Tag Archive | Drunkard

Abolition of Passions

We Serbs, praise be to the merciful Lord, have settled all of our affairs, and now we can, just like that, in leisure, yawn to our hearts’ content. We can doze, lounge about and sleep, and once we are bored even of that, we can, just for a lark, drop by to see what’s going on in other unfortunate countries. They say – deliver us, God, from all misery and temptation, and keep them away from us! – that there are countries where people still bicker and quarrel about some rights, about some freedom and personal safety. It makes one’s hair stand on end to think about such poor folk that still haven’t dealt with their internal affairs, while we already had the time to set China and Japan in order. Each day we go further and further from our country, and if it goes on like this, our journalists will start bringing reports from Mars, Mercury, or, at the very least, from the Moon.

I am also a member of this fortunate nation, so, in order to go with the fad, I wish to tell you about what happened in a far, very far away non-European land, a long, very long time ago.

It is not known exactly where this country was, what was the name of its people, but in all likelihood, it was not in Europe, and the name of the people could have been anything whatsoever, just not Serbs. All earlier historians agree upon this, and modern ones will maybe claim the opposite. Anyway, that is not really our job, so I will leave it at that, even if I have to run afoul to the custom that one must speak even about the things one does not understand, and do the job for which one is not suited.

It is known for certain that these people were very corrupt and wicked, hearts packed with vices and filthy passions, so I will entertain you with all that in this little story.

Of course, my dear readers, you cannot even believe at first that such corrupt people could ever have existed, but you must know that I wrote all this based on ancient manuscripts which I have on me.

Here are, accurately translated, a couple of tip-offs sent to different ministers:

Today, after ploughing, husbandman N. N. from Kar dropped by the tavern, where he drank coffee and passionately read the newspaper which attack incumbent ministers…

Teacher T. from Borak, the moment he leaves school, gathers the peasants around him and tries to persuade them to form a singing band. Other than that, this teacher plays tip-cat[1] with apprentices and tossing buttons with his students, which makes him very harmful and dangerous. He had read books to some peasants and offered them to buy the books. This evil can no longer be tolerated, as he debauches the whole county and incites peaceful and honest citizens to ask for freedom; while in fact it is only he himself who keeps saying that freedom is sweeter than anything else. He is a passionate smoker, and spits while he smokes.

After church service, priest Đ. from Sor went to a political rally in the nearby town.

There, you see, what disgrace occurred in the world!

Look here:

Judge S. cast his vote today in the municipal elections. This disgraceful judge is subscribed to an opposition newspaper, which he reads passionately. He dared telling the court that a peasant who had been accused of slander and defiance to the government was not guilty for saying in front of witnesses that he will not buy anything from magistrate[2] Gabor’s shop. Apart from that, the same judge always looks pensive, which clearly proves that his mind is packed with vices, and must be plotting some major conspiracy against the current regime. He must be accused of lèse-majesté, because he couldn’t possibly be a friend of the dynasty, since he drinks coffee in Mor’s tavern, and Mor’s grandfather was a good friend with Leon’s blood brother[3], who incited that turmoil in Yamb against the aide-the-camp on the court of current ruler’s grandfather!

There were even worse people in this misfortunate land. Have a look at these reports:

Barrister from Tul represented some poor soul whose father had been murdered last year. That barrister passionately drinks beer and goes hunting, and, worst of all, he founded some society for helping poor people in our district. This impertinent degenerate, who says that government spies are the worst of men!

Professor T. was running around town with all sorts of kids stealing pears from the grocer, and yesterday he shot at pigeons with a slingshot and broke a window on a public building. This could still be forgiven to him, but he also attends political rallies, votes in elections, speaks with citizens, reads the newspaper, discusses the state loan, and what other disgrace does he not do to the detriment of education!

Peasants from Var started building a new school, and, it would seem, this vice will infect the whole county. This nasty trend which is detrimental for the country must be suppressed as soon as possible!

Craftsmen from Var have established a reading room and gather therein every night. This passion has become very deeply rooted, especially among younger folk, and the older ones are considering to establish also, besides a reading room, a retirement fund for craftsmen! This cannot be tolerated in our district, as it leads astray all the decent people who do not bad-mouth ministers!… One craftsman is even advocating for division of labour!… Horrendous passions!…

Peasants from Pado are demanding municipal self-government!

