About a cat…

This is Ludo. If you’re wondering, the location is HIS decision.

My daughter (who’s always alert for cats) noticed him lying under a car in a quiet part of Trebinje, Bosnia Herzegovina. On closer inspection he proved to be extremely thin and with both eyes crusted over with infected pus. He had no energy but when picked up mustered a purr. Honestly, if she hadn’t been there I’m not sure what I would have done, but since she was, we took him to the vet, fed him, cuddled him and hid him from bus drivers and hotel owners until we got to Sarajevo, where he is, as we speak, being delivered to a cat boarding facility. Fatter, glossier, and beginning to play like a 7 week-ish kitten should.

Now if I were to head an ethics investigation into the rescue of Ludo I’d probably be pretty harsh. I’d say something like, right, you spend all this time and money on a kitten, but you pretty much cross the street when you see a beggar and when they catch you, you nearly always say no (although ONCE recently you did buy $40 worth of groceries for a Syrian – possibly because he was thin, whereas it’s an unfortunate fact that many of Europe’s panhandlers are butterballs). Honestly I think this is why we invented the welfare state – so we can palm beggars off on to the government. Which, in Bosnia, is unlikely to be handing out emergency cheques and disability support., so no moral kudos for me.

Anyway now that Ludo is safely stowed in his new home I finally have time to look about me and appreciate Sarajevo for the gorgeous Ottoman muddle that it is.

As a city you’d have to say Sarajevo has character. Women in full black niqabs (how do they stand the heat!!) swish about next to embroidered headscarves and minidresses. Men wear what the hell they like, as usual, oblivious to the lustful desires they’re inflaming in passers-by. Turkish tea sets and coloured lanterns are for sale everywhere. The Genocide Museum is not on the tourist map but I go there anyway, knowing that I’ll be overwhelmed (how do people bring themselves to do these things?). It’s full of shoes (some kid-sized) and bloodstained shirts and nasty things to hit people with – and harrowing personal stories. The worst of it is that most of the people who participated in this horror are still drinking Bosnian coffee in cafes and minding their grandkids in the park, somehow carrying their memories of shoving people into mass graves and gang-raping twelve year olds behind a facade of normality. I don’t know what the point is, for me, of seeking to know more about this – a vague feeling that one ought to, I guess, however unpleasant. Nobody in the museum meets anyone’s eyes, it’s too awful.

Apart from that Bosnia is stunningly wild and beautiful, a country of crags and gorges and pines clinging to the slopes and grey-green rivers over white stone…I can’t imagine it’d be easy to subdue, for a foreign invader. Not unless you wanted to spend your time scaling rock faces and abseiling canyons in search of the resistance… Maybe that’s what the place needs! Perhaps if Putin turned his attention to the Balkans everybody would forget their ethnicity in favour of blowing up Russians in mountain passes (that said, I did read an article that ascribed the current tensions in the region more to organised crime than to ethnicity – it pointed out that the diverse leaders of Bosnia are more than happy to cooperate when it comes to raking in the cash).

So, kitten-less, we go on to Mostar…

11 Comments

    1. Yes, Meriel says the cat boarding person, who’s Meriels age, really loves cats and will take good care of him, as well as trying to find him a good home. Extremely lucky kitten!

  1. The wars that wracked the former Yugoslavia were when I realized that humanity had not progressed at all and that such progress may just be impossible. In the 30 years since, there have been plenty of additional examples. It’s a sad thing and, I agree, how do people get to a place where they can do this to others? I’ll never understand that.

    1. I don’t understand either. There was a story about a little boy whose father had been shot and he was running around calling for him and the Serb officer told the soldiers to shoot him as well. Luckily one of the soldiers took pity and smuggled him to safety. But the mind boggles.

    2. I think it’s middle aged men who for some reason drive the process…. maybe instead of buying a red car and dating a blonde. But there is some contempt towards Moslems because of their obvious difference. I’m not a fan of Islam myself but people are just people at bottom, not enemies or targets.

      1. Well, it’s the middle aged men in positions of power who use their power to spread propaganda that allows them to brain wash the young men who then go out and commit the heinous crimes.

  2. Boy, would *I* be the wrong person to bring into a discussion about the “why/how” of genocide. You’d need someone who has a considerably more favorable opinion of people in general than I to even elicit mild surprise that such things happen all the time. Of course they do, and I’m roughly as astonished as I will be in the morning when the sun comes up in the East.

    As to the kitten vs. beggars or space programs vs. staving Ethiopians or exploding objects vs health-care or whatever — this is an informal fallacy known as “relative privation”. It rejects an argument by stating the existence of a more important problem. It assumes a zero-sum game in which spending time/money/resources/thought on anything is logically unsupportable it it’s not the “Most Important Thing”. This, in terms of logic and thinking is formally known as “bullshit”. You did a good thing. That stands on its own, with or without reference to anything else in the world, and that’s the end of it.

    And I read every word you write, but somehow until the last couple of weeks failed to note that you had your daughter with you on this Euro-tour. Makes me smile, for some reason.

    1. I’ve only had my daughter with me for the last couple of weeks, she joined me in Dubrovnik. So that’s why you missed it. Travelling alone definitely has its pleasures but it was great to see her, she makes me laugh. Or, more accurately, wheeze… I’m getting some annoying asthma at the moment. Anyway I agree with your argument about the fallacy. And Ludo would definitely agree.

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