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Commentary: Educator running for office confuses ideology with values

30.9.2017 9:25
Dana Moree
Dana Moree

So, what would you do in this situation: You are employed to work behind the counter of a department where the internal regulations forbid you to fill out forms on behalf of a client. Then an elderly lady comes to your counter whose body shakes so much that she cannot even hold a pen.

What would you do in this situation: I leave my bicycle in a guarded parking lot every day. Then one day the bicycle disappears, and the guard says that my "husband" took it home.

My husband is indeed at home, but it was not he who took the bicycle. The merry-go-round of interrogations, searching the crime scene, etc. happens, with no result.

The fun is over. I attempt to negotiate with the firm so that I will at least be compensated for my loss, but it takes forever.

They say they will get back to me and never do, that "we will see", but there is nothing to see. After three months I can't take it anymore and I say we will have to take more aggressive steps, and then the firm apologizes and makes a proposal: The damage is too little to be covered by their insurance, so they will ask the guard on duty (who makes almost no money) to pay the compensation personally - would you take the money from him?

The dilemma is what to do, how to decide. Do you also feel pulled in two directions by these dilemmas?

You say "It's not my problem", "He should have paid more attention", "It's his responsibility" - and at the same time, there is a tiny voice that may be telling you, somewhere inside, that all of this is much more complex than that. If we were to travel through life guided just by what our rights are, or only by what we must do because it is our obligation, then the world would run like clockwork, but it would not be worth living in.

What is good in life is frequently connected with situations where, if we are to speak the language of economics, there is some added value. These situations allow me to experience the fact that there is more to the world than just mere existence where the driving forces are duties and rights - such as being close to another person, seeing the stars in the night sky, moments where we feel glad to be together.

In order to find the bravery to make the kinds of decisions that make such moments possible we must be trained for it, we must be accustomed to situations where relationships and these "added values" are discussed. That brings me to Mr Václav Klaus, Jr., who on 5 September published on the news server a reflection about such problems.

His reflection is full of coarse vulgarisms. In it he argues that what should happen in the schools is one-way teaching, that yucky matters such as the environment, or multiculturalism, should not be discussed in the schools because that would be like it was during communism, when the comrades dictated what we were to believe.

He is missing one basic thing here. Dictating what I am to believe is not the same thing as training me in how to think about what I should do in order to behave correctly in a specific situation.

The former is ideology, while the latter is about values. Tensions arise for us because we always convey our values, whether we want to or not.

All we need to do is choose certain words, a certain tone of voice, or maybe just a facial expression to go along with whatever we are discussing - the EU, neo-Nazism, Lety u Písku, PORG - and it is immediately clear to all what I believe about this or that matter, without my having to express it more directly. If we do not teach children how to discuss matters that spark passionate emotions when they are in school, then one day they will be in situations where they will have to make a decision about a stolen bicycle or something much more complex, and they will not know what to do.

There will not be a comrade there to dictate to them, they will have to decide on their own. That is not always absolutely easy. 

In conclusion, I will now tell you what ultimately happened with the bicycle and the elderly lady. The person behind the counter filled out that form for her, but let's just keep that between us.

As for the bicycle, I really did not know what to do. I wanted the money that was offered, but I felt badly for the guard who would have to pay it personally.

I asked my children at home for advice, and fortunately they attend a school that has managed to make room for them to have discussions about values. We arrived at the conclusion that it was necessary to include compassion for the guard in my decision.

We agreed to ask the guard to pay only half of the damages. I will get far less money in my own account than I am entitled to, I will feel glad about it, satisfied that I made the right decision - and that is something you can't buy.

Dana Moree, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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