Citizens of Troy want free elections.

Multiple local clerks perform their work conscientiously, and besides that one of them plays a flute and knows how to read sheet music!

Scribe Miron passionately dances at parties and eats salted nuts with his beer. He must be sacked so that he could be cured of these passions.

Teacher Hela buys flowers each morning and scandalises the neighbourhood. She can no longer be tolerated, because she will spoil our youth.

Who could enumerate all the disgusting passions of these poor people? Suffice to say that there were only ten decent and honest people in the whole land, and the remainder, both male and female, both old and young, corrupt, as they say, to the marrow.

What do you think, how could these ten good and decent people feel in this rotten land?… Difficult, very difficult, especially because they were forced to watch their own country, which they loved so dearly, go to ruin. Worries kept them up on days and nights on end: how can they rectify their sinful compatriots, how to save the country from demise?

Filled with ardent patriotism, virtues and nobility, they were ready to suffer all and any sacrifice for the fortune of their homeland. So, one day they clenched their heroic hearts, bowed their heads before the will of the bitter Fate which imposed such a heavy burden on them, and became ministers, to undertake the noble task of cleansing the country of sins and passions.

All of them were learned men, but still, it was not easy to accomplish such a difficult undertaking.

In the end, the dumbest (which among those people meant wittiest) of them, came to the idea to convene the National Assembly, but to have foreigners make decisions in it. Everybody accepted this wonderful idea, so they rented, at state cost, two hundred people, and they rounded up the same number of foreigners who happened to be in that country by accident, on business. They pleaded and protested, but might makes right!

Thus, they gathered four hundred foreigners to be members of parliament and solve various issues for the fortune of the country, and to express people’s wishes.

Once they have finished this and found a sufficient number of people whom they appointed as members of parliament, they called an election for parliament immediately afterwards. Don’t be amazed at it, since such was the custom of that country.

Parliamentary sessions started. – Decisions, speeches, debates… it is not easy to complete such an important undertaking. Everything went smooth and quickly, but the moment it came to passions, difficulties arose immediately. Right up until someone came up with a suggestion to make a decision to abolish all passions in the country.

– Long live the speaker! Long live! – joyous shouts from all present echoed throughout the hall of parliament.

Everybody accepted the proposal with elation, and the decision was made:

People’s Assembly, seeing as passions hinder popular progress, finds itself prompted to introduce also the following point in the new law, which will read:

„Starting today passions are to cease, and are abolished as perilous for the people and for the country.“

Only five minutes had passed since the law on abolition of passions was enacted, and only the parliamentarians had known about it, but lo and behold what occurred among the people in all counties equally.

Suffice just to relate just a translated segment of one person’s diary.

Here is the diary verbatim:

…I used to be a passionate smoker. The moment I opened my eyes, I would reach for a cigarette immediately. One day I woke up, took the snuff box and (as usual) rolled a cigarette. I felt somewhat uneasy (that was the moment when the MP was putting forward the motion), until I suddenly felt my hand shaking all by itself, and the cigarette dropped to the floor; I glanced at it, and spat with repulsion… “I will never smoke again” – I thought to myself, and tobacco looked so disgusting to me, I could not even look at it. I was astonished what happened and I went out into the yard. And there was a sight to behold! There stood my neighbour, an old drunkard who could not keep away from wine even for one instant, standing there sober, with a blank stare, scratching his head.

– Here’s the wine – said the servant and passed him the bottle, as usual.

My neighbour grabbed the bottle and smashed it into the ground, breaking it into a hundred pieces.

– Bah, nasty thing! – shouted he in disgust, looking at the spilled wine.

He stood for a long while in silence, and then asked for slatko[4] and water.

Servants brought it, he took a spoonful, and went to work.

His wife cried tears of joy seeing her husband’s sudden change for the better.

Another one of my neighbours who passionately read newspapers was sitting by the open window, and he also seemed somewhat transformed, with a strange look on his face.

– Did your newspaper arrive? – I asked him.

– I’d never look at a newspaper again, I’m so disgusted by them! I was just thinking to myself to take up archaeology or Greek grammar!… – he replied, so I passed him by and went into the streets.

