Wanted: One Czech Hero
By Kamal Sunavala

I am spurred to write this on the heels of the recent election tragedy that we have had in the Czech Republic. A shameful, apathetic stalemate. Maybe, because I am an outsider who has lived here long enough, my clarity, even unintentional, is greater than the people who belong to this country. I call it tragedy because it is indeed tragic for at least two reasons. The first reason for this tragedy is the inability to decipher what you really want. Fighting communism for forty odd years, flying the flag of freedom to live life as you please, separating yourself from part of yourself- these are undoubtedly painful sacrifices that have been made by the Czech people. And yet, one would think that after all this heaving turmoil, you would have the clarity of mind, body and soul to make a clear choice. Of course it is usually between the devil and the deep blue sea, where politics is concerned but even so, let one try and swallow you. By surrendering the reins of your future to neither one nor the other, you simply allow them to pound you into the ground from both sides. After all you have been through, there seems that there isn’t enough respect for the pain you went through, to make that choice.

The second reason it is a tragedy is because in a country filled with artists and intellectuals, there isn’t a single man or woman who has been able to convince-not mesmerise- people that forsaking politicians who are consummate in the game, for an artist with soul, would perhaps, while being risky, pay more dividends. A society that has lost art and creativity and passion is a society without soul. A society without soul is a society that has already gone back to communism without officially announcing it. For all the galleries and all the exhibitions and all the music concerts that this country offers, it is somehow not able to offer up one artist who believes, rightly or wrongly or even half-heartedly, that he can make a difference and awaken his countrymen from this strange slumber of apathy they are floundering in.

What excites people? Flash? Glamour? Horror? Something must surely announce itself soon or else very soon, the Czech Republic is going to turn into a diminutive younger sibling to the giants who are fiercely gobbling up the European Union. Your membership in the Union is a long debatable subject that is best left out of this current situation because it is a useful distraction from the real issue at hand. You are unable to choose because you are unable to lead. You, within each of you, have lost the ability to find and determine what makes a leader. The pseudo-intellectuals sit around in cafes debating and bemoaning how the country is going to the dogs. They think boycotting Tesco is the answer. The favourite bully game is to talk about how other countries are no better, especially the US and the UK and now lately, India, because it keeps making the international news. And yes, all three powers have a lot that is wrong with them. Terrible perversions of history and politics. But somewhere deep within there still lies a spirit that won’t give up. This is not an argument for the way they are functioning. But rather a small lamp held up so you can see that it still has people who believe in soul and are willing to shout for it, no matter how much it frustrates them. The laughable fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger became the governor of California, proves it. People thought about giving a non-politician, a bad-guy battling, even terrible actor, a chance. The late Robin Cook, a consummate politician for over twenty years, stood up in the House of Commons and explained that he was resigning because he could not possibly support the British government in the Iraq war; he resigned on principle. Aamir Khan, a giant of Bollywood has decided to challenge the mighty Indian government on the building of a dam and displacing thousands of villagers and is using his very celebrity to stir the passions of the urban youth to whom a displaced village used to mean nothing. Of course one can argue that these sorts of people have their own selfish motives. Maybe. But if that is what spurs them on to do something, to stir up the soil and wake up the sleeping citizens, then I say three cheers to their efforts.

The question that naturally follows is where is the Czech hero? Where is the famous actor, the famous dissident, the famous poet, the famous painter? Instead, all I see are shrugs and frowns. Yes there is discontent, sadness even, with the way things have not quite turned out. But still, there is no rising. No person who will shake off this lethargy and this fatalistic attitude to say, I want more. I want soul, I want passion and I want to remember why we fought.

Where is the Czech Hero?