Darko Gavrilović: “The sin of easily accusing others”

Interview Prof. Ph.D. sc. Darko Gavrilović for Hrvatska Rijeka. The interview was conducted by journalist Jasminka Dulić, and was published on 03. 09. 2021. years. We are broadcasting the interview in its entirety.

"The sin of lightly accusing others"

Every time there is an opportunity to stand upright, as Chesterton put it, or to stay upright - at right angles - we should take the chance. It is not sought in arguments with haters, for they will drag you into the darkness of their hate-mongering thoughts. In that darkness, they feel better and are more agile, so they will beat your arguments based on experience in evil. Struggle is already accepted in doing what promotes good, nobility, understanding. You are on "your turf"

Center for Democracy, History and Reconciliation ( CHDR ), a non-governmental organization from Novi Sad, whose director is prof. Ph.D. sc. Darko Gavrilović, i
The Association for History, Cooperation and Reconciliation from Golubić, founded by prof. Ph.D. sc. For the fourteenth year in a row, Janko Veselinović organizes scientific and political conferences on relations between Croatia and Serbia and the position
Serbian and Croatian national minorities in two countries. In the small village of Golubić, at the foot of Velebit, near Obrovac in Zadar County, a meeting was held again this year on the topics of » Serb-Croatian relations, issues of national minorities, political myths, dominant narratives and cultures of memory «.

► This year, at the meeting in Golubić, you presented your thoughts on sin and the consequences of sin, speaking on the given topic of Serbian-Croatian relations, issues of national minorities, political myths, dominant narratives and cultures of memory. Why did you choose this particular aspect of looking at the topic?

At the gathering this year, I presented my reflections on the sin we commit when we lightly accuse others, whether it was personal accusations or collective attacks and guilt. Namely, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, an English writer, philosopher and theologian, said that there are many angles at which a man can fall, but only at one angle does he stand upright. If we don’t understand sin, we will constantly try angles. And the question now is, what is all this sin? For Christians, he is certainly evil towards God, man and nature. However, if we look more broadly at the concept of sin, we will find, for example, in the old Greek dictionary that sin is more than just the idea of ​​a transgression and a misdemeanor. It also signifies an unreached goal, a failure, a personal flaw that leads to ruin.

► As part of these considerations, how do you see the effect of sin on Croatian-Serbian relations?

If we observe Croatian-Serbian relations today, then I could assess how the most widespread effect of sin is reflected in low life and political ideals, in political manipulation of the masses, in the crushed and enslaved spirit that results from it.

Unfortunately, the majority of regional politicians and intellectuals continue to offer us divisions into “us” and “them”, claiming that this is an essential division and that the survival of both the individual and the race depends on it. Individuals suffer in these tribalistic divisions, both those who are misled by hatred and those who are not. Looking further, in such an atmosphere, free thought, freedom of movement and, finally, national minorities are lost.

Since at our gatherings we deal with the Croatian community in Serbia and the Serbian community in Croatia, I can say with regret that they are the most vulnerable groups, because they represent, in an atmosphere of hatred, an ideal target for shooting political frustrations or simply the usual decades-old targets that serve to divert attention from real problems.

It is easiest to stigmatize the entire national community. Individuals are then dehumanized, and children and even babies are included in the indictment. Everyone is guilty! Such seductions of the spirit that come to us from the world of politics provide opportunities to absolve their followers of “all sins” in exchange for obedience. Blame is found on the other side.

If we accept such a way of thinking and act like that, we will remain in the power of the broadest concept of sin – in the failure of our personal life and the fatal impact on other people’s lives. When a person finds himself under such a grindstone, he loses his dignity, creativity, thoughtfulness and love. Then he commits a transgression against himself and humanity, and approaches the human darkness to which he becomes obedient for personal benefit or fear.

On the example of Serbian-Croatian relations, contrary to what has been said, we should accept the fight against one of the most widespread and severe pains – the pain of being rejected by another just because of origin, a pain that a human being can feel almost anywhere in the world, including here.

Therefore, every time there is an opportunity to stand upright, as Chesterton put it, or to stay upright – at right angles – we should take the chance. It is not sought in quarrels with haters, for they will drag you into the darkness of their hate-mongering thoughts. In that darkness, they feel better and are more agile, so they will beat your arguments based on experience in evil. Struggle is already accepted in doing what promotes good, nobility, understanding. You are on “your turf”

► It seems to me, based on your reflections, how do you think the main fault lies with the political elite? However, the question remains why do people agree to be manipulated? It seems that some accept such manipulators with enthusiasm? Has politics become a false religion or an attempt to substitute for religion?

It is questionable where the main blame lies. Many individuals who belong to the political elites are to blame. Then there are also the blames of intellectuals, the media, priests, up to the personal blames of those whom the general public does not know.

It should be remembered that ideologies have been around for more than a hundred years. They are “on the market” and “offered”. It is up to individuals to accept or reject. It is up to a man’s conscience to decide which side he will go with and with whom he will go.

Conscience is a man’s sanctuary. Throughout history, people have gone to war and given their lives because of their conscience. Conscience clearly says that one should do good and not evil. However, this is where consciences diverge.

The clarity of conscience is darkened when a person chooses evil instead of peace, love and good. Opting for an ideology that promotes death and glorifies murderers is a sin, a failure.

► Sin and dealing with it is individual, isn't it? And forgiveness is sought for one's own and not other people's sins? How is it that in Serbia people only talk about the sins of (everyone) others, while their own sins are not even mentioned? What difference do you see between sin, guilt, responsibility - individual, collective?

It is difficult to find politicians who are ready to talk about their mistakes and failures, to dig out those who are ready to sprinkle themselves with ashes is almost impossible. However, if public opinion polls show them that it is profitable, I think they are ready to ask for public pardons.