The entire town was transformed. One passionate politician had set off to a political rally. He was walking down the street and then all of a sudden, he turned round and ran back, as if he were being chased.

I was surprised at his change, so I asked him what made him go back so abruptly.

– I was heading for a rally, and all of a sudden it came to my mind that it would be better to return home and order a book on agriculture or cottage industry, read it and develop my skills. What is there for me at a rally? – he said, and ran home to study crop farming.

I could not stop wandering to all these strange and sudden occurrences, so I went back home and started browsing through a book on psychology. I wanted to read the part about passions.

I reached the page titled “Passions”. Only the headline could still be seen, and the remainder had paled away, as if nothing had ever been written there!…

– Oh, what is all this, in the name of God?!

Not a single person that was wicked or passionate about anything could be found anywhere about town, even the livestock had become smarter!

Only tomorrow did we read in the newspaper about the act of Parliament on the abolition of all passions.

– A-ha, that’s what it was! – everyone shouted. – We were all wandering what had happened to us, and, there you see, Parliament abolished passions!

This diary is sufficient to show what had happened among the people at the time when Parliament was enacting the law on abolition of passions.

Later it had become known to one and all, so there was no more amazement, and when it came to passions, teachers taught their students like this:

Once upon a time, passions also inhabited human souls, and that was one of the most intricate and most difficult aspects of psychology; but, by an act of Parliament, passions have been abolished, and thus they became absent from psychology, as they are from human souls. Passions were abolished on such-and-such date, such-and-such year.

– Thank God we don’t have to learn these! – students whispered, happy with this act of Parliament, because for the next lesson they only needed to learn:

On such-and-such date, such-and-such year, an act of parliament abolished all passions, thus they no longer exist among the people!…

Once a student recites this unerringly, he gets a top mark.

There you go, thus were these folk abruptly saved from passions. They changed for the better, and, some legends say, it was these people that became angels!…

 

In Belgrade, 1898.
For the “Radoje Domanović” Project translated by Vladimir Živanović, proofread by Adam Levon Brown.

 

Remark: In the last decades of the XIX century, Serbia was in political turmoil. After the abdication of king Milan Obrenović in 1889 and fall of the Radical Party-led government in 1892, the reactionary Liberal Party came into power again, cancelling the otherwise few steps towards democratisation that were taken by the previous government, which eventually lead to Goračići uprising in 1893. Due to the uprising, sixteen-year-old prince Alexander proclaimed himself to be of age, abolishing the Regency and taking authority into his own hands. This was followed by a new, “neutral” government, whose main purpose was “to appease passions”. Appeasing of passions has become a motto of the reactionary forces, and it was invoked regularly while in the background regime persecuted opposition politicians, shut down opposition-leaning newspapers and disbanded political parties.

At the time when this short story was written, another “neutral” government by Vladan Đorđević was propped up by the regime in 1897 with the same goal of “appeasing passions”, and, due to his open allegiance to the People’s Radical Party, Domanović himself was targeted by the government, firstly by transferring him from one city to another, and eventually discharging him from public service in 1898. After his discharge, Domanović moved with his family to Belgrade, quickly becoming one of the leading voices of the opposition in literary circles.

 

 

[1] Tip-cat (Serb. клиса/клисе) is a traditional pastime (or folk sport) which consists of tapping a short billet of wood with a larger stick; the shorter piece is tapered or sharpened on both ends so that it can be “tipped up” into the air when struck by the larger, at which point the player attempts to swing or hit it a distance with the larger stick while it is still in the air. There are numerous local variations of the game in Serbia and worldwide.

[2] In XIX century Serbia, a magistrate (Serb. кмет) was usually a rich, reputable villager who was elected or appointed by the government to arbitrate legal disputes among the peasants in the county. Magistrates were abolished in 1934.

[3] Blood brothers (Serb. побратим) here stands for men that are not related by birth, but have sworn loyalty to each other.

[4] Slatko (Serb. слатко) is a thin fruit preserve made of fruit or rose petals. Traditionally, all guests are greeted with a spoonful of slatko and a cup of water as soon as they are seated.

