"Thank you and please go now "
I make my statement as one of the electronic signatories of the appeal by he student 'class of 89' for the departure of today's political leaders. The appeal has been rightly criticised for not offering a clear and immediate alternative. And so I owe an explanation (to myself at least) why I signed it.
How not to open a door for others
Let me approach the subject in a roundabout way, as I often do. It is a while back now, when as part of my first year PPP studies at Oxford I took the statistics course. I got quite a surprise from my lady tutor. The first essay she asked me for was to be entitled "How to open a door..." I asked her why and what this had to do with statistics. She replied in a very pleasant but earthshattering way, which has altered my thinking for life. "I don't know you. When I've had a chance to see how clearly you express yourself on a subject you presumably fully understand already only then will I be able to judge from your essays, whether you've understood the subject I'm teaching!"
I consider the essay I handed in, the most blatant piece of unfinished work in my life. To this day I get accosted by ideas how else to write the essay. A door is a broad concept indeed, and not to be opened wider here. Try to write the ultimate essay yourselves.
The category of all doors includes the trapdoor
To ask anyone to leave the scene when the only way out is into the pit, the dustbin of history, that is surely impolite, and the 'thank you' which has been attached embodies haughtiness and snide insult. To wit, the connection with the identical exhortation ten years ago makes it all even more brazen. The doors, so 'politely' held open by the hands of one hundred thousand citizens lead to the abyss, where the former communist cadres lie rotting.
Nobody democratically elected will go that way of their own free will, and does not deserve to be thrown.
That is why this is indeed an "adolescent" gesture, not because of the age of its proponents, the students of yesteryear, but because it fails to discern between politicians we had to have and those we chose ourselves.
But what else can the people do? Defenestrate? Vote?
In the elections to the Lower house we are forced to vote for parties, and they appoint their chosen few to political posts. Within the party offices we find cowering sheep, and wolves in sheep's clothing at their helm.
When it comes to the Senate (where not only our wishes but our duty to the system of constitutional checks and balances behoves us to elect figures of esteem), we are proffered insubstantial candidates wearing the party colours, albeit temporarily washed out to the transparency of the Independent - a colour very much in fashion. But independence is an illusion, and in practice the odd man out does not get to work in the committee for foreign affairs.
We are in a land where the leader of the strongest party does not have even a symbolic rival for his post at his party conference. This is not democracy, but provincial monarchy. No wonder when the monarch of ODS-land or CSSD-land does not deign to talk with the plebs. Kings have always been apt to form alliances to protect their own flag and mutual stability. But a pact between two devils does not lead to salvation for anyone else.
Intoxicating strength in numbers
There are many incompatible reasons to sign the proclamation. For many this is not an appeal to Mutiny on the Bounty, but mutiny on the Good Ship Misery. Their wish to change their day-to-day material situation drives them from communism to populism. Others see this situation as an opportunity to join the winning side ahead of good time, as is so often the case in Bohemia. Some are only naive. That leaves the philosophers. No coincidence that the appeal began on the www.filosofie.cz website
A message to the politicians: Knowing when to leave is a leadership quality
To be more accurate, a true leader hands the helm to his more capable successor in time. I've got the papers to prove it, as they say. Many years ago I went on a week long Leadership Skills course, whose final challenge match taught me a basic truth. It was I who drew the short straw and became Leader in a simulation where a group of scattered parachutists have thirty minutes to find each other and be rescued by helicopter. Our transmitters had weak batteries, it was dark etc. After five minutes it was more or less clear that there was one among us with a natural presence, an incisive mind and ability to prioritise, a man whose word nobody questioned. A saviour. Unfortunately, not me. The only right thing to do in the interest of the group was to step down in his favour. I did so. The simulated helicopter picked us up two minutes before the armed enemy arrived. Crestfallen, I then asked the tutor what he thought of my leadership skills. "Excellent. Such impartial assessment of a situation is seldom seen," he flattered me.
A wake-up call to the party apparatchiks
If you have no-one better in your midst, by all means follow your chosen leaders all the way to hell, in the sure and certain belief that there is no alternative. But remember your responsibility, that you are taking your fellow man with you. If there is someone better among you, who is shuffling their feet and waiting, help them claim the right and duty to lead you. And if the leader you have is incapable of sound judgement, help them to go voluntarily, as a sportsman, while still near enough ahead.
A message to the 'students'
But even the most far-sighted, most altruistic of leaders will not step down when the only one clamouring for his helm is his opponent, and when he is under duress.
Yes, it is possible to bludgeon such a person into resignation, but it is not dignified. As blunt instruments go, a crowd can be the most thick of all murder weapons.
But what do we give the crowd to vent its frustration. Symbolic gestures?
A message to the crowd
Very well then.
In the land with the playwright president I propose a theatrical gesture to end all gestures. I find some inspiration in the film 'Merlin'. We cannot beat the evil witch and the old customs by pressure and direct confrontation, but by turning our backs, by sending her offstage into oblivion, not the abyss.
So, for the forthcoming protest happening I propose the following: Make some blowup pictures of the particular politicians who should go, and place these at the lower end of Wenceslas square, at the place recently occupied by David Cerny's perverted equestrian statue. As far as I'm concerned, a replica of the Klauszeman 'we think differently' billboard from Letna would do nicely.
And then, let us silently turn our backs on them and face the newly illuminated Museum, pockmarked by history.
A minute's silence.
The third of December then, by the horse, four pm.
And then let us go away again, and leave our democratically elected leaders time for self-reflection, and a dignified exit. A bit of time.