Second Topic: Union of Patriotic Citizens of Novi Sad, 2014-2015

I don’t want to make people assume I journeyed alone. In fact, what makes a philosopher, or a man who aspires to be one, is in fact, a mix of qualities I believe. First is the childlike wonder at the state of the world, it is the capability to feel “youthful” even when encountering the most objectively dull states of existence…and the other is far more difficult to explain. It is to make sense of that wonder and use it in order to get—what else—freedom. The philosopher is freest in his character, and most slavish in his daily life. The fact he has to be practical sometimes irks him, unless it is a character which is fascinated by practical ordering of life, a great builder of systems…However, I was without a doubt, a follower. The question which I posed to myself: who will educate me? found no response in the halls of Novi Sad. However, I did meet a friend, whom I loved as a friend and his very interesting but peculiar character. He was, in fact, what the University was for—the practical, politically aware man for whom poetry and literature were great as means of proving one’s own claims. He came even further south than I was, and as the saying here goes—southerned, saddened—but, he came already knowing everything, and hated our assistant professor as a first-class traitor of the nation. We became friends over our similarities but differed wildly in potential. My potential—an occasional quip, a strange thought, a certain sentiment—was wildly different to his keen sense of moving currents of the faculty…In most matters he was ahead of me as an intellectual yet he always had bland, unoriginal ideas, murky patriotism of tweed and suits, a kind of learned “respectable gentlemen” gesture which he wanted to persuade others in. But, no matter: I was a political idiot which meant I was an idiot through and through. My good friend became a follower of one professor who was “patriotically minded”…his intellectual beans were too rotten even for pig-feed. Of course as a man of his class, as a sociologist, this professor achieved nothing of importance…and my friend followed him, going against that assistant professor. They were, the three of them, engaged in a kind of ritual combat while I was the idiot nobody understood what is on about. Of course—the assistant also had his own followers.

My friend who I will call N, always joked with me, “Moorcraft, study more and read less!” He would find me in the library, or he would know I am in my apartment reading instead of studying…and this was a bum as well. He enjoyed the act of being a student…we all go through such a phase before we come to an understanding—and some never do—most of us will never achieve anything of importance. But this blindness which I quickly overcame, N never managed to overcome. He was a man for the cause, the cause being The Nation, all mystical and sacred. I was not embarrassed at all to be a friend with a man who, I understood barely, had a murky political background. To him, too, my last name meant something but only the opposite of what the assistant claimed—it gave him a sense of historical continuity through heroic deeds and men. And do we all not love being loved? If anything else, it beats being hated. Then what occurs if the man or person who loves you is, in fact, some manner of an intellectual failure? Not something one can understand immediately, but over time: years and years of careful observation. During the first year of studying it wasn’t something I could pick up on—I was drunk on rare literature, forgetting entirely the fact I was a student, I could care less over the fact professors were always up to something in their scripts, I would read it and heal myself with proper literature. First, disease your spirit in order to prove yourself worthy, then heal it however you can even if the wounds of former pain remain. They remain in the form of constant paranoia, about one’s own behavior, habits, even thoughts, opinions, and values. Whether I was drawn to Tommaso Campanella or John Steinbeck was not my choice but a series of psychological underpinnings of a possible fascist or a communist, could be either. All the time it was a question of intellectual, philosophical seduction. I was the seduced and then performed outcome of others before me. Which is for instance why I write this in English—I was pretty much raised on English and American literature, to N’s dubious suspicion it might turn me into a national traitor, a “Westernizer”, an “American.” But there we were the two of us. I read books he hasn’t even heard about while he understood things of a political nature I could only glimpse the meaning of.  It was through him I got the chance of going on the tour of patriotic NGOs or something of a kind which, looking back was a lot darker than I could understand. However the biggest one was “The Union of Patriotic Citizens of Novi Sad” or “UPCON”. There, in some godforsaken alleyway on the second floor, escaped intellectual convicts promoted their books and held conferences, published poetry books, talked about Serbian national greatness, American destruction of Serbia in the bombardment of 1999, how they used depleted uranium, liberal takeover of the institutions and all manner of, to me, wildly overblown claims, but claims which placed them in the very center of world occurrences.