Reasoning of an ordinary Serbian ox

Good deal of wonders occur in this world, and our country is, as many say, overflowing with wonders to such an extent that wonders are no longer wonders. There are people here on very high positions who do not think at all, and as a compensation, or maybe for some other reasons, an ordinary peasant’s ox, which differs not one bit from other Serbian oxen, started thinking. God knows what happened that made this ingenious animal dare to take up such a brash endeavour, especially since it had been proven that in Serbia this unfortunate occupation could only bring you disservice. Let us then say that this poor devil, in all his naïveté, didn’t even know that this endeavour is not profitable in his homeland, so we won’t attribute him with any particular civic courage. But it still remains a mystery why an ox should think since he is not a voter, nor a councillor, nor a magistrate, nor has he been elected a deputy in any bovine assembly, or even (if he has reached a certain age) a senator. And had the poor soul ever dreamt of becoming a minister of state in any bovine country, he should have known that on the contrary, he ought to practice how to think as little as possible, like those excellent ministers in some happier countries, although our country is not so lucky in this respect either. In the end, why should we care about why an ox in Serbia has taken up an endeavour abandoned by the people? Also, it might have happened that he started thinking merely due to some natural instinct of his.

So, what kind of an ox is it? An ordinary ox which has, as zoology teaches us, a head, body, and limbs, like all the other oxen; he pulls a cart, grazes on grass, licks salt, ruminates and brays. His name is Sivonja, the grey ox.

Here is how he started thinking. One day his master yoked him and his buddy, Galonja, loaded some stolen pickets on the cart and took them to the town to sell. Almost immediately upon entering the town, he sold the pickets and then unyoked Sivonja and his comrade, hooked the chain that ties them to the yoke, threw a sheaf of thimbleweed in front of them, and merrily went into a small tavern to refresh with a few drinks. There was a festival ongoing in the town, so there were men, women, and children passing by from all sides. Galonja, otherwise known to other oxen as being somewhat dumb, did not look at anything, instead, he stuck into his lunch in all seriousness, ate a bellyful, brayed a bit out of pure enjoyment, and then lay down, sweetly dozing and ruminating. All those people passing by were no concern of his. He is just dozing and ruminating peacefully (it’s a pity he is not a human, with all these predispositions for a lofty career). But Sivonja could not take a single bite. His dreamy eyes and the sad expression on his face showed at first glance that this was a thinker, and a sweet, impressionable soul. People, Serbs, are passing him by, proud of their glorious past, their name, their nation, and this pride shows in their stern demeanour and pace. Sivonja observed all this, and his soul was all of a sudden consumed by sorrow and pain due to the tremendous injustice, and he couldn’t but succumb to such a strong, sudden and powerful emotion; he brayed sadly, painfully, tears rolling in his eyes. And in his immense pain, Sivonja started to think:

– What are my master and his compatriots, the Serbs, so proud of? Why do they hold their heads so high and look at my people with haughty pride and contempt? They are proud of their motherland, proud that merciful fate has granted them to be born here in Serbia. My mother gave birth to me here in Serbia as well, and Serbia is not only my native land but my father’s also, and my ancestors have, just like theirs, all together, come to these lands from the old Slavic homeland. And yet none of us oxen have felt proud of it, we only took pride in our ability to pull a heavier load uphill; to this day, never has an ox told a German ox: “What do you want with me, I am a Serbian ox, my homeland is the proud country of Serbia, all my ancestors had been calved here, and here, in this land, are the graves of my forefathers. ” God forbid, we never took pride in this, never has it come to our mind, and they are even proud of that. Strange folk!

Taken by these thoughts, the ox sadly shook his head, bell on his neck ringing and yoke crackling. Galonja opened his eyes, looked at his friend, and mooed:

– There you go again with that tomfoolery of yours! Eat, fool, grow some fat, look at your ribs all sticking out; if it were good to think, people would not have left it to us oxen. No way would we’ve been so fortunate!

Sivonja looked at his comrade with pity, turned his head away from him, and immersed back in his thoughts.