By the way, I don’t like the notion of collective guilt. It is not my fault that I belong to a nation, and that nation committed the worst sins in the past.

However, when public figures like Willy Brandt ask for forgiveness on behalf of their people for the atrocities committed during the Second World War, then something like that is healing. Then the process of the possibility of accepting forgiveness opens up and only then does a free space for reconciliation processes appear.

► Last year, you said that "mythological representations from the past and messianic promises from the present should be replaced by a rational approach to problems". The question remains, however, who needs it, can it be done and how should it be done? Related to that is the question of how it happened that mythomaniac representations came to dominate the interpretation of the past, and messianic promises came to dominate instead of rational policies?

I still think so.

However, one should first keep in mind that political myths, dominant narratives and cultures of memory are part of the political arsenal of ideologies.

Then, that ideologies are there and will not disappear. They offer their arsenal, and people accept or reject.

Then, regardless of the presence of ideologies, the political representatives of the states should stand up and lead a policy based on a rational approach to problems, coexistence and cooperation wherever mutual benefit and progress can be seen.

Next, that neighboring countries should have teams that will work together to solve traumatic issues from the past that affect the present and that they should not wave their results as flags but use them as help and advisory measures to leading political actors.

After that, through the education system, general human values ​​are promoted, not hatred.

And finally, that the media should not feed on news that promotes violence and hatred, but that positive developments should be emphasized.

► Related to this is the question of why there are so few reactions of the intellectual elite, media workers and politicians from the opposition to the lies published by the tabloids about history, as well as the lies used to incite hatred towards other peoples, most often Croats, Albanians, Bosniaks? One gets the impression that they only react when they are personally hit, that is, on target?

Politicians usually react when they feel that some of their postulates have been violated.

The answer to your question is, which parties in Serbia and which ideologies do they have in their programs to protect the rights of minorities? Those who have it, I think are irresponsible if they do not react to the attacks of entire national communities. Such people, very likely, put the issue of minorities in their programs just so that they would not appear to belong to modern European values.

► This is the fourteenth gathering in Golubić on the topic of Serbian-Croatian relations. When you started organizing these scientific-political gatherings, what did you expect to achieve with them?

We didn’t expect much.

The first meeting took place in a village school where there was no door, no water or electricity. Afterwards, step by step, we created the conditions for holding meetings by renovating the school, but also for opening the former school building as an exhibition space.

Apart from the school building, the village was also renovated during these fourteen years. People started coming back. They see a chance to come back.

The village of Golubić, where the gatherings are held, started to develop tourism thanks to the gatherings. This year, more than a thousand overnight stays were recorded in the tourist offer of that small village of the Velebit National Park.

► Which dimension is primary, political or scientific, for you as organizers and what does such a definition of the meeting mean?

The primary dimension changes depending on regional politics, but also the needs of the local community where the meeting is held.

Over the years, we put more and more emphasis on development potential, and less on politics and history. The development potential of that small local community is mainly in tourism, whether it is agricultural, adventurous or religious.

► For these fourteen years, what are the results? Have the goals you set for yourself been met?

We set as one of our goals the development of dialogue and cooperation among historians between the two countries.

We initially planned for it to be as large a group of historians as possible. After 14 years, it turned out that a smaller group of scientists (about fifteen of us) works better on the topics we assign. These are scientists who deal with similar topics, and who, unfortunately, still dominate the political scene today.

Honestly, I would be happy if the day comes when there will be no need for the analyzes we are dealing with and when another group of our colleagues dealing with tourism and agro-economics will be the only group that will give guidelines for further development in Serbian-Croatian relations.

► What can non-governmental organizations achieve in the relatively narrow circle of people who are activated through them and the relatively little media attention that these activities receive?

Alone – they can achieve little. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are a vulnerable group, often like minorities. When you say that you are in an NGO, it often has an undertone of betrayal in public, and members are attacked for being foreign mercenaries. An atmosphere of lynching is created against all those who think differently.

However, if the state would really help the NGO sector, cooperation would open up for the state on important issues, NGOs could take on the role of a corrective factor, the conscience of society and a potential advisor. I think they belong there.

► How many people, what kind of profiles have passed through yours  gatherings? Are they always the same people or not? 

Historians, sociologists, political scientists and geographers passed through our gatherings, dealing with political issues related to Croatian-Serbian relations.

Tourismologists and agroeconomists dealt with the development potential of local areas.

Then we had an art colony that attracted the attention of not only the local community but also tourists.

We held two summer schools related to the Holocaust.

And finally, high representatives of Croats from Serbia and Serbs from Croatia have been there for more than ten years and are looking at how to help each other.

► As far as I know, the meeting is always held in Golubić (Croatia). Has it ever been held in Serbia? If not, why?

No, never in Serbia. CHDR held other meetings in Serbia. Golubić (Obrovac) has become a traditional place for these gatherings.

► You were born in Split, live in Zemun, work in Novi Sad. Where do you feel at home? Have you ever had a problem here or there with your activities?

Home is where my family is, and that is Zemun.

Home is where I was born, grew up and where my roots are, which is Split.

And finally, like every believer, I also have my true homeland – heaven.

One of the key insistences of all our gatherings and the conclusion that always comes through is “feeling at home”.

I think everyone has the right to feel at home everywhere. Being accepted regardless of some otherness. To be yourself without it bothering the other. Help another.

Ultimately, keep in mind what John Donne wrote long ago:

»No man is an island,
All by myself;
Each person is part of the continent, part of the country
If the sea carries away a clod of earth,
Europe is smaller, as if some kind of cape has been swept away,
Your friend’s property or your own;
Every man’s death diminishes me
Because I am included in humanity…”

Croatian word

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