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Corruption as a security risk of the Czech Republic

The June assessment of levels of corruption in post-Soviet countries by the German Chambers of Commerce pointed to the catastrophic and long-term growth in corrupt practices in the public decision-making environment. In the “Fairness of Public Procurement” category the Czech Republic scored 4.2 on a five-point scale to come last out of all 24 assessed countries. There was also a sharp worsening in the categories of crime and workforce qualifications, with the Czech Republic’s overall score putting it far behind countries like Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The results indicate that the standard of public life is closer to the situation in the Balkans than a stable central European country. The principal impact of the increasing corruption in the Czech environment is to undermine positive values and attitudes in societies. It also presents a fundamental risk to state security, but one that is never mentioned by the country’s political representatives. What are the reasons for this silence? What can be done to turn around the present state of affairs, where the forces of corruption determine matters of such importance as the geopolitical distribution of power, the state’s national interests in foreign territories, and ecological public contracts and the setting of environmental limits?

Growing extremism and politicians’ responsibility

Recent months have seen an escalation in racial and social unrest in north Bohemia which reveals, among other things, an increase in the level of conflict and extremism in Czech society. With politicians’ public support, ordinary citizens, young people and parents with children take part in protests and marches that could, without a massive police presence, descend into mob violence (for example, among those who joined a march in Rotava to protest against the presence of Romas in the town were the teachers of Roma children). The situation that has arisen is partly a consequence of housing policy and the subsequent displacement of the socially weakest strata to the poorest regions; fuel is thrown on the fire by both neo-Nazi activists and some politicians who publicly defend racist attitudes and support anti-Roma events. Can we sit idly by while elected politicians speak of “an infestation of gypsies” and tolerate top-level state functionaries’ participation in far-right meetings? Shouldn’t these people, for example, bear the financial responsibility for the huge cost of massive police deployments?

Blanka Tunnel: the calling card of Prague city hall

Once completed the Blanka Tunnel will be the longest tunnel in the Czech Republic and the longest urban tunnel in Europe. For most of the Czech public, however, it is a symbol of untransparent dealings by the Prague assembly and profligate use of public funds. Who is responsible for this wasting of public funds and when will the elected councillors answer their voters’ questions concerning the project’s negative economic, environmental and health consequences? We are all paying for the Blanka Tunnel, but who actually takes the decisions and how?

Violence in the family

The results of international surveys about violence against women show that 38% of women have experienced one or more form of physical abuse from their partner. The most common forms of violence are slaps, kicks and punches. Psychological aggression, intimidation and humiliation are other forms of violence not talked about in Czech society. Children tend to be the most frequent witnesses of domestic violence – 62% of children have witnessed it. More than 5,000 cases of crimes committed against children are dealt with a year, with the majority of the offences involving violent crimes and crimes against morality. The issue of domestic violence, including the sexual abuse of children, is largely taboo: the public and politicians do not want to hear about it. The only work being done to improve the situation consists in the isolated endeavours of citizens’ associations. How can we galvanise the public and politicians to take an interest in this problem and help find a solution? The cycle of violence in families can be stopped by public debate, education and therapy: how can we support this?

Heroes in our midst

Who can be called a hero in today’s society? Where can we find heroes to serve as a positive role model? As the American psychologist Philip Zimbardo shows in his project “The Heroic Imagination”, any one of us can become a hero. According to Zimbardo, evil’s main strategy is to tempt us where its presence seems minimal: in everyday situations like lying, bullying, cheating, ridiculing or humiliating others. Our heroism consists in taking a stand against this kind of behaviour. This kind of everyday heroism restricts the spread of evil on a greater scale and fosters heroes whose actions put them at risk of more than just disagreement or confrontation. There are people like this among us, but the public often does not hear about them. The Michal Velíšek Prize awarded in Prague or the Salvator Award in Zlín honours one such hero every year. But we need to hear about these kinds of people more often than just once a year. Everyone knows someone who has done something heroic, left his comfort zone to help a stranger or in the public interest. What can we, as citizens, politicians, businessmen or journalists, do to ensure we learn more about the heroes in our midst?

The Sudeten Region

The northeast border region known as the Sudeten bears the fundamental historical stigma of the split of the population down Czech and German lines. Just as the present-day Sudeten countryside is striving for cultural renewal, the local inhabitants and their descendants and the generations of new arrivals are striving to find their own identity and to come to terms with the area’s historical memory. The story of the Sudeten region and its inhabitants resonates throughout Czech society and is a reminder of the (in)ability to come to terms with the national past and to learn from the historical experiences of preceding generations. How should we interpret the history of the Sudeten region? Do we really know enough about it and can our children find the Sudeten region on a map of the Czech Republic?

Evil and its forms

The question of the origin of evil has been part of western thought since the very beginning. The historical development of western civilisation has shown the diverse number of forms evil can take. Wars, authoritarian regimes, ideological propaganda and also less visible evil in the form of personal hatred or heedlessness have not left our society, even after the cruel historical experiences of the twentieth century. On the contrary, evil always comes to the fore wherever there is personal and public social and economic discontent. Is there any way to fight evil, and what resources can be employed? Is it possible to identify a threat of evil and, if it is, can it be resisted? Are the techno-social changes taking place in contemporary society bringing new forms of evil we need to be on guard against, or are we on the brink of a repetition of the previous century’s social unrest and wars?

Education to instil national pride or rather intolerance and uncritical acceptance of and obedience to authorities and ideology?

The education minister Josef Dobeš has decided that national pride should be taught in Czech schools. The explanation for introducing a new subject to the curriculum given by Minister Dobeš is the goal of improving Czech schoolchildren’s and students’ competitiveness. The minister stresses that he is not interested in ordering what subject matter will be taught but in kick-starting new trends. What trends lie behind the general title “teaching national pride”? What next for the teaching of history in Czech schools and what methods and facts should students base their attitude to national identity on? Can a uniform concept of “Czechness” be sustained in Czech schools and does society even broadly agree what it means?

The Roman and Drobil affair in the light of the illegal financing of political parties

Selective justice as an upshot of politicians’ interference in the work of the police and the courts

Psychopaths in politics and enterprise

Political support for usury and gambling

Incitement to racial hatred and more…