In 1963 he joined Communist Party. He never really quite believed in the crap they said, and he never raised his kids in the socialist spirit. Quite the opposite. He joined the Party from completely ulterior, capitalist motives: to get a (much) better paid job representing his corporation in Italy. Since then, his job mostly consisted of having lunches and dinners with potential Italian business partners, that eventually lead to a numbered account in Switzerland bank and a waist-line beyond standardization.
The waist-line became a trade-mark of a successful Balkan male of our father's generation, obsessed with the fear of hunger that they had to experience during the Second World War as kids. With communism, women became emancipated in public, so majority of them had jobs and went to work every day. On their way home they'd pick up groceries and kids at school. At home, where emancipation did not penetrate, they'd make a dinner and wash the dishes afterwards, clean the apartment, do the laundry, etc. Men, after they married and if they had office jobs, didn't have to and - going to the gym or jogging being considered gay - didn't move much for the rest of their biological existence. They just ate, slept, defecated, read newspapers (while defecating), talked on the phone, had meetings, discussed stupid politics and tortured their kids. My father's designs for me were to become a great scientist, possibly a Nobel prize winner (carry his genes to the highest possible level), and the entire process of my upbringing was carefully tailored to suite that master plan.
They grew up in the plan economy and they just have never been able to outgrew it. Their life was always planned, scheduled, scientifically monitored event, where freedom was treated as an unwelcome intrusion. Free acts were deviation from the plan. My father did go to work in Italy, to make money, but he never wanted to fully relocate or to actually work for a western company, and he never wanted to part with the culture of plan. Freedom terrified him, as it did all of his peers - to the point where they were ready to rather embrace another form of dictatorship, instead of giving in to the democracy.
In his recent letter he wrote: "You know that in our family we never emphasized nationalism, or bragged about that we were Croats..." - true: when I was teenager I was not supposed to go to the Midnight Mass with my friends, because that might have been considered as a nationalist act and he, my daddy, might have suffered at his job; this not bragging about was therefore an act of sheer opportunism - "...but we are, nevertheless, Croats. What is Yugoslavia? An artificial creation from Versailles that went for breaking up Austria and Germany and their influence on the Balkans. Federation of South Slavic States did not exist ever before and it is not historically justified." Indeed. So, why did he spend thirty fucking years building that artificial creation and making money for it? Just because he could milk out a profit? What should make me believe that now we would, nevertheless, be Croats, just because of an opportunity to make money out of it?
"Besides, in the northern Serbia region, along the Roman limes, there was a Roman legion from Mauritania (Blacks), so the ethnic group there today, Mauro-Vlasi, carries hereditary signs of their black savage ancestors mixed with Serbs. Also, through long years of Ottoman occupation and abundant promiscuity of Serbian women, there are all sorts of degenerates there, and only one war like this, that we recently had, could show with what kind of people were we supposed to live in the so-called brotherhood and unity." Yet, we lived with them for fifty years, didn't we? Moreover, he worked with them. No, he worked for them. He was regularly debriefed by Yugoslav Military Counterintelligence - his position required that. And those officers were mostly Serbs, if current Croatian propaganda is not mistaken. "For Croats they are an enemy people - but not only for us - they are a shame for humanity, an ulcer on the European tissue, the Balkan stench that stinks of corpses." They are probably an ulcer in Tudjman's stomach, too, he forgot to write.
From a person educated in classics, who thought me the greatness of Roman Republic and the values of civil society (including civil disobedience) espoused in works of French humanists (the only thing he applies, it seems, is DesCartes's use of Ovid's "Bene vixit, qui bene latuit."), this is a surprise to me: he calls Roman soldiers savages?! Just because in this case their skin was black?! Are black American soldiers in Bosnia carrying the same genetic heritage? There are some people in the U.S. who would agree with him on that. Majority, however, would call such thinking racist. And, by the way, his father, my grandfather was a Croat from Livno. Livno is in Bosnia and until 1878 it was a part of Ottoman Empire, which means that our ancestors also lived under the Turkish rule and therefore might be degenerates. In 1980 when my friends and me laughed upon president Tito's death and the circus of carrying his carcass from hospital in Ljubljana to the mausoleum in Belgrade, he reprimanded me for that recklessness, telling how Tito's Yugoslavia was actually a good idea, that combined the best of the East with the best of the West, offering examples of crime, poverty, homelessness, prostitution and rampant moral decay that plagues the West.
