Summer is Here

Seventeen years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, our frustrations continue – this time with the slow pace of change, ineffective politics and the ever-prevalent corruption. Nevertheless, just as always, summer is here to lure us away to our chata’s to forget about the ills of the nation. And just as always, as we tend to our cucumbers before going off to the local village “hospoda” (tavern) for a beer, the unpleasant realities of our culture are conveniently forgotten.

Czechs rank fourth in the world in cell phone ownership per capita, and first in all of Europe regarding the number of text messages sent. It could be argued that we avoid dealing with each other face-to-face, instead texting merrily away, especially if there is an error on our part or if we have bad news to send. “Will not make the meeting” reads the text message, without further explanation. When we call the other party, a recorded message tells us that the recipient is “unavailable.”

Along with Belgium, we lead all of Europe in the divorce rate, at around sixty percent. And should we pass away in Prague, more than half of us will not be given any sort of adequate burial ceremony. The same fate awaits more than one-third of those who live outside of the capital. Our death is either a bother to others or an issue not to be contemplated. What we do want to contemplate are the things that they can’t take away from us – our culture, hockey teams and our beer.

We are also near the top of the ladder regarding smoking deaths from lung cancer. We live as we please – should something happen to us, well, that is what the state is there for. We also rank near the top in the number of high-speed auto fatalities in Europe. Laws and regulations regarding the speed limit do not interest us, since the law in general is not enforced in this country. Besides, with our politicians telling us that the new norm of behavior is to “act like a real man,” why on Earth should I drive under the speed limit, when I have a brand new Škoda Octavia??

The Czech Republic and its people are experiencing a financial renaissance coupled with technological advances. Paradoxically, these advances, from cell phones to fast cars, are strengthening our negative character traits, chief among these is the distancing of ourselves from reality. We communicate less and less with our spouse, our children, and with God. Our deceased are to be forgotten.

It is this present culture, emerging from a disparate past, which prevents us from realizing that both our national identity as well our own success hinge on one and the same thing – on how much we help others and how much we interact with each other. What then, does friendship mean for such a society??Is it a relic of the past, or is it the new foundation stone upon which to build??

Summer is here.

Martin Jan Stránský


The New Presencesummer 2007

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