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Jindřich Šídel’s regular Saturday gloss about things that move politics and society and which you may not have noticed or didn’t want to notice.
It’s that week of the year when we, the witnesses of the revolution, come alive. Like the partisans we once were, we wander through primary, secondary and university schools and marvel at our own lost youth and bravery. Everything culminates on Friday evening with a traditional concert on Wenceslas Square. We will jingle our keys one more time – and slowly start preparing for Christmas.
Many, especially younger fellow citizens, have many different opinions about this sacred date about what actually happened then and shortly after, or should have happened, but didn’t. So let’s go ahead and level the playing field and tell each other a few facts that we won’t even discuss.
No, the general public outrage in the fall of 1989 really had nothing to do with climate change – at most we heard a little about CFCs and the ozone hole.
And no, the revolution was not started by ecological protests in northern Bohemia, although they certainly have an honorable place in the pantheon of our velvet revolution. The terrible state of the environment, which made it impossible to breathe in Teplice for half a year from autumn to spring, was simply one of the many consequences of communist rule. It could bring anything it touched to the ground.
No, we did not want “socialism but better” in November 1989. We didn’t really know what we wanted. But we knew what we didn’t want.
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Yes, Václav Havel was first elected to office in December 1990 by the Federal Assembly composed almost exclusively of communists. Probably because no other Federal Assembly was even available and for the Communists themselves it was an act of definitive humiliation.
Yes, our “revolution” was of course a negotiated transfer of power as the entire glorious Soviet bloc gradually disintegrated. At the time when we demanded free elections in the square, they had already been held in Poland (in a somewhat limited form) for half a year, and most of East Germany had moved to West Germany. Especially when the Berlin Wall fell a week before November 17.
No, Václav Havel could not single-handedly ban the Communist Party or introduce a majority electoral system, as Andrej Babiš claims. We thought that the communists themselves would gradually evaporate, as their voters would naturally decrease in a biological way. Miloš Zeman was also convinced of this in the spring of 1990, who wrote an article about it in Lidové noviny. And after the 1990 elections, in which the Communist Party won an unexpectedly high 13 percent, it was no longer possible to ban communists.
Yes, Václav Havel originally wanted to remain in office only until free elections in 1990. He later changed his mind. Similar to Václav Klaus and Miloš Zeman, who claimed in 2002 and 2006 respectively that they would never run for the presidency. Havel finally lasted until 2003 and I have to tell you we had a big clique.
Yes, Havel originally wanted to cancel both military pacts – the Warsaw Pact and NATO. Fortunately, he changed his mind and canceled only the Warsaw Pact, in the words of Michael Žantovsky “an organization that attacked only its own members”. On the contrary, he greatly contributed to our entry into NATO. He is to be thanked for that. Like many others who deserved it, including, for example, Miloš Zeman, who as head of the ČSSD ended up forgetting his pre-election promise of a referendum on accession.
No, Marek Benda does not sit in the parliament “since the revolution”. It has been sitting there since February 6, 1990.
No, we did not waste the last 30 years, as the social democracy, which ruled for 16 of those “wasted” years, is now trying to tell us on billboards.
And in particular, we did not waste the 90s, during which the country underwent an incredible civilizational transformation. In 1989, we lived in a poor, occupied, dirty and generally neglected country, the hallmark of which was scaffolding near every other house and Řempo shops. After ten years, we were citizens of a NATO member country and were preparing to join the European Union, where Václav Klaus already registered us in 1996, and we will be forever grateful to him for that.
Yes, it was already weaker – with Klaus and with the country as such.
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No, it wasn’t just the roughest and most ruthless who got rich in the 1990s. Even if you do too. The huge wave of optimism and energy that made so many people completely change their lives and go into uncharted territory is one of the best that the post-November years have brought. And if this country lacks anything today, it is this atmosphere.
Yes, a lot of ugly, sometimes downright disgusting things happened in the 1990s. You don’t need to remind me of them, I worked at Respekt at the time, so I was knee-deep in them every week.
Yes, we’ve all made a lot of mistakes that we can’t undo. Strangely enough, we were not given a manual on how to handle our newly acquired freedom. Accelerating from zero to one hundred in a few seconds can cause a lot of inconvenience. But the important thing is that we did not hack in any drastic way.
Yes, the 90s were a bit uneven aesthetically. When you, my dear young friends, look back on your YouTube self today, you too will find it a little ridiculous, I guarantee you. And you won’t let it take you anyway.
No, not everyone really listened to the racist band Orlík in 1991. Maybe not me.
Yes, the best film of the 90s was Jan Svěrák’s Ride and the best record was Dunaj IV.
Yes, I understand that the annual self-congratulations about November 17th are embarrassing for the Ledas. I honestly don’t care. On November 17th, we do not celebrate all the successes of the years that followed, nor do we therefore in any way belittle everything else, less famous.
We are simply reminded of the chance we were given. And with which we handled as we wanted and could.
Those of you who find it already ridiculous, don’t despair. You can do anything else on that day, it’s a public holiday.