Little Broken Twig
It's been a long time, now I'm coming back home.
I've been away now, oh how I've been alone.
Wait till I come back to your side.
We'll forget the tears we cried.
I have a very strange feeling these days when I hear about our young democracy. I can't help being surprised and... disenchanted. I know I'm not the only one and perhaps you have also found yourself musing, with a glassy look, about the future. We dream the same thing, my friend...
I'm too young to remember the dark age of socialism, but I have learned a lot about it since it collapsed. Paranoid J.V. Stalin and his "Gulags", false proceedings, frame-ups and executions. The Warsaw Pact as a "Red Octopus" with its head in Moscow and long years of arming ourselves expensively against the rest of world. Lies about our social system being the best in all of human history. While the West had its fantastic Elvis and The Beatles, the first computers and democracy, Czechs and Slovaks had to love the USSR, celebrate communist ideas and believe in the propaganda that Coca Cola was an evil capitalistic drink, which made poor young people too silly to fight against opression.
Time passed. Then came the year 1968 together with good people in government. But the time wasn't right yet. The "Friendly Help of Allies" destroyed with tanks all our hopes for a better life, as well as several innocent young lives. Everybody knew that socialism wasn't the way to communism or to anywhere else, but no politician was brave enough to fight the system again. They called it democracy still for twenty long years. "Radio Free Europe", "The Voice of America", secret books and - secret police. Lie after lie...
Help came unexpectly from an unexpected direction. Mikhail Gorbatchev stood at the top of the Soviet bureaucracy. New and unknown, he was a self-confident communist leader, quite young compared to his predecessors. Nobody knew him until then, but his invention, "Perestroika", surprised the whole world in a few days. Gorby! The world gasped and the winds of change began to blow.
Those were very thrilling days, two and half years ago, when we finally, after long decades, began to express ourselves. I remember long, cold, but exciting moments among my fellow students in jam-packed squares, hot heads filled with eternal human ideals, ringing keys instead of bells. The death knell of communist ideology in Czechoslovakia and the melody of the national anthem. The "Velvet Revolution", victory without weapons and without death. The first free elections revived democracy as well as human rights and freedom. False friends appologized to us for their invasion of the late sixties and the world began to appreciate democratic Czechoslovakia, once again the healthy heart of Europe. But no beauty lasts forever and there's no rose without a thorn.
Not long ago I heard on my receiver the opinion, that the citizens of the former GDR will reach the Western level of life in a "very short time" - about ten years. I thought it was a joke. Ten years - that's half of my life! If the people, who have the best conditions for development will be successful in ten years, what about us? We must do it more or less ourselves, so - twenty years? And what about the poor republics of the former USSR and Yugoslavia - thirty years?
Obviously, nobody likes to wait long, so people are dissatisfied. The enthusiasm of the early days of democracy has disappeared. We have freedom and the chance to be successful, but the number of unemployed is still increasing; we can travel, but the value of our money is incomparably weaker than the currencies in most European countries. People can say what they like, so many dark movements have found room to germinate and grow, like unwanted weeds. For instance, anti-semitism, fascism and nationalism. We also thought that all the communists were lost in the darkness of the past, that the Reds had dissappeared. Wrong, darling. They are still here, only in another form.
You can sometimes see Slovak nationalists on the squares screaming hateful words, mostly in the Slovak capital, Bratislava. "No federation, no Bohemia anymore!" Burning flags. "Independent Slovakia, a Slovak president, a Slovak government, a Slovak economy..." Slovak stupidity, I think, though I'm Slovak too. Independent Slovakia would be hardly more than a meaningless state, similar to many of the former Soviet republics, a grain of sand on the coast, a little broken twig in the virgin forest. Sometimes I am really ashamed of my nationality.
All of Europe can finally go together, side by side towards the third millennium and - Czechoslovakia is breaking? Two nations with the same religions, very similar languages, histories and people. Many problems and even wars have arisen from such enmity between nations, so why are people always the same? A second free election is approaching and I am afraid of the possibility that the nationalistic parties will win. Maybe this is a false alarm - who knows; perhaps everything will be all right, but I am not so sure. The winds of change still blow, so I will be very happy if there won't be a "former Czechoslovakia" in Europe.
Though it's unbelievable, there are also many people still faithful to Marxism-Leninism, an ideology which caused more evil than all the years of fascism. They say that no state has ever really lived in socialism, that the communists degraded the wonderful ideology to their own form, that it was a "mistake". Maybe they're right. Maybe. But I wouldn't try it again!
"Diversity is the first necessity for every vital human society," says my American teacher of English and I think he's right. People should never all be the same. Communism means enforced equality, therefore it sustains laziness and it's doomed to corruption and collapse. But if some people still believe that it's progressive, they are entitled to their opinion. Scientists can read and write books about their visions of utopia, sociologists and psychologists can explore it in particular small societies, with statistical and computer models. But we can never allow anybody to make another "mistake", another terrible experiment with whole nations! Just remember how rarely such attempts have succeeded in the history of humankind. You can still see the lightning of the last crash in the East...
No, I don't think capitalism is perfect, but it does work! It has its weaknesses, but it is much better than socialism. All people can be happy if they try their best. We needn't invent another social system at this moment; there are enough successful examples in the world. The imitation of beauty isn't shameful, is it?
That's my view, that's what makes me blue, my glassy-eyed friend. Do you know the optimistic theory, i.e. that the overwhelming majority of our citizens support the Czechoslovak Federation, democracy and united Europe, but that they are still silent? Obviously, we are less visible than the nationalists who campaign against Mr. President, but our time has come. Let's wake up and start to protect our young democracy. Now or never, tomorrow might be too late. We ought to remember that the Revolution wasn't the end, it was only the beginning; the future is in our hands - now and forever. We are - I believe - still human beings...
Written in april (?) 1992. Published in PROGNOSIS (Vol. 2, Issue 13), August 21st - September 20th (special youth issue), p. 11, Prague, Czech Republic, 1992.
Little Broken Twig communism socialism Czechoslovakia Slovakia nationalism capitalism revolution freedom essay
English | Slovak