N and I would find places to sit while in front of us were two tables with microphones, and some mad intellectual promoting an equally mad book. There was always in Novi Sad, away from the prying eyes of the University, something going on.

The first thing I noticed which was strange to me was the amount of bald, young men in militarized outfits—army pants and boots, and spitfire jackets. N was nonchalant, telling me it’s “their fashion.” Then the intellectual arrived and I couldn’t wait to escape this accursed union of lunatics. The first one was constantly foaming at the side of his mouth, and every time he opened it, nasty threads of this foam would stretch from top to bottom…thankfully, he only spoke about generic, nonsensical patriotism: liberals conquered the University he claimed, and are trying to disassemble our national culture and stuff like that. I wonder is that the reason why we are all huddled in a tiny room listening to this man who, for some reason, constantly stared at the camera, wildly gesticulating while my friend N was sagely nodding. Well, I thought: is this an intellectual perhaps?

There were even a few professors from University in that mad bunch, possibly to give the place a sense of weight, and decorum, “PhD-ing” the great Patriotic Union…

The first few times we were in the back rows but every time some lecture ended, my friend N would go around shaking hands with the lecturers, chatting and enjoying himself while I would be next to him, silently observing and tracking everything. I couldn’t understand a single damned thing. Who are these people? What do they do? Why don’t they just follow the official path? Suddenly I was confronted with my own arrogance—if I didn’t want to become what was asked of me, to become liberal, to become “European”, was this what it meant to be patriotic, to be “Serbian”? I didn’t like the strangely dark mugs of theirs, a certain lack of light in their eyes—monochrome, tired and without any light. But N was overjoyed that he found a place to belong to. Not only him—most University students were in organizations and whatnot. Professors would sit in the same place as us as equals here, while they were our masters over there, in University. They would tell us we haven’t passed in classes, calling us “colleagues” while drinking hard liquor and joking with us in the Union. It was like a chameleon changing spots. One second: “Respectable colleague so and so, have you readied yourself for the exam? and then: “Ah, Moorcraft you strange fellow! Sure are a lot of fine chickens this year…! Grab a few, village girls scream the best when plucked!” outside of their role. However, all of it was going under the notion of an engaged, polemical intellectual. I suddenly heard what I thought about my assistant professor in a lot more darker and conspiratorial terms: “All those liberals will get lustrated soon enough”.

Lustration was something that came from Europe, after WW2, when many intellectuals, who were collaborators, needed to be “cleansed of their sins”. Those that at least could be and I was suddenly in a group that talked with a great sense of justice, about lustrating liberals. No debates, no philosophical arguments, nothing of the sort. N said: “What are we without our national history? Nothing more than slaves waiting to be picked off the road. A nation without a consciousness evaporates the minute some trouble appears. And its conscience must be nationally-aware and enlightened public intellectuals. We can’t have men like K teaching our children to hate their own country and roots.” My friend” he pointed to me “was called a fascist just because of his last name. Is that right?”

And, while he was right, I felt he was also wrong. Because, as I wrote, it was not about me, it was about something else. And here, again, I was something else. Of course I supported lustration otherwise why would I be there? This, too, was the implied meaning of my presence—together with some of my professors, colleagues, and lecturers. The other audience goers were there to hear a few interesting words and who knows, ask a question or two then bail out. It wasn’t all bad however.

One time, they brought a concentration camp laborer, a very old man, who spoke about his experience and how the laborers used to live, pass the time, wrestle with their pain. The man was a devout Christian who, for some reason, felt surrounded by jackals. That was my experience. He spoke one thing while the implied meaning to everyone else’s ears was entirely different…they extrapolated his experience then, on the reality here, and further beyond, how they must stop other Serbs from suffering the same while lustrating those who were not patriotic enough.

And of course a man who happens to read a lot of American literature was that idiot, it was Moorcraft. I wrote about confronting one’s inner demons but what if one was not only confronted but seduced by one?

