trešdiena, 2015. gada 17. jūnijs

Some issues I came across; some answers to questions I was asked

Migrants - I'm not pro- or anti-immigration, my view is basically... well, let's put it this way: that everyone has the right to have their needs understood. Everyone's a human being. Even those of us who think they're a beetle. (Franz Kafka lived in Prague :-D )

But I'd like to offer an explanation, sort of an insight as to what it's like for us Czechs, to be suddenly facing a wave of immigrants.

As the HBO video with John Oliver says, "millions of migrants seeking asylum in Europe are facing racism and red tape". That's totally true.
I'd just like to add that they're also facing compassion. It's not like all 10,5 millions Czechs are racists.

Can you see it? "Millions of migrants... 10,5 millions of Czechs". There is a real possibility that the total number of refugees in Europe will become higher than the number of Czechs. They will be dispersed all over Europe, of course, but the knowledge still is a bit scary. Plus, the Czech Republic is quite heavily populated (134 inhabitants per square km), plus some regions are uninhabitable (too steep mountain slopes), and it's been like this for centuries. Since early childhood, we learn to embrace the subconscious notion that we can't afford to waste space. (See the About Central and Eastern Europe article.)

I think physically, there IS space and possibly even jobs for tens of thousands of immigrants, but because this notion has been with us for ages, it's difficult to get rid of it.

Before you judge us, please realize that Central Europe has no experience with massive immigration whatsoever.

Bureaucracy is the way we deal with everything, and it's worked for Czech and most European problems. (I'm not defending bureaucracy, I hate it myself, this is just the way it is.) But the problem is, it's slow. We have a love-hate relationship with slow, and I suspect we enjoy it, in a way, because slow means solid. We need time to get used to something. We rarely have crises; even the financial crisis in 2009 didn't hit us very hard. We don't have natural catastrophes; only the occassional flood, and we are used to them, like you get used to a family member.

Some Native American nations had two chiefs: a Times of Peace chief and a Wartime Chief. And the problem is, Europe's had lots of great Times of Peace chiefs, but no War Chiefs, for the last 60 years. The last true Wartime Chief was probably Winston Churchill. And he didn't do well in times of peace. It's the same, only the other way round, with Times of Peace chiefs: they are excellent administrators, but lousy troubleshooters. They take time to decide, and they don't like sudden crises. Those who did have left for the U.S. or Canada or Australia.

If you are American or Canadian or Australian, please realize that in a way, Europe's given its troubleshooters to you.

The solid administrative Times of Peace attitude doesn't work for problems that come from far away. We don't know what to think, what to do. We still don't understand why people would want to live in the Czech Republic. I mean just 30 years ago, nobody did. And most of the migrants really don't want to stay here; they'd never heard of the Czech Republic and want to go to Germany. (This information comes from a guy who talked to a lot of them.) I think anyone would feel a bit offended if they were forced to provide shelter for a person who doesn't even want to know their name.

Would the U.S. give the Green Card to someone who says "I've never heard of a country called the United States of America, I'm just on my way to Japan."?

My point is: before you judge us, try to understand us. I mean, you wouldn't judge a Saharan country for not knowing how to deal with snowstorms.

We're a peaceful nation. But if other nations keep presenting us as radical, we will become that. It's like with children: if you keep telling a child how bright it is, it will grow up to be a self-confident and intelligent person. And if you keep telling it how stupid it is, it really will grow more and more stupid.

I hope we can learn how to treat the refugees. In a calm, unbiased, practical yet friendly way. With time. Or better, fast.

Poverty - I heard that some people in Malta thought that the CzR is a poor country. I couldn't believe my ears. The society I live in definitely seems more like a consumer society than a poverty-stricken society.

Want an example? The title of the film "Slumdog Millionaire" had to be translated as something like "Millionaire from a Hut" because until recently, we'd had no word for "slum". Now we have, and guess what it is? Yep, you're right - "slum". There's no Czech word because there are no slums here.

Another example? University education is free here.

Also, we don't have the thinking of poor people. We have sense of cleanliness and order, and we always make the effort to repair our houses, wash the stairs, plant beautiful flowers.

Relationship with Slovakia - Some people in Latvia asked me about a supposed border dispute with Slovakia. That was Slovakia with Hungary, not us. I don't know what Slovaks would say, but I'd say our relationship with Slovakia is good.

The last time we had aggressive foreign policy was 700 years ago. Since then, it's been more like "live and let live", and our position is mostly "please leave us alone". We're not very pro-European because we hate the idea of people who've never been to the CzR telling us what to do, and we love our currency called "koruna" ("crown"), but we're not anti-European either.

A popular question with non-Czechs is "Are Czech and Slovak mutually intelligible?" You might get conflicting answers to this. The most truthful answer would probably be "Yep, totally. But it takes a bit of effort to get used to the other language, therefore if you have no experience with it, you might not understand the other language spoken." The inhabitants of eastern parts of the CzR understand Slovak without problems because local dialects are similar to Slovak, and there are many Slovaks living or studying in Brno.

When we were one country, there was a lot of Slovak spoken on the Czech TV and vice versa, so everybody understood the other language almost without realizing it's the other language. Slovak books were translated to Czech and vice versa, but sometimes they were also available in the original language and people would buy them, too. If a Slovak actor was hired to act in a Czech-language film, they might or might not be asked to speak Czech.

Here's a nice example of a 1978 Czech-language film where one of the actresses speaks Slovak. I read the script - the character was supposed to be Czech but because they found a perfect Slovak actress for the part, they let her speak Slovak and nobody seems to notice, let alone mind that she speaks a different langauge. (see 1:20)

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