Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Writers in Politics II

Role of the literati in modern society



In 1991 a group of Slovak ultra-nationalists prepared a demonstration to celebrate the former Slovak State that existed during the Second World War. And Havel got the crazy idea to go and “visit” that demonstration. At the main square of Bratislava that day came only some hundreds of nationalists and if it weren’t for Václav Havel, this event would have been practically forgotten in silence. This kind of demonstration had not happened before and never happened again. But exactly that year and that day the steps of our President Václav Havel led him to the main square of Bratislava towards the group of fanatics, who, when they recognized the opportunity, attacked him. If these fanatics wanted to promote their crazy idea around the world within one day in a few minutes of action, no one like Václav Havel could have helped them more. The reason is obvious. Of course, the idea that Havel will walk alone through the square occupied by bunch of fanatics was foolish. He attracted large group of journalists, mainly from abroad, who accompanied him to that square. And, of course, they were eager to show how much Slovaks hate this federal President if they are able to attack him. But no one was interested in showing, what happened next. When this attack was reported on the radio, thousands of Slovaks went from their jobs and homes to protect the President, who had their sympathy. The result was shameful. Hundreds of fanatics were in the headlines and the thousands who finally showed their sympathies to Václav Havel were not. But the question goes deeper -- why should someone have to act on the crazy reports on the radio and run somewhere to protect President just because he is with wrong presumption in wrong time at the wrong place? Does he have not enough intellect as a writer to understand that his action was completely counter-productive? Could something crazy like this be done by any of the western, democratic politicians who openly adored Václav Havel at that time? Would the voters or supporters of these politicians forgive them such a fatal mistake?

If you think that this was something extraordinary and that all of us simply needed time to learn our official roles, here is another example. The next year on the same square, under the complete direction of Václav Havel, another fault of his official and also personal goodwill occurred -- it was the 73rd anniversary of establishing the modern state of Czech and Slovaks. Slovak intellectuals, friends of Václav Havel, who ruled at that time in Slovakia, prepared a great peaceful gathering to show the sympathy of citizens to Czecho-Slovak State. This time ordinary people were informed on time and they came to show that, that time and that moment, was not the place for extreme nationalism. The square was full, the organizers had everything in hand and what happened? Václav Havel came up to the tribune, adored by the crowds and his first idea was to ask that the tens of thousands should hold a minute of silence for the idea of the common state of Czechs and Slovaks. Well, usually we hold a minute of silence for something or somebody who is dead. From this point of view, it was quite a strange idea. But why to not follow the beloved President? And at that moment it happened. Among the crowds shouting the slogans of goodwill and friendship between Czech and Slovaks, it was hard to ignore the small group of national fanatics. They were near the tribune and Václav Havel had to know what could have happened. But he did what he did. By ordering a minute of silence he gave the floor to them. The most stupid slogans of haters and xenophobic prevailed. Thanks to this, tens of thousands became speechless spectators of the new shame. It was also new evidence that, in political circumstances, Václav Havel lost his sense for theatrical effect -- if he ever had any.

There were, of course, more Czech and Slovak intellectuals who did at the same time similar or even worse mistakes. The sum of these mistakes led to the situation which Czechs and Slovaks face now. Those who rule the contemporary Czech Republic and Slovak Republic are anything but intellectuals. Furthermore, it was a fatal failure of the intellectuals that caused the loss of sympathy toward them and gave power the current pragmatic, and in Slovakia for significant period of time, even autocratic governments. Thus, it was a general show of intellectual weakness in politics, regardless of nationality or cultural level. There are more examples how they, step by step, showed how poor the results of intellectuals were when they entered a politics.

(to be continued)

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