What if one day, a lecturer arrived who was talking about the Yugoslav wars proving adamantly that we were fighting defending our people and country, that it was all an American plot (“They needed uranium from Kosovo!”), or a German plot (“They armed the Kosovar Liberation Army!”) and everything he said sounded calm and rational, a struggle of the weak but morally righteous against the strong but morally corrupt?

What if that man was a war criminal?

That man was in fact a war criminal, and I listened to one such lecture in the Union of Patriotic Citizens long after I abandoned any thought of becoming a liberal. My father was a criminal, and my delusion—that I can wash away my youth and the fact every policemen in ten villages around knew my name—evaporated. I was not good enough because I inherited my father’s name in the village, and on the university I inherited historical sins of some other man according to liberals. I stopped believing that an intellectual’s path is for me, it wasn’t. Even now, I don’t consider myself a good person – but that is precisely why I sought philosophy and science. And what I found was either my enslavement or my barbarization. So, what then?

N however told me everything I read online and what I heard were blatant liberal lies. But my father was a born liar, and I too was a born liar so I could, through a different sense smell it. Perhaps I was weak in discovering political nuances but I could sniff out lies like you wouldn’t believe it. It’s what differentiated life and death for me.

If a man approached me, smiling, asking: “Moorcraft’s?” I needed to know if he is one of my father’s customers coming to break my legs or not. In his eyes, gesture, cadence, everything. I needed to be aggressive, I learned to swear and curse like a maniac, to fight like one too. I committed my first crime when I was nine. My father handed me over an envelope and told me to carry it to some place; we were in a strange town I barely remember. Turns out, I understood years later, I was helping my father in his forgeries—I was carrying a falsified passport for a smuggler. Ecce Homo?

So how could they be lies? Because a liberal claimed they are? Then is the meaning of truth in who claims it? I already wrote how the meaning of an intellectual is only found in a degree over here—now it turned out the empirical proof of truth was found in one’s values…however, I was once more seduced.

The anti-intellectual path was in front of me, talking and chatting about the wars like nothing of importance. This was back in 2015, before the wave of historical revisionism struck Serbia, when every damned collaborator was rehabilitated simply because they were executed by communists after the war. I guess we needed to “lustrate” them…and now, here it was again: the same historical moment. A moment trapped in time, 1942, prolonged indefinitely. But the collaborators had my last name so N couldn’t get what I was so furious about: after all, wouldn’t I therefore, wash away the professor’s accusations if they become acknowledged in all of society?

I haven’t even needed to study; I was already an intellectual par excellence…a criminal of this kind or that. Now, I must speak of the wars which burned down the old country.

The nationalists committed war crimes. Simple as that. This truth, however, is a mark of treason. If my last name was a mark of treason of Europe, this was treason of the Balkans. Novi Sad was filled to the brim with refugees from the wars: Serbs from Croatia, Albanians from Kosovo, Bosnians from Sarajevo…the students would never get the truth because truth, likewise, was credentialed away.

The wildest claims could be heard, from the most educated of persons: how it was British SAS that committed genocide in Srebrenica, masked in our uniforms, in order to dismantle Yugoslavia and destroy Serbia. How Americans were intentionally bombing playgrounds (always with counting humans as pigs…) or sought to destroy our glorious homeland in order to get ores down south…The world simply revolved around us.

In neighboring Croatia, when the nationalists took office, every goddamned war-criminal from WW2 was almost rehabilitated. I am talking people who ran the death-camps like Jasenovac for Serbs and Jews (which “patriotic intellectuals” in Croatia claimed was something like a children’s nursing home, why, they even had puppet shows…!) and in Bosnia, war-criminals were not only getting pardoned but running for office! How could this be considered anything but the highest treason of philosophy?!

Ah, but they killed us first! But they killed us before! N would, to my constant irritation, pull out the wildest assumptions: he “knew” that if Srebrenica was acknowledged as genocide, this would mean we are a genocidal people. Suddenly everyone would have the same sense of crisis and sin as this here Moorcraft. But the sense of crisis I didn’t develop on my own but out of the assumptions of our institutions and the men which lead them! And N was already an assistant professor who, in a few years would blatantly say: “Srebrenica? Are you some kind of communist?”

