Sunday, May 23, 2010

Now the political events have ground to a stultifying anti-climax in the UK, my attention has turned to the forthcoming general election here, due to take place next weekend, specifically to the tawdriness of the pre-election publicity.

The Czech Republic is not the most politically correct nation on earth. In certain respects, particularly regarding sexual politics, this came as something of a relief to me when I first arrived here in the mid 90s, having just escaped from the prohibitively PC culture that pervaded in British universities at the time, when even use of the word “cunt” could provoke a storm of hissy fits from gangs of revolting, self-righteous harpies. Generally though I felt pretty dismayed. It might have been amusing on Easter Monday to be handed a whip made of willow twigs by a woman asking you to beat her with it, but it was also frequently confusing and frustrating to find myself a bigger feminist than any woman I came into contact with, and despite the fact that I'm becoming more sexist as I get older (and LOVING it!) this still frequently applies.

Much worse than that was the racism. Naturally I'd encountered casual racism plenty of times before back home when I ventured outside my closeted, studenty environment, but even there it had usually been recognised to be a bit risqué and unacceptable in polite circles, whereas here I was genuinely shocked at how utterly shameless it was and how widespread throughout the entire society. The majority of racists bristled at any suggestion that they were racist, protesting along the lines of “I like black people very much, I just hate gypsies”, usually qualified with “you wouldn't understand, you haven't lived with them like we have”. This is deeply entrenched here and will not disappear quickly, nevertheless I've noticed significant improvements in this area over the years, mainly amongst younger, better travelled and more educated people eager to ape their trendy, Western counterparts, as well as in the media, where it's now at the very least required to be covert about one's racial prejudices, which is a start.

Most recently however, in the run-up to the general election, I've encountered another flagrant ism, for which the Czechs so far have no word: ageism. The subject of the latest controversy is a clip published on the internet, imploring young people to persuade their grandparents not to vote for the left. Having left-wing views on most issues I'm bound to feel irritated by this, but despite the rather ignorant tone of the clip's authors in lumping “the left” together as a single entity, I have to respect their right to free speech and acknowledge that they have a legitimate opinion. In addition they may actually have a point this time, because the present leader of the Social Democrats evidently has no qualms about the idea of cosying up to the unreconstructed Communists.

Jiří Paroubek is someone I've already mentioned several times on this blog, and I don't want to repeat myself now by detailing his many faults. What is clear is that he is extremely unpopular with Czech youth, for which he has mostly himself to blame. He's widely perceived to be an authoritarian demagogue, and this is something I can't argue with. As such he's caused enormous damage to the left in a section of society that under different circumstances might be regarded as the left's natural constituency. In the 90s, not long after the collapse of communism, it came as no surprise to me that the young and intellectually oriented tended to be in favour of not only social but also economic liberalism. Towards the end of the decade, however, as the shine of free-market idealism wore off, it was heartening for me to perceive a gradual leftward drift among this group. Now, largely down to the work of one man alone, it's back to square one, with the difference that whilst educated youth here are once again overwhelmingly opposed to the left, many now simply feel disillusioned, disenfranchised and apathetic.

In such a situation I find it hard in principle to begrudge the makers of the clip, especially in their stated aim of overcoming this apathy and encouraging young people to vote, even if it is for the right. However, having seen the clip, which demonstrates the most diabolical arrogance of youth, I fucking begrudge them all right. For those who don't understand Czech, the clip begins with the message that those who vote for the left tend to be older people, who live mainly in the country. So far so good, this is statistically true. As a result these are the people we need to remind about the evils of left wing politics. This is obviously obscenely patronising to people who lived through communism coming from those too young to remember it, but maybe still within the boundaries of acceptability. The intended humour is thoroughly embarrassing and an insult to voters of any age – internationally the right hand is used for greeting people whereas the left hand is used for wiping your arse (personally I use toilet paper), and Kundera sounds a bit like the Czech word for cunt, ha ha. Piss poor, but even so not in itself a case for censorship. What is a case for censorship is the despicable caricatures of false teeth, small brains and decrepit, demented-looking old people – imagine if that had been applied to black people, for example. The message is clearly socially divisive. Granted, I don't expect it to lead to a spate of murderous attacks on pensioners, but on the other hand if you think I'm being hysterical, I'd refer you to a recent study from Brno university which showed that OAPs are the social group most frequently discriminated against, whilst another opinion poll (both Czech only I'm afraid, and no, I'm not going to translate it for you) showed that a quarter of those aged between 15 and 29 regarded senior citizens as a burden on society, who “live at our expense”. The implication of the clip is that old people have a selective memory, essentially that they're stupid, unfashionable (possibly the worst crime of all), unable to understand democracy and modern society, that they're selfish and should shut up, move over and acknowledge that the future belongs to us.

Upon finding himself the victim of egg-pelting last year, Paroubek responded to his youthful assailants in typically high-handed fashion, telling them to “go off home for a milkshake” or words to that effect. If those words were applied to the people responsible for this clip, I'd find it hard to disagree.


Blogger TONA said...

Czech women aks men to whip them?
eehhh boy, am i living in a wrong
country or what? You, bastard.

12:56 PM  

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