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In the land of Franz Kafka

Thirty years after the Velvet revolution

I wake up at 5AM, brew my coffee and switch on my laptop. Today I’ll finally finish my children’s book about growing up in the communist era. The text is complete, but something’s still missing. That’s because my attention is often guided towards news of the Czech president Miloš Zeman’s well-being. Is he healthy, or ill? Is he diseased, or are his organs, as he often says, like those of a young man, miraculously undamaged by decades of consistent alcohol abuse? My generation is well trained from their youth; they can read the signs and in-between the lines. Soviet and Czechoslovakian politicians were also exclusively healthy and fresh.

How does it even happen, that a mother who spent her life shooting films and writing books, who is a respectable citizen, spends so much time making fun of the president’s speaker on social media? It brings a strong sense of déjà vu, reminding me of a time before thirty years ago when the Velvet Revolution occurred in the Czech Republic. In the uneasy time, the best coping strategy proved to be the infamous Czech humour.

I open the profile of president’s speaker Jiří Ovčáček – yes, that mix of ultra-Catholicism, nationalism, ignorance, ruthlessness and stupidity of a former editor of the communist news, does truly publicly represent the president. Among other things, he likes to “bless” his readers, which brings justified joy from many. Every day, people comment on his posts with recipes for pumpkin soup, information about the burial traditions in Tibet, weather conditions in Troubsko, or photographs of their latest flashy manicure.

I’ve just finished an article about how in the era of Miloš Zeman, there has come an absolutely purposeful and cynical confusion of values, where agents of the past secret police receive state distinction and brave people are ridiculed. To amuse myself, I post photos of my cats and dogs on the speaker’s Facebook profile page. I’m not the first – like me, many of my friends entertain themselves by observing this happening on the daily. One works for the EU and speaks many languages, another has studied psychology, a third lectures religion studies at university, and so forth. A professor, one of the most sophisticated people I’ve ever met, immediately reacts to my pets with photos of her mice and rats. “We have mice too,” I type onto the page “as well as ants, moths, nits and bedbugs.” (It’s meant in exaggeration, as a house filled with animals and children offers many surprises).

“Bedbugs squat in the Prague Castle,” the professor readily answers. 

Like in the past, humour is the only weapon with which to defend yourself against the absolute despair of what happened to your country.

When you belong to the generation that experienced the Velvet Revolution – soon it’ll be exactly thirty years from 17th November 1989 – and had the honour to know Václav Havel, to understand his style of thought and politics, you can barely acknowledge that now in the Castle sits the blustering King Ubu. Miloš Zeman is like a character from a drama, a Shakespearean hero inevitably heading towards his doom. He knows of it, but does nothing.

With his remaining strength, even if they have to hold him, bring him on a wheelchair, Zeman jokes with Putin about how they should shoot journalists. During his two terms of office, he insulted and offended teetotallers and vegetarians (according to him, they should be shot too), women, children, ethnic minorities, nobility, disabled people, Muslims, dissidents, intellectuals, students, people who visit cafés (especially repulsive considering it’s coming from someone who opens a bottle of liquor in the morning) – feel free to think of more. If you’d count those he hasn’t offended, the list would be shorter: China, Russia, and collaborators of the past regime.

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The prime minister is Andrej Babiš who during the time that the first free post-revolution president Václav Havel spent in prison worked with the secret police StB. He goes hand-in-hand with the president. Miloš Zeman is multiple times convicted liar by court, Babiš a convicted agent, who is currently hounded by The European Anti-Fraud Office. But who cares about that.

The worst in this despair is the fact that we are responsible for the given situation. How many citizens voted for the president in the democratic election? Not the majority, as Zeman likes to say, but enough to win. His opponents were too polite, too soft, and weren’t pushed on ahead by lies and Russian cash.

I take my children and go with friends and their kids to the Prague Castle. In the St. Vitus cathedral that has survived many things, we ask the national patron Agnes of Bohemia to save our nation, like she had those thirty years ago. In fact, the charitable medieval princess Agnes of Bohemia was solemnly canonized just a few days before communism ended in our country.

We sing the national anthem and place flowers and candles on the first courtyard. It’s the anniversary of Václav Havel’s birthday, yet no one even thinks of him. At the end, we sprinkle holy water on the first courtyard of the Prague Castle, perhaps it’ll help. On our way, we pass by Orthodox priests. To our amazement, they let us go first.

It is said that he who acts disrespectfully to the traditional nation’s symbols, such as the coronation jewellery (a crown, apple, sceptre and robe) ends badly. Apparently, in 1942 the Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich put the crown with sapphires, emeralds and pearls on his head. Soon after, while he rode through a Prague street, brave Czechoslovakian paratroopers that were trained in Britain during the war committed his assassination. 

During his tour of the coronation jewellery, Miloš Zeman was seen staggering and leaning against the walls of the cathedral. He was evidently drunk, having just arrived from the Russian embassy.

“Isn’t it too much?” I ask my friend, who has a good grasp of the human soul. The vainglory of the Czech president Miloš Zeman is already calling up to heaven, as most of our debates in the past days are concerned with his health, what is actually ailing him that he can barely stand, or if he’s soon going to die. He has even crept up into my dream. I dreamt that he passed away and the television broadcasted the message in capital letters. It felt so real that I woke up and went to switch on the TV.

My religiously educated friend answers: “We’re tortured individuals without the Stockholm syndrome. So wishing the death of a tyrant is legitimate.”

We live in the land of Václav Havel, Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka.

Franz Kafka would be pleased.

This article was originally written for the Guardian under the title ‚The Velvet Revolution: thirty years later in the land of Franz Kafka‘

Díky vám můžu psát co si myslím.

Noviny, kam jsem psala komentáře buď koupil Andrej Babiš, nebo neexistují.

Protože chci i nadále říkat svůj názor na věci, které mi leží na srdci (dětské domovy, týrání dětí, vyrovnání se s komunistickou minulostí, lidská práva, totalitní ideologie, rasismus, ochrana zvířat a přírody a další), založila jsem si tento web.

Jestliže mají pro vás mé texty smysl, prosím podpořte ho.

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Děkuju.

Written by Monika Le Fay

Matka několika dětí, dvě jsem porodila a dvě si přivezla. Režisérka několika desítek filmů. Scénáristka a spisovatelka.

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