What causes a human being in wartime to commit terrible crimes? In We lived our ordinary crimes Daya Cahen assembles sound clips from the Yugoslavia Tribunal.
We hear defendants on trial for participating in ethnic cleansing in Sarajevo.
They admit their guilt, but try to justify their actions. Under group pressure people are capable of doing things they would never do on their own initiative is their underlying excuse. The perpetrators apologize for what they did, but claim mitigating circumstances. “I was young, naïve, an instrument in the hand of others. It was a matter of self-defense and survival. I was caught up in the chaos of war and death. I had just lost a child, I was under the influence of alcohol.”
The voices, projected by five speakers, overlap each other and portray the role of the individual in the group, in the system. By placing the blame outside of themselves and shoving it onto the ‘system’ (in this case ‘the war’), the perpetrators keep the system going.