I have been quite outraged by this government in the past several weeks. It didn’t seem enough that they kept marauding the national companies, playing the role of statesmen, pretending to be part of the jet-set echelons at fashion shows, chasing young waitresses around Belgrade restaurants – so now they start to manipulate our fears of the swine flu and to instruct us as to how to mourn the deceased head of one of the religious congregations in Serbia.
The mess surrounding the swine flu has culminated in a suspicious vaccine acquisition tender, and – lo and behold – the successful supplier turned out to be Miskovic, the greatest Serbian tycoon. Then the panic that the Minister of Health and his associates used to spread, suddenly vanished. In his interview to the daily Politika, the said Minster even dared say that public attacks on him began when he started advocating for the country to pass the legal ban on smoking. This time, though, the general impression is of tobacco mafia’s innocence: it is the Minister himself who ignited the flu panic so that someone could earn a dime out of it. In the end he turns out to be the great defender of the Serbian people from the army led by the atrocious villain, nicknamed H1N1.
This is a desired image of a country they want to rule: the people terrified by the virus, staying locked up in their homes, asking nothing from the government save some vaccine, some bread, and – if possible – some freedom. But not possible, that’s alright too – a flu shot would suffice.
And when it began to seem as though the virus was our President’s best coalition partner, Patriarch Pavle died, and just about any idiot in this country was granted unlimited possibilities for action. It’s been a while since I felt the outrage and humiliation that overwhelmed me when I saw the circus that Tadic and his advertising group staged to mark Patriarch Pavle’s death. It seems to me that these past several days have witnessed a giant qualitative leap of our government’s madness and shamelessness, a leap we will be, I’m afraid, referring to for much longer in this radio program.
Today we will only try to remind ourselves of certain facts. First, this is a secular state, although everybody, from the President, to the government and the Mayor of Belgrade, have spat on that part of our Constitution. Speaking of Mayor Djilas, this poor God’s servant – who granted him the right to break the law which stipulates the maximum of three days of national mourning? As far as I know, Belgrade is a part of Serbia and his tricks, by which he proclaimed this Thursday to be the fourth day of mourning, won’t work.
In their zealous mourning, they turned the national days of mourning into some sort of a state of emergency, when any moron can play the role of a policing moral officer, and whoever fails to say that the Patriarch was a saint, risks being labeled a traitor.
It was uncomfortable for me to criticize the Patriarch now, simply because so many of our fellow-citizens have been struck by his death in ways that we, atheists and agnostics, cannot even begin to comprehend. But as the days of mourning passed and his death was being growingly abused in such a shameless way, the awkwardness I had felt initially began to fade away, because the President, the ministers, the Mayor, and all those anonymous Orthodox Serbs, whom I would run into at gas stations and pedestrian crossings, began to impose his death on me. These days a false image is being shaped through one man’s death, an image of us as a people dignified but modest and meek before God, angelically pure, close like the already canonized Patriarch Pavle.
What did the archpriests do, what did the president, journalists, football players and polled post office clerks do? They offered only one image of Patriarch Pavle to us: an image of a humble man who rode public buses, sowed his own cowl and mended his own shoes, whose retirement was 9000 dinars a month, who never watched television or listened to radio or read newspapers, and who left behind him, of all material things, only one alarm clock. This very image was then immediately projected onto the entire Serbian Orthodox Church, and then through a shortcut onto the entire Serbian people. In the past three days we have been identified with this false image both of ourselves and of the Patriarch, forgetting our smuggling, bargaining, corrupted, greedy, mean and pornographic reality.
If the archpriests, presidents and ministers wanted us to mourn only the loss of Patriarch Pavle, why did they turn every single idiot on every TV channel into a moral police officer, who breaks into our houses and order which channels are not to be watched; why did they turn every TV hostess into a widow and every news editor into a national worker employed to play TV programs about the magnificent parts of Serbian history – the First and Second Serbian Uprising or the Thessaloniki Front? These historical events are in no way related to the life or the death of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Back in those days, the archpriests served neither as military commanders, nor as statesmen. And why did they decide to stop there? Why didn’t they push forward, all the way through the 1990s, when the Patriarch was a leader of the church which had acquired an immensely important role and reputation in the society. Both the church and the state have offered us an image of a Patriarch who lived a monastic life, while entirely neglecting the minor fact that he was, after all, at the head of the church for nineteen years, between 1990 and 2009, which is to say – in the crucial years of our downfall.
Perhaps it is true that the role of an important historical figure is to be determined only from a temporal distance, but if everyone, within the first twenty four hours, seemed eager to freeze the Patriarch – or better yet the Serbian Orthodox Church and the entire Serbian nation – in one fixed frame, then it is my duty to speed up and remind you all of several things only.
In the letter to Lord Carrington, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church says that Serbs can not remain within an independent Croatian state, but must, rather, find their place under one roof of today’s Serbia and all Serbian territories.
The Patriarch was rather precise, in a very secular manner: he demands that territories on which the Serbs constitute a majority since 1941 be taken from Croatia. Many a Raskovic, Babic, Martic and Hadzic appropriated the message zealously and acted upon it appropriately.
All these years, both the Patriarch and the Serbian Orthodox Church which he used to lead consistently pursued an idea and the politics according to which the Serbs led defensive wars. Hence, no crimes for which anyone from the Serbian side would be accountable were ever committed.
In keeping with the above, the Patriarch received and blessed general Lazarevic before the latter voyaged to the Hague to sign, together with sixty other intellectuals, a petition for a withdrawal of the ICTY’s indictment of Radovan Karadzic.
The Patriarch himself chose to conduct a dirge for the Quisling Milan Nedic and the Fascist Dimitrije Ljotic. But to the funeral of Zoran Djindjic he sent Bishop Amfilohije Radovic, who delivered a speech that insulted and cursed the dead Prime Minister.
The he rose from his hospital bed for the first and the last time to vote for the new Serbian Constitution, or more precisely – for its Preamble on Kosovo as an inseparable part of Serbia, the same one that only prolongs the agony of Serbs from Kosovo and all of us alike…
Radio B92, Intro, Pescanik, 20.11.2009.
Translated by Vesna Bogojevic