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March 19, 2018
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Jana Šedivcová: Are all Czech children cat killers and all Romani children flamingo killers? Collective blame is unacceptable

17.3.2017 15:03
Jana Šedivcová (PHOTO:
Jana Šedivcová (PHOTO:

When I heard the news that children had killed one rare flamingo and seriously harmed another at the zoo in Jihlava, it made me dizzy. I felt the same when, the next day, a video appeared "on the net" of other children in another town who almost killed a cat by hanging it.

Who are the parents of these children? Who are their teachers?

How big of an influence does the media and virtual reality have on these children? Those are the questions that immediately went through my mind.

A certain segment of the population of our democratic, free republic, however, had something absolutely else going through their minds, and very often some quite indiscriminate turns of phrase as well. That's because the assailants at the zoo in Jihlava are alleged to have been three Romani boys.

The first to report that information, on his personal Facebook profile, was an employee of the zoo, Richard Viduna, who described the three young troublemakers aged 5, 6 and 8 as "the dispossessed offspring of our 'long since fully-integrated fellow citizens'." Immediately, as is usual when anybody who is not a member of the majority society commits a crime here, an avalanche of negative posts applying the principle of collective blame to all Romani people followed.

The posts did not even judge the reprehensible crime of killing the pink bird, or the possible causes for the incident, but rather focused on the swarthy complexions of the child perpetrators, on their allegedly "inborn genetic deficiencies" or their "intelligence lower than that of the dead flamingo". I have searched in vain, both in the archives and in my own memory, for any other cases of such "hyena-like behavior of Romani children".

Instead, my search is yielding news reports about majority-society children abusing or even killing their own pets. Why?

This is a topic that must be addressed. How are the schools and our traditional child-rearing methods failing?

What, in our children, is giving rise to this aggression, to this need to destroy and kill? Is the Internet to blame, and all of the technical advances of the day through which we lightly "shut their mouths" by encouraging them to amuse themselves with some "good shooter" game on their mobile phones?

What about that favorite online game, "Angry Birds" - or "Itchy and Scratchy", or "Tom and Jerry"? They all automatically work with meaningless death and violence.

What if no rational adults are around to explain all that to the children? They're just children who want to see whether such violence works in real life.

Can a five or six-year-old child even be fully aware of the consequences of all of his or her actions? That is precisely why an adult is supposed to be a child's advisor and guide!

That applies both to the home and to school. The Internet or the television, however, very often takes over the main child-reading function "just" because parents simply have no time.

Naturally, that creates a distorted image of reality for those children and deforms their life priorities. It is not possible, not even for a moment, to doubt that bad child-rearing is to blame here.

That is clearly the case, both for the incident involving the cat, and for the scandal in Jihlava. Those who are responsible for raising the children have failed in both cases.

Certainly there can be many reasons for this, and without further investigating the family situations of the individual culprits it's difficult for us to ascertain what they are. However, are we going to blame all of the black children, or the green-and-purple ones, or the Romani ones, or the yellow ones, or the white ones, for loving their mobile phones and tablets and for being cruel abusers and killers because of what they see on them?

It is mainly we adults ourselves who should take a look at our own consciences. There is no doubt that the abuse of the cat and the crime at the zoo in Jihlava are regrettable actions.

Those actions would be wrong no matter who committed them. The color of the cat, the flamingo, or the skin of the boys involved actually plays no role.

Jana Šedivcová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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