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June 25, 2022



Karel Holomek: 2012 brought us decline - but also hope

Brno, 28.12.2012 17:59, (Romano vod'i)
Romani activist Karel Holomek speaking at the memorial to the former concentration camp for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  ROMEA TV)
Romani activist Karel Holomek speaking at the memorial to the former concentration camp for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu Czech Republic. (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)

It's usually a good rule to reflect at the end of each year on what the year was like, what happened that was bad and good, and to try to predict on that basis whether the year to come and the years after that will be better or worse. There is probably nothing more we can do, because our personal desires and wishes are hard to fulfill through just our efforts alone, given the broader context in which they take place.

I am not saying that each of us shouldn't be an engaged citizen, strenuously working to correct both private and public matters. However, my own predictions, which are closely related to my rather advanced age, are leading me to spend as little time as possible reflecting on the end of this year or prognoses for the next. Despite this, I am still aware of that broader context that influencing everything else.

Our government has been faltering on the edge of existence and is always being saved at the last moment. Its efforts to promote reform legislation have paradoxically been the cause of its difficulties, because the opposition and the public have not exactly relished the reforms as designed. The reforms have prompted disillusionment among at least half of the nation, and for the Romani population they have meant a decline to an even lower level of the bottom of the barrel than before. The ombudsman's warnings that this would be the case had no value - no one took him seriously.

Protests by crowds and the voice of the people had no weight either. Voices of protest were even heard from MPs with parties in the coalition government, who were probably less interested in the cause and more interested in how to get more power and the brilliant, lucrative positions that flow from it. When the possible collapse of the government was aired, along with the threat of dissolving parliament, they preferred to avoid such an outcome because they would have lost their stipends in the form of those great posts - what else? We have now traveled along this arc to the reforms which have, therefore, been preserved.

The little guy has been given short shrift once more. Those who were supposed to serve him and work for him had too much work to do hanging on to their own positions and thinking how to preserve the status quo, so they have rather forgotten about the people. It is completely evident that no change awaits us on that front next year.

At the start of next year President Klaus ends his term, so we will also be discussing him. So many candidates for president have flooded the market that it is truly amazing we don't see a Romani man or woman among them. They wouldn't have lost their way much, given the competition - but the die has already cast!

A review of the candidates' opinions is worth our attention. So:  Mr Okamura (who by now is no longer a candidate) recommended Romani people establish their own state and does not hide the fact that he would be pleased if all Romani people left the Czech Republic at least. How nice!

Ms "Bobo" [candidate Jana Bobošiková] declares that the "inadaptables" will not dictate terms to us over whom to give money to and how. Billions of crowns of corruption evidently do not bother her, but welfare in the amount of CZK 6 000 [EUR 240] per month for an "inadaptable" does.

Over time, right up until the end of his term, President Klaus became an all but unforgiving enemy of the European Union and considers the Nobel Prize awarded to it to be a tragedy, if not a scandal. To us Romani people, it seems Mr President is doing this on purpose, because the EU is the only hope for us that at least someone will tell our authorities what kind of sins the Czech Republic is committing against us in particular.

As if that weren't enough, things have gone so far that our Prime Minister Nečas did not even visit Brussels on International Human Rights Day (10 December), when representatives of the EU received the Nobel Prize. Instead, he sent his ambassador. That is definitely a scandal - I would have gone there, if the PM had asked me, to express my position to the EU with thanks and appreciation for its support for human rights matters.

That, however, is what lies behind this: The indifferent position of the PM on human rights is documented not only by his adhering too closely to the opinions of his "guru", but also by his actual "non-support" for human rights, to speak in the terminology used up at Prague Castle. The government's intention to disperse its Human Rights Section to every possible corner of the various ministries clearly tells us how the situation with human rights is going in our country.

It would certainly be interesting to review the positions of the presidential candidates on EU affairs and to proceed during the elections on that basis. That approach could be one of our New Year's resolutions.

So much for that! I hope this description of the year's events, which is far from complete, doesn't call up skepticism or a lack of faith in better times in the attentive reader. That is not my intention. Just the opposite!

Things can't get any worse. Now, that doesn't have to be taken as a genuine argument based on concrete signals that something will improve - but it can't turn out any other way, unless we want this country to become a banana republic riddled with corruption, hypocrisy, illiberality and arrogance in the behavior of our regional and state politicians. Whether that happens or not is somewhat our affair.

Somewhat? It is completely, essentially, and mainly our affair! We have let our big shots get away with an awful lot. It is necessary to definitively cut our ties with all dirty business. Do you not know how to do that? I don't precisely know  how to do it either. There is no doubt that we must seek out the options and ways available to us on the grounds of civil society and strengthen that society.

Let that be our program for the years to come. We are working for that purpose. Believe me, the attitudes of people in all of society will then also change towards us Romani people as well. The problem of coexistence has showed us the weak points of our democracy, and Romani people have been responsible for that, even though they may have been unaware of it. Now let's show our engagement through our ability to face up to our deficiencies, both within our own ranks and outside them.

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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