Consumerism and the idolatry of money and material wealth have taken over the world, including our society, which could not be subsumed under the definition of social values.

Prof. Dr. Duško Lopandić

When Dositej Obradović crossed the Danube in the middle of the First Serbian Uprising in August 1807, and kissed the Serbian soil after having travelled across western countries, he set out to educate people and open schools in illiterate Serbia. It seems that back then he had a much clearer view of what we now call “western values ” than his successor, the Minister of Education of Serbia. As we know, on the occasion of the tragic massacre at the Ribnikar school in Belgrade, the now former minister Ružić accused  “western values”, among other things, for corrupting children and for the evils in our society.

In his famous text “Letter to Haralampi”, Dositej pointed out the need to reform the language of the time and to work on education the people, emphasizing equality and the need for solidarity (love) between people, regardless of religion or ethnic group. He emphasized the natural human kindness, and condemned human egoism and various evils and vices. “And what would we want others to do to us? That they let us live in peace, under our laws, that they do us no harm, that they forgive us our weaknesses and mistakes, that they love and respect us and that they help us in our need. We owe the same to all the people in the world.”

Perhaps the former Minister of Education could use a reminder of the foundational texts that reference “western values”, contained in major international conventions, such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in practically all modern world constitutions, including that of the Republic of Serbia.

We should remind particularly of those “western values” that are formally supported by today’s government of Serbia, emphasizing (albeit unconvincingly) membership in the European Union as Serbia’s main strategic goal. Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union explicitly states “values” (which, according to recent statements, seem to arouse suspicion of individuals from the government and the right-wing opposition) and which are as follows: “The Union is based on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including the rights of members of minorities. These values are common to the member states in a society in which pluralism, prohibition of discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality of women and men prevail.”  We can hardly imagine that anyone in our political sphere could have something explicitly against any of the stated values or the objectives of the European Union, which are stated in Article 3: “The objective of the Union is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples. The Union provides its citizens with freedom, security and justice without internal borders, in which the free movement of persons is ensured together with appropriate measures related to external border control, asylum, immigration, as well as the prevention and fight against crime.”

How did we go from formal political advocacy for the mentioned values and goals of the EU to the accusation that “western values” are one of the reasons for the deviant behaviour of certain minors in our country – including the heinous, psychopathic and cowardly crime against youth and the future in Ribnikar Primary School? This question is not so much a matter of logic nor the consequences of the need to consider psychosocial problems in our society, which are obvious. This example, first of all, symbolically and quite clearly indicates the disorientation of the so-called the political “elite” in Serbia, which has been led by the same ideas and people (also called “brotherhood by stain” – D. Velikić’s expression) for over a decade, and that has been “spawned” from atmosphere from the end of the last century, which has been reviving during both ideologically and politically to a good extent.

The above views are the essence of what is meant by “western values”,

not American horror movies or internet video games. Of course, times and customs change, as was noticed by Slobodan Jovanović, who pointed out long ago that “humanists appreciated a man for what he is, not for what he achieved and how much he succeeded”. The boundaries between virtual and “real” reality are becoming more and more blurred – especially in the lives of young people. Consumerism and the idolatry of money and material wealth have taken over the world, including our society, which could not be subsumed under the definition of social values. We cannot, however, confuse “values”, on the one hand, with what are in fact the vices and pathologies of a society. In “The Grand Inquisitor”, Dostoevsky imagined a situation in which the perverted church authorities would put Christ himself under investigation, which did not mean that Christian values had disappeared for him.


Prof. Dr. Duško Lopandić, professional diplomat and expert in European law and regional relations