The Next Generation
I should mention here that most of our close friends here in the Czech Republic are in their 40s or 50s. From them we often hear this hope that their children will somehow make a better job of things than they did. They have looked around them at work and in the pubs and have come to the conclusion that nothing is going to get better until the new blood takes charge. Their children didn't experience the old regime so they are more pure the argument goes.
This is not just a conversation topic among friends, the phenomenon can be seen in public life as well. Havel and other politicians clearly favor the young up-and-comings in the political parties. They are seen as untainted and energetic - not burdened by a complicated past. The lauding of political virgins is almost a national obsession.
Elsewhere, young people are thrust into positions in the public service sector and business for which they have little qualification apart from their age. Examples of this abound.
The whole country seems to be hoping that the next generation will free the country from its myriad problems, but I am afraid this optimism is misguided for several reasons.
First of all, it is associated with a depressing fatalism that is all too common in Central Europe. There is a feeling that today's battle is already lost and society will just have to suffer in a mire for ten or twenty years until the old folks retire. It is a passive outlook on life: a confession of resignation.
Everyone is counting on the next generation, but no one is looking at themselves to see what they can do. Their thoughts about the past and their resignation about the present prevent them from getting involved in public life to a greater extent. They are shutting themselves off from society and remaining in those safe micro-worlds of family and close friends. Taking some responsibility for the wider community, joining a volunteer organization for example, doesn't occur to those members of the middle generation.
With this defeatist attitude, one or two generations of experience are going to waste, and future generations will be poorer for it.
If younger people do not learn morals from their elders, how can anyone expect them to have morals at all? The country will never get out of its moral morass without guidance. "But," my friends protest, "how can we teach them if we all so hopelessly compromised by the old system?" Well, if a person understands what corruption is and understands what accommodation did to himself and to his whole generation and views it as bad, then that person can distinguish right from wrong and can teach his children about morals. Of course, no one can speak as a moral authority. Young people would destroy self-righteous arguments quickly with one question about what their parents did (or usually more importantly didn't do) during the Communist era. But a person can sit down and talk about the mistakes he made in the past and about the regrets he has now. That would be a powerful and necessary lesson for today's youth.
The best lessons about democracy and freedom I have ever received have come from talking to people who have lived under restrictive regimes. People who have always lived in a relatively free society tend to take that freedom for granted. Thats another reason to be a bit more skeptical about the younger generation in the Czech Republic.
Waiting for the possibility that your children might make things better will bring no benefits to society today. Only involvement, educating your children and good old "drobná prace" will.