This post has been sitting in my Drafts folder for a long time.
I’ve Googled, I’ve mused, I’ve brainstormed.
The fact is though that I only have one thing to say. I know it might be controversial – and before you ask, yes, I am aware of the recent local election results which depressingly showed that a significant number of Czechs would like them back – but the essence of what I want to say is this.
Stop blaming everything on the Communists.
I’m talking especially to you, Mr Smug Expat. I’m sick of your supposedly insightful pronouncements. You may think it makes you sound wise when you say, “Ah yes, of course, but you must remember that they used to live under Communism,” in reply to every grumble raised by your fellow foreigners. Frankly, it’s starting to get on my nerves.
Surely if a twenty year old waitress is rude to me that means she needs an attitude adjustment – or a slap. Can it really be blamed on a regime which ended before she was born?
And the bureaucracy. Isn’t that more a hangover from the Hapsburg Empire as much as it is part of the Communist legacy? After all, Kafka didn’t live under a Marxist-Leninist regime.
“Ah yes,” Mr Smug Expat continues, “but you must remember” – that stupid grin is spreading across his irritating face – “that the impact of Communism is still being felt here. Things don’t change overnight. The legacy lives on.”
In some ways, yes. Take corruption, for example. It’s obviously due in no small part to the power vacumm left when the country switched to a market economy.
Blaming it all on the Communist past and shrugging your shoulders isn’t going to do much to improve matters though.
I don’t want to underestimate the very real suffering undergone by so many during the forty years as a satellite Soviet state. Let’s not also forget the salient fact that plenty of senior party members simply switched jackets and are still in positions of power.
However, may I politely suggest that sometimes it seems to me some are using the Communist past as a crutch or a scapegoat: it’s those Reds, they crippled the country, we just can’t overcome our country’s past.
Mr Smug Expat wants to talk about the twenty year old waitress again. Perhaps it’s because she has particularly pert breasts.
“Communism may have been finished before she was born. But what about her parents? Didn’t she pick up her behaviour from them? That’s why it will take generations before Czech society really recovers.”
Alright then Mr Smartypants. Perhaps you have a point. Even Vaclav Havel said that it would take Czechs several generations to recover morally from its Communist past. But it still seems like some – Czechs and non-Czechs alike – are just shrugging their shoulders and pinning everything negative on Stalin and his chums. How can things ever really improve if you fail to examine the real root cause of a problem?
I didn’t get around to reading The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown which I ordered from Amazon in preparation for writing this post but I did watch this excellent BBC documentary – and you should too, even if it’s just to assess Havel’s level of English in the days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Watch the first part below and educate yourselves.