Vol 1, No 8, 16 August 1999
R E A D E R R E S P O N S E:
Is the Czech Republic positioning itself as a doormat for self-righteous hypocrites?
Ivan A Rebensteiger
A person whose deeds and name do not deserve mentioning once said: "The Czechs are a nation of Svejks and swine." It is exactly this type of derogatory generalization that is the spirit of an article in the issue seven of Central Europe Review, "On doormats, Men and the Quality of Thieves" by Tomas Pecina.
Granted, there are thieves and swine among Czechs. There are also thieves or swine among Americans, Russians, Italians, Brits, Hungarians, Scandinavians, Israelis, or any other nation, ethnic group or religion. A deviation from the standard norm of behavior is as natural as is a mutation in genetics.
But those deviations, regardless how numerous, do not make a whole nation a nation of thieves and swine.
It is also quite possible there is a larger proportion of thieves in certain social or ethnical groups or nations, fact that undoubtedly has its roots in different sets of social, religious and economical values. Nevertheless, unless there is a detailed analysis of well documented facts, these accusations will remain baseless, and the accused shall be deemed innocent until proven guilty. Presumption of innocence is a paramount legal and ethical principle on which is based successful functioning of Western democracies, the social model of which even Mr Pecina obviously wants to be a member.
Mr Pecina writes:
Several months ago, a most curious piece of inter-tenant communication appeared posted in the entrance way:
From this it was clear, that although the occupants of the house are clerks, salesmen, technicians, doctors or architects during their daily lives, when the night falls, they transform into amateur thieves, prowling through the dark corridors looking for anything left by accident in front of a neighbor's door.
Let's analyze this segment under assumption that the quotation is correct: The writer of the note addresses a singular thief, not thieves. She further gives the benefit of doubt by assuming (perhaps ironically) that the thief will put the stolen article for a good use. She radiates a positive attitude and aura of tolerance in her post scriptum.
Compare that with the negative approach of Mr Pecina. His first assumption is that the building is inhabited only by thieves, which, then, of course would also include himself. Secondly, he expects in everybody the same personal characteristics he obviously demonstrates: his ignorance or disregard of moral principles such as Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Exodus 20,19, better known as one of the Ten Commandments)
What right does Mr Pecina have to accuse his closest neighbors? He assumes this right to judge and to condemn summarily and without regard not only to a basic legal principle, the presumption of innocence, but also to common politeness and just plain decency.
Mr Pecina's analysis does not go, in my opinion, too far of the mark, in spite, or maybe because of his exhibition of the very same character he assigns to the Czechs as a Nation. His observation of jealousy and antagonism against "haves" by "have-nots" is accurate, if not original. Karl Marx talked about improper distribution of wealth if my memory of a college class of more than thirty years ago serves me well.
As much as Mr Pecina is aware of this jealousy phenomenon, he nevertheless in the very next paragraph attacks by name his "neighbor" who has something Mr Pecina obviously does not have: a successful Internet periodical. Without submitting any evidence or proof, Mr Pecina publicly calls his "neighbor" a thief, accusing him of stealing a major newspaper from its rightful owners.
If there is any substance to his claim, Mr Pecina would do a great service both to the Czech Republic and to himself to do some real investigative reporting, or else he owes an apology not only to the attacked publisher, but also to all honest, hard working residents of the Czech Republic.
You see, it is the individuals from within the nation, who traditionally throw mud on everyone within reach without any fear of a repercussion. And it is they, the mud-slingers, not a few thieves, who make Czech Republic unattractive to Westerners of less than adventurous nature.
It is almost ten years since wholesale thievery and denunciation ceased to be an official national policy, and it is about time that those remnants of the past still stinking-up the air are flushed down the toilet.
Ivan A Rebensteiger, 16 August 1999 in Boise, Idaho, USA
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