Czech "November Challenge" against racism and xenophobia responds to online racist death threats against children and more
Czech blogger Viktor Machek's "November Challenge" is responding to the rising wave of hatred and racism in the country. "Capturing these openly racist or xenophobic remarks is just the tip of the iceberg of what is happening around us day after day, and not just on the Internet. We are being confronted more and more openly with hate, with scorn, with open xenopobia or racism. Instead of strongly objecting to these negative displays we are silent. Just a few manage to speak up, to demonstrate their opinions, to object," Machek writes in his challenge, which news server Romea.cz translates in full here.
The November Challenge against racism and xenophobia: This is not the way!
In light of the constantly intensifying verbal (and often non-verbal) agression, open xenophobia and racism in our republic, I must say that the ideals and human attitudes that were the motive force behind the Velvet Revolution 28 years ago, with which I identified, no longer apply here. Tolerance and dignified coexistence were some of the main slogans of the post-1989 events, and they have been pushed to the background to make way for absolutely different, negative concepts and behavioral models that are accepted by the public.
Those models have now become the standard of behavior on our society. We all bear responsibility for the state of contemporary society in the Czech Republic.
For that reason, I have decided to stay quiet no more, and I want to carry on the very long tradition of civic challenges and declarations which I have always considered important expressions of human attitudes and opinions. I cannot and I do not want to ignore any longer all of the scandalous remarks addressed to the children at the school in Teplice - thanks to the personal engagement of Czech Radio reporters and no small number of other people, these remarks are now being addressed and commented on.
I do not want to tolerate any longer the other commentaries that go uncaptured and unpublicized, the racist and xenophobic attitudes and the negative behavior infecting our society. I can no longer ignore my fellow citizens who indiscriminately abuse all others whom they consider different according to their own standards, who are not from here, or who cannot defend themselves.
This is line that we have crossed many times, and I consider this state of affairs unacceptable. In our society it continues to apply that we have freedom of speech and we exercise it, of course.
Along with that freedom goes the opportunity to freely express one's opinion, one of the biggest achievements we have reacquired. Many of my fellow citizens, though, hide behind freedom of speech as some kind of moral protective cloaking that is meant to protect and justify their behavior or the opinions they present in public.
Apparently they are not aware that freedom of speech also means responsibility for the use of words and the behavior associated with them. It is high time we begin to very clearly remind ourselves of this!
Those same fellow citizens also continue to see that our society does not prosecute anybody for their unhealthy, evil rhetoric and attitudes - it almost never reacts to them, or does so just in absolutely exceptional cases. For that reason, they feel safe hiding behind their Internet nicknames.
The events of recent days, thanks to some of the people who have confronted the authors of the most shocking commentaries and discussions about the photographs of the Teplice children, demonstrate that not only are the authors detectable, they are prosecutable. That is good news for all of us and it seems we are not powerless and insignificant after all when it comes to taking action against such attitudes.
It is necessary to realize that the legal mechanisms for combating this are already available to us! They have led not just to punishing the culprints, but also to revealing their identities and publicly shaming them.
All of those who generate this evil must realize that, thanks to them, there is now a spontaneous collection drive underway in our country to support the innocent school children and critical voices are being raised against this way of behaving and coexisting. Of course, I still believe this is far from enough.
Capturing these openly racist or xenophobic remarks is just the tip of the iceberg of what is happening around us day after day, and not just on the Internet. We are being confronted more and more openly with hate, with scorn, with open xenophobia or racism.
Instead of strongly objecting to these negative displays, we are silent. Just a few of us manage to speak up, to demonstrate our opinions, to object.
A ruefully small number are doing so! Don't we want to live in a country that is open, to raise our children in a country that is friendly towards others and capable of coexisting with other nations?
If I were to permit myself a light excursion into history here, I would remind us that it constantly teaches us that the biggest of tragedies have arisen from this exact same scenario. An insignificant number of people managed back then, thanks to the quiet, non-responsive "majority", to unleash terror, unrest and war.
Fundamental moments of history have arisen out of what were apparently narrow-minded affairs and have subsequently negatively influenced the lives of millions of people. These moments arose exactly thanks to a majority who did not find the courage or the time to act, who had no interest in condemning all the repugnant acts immediately after they were committed, to respond to them - and that means such opinions are occupying ever more space today.
Let's not repeat those errors, we must speak up! We must demonstrate that these opinions are not ours and that we do not approve of them.
For that reason I am calling on all my fellow citizens: Do not remain inactive, each voice that speaks up to defend the unfairly accused is very necessary. Show that you still care about where we are living, in what kind of society and with what kind of people, that we are not indifferent to the fates of people who, thanks to many different circumstances, have not been lucky in life.
Do not be afraid to emphasize values such as tolerance, love, active civic aid and understanding. Look for ways to actively point out all of the displays of racism, xenophobia and intolerance around us.
There is always a specific individual responsible for every display of intolerance! Actively research all possible ways of advocating for positive values in the everyday life of our society.
Connect with others, join already-existing efforts, or directly establish a new civic association or organization that will actively combat all the displays of intolerance we are capturing. Grasp when discussion is no longer meaningful and when the only way forward is to take legal action so that, from the perspective of the established civil norms, we can demonstrate to all what is and is not acceptable in our society.
Please do not be passive any longer! I also call upon all lawyers, all staffers of organizations involved with human rights, and the relevant representatives of state institutions: Publish and disseminate through all available means, to the broad public, the ways we can address these captured displays of intolerance, cyber-bullying, racism and xenophobia from the perspective of Czech law.
We know that these paths already exist and are being used! Show us, set up simple approaches for identifying which instruments are available to use against our intolerant fellow citizens.
Create simple templates to use for reporting crimes and involve the state authorities in all of the cases of racism, xenophobia and intolerance that are displayed. To conclude, allow me to quote Václav Havel's vision, with which I fully identify:
"You may ask what kind of republic it is that I dream of. My answer is: A republic that is independent, free, and democratic, a republic that is economically prosperous and simultaneously socially just, in short, a human republic which serves human beings and therefore has hopes of human beings serving it. A republic of educated, well- rounded people, because without them, none of our problems can be solved, whether they are human, economic, ecological, social or political."
Thank you for your attention.
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