This is what his generation really feared from: the West. Not the Serbs. They wanted the money but they feared democratization which would bring an end to their carefully planned, privileged lives. They would rather sacrifice the lives of their posterity (well, they always tried to make sure, through usual means of nepotism and bribery, that their sons do not go to the army) than their way of life. When my writings and shows were criticized by the Party, they were not criticized for nationalism, but for being "too Americanized". They were completely comfortable switching from the communist to the nationalist dogma, like they change to a new pair of shoes, but they were terrified of the prospect of political liberalization - as if that would make them walk barefoot over the hot coals.
My father's hate of America and sudden acceptance of the Host of Croatian nationalism vividly attests to that, for years after Tito's death and before Milosevic's ascent to power were marked by their commitment to obstruct political democratization of Yugoslavia: as their Yugoslavia and the communism itself was rapidly approaching its last days, they all happily jumped to the nationalist ark created by Milosevic, and quickly replicated by the like-minded leaders in other republics. Throughout the war the "old guard" managed to keep a hold on power in all regions. Now, after the war, all those regions are humanitarian disasters and the "old guard" still keep a hold on power by becoming unlikely peacemakers. The democratic forces are quickly dismissed in public like traitors, because they are not nationalist.
In their unbelievable selfishness and insatiable greed the generation of my father did not leave anything for us in former Yugoslavia. They have built a country for themselves. They have destroyed it for us. They, however, preserved the centralized, planned, authoritarian society in every part of former Yugoslavia. Actually, each emerging country is more or less a carbon-copy of the old Yugoslav state, and younger generations will adapt to live in their planned lives as Croats or Serbs in the future, as the older generations learned to live as Yugoslavs once. My generation is, however, fucked for good, because we grew up through the transition and we understood that there are other ways, the ways our fathers would like to beat out of our heads.
If you look at the post-Yugoslav demographics, you will note curious absence of my generation: guys are either dead or disabled or live somewhere else. They destroyed our country in order to preserve their system. And they used us in almost every step of the process: I haven't fought in the war, since I left earlier, but I did the first interview with somebody accused of Croatian nationalism early in 1989, opening the hunting season: since then Croatian state media needed just a year, by condensing Serbian experience (Serbia needed three years), to build up Croatian nationalism and have Tudjman elected.
Nothing changed for my father and his pals. Everything worked out according to plan, keeping their ways of life safe and comfortable. Here is him in his "dacha" outside Zagreb. In the rose garden are from the left to right my step-mother, my younger brother and my late grandmother (click on picture to zoom in). My bro raises his right hand high in anticipation of love of his new Vaterland. Ol' granny is kind of uncomfortable, clutching her hands and shying away from the camera: in those regions old people are wary of any radicalism knowing wisely that things change quickly there (she was born in Austro-Hungarian Empire, then lived through the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Ustasha's Croatia, Communist Yugoslavia and now Tudjman's Croatia). My step-mom dumbly grins, kind of as if he was showing a peace sign. She, a daughter of a Slovenian partisan who died fighting Nazis and a Serbian mother, is today a HDZ activist. Back in 1987 she came to my place to search for negatives and pictures that I took of my anti-communist, and sometimes defiantly nationalist, graffiti. She was afraid that if police would find them, and they did search my apartment quite so often, that the whole family may suffer. My dad always taught me how nationalism and particularly Nazism and swastikas (which were used by punks in the communist Europe stripped from their real meaning as a form of protest) are inherently bad because of what Hitler did to Jews and other peoples in 30s and 40s.
Now, however, not only that they did not burn the picture in which my younger brother gives a perfect stiff arm salute (well, not that perfect yet - he has to keep the thumb in, which means more practice is required), but they found it appropriate to send it to me in the U.S. So, all I was told was a lie?! Nazism is not really bad, it was just that it was inopportune to show it off in Yugoslavia. Now, it is perfectly OK, and we should not be ashamed of it. The later sophist's use of the Socrates's method of thought can be matched only by cynical perfection of Hegel's dialectic in the communist double-speak. That makes it possible that with no change in convictions my dad can now condone the Nazi salute, that he abhorred a few years ago, and at the same time claim how America is a country without moral or ethic principles. And I feel like Jim Morrison.