All of it represents the collapse of our institutions. At this point it doesn’t matter what is truth but how can they use it. To simply acknowledge facts of the past—that for instance, Americans owned slaves or that Ethiopia was a kingdom, or that Turks were rather brutal masters—is prolonged, indefinitely, in historical momentum as a tool of one’s power. How can an American defend himself against his own past? He can’t. How can he act in the future without supervision? He can’t. How can he, on his own, do something which will not lead to seduction by demons?

Ah, there it is, the problem: freedom! Liberty…while he and I can  be free, it is only in accordance to the liberal’s sense of a disgraceful past which we inherited or the nationalist’s sense of us as he makes us, which we can’t go against! Then what of philosophy, what of our institutions? Are they to produce an enemy of the liberals? What is to say these enemies will in fact, be normal? How does one live his life without getting seduced, without thinking, without philosophy in the highest sense? And that is why we must prepare ourselves for the possibility of our seduction…

N felt he is right and I became another renegade, another traitor. However, for me, an evil man, a thought-criminal—“an aspiring philosopher” if you will—I dealt with the depths and chasms, peaks and crevices…to whom could I turn now? The institution which was to educate me saw fit to turn me into bland paste of dimwit thought. Those against it sought to seduce me into glory of a different kind than I sought…

Now, I must say—we all choose our path. I hold nothing against N at all. But, what pains me the most is that N is now the President of the Union of Patriotic Citizens and has recently sued a liberal NGO on court.

It was a liberal project for tracking fascism and, they marked the Union, and the president, N, my old friend, as a fascist, leaving a link to his online account which was a clear-cut call to a public lynching. Or so he claimed. He dragged them to court and won, and I will now quote passages from the verdict:

The President of…N…, sued on March 25…”Women’s Support Center” due to violation of reputation and honor, to the Basic Court in Novi Sad and partially received a verdict obliging the “Women’s Support Center” to pay non-pecuniary damage for mental pain due to injury of honor to pay the amount of 50,000.00 dinars with statutory default interest within 8 days. Also, the “Women’s Support Center” is obliged to pay all costs of litigation in the amount of 42,300.00 dinars for default interest within 8 days.

“Women’s Support Center” is the organization responsible for the project “Mapping Extremism and Civic Resistance – Serbia 20..” in which, together with a bunch of other, ideologically problematic groups, and with the support of the “Open Society Foundation Serbia” allegedly began research on current forms of extremism in Serbia. Within the mentioned project, an interactive map was created with the titles: “Where Extremism Lives” and “Where the fascists sleep.”

“Apart from the fact that in this way, the most brutal violation of honor and reputation was committed, the safety of the person in question, as well as his family, was endangered in the most explicit way. By making public lists of the unfit, labeling people and organizations with discrediting epithets “extremist” and “fascist”, the atmosphere of lynching is heated up and justice is taken into its own hands…”

And so and so, Defendant N, Accuser W.S.C., litigations, brawls, conspiracies, accusations, “what-if”, possibilities and so on. Yet this was a man I personally knew…and he is, instead of writing philosophy, or poems, or at least scientific articles, he does what? An intellectual does what? Nonsense!

But what else are we to do? For once the notion of historical importance awakens in a philosopher or an intellectual is the moment an intellectual dies and an ideologue awakens—it is most we will ever know of intellectualism. In Serbia this is what intellectuals actually do…I wrote, in my first topic, of Milosh Kovich, the historian who might lose in court and then get banished for being a nationalist from University of Belgrade. This time, I wrote of N, who won in court in Novi Sad—but ask me to recommend anything they have done and…Milosh Kovich did have a book translated in London, but my friend became—guess what—a columnist!

Which is why we must cross over the second topic, and move down on the third…


For all installments of “On the Collapse of Our Institutions of Higher Learning,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2