Some say that democracy in the postcommunist countries is something that needs 200 years to grow to maturity. What if we feed it on lies and apathy? We get Fico I,II,III, IV,V...and ficocracy till the day the grand children of our grand chlidren die.
Radoslav Deák: I want my voice to be heard
On March 2, 2010, the Slovak parliament passed the Patriotism Act in order to strengthen patriotism among the young generation. It specifies that as of April the Slovak national anthem is to be played mandatorily at the beginning of every session of the Government, Parliament and regional parliaments, as well as at public events. It will also be played in every school at the beginning of every school week and by state broadcasting companies at the beginning and the end of programs. Public schools will be required to place the national coat of arms, the state flag, the text of the anthem and the preamble to the Slovak Constitution at every classroom.
The law sparked fierce resistance from parents and teachers who are opposed to forcing patriotic education on children. Some parents even said that they would make sure that their child never comes in time for the first Monday class (see AFP).
Our graduate teacher trainees (led by Radoslav Deák and Jarmila Jamborová) decided to get involved and have their voices heard too. On March 2, they appeared on TV Markíza (watch the report) and published their opinion in the SME daily. At the moment they are collecting signatures in support of a petition to repeal the law (read the text of the petition).
PERSPECTIVES decided to bring you an up-to-date interview with one of the petition organizers, Radoslav Deák, a Master’s level student of English and History.
What is it about the Patriotism Act that has made you and your peers step out of the shadow of anonymity and speak up? This isn’t the only “odd piece of legislation” in Slovakia, so why have you decided to activate yourselves and get involved now?
You are right. So many bad legislative acts have been passed in the last few years that it has been just a matter of time until I’ve had enough. For several years I have been reading about all the bad things happening in this country. Now I realized that I can do something about it. I want my voice to be heard, to matter.
As future teachers, my colleagues and I felt obligated to express our opinion about the Patriotism Act. We don’t want to force our students to listen to the anthem or feel patriotic about Slovakia. And there is no way we could do it even if we wanted to. Moreover, we wanted to say what we feel patriotism is and is not. Supposing our initiative fails, when we graduate and start teaching we want to be able to say not only that we are sorry. We want to be able to say, ‘We are sorry. We did our best to prevent this.’ It all starts in the conscience.
I know that you’ve initiated a petition to repeal the law. What are your hopes and fears?
We hope to collect 15,000 signatures in less than two weeks. It’s a tough job but not impossible. Provided that 200 students get involved and each manages to get 75 signatures, the job is done. If anyone wants to contribute, just let me know. There’s nothing easier than sending an e-mail. What we fear is that Slovak people will let the government do whatever they want. Our job is not only to vote for someone—and many people fail to exercise even this elementary right of every citizen—but we should express our disapproval of what our elected representatives do with the mandates we gave them if we are dissatisfied with their work. It is called a civil society and we need to establish and make it work in our country. It’s about stopping being bitter, passive, and indifferent. It’s about taking action when the situation requires it.
Should “patriotic education” be part of the curriculum? If so, what form should it, in your opinion, take?
One cannot be forced to feel patriotic about his or her country. Parents and teachers can raise kids/students to be proud of their homeland, but it’s a by-product of the education. I don’t think an independent school subject focused on inducing patriotic feelings would really work. Only by telling children the truth about our nation’s history, achievements and victories, but without withholding our failures and losses, we can make them proud to be Slovak.
What do you think about the new Patriotism Act?
Subject: (Un)patriot Act
I am glad that many Slovaks are not ignorant and were willing to fight for their freedom so it made me happy that this unpatriot act was repealed. But my question is: for how long? The election is coming...is it not just a political game?
Subject: Re: (Un)patriot Act
I guess that not only it is a game, but that our prime minister and president are one and the same person. Given that the PM sniffed where the wind was blowing, i.e. the public opinion of the majority was not in favor of the act, and wanting to preserve their votes, he once again proved that he stays absolutely true to his populist nature, and suddenly changed. And so did the president. God protect our country!
Subject: Re: (Un)patriot Act
Does any government have right to force its people to listen to the anthem and feel proud? When we are really proud of our country, we can even sing the lyrics of the anthem without any Act. Sincere patriotism of individual maintains the loyalty to the state; however, ordered patriotism bolsters anti-patriotism because all that is forced is against the grain. The Slovaks who naively expect freedom or reason from their politicians will get none. All that Gasparovic and Fico want is to manipulate us. Once again ‘Socialist (Un)democracy" is on the march, which desperately reminds us of the names our parents and grandparents have fought against to promote freedom. And what do we do now? Opposing the Patriot Act, we also oppose the Slovak government, which makes us seem no longer patriots… Pretty ridiculous. Radoslav, thank you very much for your initiative and effort. But where, for goodness sake, are the voices of other students? If there are only few who want their voices to be heard, they may be hushed and easily unheard by sleepy herd who does not care and prefers to stay out of the way. Do not be afraid to express your opinions, speak out!
Subject: Re: Re: (Un)patriot Act
What saddened me most was the response I met when I tried to collect some signatures for the organizers. I talked to two young women (aged 25-30). One was genuinely outraged at the nonsensical act our parliament adopted, but she didn't want to sign the petition because she generally doesn't want to have anything to do with politics. As if it was possible. As if decisions our political representatives make had no real impact on our everyday life. She added that her mother, who is a primary school teacher, wouldn't be very proud of her. The other said that she didn't care because she wasn't a student any more. She probably wouldn't care even if someone ordered an execution of all HIV patients. She isn't infected, so why should she bother? I think we don't need to sing the national anthem every Monday morning to prove that we are patriots. We prove it every day: we aren't giving up on this country and we are staying although we often feel like exiles.