People do not like a moralist and they never have. But in these times he seems to be loathed more than ever before. Actually, today he is despised and humiliated. That is one of the conclusions drawn from the book called The Moralist Fragments by Milo Lompar, a professor of literature at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. It was published last year by Narodna knjiga. In modern times, concludes the author of the book, a moralist is marginalized, moreover, according to popular belief, he is perfectly useless. Even worse, says professor Lompar – today “a moralist is not even regarded as an obstacle, rather, he is perceived (if he is lucky enough to be noticed) as a boring fly, a killjoy, a spoilsport, a wet blanket.”
Why is a moralist disliked in these times? What has he done to deserve this? It is not a big secret. Judging by the way a moralist acts, what he thinks and how he speaks, he should not expect anything but reproach and anger, and he should not be surprised by something even worse. Above all, explains professor Lompar, a moralist is stubbornly going against the stream, that is to say, he is going in the opposite direction of the majority of other people. Next, in everything that a common man thinks a moralist sees prejudice or some hidden interest. He will not let you strive for success because he claims that the right thing to do is to fail and remain true to yourself. And he is always dissenting, no government is good enough for him, he cannot accept and approve anything, the only thing you can hear from him is a perpetual and boring “No”. If you ignore him, he is ready to impose himself by some scandal or incident. It all adds up to a picture of a moralist as a dangerous person who undermines the established order, a person who, as the author of The Moralist Fragments put it “shows a certain type of experience of subversiveness.”
Professor Lompar painted this picture of a moralist to his own image, based on what he himself is experiencing as a man who goes against the stream in today’s Serbia, a man who questions the ruling elite, its ideas, its symbols of power and its authorities. The experience of subversiveness – which is characteristic of a moralist – is his own personal experience. He knows the price of subversiveness – reproach, contempt and ridicule – because he himself is paying it. He could say: a boring fly, a killjoy, a spoilsport – c’est moi. His book is full of examples showing us how he came to be what he is, an unpleasant person, a burden to himself and others – a moralist. The reader will thus find out that the author of The Moralist Fragments dares to scold the dominating ideology in today’s Serbia, to buzz around some powerful noses and to rain on their parade.
Scolding the dominating ideology? Yes, in spite of all the risks that come with the task, professor Lompar openly rises against Titoism. He calls it “the spirit that is the anti-spirit of every spirit” and warns that it is ever-present in Serbia today, that is to say that “the legacy of Titoism can be followed in all aspects of life,” which it reaches due to the specific way of motion inherent of a spirit, that is not the same kind as human motion. “Titoism is not a human being,” the professor explains, “and that is why it can reach much further that any man could do”.
And indeed – moving unnoticed and fast as a spirit – Titoism reached unexpected places, but our moralist recognized it even there. For instance, he discovered it in the Montenegrin language, and as its “natural source” too. How did it get there, the rascal? Because that language, professor Lompar explains, is actually “a constituent in the making of a new and unknown Montenegro”, and that state is, in turn, the extension of the one Tito made for the Montenegrins, or more precisely “fathered by the spirit of Titoism”. Bravely defying everything that those in power in Serbia think about this subject, professor Lompar lashes out at “the new Montenegro, which speaks a new language”. Despite all the risks that a subversive opinion carries with it, he announces that there is only one true Montenegrin state, and that is “an eternal Montenegro that speaks the Sebian language”. He is aware of the price he has to pay. “That can cost a man his honors and money”, says he, “and it can bring him a lot of trouble”.
Heedless of that, our moralist continues to detect the evil effects of Titoism in today’s Serbia. He has not missed finding it in a place where up to now it ran wild unnoticed, in a fatal commitment of Serbs to America and American values. In our country – professor Lompar says – only the superficial , “highbrow anti-Americanism” is manifested, but there is no awareness of the real danger that America presents to Serbian culture, there is no resistance to its malignant nihilism, to that evil pulsating from the “dark heart of America”. Although this country, reminds the author of The Moralist Fragments, “has been wounding us till we bled, both as a people and as individuals”, in our country it is “almost dangerous to demonstrate anti-Americanism “. How did this come about? Where did that crazy, unhealthy Serbian love of this empire of Evil come from? The answer, which no one had dared to utter before, is ruthlessly thrown into our face by professor Lompar. We love America because of Tito. This is his legacy. He has trained us not to allow anyone to mess with it. He separated us from mother Russia and thrown us into the arms of this nihilistic monster. “The Titoistic formula,” explains the professor “which is characterized by the anti-Russian and anti-Serbian courses in the foreign and domestic policies of communist Yugoslavia respectively, appears as a basis for every denunciation of anti-Americanism.”
