here are some of the things they concluded:

“There are so many versions of this one history, so many realities and each person that was living in that history has another reality- there is this jungle of propaganda and you are trying to keep it as objective as you can, but you cannot, because you usually get the history from the winners, and from the men- I mean it’s HIS story, no?
And that’s the fundament for our collective identity.
I’m actually wondering whether history is so useful for that, because if all the propaganda and making up different groups and enemies would not exist, we would not be angry at other nations and be freer from old conflicts…” Participant from Balkan Myth Busters Youth Exchange in Trstenik, Serbia (September 2017)

“I came to this exchange in my own town mostly because I wanted to meet someone from Kosovo, for the first time in my life.” participant from Balkan Myth Busters Youth exchange in Trstenik, Serbia (September 2017)

*The Balkan Myth Busters project (Erasmus+) was carried out by Volunteers' centre of Vojvodina and GAIA Kosovo, in partnership with CVS Bulgaria, CID Macedonia, SCI Germany, SCI Hellas, PVN Albania, VUK Croatia and the National Assoctiation of Youth offices in Serbia.


Authors: Lea Krontal (GAIA Kosovo) and Ida Boka (VCV Serbia)





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