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September 21, 2019
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František Kostlán: Brexit is unwelcome because the British are great. Let's not be vindictive.

28.6.2016 7:14
František Kostlán. (Photo: Romea.cz Archive)
František Kostlán. (Photo: Romea.cz Archive)

The main reason Brexit is unwelcome hasn't been said yet:  The British are great - they are simply themselves, with their experienced, ingrained democracy and their bravery, dedication and humanity. In other words, they have all the things we lack.

What we call democracy here is just a mechanism - it has no content and little political culture, we are only aware of values when there is something to gain from them, solidarity is a four-letter word to us and we are slowly losing our humanity. Besides all that, through their critique of the European Union the British have aided us, the other Europeans, with maintaining (at least sometimes) a kind of detachment with regard to how the whole project is being fulfilled.

In short, the British will be missed, by which I mean inside the European Union. Otherwise, naturally, they'll still be around - according to the available information they are not planning to relocate to Australia.

Manipulation around the Lisbon Treaty

In August 2008 I wrote the following in an article about the Lisbon Treaty:  "The European Union is a unique project and it would really be a shame if it were to collapse just because some European bureaucrats and politicians are forgetting what the purpose of democracy is. They are ignoring how Europeans, i.e., their voters, see this matter, and they are forcing controversial processes on everybody through their own will. It began with the proposal for the European Constitution. During discussion of that it was clear that the European political elite is not much interested in the opinions of others. Naturally everybody has the right to advocate for his or her ideas, and it is very difficult to fault the founding EU countries for wanting to advocate for theirs. However, it is one thing to advocate something within the framework of regular democratic mechanisms and something else to do it through manipulation and painting your ideological opponents as less than human..." 

Back then I was criticizing primarily the fact that the leaders of the EU were requiring of the Member States a repeat vote in the referendums on the planned EU Constitution after the votes in France and Holland didn't turn out as they imagined they should. When that didn't succeed, they put together the Lisbon Treaty, a work using part of that unapproved Constitution, and they pushed it through without referendums, using the Parliament of the EU Member States.

Worse than that, the campaign that accompanied the Lisbon Treaty, including in the Czech Republic, did its best to vilify the opinions of others just because they were somewhat different - as an example of a victim of that campaign, I mentioned [former Czech President] Klaus at the time, a person for whom otherwise I actually, really have no time. I also criticized the impatience with which the leaders of the EU were approaching the formation of the EU, as there was no question that the excessive, spasmodic haste in EU integration was damaging the project.

Now we are reaping the fruits of that approach. The manifestations of globalization are introducing so many changes that they are sparking feelings among people that are not good ones:  Anxiety and uncertainty about the future.

Populism vs. genius

Why am I recalling these words?  In the first place I want to point out my innate genius.

Today almost everybody is saying what I said then, or something similar to it, including those who at the time shouted at me for spouting nonsense. Now they are all repeating it so loudly that even those politicians are joining the bandwagon who are unfortunately innate populists, not geniuses, which is why they very rarely belong to the real elite of society.

In the second place I want to remind us all that nobody, myself included, was looking to make a blanket critique of the European Commission and the European Parliament back then, just a critique of one or two specific processes, each with its superfluous vexation. Why is it important to draw attention to this now?

Today it is fashionable to curse the "elites", mainly the EU elites, and this is done by almost everybody, including the national-level "elites" themselves. This is being done at moments when the European "elites" are doing things that are beneficial for the rest of us, and those moments are not rare.

"The elites" have become a symbol of evil, and "the masses" are taking the floor again, a phenomenon being invoked as if it were the second coming. Generalization per se is a sign of our times - facts and values are of no interest to somebody living off of negative emotions.

Going backwards to go forward

The result of this is a marked appetite for returning to the nation state. Go backwards to go forward, the time commands us.

The eventual collapse of the European Union, however, will not better people's lives, and here their dissatisfaction will just turn itself against the Czech
establishment. It is a mere illusion to believe that our politicians, whether in government or in opposition, even know what democracy actually is... or that they are earnest in their desire for it.

Rather, this appears to be an oligarchy or similar type of authoritarian regime where a firm hand and order are a gift from the Creator to his nation. The centrifugal force of our breaking away from the West will logically blow us toward the East, and much more vigorously than [Czech Prime Minister] Sobotka's cabinet and [Czech President] Zeman are trying to do now.

In the third place, I want to point out that a new campaign of vilification is just beginning. The political leaders of the EU are dramatically asking Great Britain to formally make its request to be released from the EU alliance immediately - if possible, a month ago.

They are beginning to spread this demand through various mindless loudspeakers, beginning with our top government demagogue, [Czech Foreign Minister] Zaorálek (see the most recent "dumpling-debate" here on Czech Television, the "Questions with Václav Morávec" talk show). Zaorálek seems capable of playing the role of Foreign Minister only when Zeman allows him to - at all other times he is probably holed up in a gingerbread house somewhere trying to memorize the diplomatic protocols, while all around us the era is one of people freaking out.

The British have not yet caught their breath or digested the breakthrough that has just played itself out and the European and national-level "elites" are already raging at them like a vengeful chorus. It's as if they've suddenly forgotten how great the British are.   

Reprinted in translation with the kind permission from the author's blog on Aktuálně.cz.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brexit, democracy, EU, UK



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