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A Story of Joseph
"I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt" (Genesis, 45, 4)
Joseph was a real pain. Smart, enterprising, and creative he became an unbeatable competitor to his even much elder brothers. Therefore, they decide to kill him, but, having relented, they sell him to Midianites, and these resold him to Egypt.
Where Joseph became an instant hit. He quickly put in order the estate of his boss, Potiphar, captain of the Pharaonic guard, and when the latter's wife wrongly accused Jospeh of indecent advances, and Joseph ended up in jail, in the Rounded Tower, he soon became the secretary to the prison's Governor. Joseph was not endowed with just a rational talent of an organizer of genius, with the concomitant ability to prosper in the material word, but also with poetic creativity, which made him an accomplished student of the human soul and its spokesperson through interpreting of dreams. He was one of those truly rare creatures possessing Pascal's esprit de geometrie as well as esprit de finesse.
Thanks to his spiritual gift Joseph moves from the prison to the Pharaoh's palace. Having explained Pharaoh's strategically crucial dream, he is appointed the head administrator of the entire Egypt.
For more than two hundred years, Croatian Josips and Josipe emigrated in hundreds of thousands to the Misir on the other side of the Ocean - and beyond. They started by washing Potiphar's floors and cleaning the Rounded Towers, but soon they found better ways of using their heads and hands. There are not many Croats who failed in "Egypt."
Like Joseph, in many cases Croats were expelled from their country, maybe not always by their brothers, as they were primarily chased away by anti-Croatian rulers - Turks, Venetians, Napoleon, the Habsburgs, the Khuens, the royal and communist Yugoslavs, but the brothers, those domestic traitors without whom the foreign rules would have collapsed, played out their perfidious role. We kept leaving, often with bitterness and anger in our hearts, but we never forgot the homeland and were ready to forgive. Like Joseph, we would say: "And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here" (45, 5). We realized that by leaving we may have done something good, created a chance to help our unlucky brothers, while also contributing to the Misirs we moved to. It was the Will of God, Joseph concluded, and he was certainly right. Just like Joseph, we also often brought Jacob and our brothers into our new homes helping them raise to a civilizational level worthy of a human being.
I realized the meaning of the Story of Joseph listening to a sermon in the Episcopalian Church of St. Philip, in Durham, a few days before Christmas 2002. I realized that Jospeh was an early "gastarbeiter," forced to leave his land, to succeed, thanks to his talent, abroad. And I realized it within the context of the current Croatian predicament, which I have mostly shared with my brothers and sisters last three years.
I realized again that for us who live, or have spent most of our lives abroad, there is nothing more painful than discord and chaos at home. Croats have more than once by infighting thrown away their chance to have a successful, sovereign state. For us abroad, who depend for our identity on the existence of that state, anything that threatens it creates a feeling of anxiety and frustration. Maybe this is the reason why the huge majority of Croatian people abroad has never joined any Croatian political party. We know only one such body - it is called Croatia and Croatian people. To paraphrase a statement given by Mr. Bernard Luketich, President of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America to the Vecernji list a few years ago, we support those who people of Croatia elect in free, democratic elections - it used to be HDZ, it is still the (former) "Six." No Croatian government so far has tried to understand what theDiaspora is. None tried to take advantage of its talent, experience, political clout, goodwill, and material resources, whenDiaspora was ready to offer all that at a very low, or no, price. A great chance, provided by the Liberation War and unity it created slipped away. Today, the most sober among ourselves ask: what is the future of the Croatian state?
Let us return to Joseph, son of Jacob. Letting his brothers go well provided with the food which would save the hungry Israel, Joseph issues an invitation and a warning: invitation to move to Misir, and a warning not to "quarrel on the way" (45, 24).
The move to Misir was, in a long run, a mixed blessing. Egypt for the Israelitesproved not be exactly a land of milk and honey. Joseph's offspring became victims of racial discrimination. After long pushing and pulling, and thank to the Lord and Moses and Aaron, the Jews left Egypt and moved back, to the Promised Land. It does not mean that we need to return en masse; in fact, we all have an inside Moses and Aaron which tells us to go back. But Croatia needs a Moses and Aaron to get her out of the quagmire it has sunk into.
A friend, top Croatian-American intellectual told me the other day. "If I were to be born again, and to look for a country to live, I would put the top priority on a country with an efficient court system." After my Croatian experiences I agree. For, pacta sunt servanda - what has been agreed upon should be honored. In Croatia, salaries and honoraria are late or never paid; one has to wait for years for ownership titles; guys in black Mercedes drive at 100km/hour in a wrong direction through a one-way street, and nothing happens to them. One can come and cut your tree in your backyard, without any permits or orders, because somebody at the "opcina" decided so (yes, I know such a case). To feel secure one has to become a part of some "network." And this is, folks, the end of individuality, and also the end of democracy. I do not care who "rules," be it "left" or "right," but there is no prosperity, no progress, no STATE without legal security and equality in front of the law. And the law in Croatia is all but disappeared.
One more reason we need a Moses to climb the Sinai and bring down the tablets.
Soon, in the course of the next year, the Croatian people at home will have an opportunity to select one.
Vladimir P. Goss