“The ominous core of Titoism” appeared to our moralist one day in Berlin. It was, he recalls, a moment of epiphany. He was strolling down the streets of Berlin, reading the memorial tablets on the walls and writings on the cobblestones, which remind today’s Berliners of the suffering of Jews and other people in their city and their country during Nazism. And so he stopped in front of the plaque which read “Places of horror which we must never forget: Auschwitz, Stutthof, Majdanek, Treblinka, Teresienstadt, Buchenwald, Dachau…” He found himself standing in front of a granite cube with the inscription which read: “Here lived Sophia Happ, née Bach 1892, deported in 1943, killed in Auschwitz.” At that moment professor Lompar had an epiphany. It is from there that he “in a convoluted way, from a greatest distance in an epiphanic moment transposed into a completely different world.” All of a sudden he found himself face to face with his mortal enemy – you guessed it – “the grim core of Titoism.”
Actually, thinking of the memorials that remind today’s Berliners of the crimes committed in their name and in the name of the German people, he asked himself: why aren’t there such things in our country? And right away a heretic and subversive thought came to him – it is because Titoism, as he stated, “has invalidated every existential form of facing the truth, the kind of which is possible in, say, Berlin in 2007.” And what could Belgrade offer to its citizens, if Titoism was not stopping it, as a reminder of the crimes which must not be forgotten, that would be similar to what the professor had seen in Berlin? And there are reasons for it, right?
However, because we have the dominating ideology, i.e. Titoism, planted in our heads, the idea of any kind of memorial to remind us of crimes like those in Berlin is completely inconceivable to us. “Could we even imagine seeing on certain streets in Belgrade,” professor Lompar asks, “the discriminatory orders against Serbs from the Ustashi laws and regulations? Can we imagine, in downtown Belgrade, a cautionary plaque with the names of Ustashi concentration camps?” Naturally, he knows that we cannot imagine that. But he also knows what others are not letting us know, he knows why that is. “Because” our moralist is trying to explain, “Serbian culture is disabled from within to shed light on the fact that the Serbian people have suffered genocide.” In case some powerful Titoist should maliciously remark that Germans in Berlin are coming to terms with the responsibility for crimes committed in their name, and that the memorials in Belgrade which would remind us of crimes against Serbs could not be compared to that, professor will sharply answer that we “as a public and as a culture cannot have the strength to come to terms with horror as such, therefore neither can we come to terms with the historic horror that we made, when we have no experience with the genocide we suffered.”
Anyway, professor Lompar will not lack the moral courage to tell that Titoist what few people in Serbia today even dare to think – the truth that the story of some Serbian guilt is a mere myth, something fabricated by our enemies from World War I, and for which in our time we can thank… who? Our moralist will not get tired, waver or hesitate to, if need be, repeat a hundred times the name of the ideology that is controlling our souls today. It is Titoism, what else could it be, that brought us the habit of, as he put it, renounce “our national existence” and to “think of ourselves what those who formed the idea of Serbian guilt think of us.”
Should we, in the end, even say that bringing forth these and many other brave, rare and subversive ideas, that this merciless breaking down of malignant Titoism and selfless defense of the Serbian people in the book The Moralist Fragments did not go without consequences for its author. He paid a price – but reconciled himself to that fact in advance. That way he had to make do with only three book awards which he won in the last couple of years: those were “Djordje Jovanovic”, “Stanislav Vinaver” and “Laza Kostic”. From all the great and rich companies that a man of his ability could have ran, he was, for two years only, the chairman of “Politika.” Today he holds the modest position of a university professor and along with that he is in charge of just one institution – Milos Crnjanski’s Legacy, and he decides on the book awards in Serbia as jury president of the “Rastko Petrovic” and “Milos Crnjanski” awards and as a jury member of the NIN award, the award of Radio Belgrade’s Channel 2 and the awards “Djordje Jovanovic” and “Dragisa Kasikovic”, which added together is… let’s see: only six juries: Just think about the heights that professor Lompar could have reached if only his moralist restlessness and subversive ideas had not led him to a situation where he has to languish on the margins.
Peščanik, Radio b92, 06.06.2008.
Translated by Ivica Pavlovic