– They take pride in their glorious past. They have their Field of Kosovo, Battle of Kosovo. Big deal, haven’t my ancestors pulled carts with food and armaments even back then? If it weren’t for us, people would’ve had to do it themselves. Then there is the uprising against the Turks. A grand, noble endeavour, but who was there at the time? Was it these high-nosed dimwits, strutting proudly before me as if it were their merit, who raised the uprising? Here, take my master as an example. He too is so proud and brags about the uprising, especially with the fact that his great-grandfather perished in the war of liberation as a true hero. And is this my master’s merit? His great-grandfather had the right to be proud, but not him; his great-grandfather died so that my master, his descendant, could be free. So he is free, and how does he use his freedom? He steals other people’s pickets, sits on the cart, and I have to pull both him and the pickets while he’s asleep at the reins. Now he has sold his pickets, he’s drinking liquor, doing nothing and being proud with his glorious past. And just how many of my ancestors had been slaughtered in the uprising to feed the fighters? And did not my ancestors at the time pull the armaments, cannons, food, ammunition? And yet we don’t take pride in their merits because we haven’t changed; we still do our duty today, just as our ancestors did, patiently and conscientiously.

They are proud of their ancestors’ suffering and of five hundred years of slavery. My kin has suffered throughout our existence, and today still we suffer and are enslaved, and yet we don’t scream about it at the top of our voices. They say that Turks had tortured, slaughtered and impaled them; well, my ancestors were slaughtered by both Serbs and Turks alike, and roasted, and put on all kinds of torture.

They are proud of their religion, and yet they believe in nothing. What is the fault of me and my folk that we cannot be accepted among Christians? Their religion tells them “thou shalt not steal” and there is my master stealing and drinking for the money he got for stealing. Their religion instructs them to love their neighbours, and yet they only do harm to one another. For them, the best of men, an example of virtue, is the one who doesn’t do any harm, and of course, nobody even considers asking anyone to do something good as well, aside from not doing harm. That’s just how low they’ve got that their examples of virtue amount to no more than any useless item that doesn’t do harm.

The ox sighed deeply, and his sigh raised the dust from the road.

– So – the ox continued with his sad thoughts – in this case, aren’t me and my kin better in all that than any of them? I have never murdered anyone, I have never defamed anyone, haven’t stolen anything, haven’t fired an innocent man from public service, haven’t made a deficit in the state treasury, haven’t declared a fake bankruptcy, I have never chained or arrested innocent people, I have never slandered my friends, I have never gone against my ox principles, I haven’t made false testimonies, I was never a minister of state and never did the country any harm, and not only did I not do any harm, I even do good to those who do me harm. My mother gave birth to me, and immediately, evil men even took my mother’s milk from me. God has at least created grass for us oxen, and not for men, and yet they deprive us of it as well. Still, besides all that beating, we pull men’s carts, plough their fields and feed them bread. And yet nobody admits our merits that we do for the motherland…

– Or take fasting as an example; well, to men, religion tells to fast on all feast days, and yet they are not even willing to endure this little fasting, while I and my folk are fasting all our lives, ever since we are first weaned from mother’s breast.

Ox lowered his head as if he were worried, then raised it again, snorted angrily, and it seemed that something important was coming back to him, tormenting him; all of a sudden, he mooed joyously:

– Oh, I know now, it has to be that – and he continued thinking, – that’s what it is; they are proud of their freedom and civil rights. I need to put my mind to it seriously.

And he was thinking, thinking, but couldn’t make it out.

– What are these rights of theirs? If the police order them to vote, they vote, and like that, we could just as easily moo out: “Foo-o-o-or!”And if they are not ordered to, they dare not vote, or even dabble in politics, just like us. They also suffer beatings in prison, even if completely innocent. At least we bray and wave our tails, and they don’t even have that little civic courage.

And at that moment, his master came out of the tavern. Drunken, staggering, eyes blurred, mumbling some incomprehensible words, he meanderingly walked towards the cart.

– Just behold, how is this proud descendant using the freedom that was won with the blood of his ancestors? Right, my master is a drunkard and a thief, but how do the others use this freedom? Just to idle away and take pride in the past and in the merit of their ancestors, in which they have as much contribution as I. And us oxen, we remained as hardworking and useful labourers just as our ancestors had been. We are oxen, but we can still be proud of our arduous work and merits today.

The ox sighed deeply and readied his neck for the yoke.

 

In Belgrade, 1902.
For the “Radoje Domanović” Project translated by Vladimir Živanović, proofread by Julia Bleck. In Belgrade, 19 August 2019.