Translated by Tamara Budimir
Ilica Street was once again deserted. It was three in the morning. They were walking towards the Zagreb Brewery. Ante was looking down at the asphalt. The professor was looking up at the sky. But they seemed to be gazing at the same plane.
«Professor», said Ante halting suddenly and holding onto the metal fence whilst gazing at a tree. «This evening I blackmailed a lowlife. Do you think this is a moral act? » he asked, pulling at the metal rod of the railing, as if he wanted to pull it out.
«There are no morals. Morals do not exist», answered the professor calmly. He stopped, coughed and then continued:
«We live in a society without morals, Ante, my young man. It’s a question of rights and power. One needs must go with the other, but often this is not so. There is power without rights, like politics, corruption...»
Ante hesitated. «I know», he said quietly and slowly continued walking.
«But there are rights without power. We have our human rights – the right to a flat, to a job, to retirement, but we lack power. Rights without power – what a laugh. So said the great Pascal.»
«Last night I blackmailed a lowlife. I took his money. I took sullied money off a man who threw me onto the street. God damn it! Should I have lashed out or simply taken it? What do you think about that, professor?»
«When a man claims his rights by law, but does not have the power», began the professor raising his forefinger, «then he lashes out at those who wield the power, but do not have the right to do so. And revenge is logical. Revenge is mostly motivated from without, rarely from within. There are very few psychopaths. Madmen are usually ordinary people, who have fallen victim to society.»
«Explain, professor! What about hate… is hate a logical result of one who tends towards what is right?» asked Ante in a fluster, as if he had not blackmailed someone the night before but simply been meditating.
«Do you know how a pessimist is born? » asked the professor taking Ante by the hand. He looked him straight in the eyes. «When an idealist experiences a number of setbacks.»
«And then others, and others, and others…», added Ante and smirked.
«And then... once the idealist realises that ideals do not exist, then his world is turned upside-down», continued the professor, stroking his beard and then stopped again.
«Once you realise that life is run by coincidence, and not by a system or logic, and if you still favour systems, them the illogical throws you out of joint.»