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Lest they forget November 3, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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I know I should get out more and stop being such a slave to the BBC (either World Service, Radio 4 or the website) as a source of news and entertainment, but a slave I am, and even slavery has its high points. Today there was a radio piece on Czech youngsters knowing so little about the country’s communist past that there is now an education campaign to remind them. This version doesn’t, unfortunately, include the makes-you-glad-to-be-alive interview with writer Jiří Stránský that the radio piece did. Hearing those philosophical yet enthusiastic tones describing all that he has experienced (imprisonment, father sent to Auschwitz (and survived)) yet explaining that he doesn’t feel a drop of bitterness (and he wrote all about love when in prison) is a reminder of the triumph of the human spirit over many man-made evils. He also underlines the importance of educating folk about the past, lest they forget and lest history repeat itself. The Germans have understood well, to their credit, the importance of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. I wonder when our Russian friends might do likewise. (And when our Belarusian friends will realise that the past IS just that, the past.)

…and while I’m not likely to forget any time soon the Velvet Revolution or any of the events that evolved in that most momentous of years, the most momentous I have lived through, I too am glad of the reminder. Seeing one tinpot regime after another topple in 1989 was the most uplifting course of events I have ever witnessed, where the people’s will bore out over the will of the deluded few. Germans should remind themselves of this when they have nagging doubts about the merits of reunification. No-one promised a rose garden as those regimes fell, and tough times followed, but, for all that, Mitteleuropa is a markedly better place now than it was 16 years ago.

Comments»

1. lukeski - November 4, 2005

I have been pondering this today, and it seems to me that the ‘West’, including, of Mittel- und Ost-Europa, have a 15-20 year cycle of remembrance, I imagine as those too young to remember the events become adults- just like the generation born in the UK in the 1940’s went onto become the ‘Swinging Sixties’ set. We are also very engaged with events in the East – the younger generation in Czech Republic, with a few notable exceptions, I’m sure, are just like the youth of the UK. Disinterested, on the whole, with politics. Interested in beer, sex, drugs, music, life, etc. Familiarity breeds contempt, and it is only when one is removed from the seemingly mundane that one begins to appreciate it.

2. BiB - October 15, 2006

Yes, I suppose this apathy is almost a good sign, in that it is a sign of a country where democracy feels safe, secure. But grim, on the other hand, too. I remember a SSEES lecturer’s shock when he said he interviewed his first potential SSEES-student who hadn’t heard of the Soviet Union! And this in the 1990s!


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