Rebellion can come in many forms

Posted by Tory Historian Sunday, August 31, 2008

Yesterday, when it was not raining, Tory Historian attended a garden party in Oxford. Well, what else does one do in Oxford? This was an unusually mixed party with guests from many different parts of the world and even different parts of Oxford easily chatting with each other. Those who know the city well will not be surprised to hear that the party was not in that stronghold of academic residence, North Oxford.

Tory Historian spent a long time talking to a Serbian lady, who teaches English in Belgrade and comes to England once a year or so. She spent the war of the nineties in that city and was, together with her family, part of the ten per cent, as he estimates it, who were against Milosevic and his wars with the other states of former Yugoslavia. They did not even object to the final act, the bombing of Belgrade because, as her father had put it, Serbia had to learn a lesson.

Anybody who thinks this smacks of treason might like to contemplate what Germans, who had opposed the Nazi regime, its wars and the support it had from ordinary people, may have thought during allied bombing.

However, what Tory Historian found particularly interesting was the story of the Serbian lady becoming vegetarian – not a common phenomenon in the Balkans or Eastern Europe. It was precisely because of that she had decided to stop eating meat and fish, however hard that made her life. This made her different, roused suspicion in her interlocutors (you are not Orthodox, they would say) and allowed her to start discussions on politics and express her opinions. Rather a courageous move that puts the activity of our own vegetarians into perspective.

Interestingly enough, as Tory Historian mentioned in the ensuing conversation, vegetarianism in history has always been viewed as rather a subversive form of living, ever since the days of Pythagoras, who is alleged to have been murdered with his disciples by rebels in Croton. Of course, that may have been simply because they were seriously fed up with having to study that theorem.

Colin Spencer, in many ways a very eccentric writer and journalist, did produce a fascinating history of vegetarianism, in which he explored the relationship between it and social subversiveness at length.

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