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ADD YOUR SIGNATURE to the Manifesto: Together against Racism and Incivility

Prague, 28.10.2009 16:15, (ROMEA/Slovo 21)

This manifesto expresses our concern over the fate of this society. The societal atmosphere in the Czech Republic is moving away from the openness toward diversity and difference that existed here in the immediate aftermath of the Velvet Revolution. What were once clearly defined limits for ordinary human decency are now giving way under an onslaught of vulgarity, aggression, and intimidation; an atmosphere of fear has been created by acts of violent crime motivated by racism or discrimination on other bases.

 >>>ADD YOUR SIGNATURE to the Manifesto

>>> List of signatories

Until recently in this country, there existed the tacit societal agreement that the following have no place in a decent society:

  • Racism and xenophobia
  • Anti-Semitism and anti-Christian invective
  • Intimidation of those with a different sexual orientation or the maligning of those who are socially vulnerable

This tacit agreement is now changing: Intolerance and incivility are gaining in strength and vehemence. Racists and xenophobic extremists are spreading the totalitarian / authoritarian myth that this society is burdened by an “enemy within”, thanks to whom the rest of us are worse off. This nonsense is more acceptable today than ever before as more people are ready to take on this reductive, simplified mindset, which avoids the essence of the problem. Those understood to be the “internal enemy” are primarily the Roma, refugees, and foreigners who work here. Religious people are maligned in a similar spirit, primarily Christians and Jews, but homosexuals, the physically and mentally disabled, homeless people and others are also targets.

 >>>ADD YOUR SIGNATURE to the Manifesto

>>> List of signatories

Of course, the extremists would not have so much power to implement this change in the societal atmosphere without the tried-and-true assistance of the following factors: Silence in the face of lies; indifference; ridicule of traditional values; the inability to perceive problems in all their complexity; and populism. This change in the societal atmosphere was started by the racist, xenophobic (etc.) remarks by several politicians which police subsequently refused to investigate, stating that no crime had been committed. The silence of some politicians, church representatives and other natural societal authorities in response to the most recent racist crimes is also an expression of that same indifference.

Some of the media here are too open to racism, xenophobia and similar phenomena and are often also unethical. Their behavior may not be intentional; even so, they provide further public space for extremist opinions. In addition to their own web pages, the extremists occupy an unprecedentedly large amount of space in the blogosphere and in the online discussion forums made available underneath articles published on the web servers of the Czech media. Some radio and television stations even invite representatives of extremist parties and movements to participate in discussion programs, helping to legitimize them to the outside world.

 >>>ADD YOUR SIGNATURE to the Manifesto

>>> List of signatories

We also recall the fact that extremist sympathizers work in law enforcement, where they either often make light of politicians’ racist statements, of racially motivated crime, and of discrimination of all kinds, or directly shelve charges of racist crime without proper investigation, which means such cases are never brought to court. Often, neither police nor mayors in this country will take any steps against extremist actions that are probably illegal, failing to arrest and investigate suspects. Extremists in this country are thus permitted to do much more than would be customary in countries with smoothly running democracies.

The quality of any democracy consists of the degree to which the society can be open and how strong its civil society is. Civil society provides a counterbalance to the exercise of power. This important element is being lost now, primarily because some state representatives do not consider civil society to be a partner for decision-making. Given that attacks by extremists in this democratic system are being accepted by more Czech citizens than ever before, the actions of these politicians are incomprehensible.

We do not claim that the co-existence of people from various cultures or lifestyles is without its problems. We are aware of these problems, we do not want to gloss over them, and we thank everyone who does their best to help solve them.

We call on all politicians, church representatives, journalists, owners of media and the Czech citizenry in general to:

  • Return to a civil approach to the various forms of diversity and difference in society;
  • Change the approach to problems and their solutions so as not to indirectly play to the extremist agenda;
  • Openly discuss how to solve the problems that do exist in a civilized manner;
  • Understand that civil society is not the enemy of politicians and the state, but a natural, democratic partner to them.

We all need to realize once more that European civilization and its fundamental values are based on the ethos of community and solidarity with the vulnerable.

 >>>ADD YOUR SIGNATURE to the Manifesto

>>> List of signatories

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, Slovo 21, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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