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Karel Holomek: What democracy and freedom mean to me

Brno, 17.11.2013 15:29, (ROMEA)
Romani activist Karel Holomek speaking at the memorial to the former concentration camp for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  ROMEA TV)
Romani activist Karel Holomek speaking at the memorial to the former concentration camp for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu Czech Republic. (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)

For me, democracy and freedom mean the opportunity to express my opinions on public affairs and to participate in them. When I express my opinions to the public, I don't feel restricted by anything other than the accuracy of my statements, which can be critical of abuses in society and eventually of those who personify those abuses, such as people in politics, including at the highest levels, and in public offices.

I respect the authorities, but if someone does something wrong, either to an institution or to other people, then I will not hesitate for even one second to criticize that individual, from the president down to to my fellow citizens. This freedom is, of course, also an obligation:  Whenever I criticize, I make proposals to improve the situation, and I participate in improving it by taking concrete steps.     

I do my best to be an engaged citizen and to contribute toward improving the conditions in the Czech Republic, which consist precisely of any democracy's deficiencies. The number of those deficiencies is terribly high, but that's not our topic today.

For the time being, it is a fact that freedom of expression within the correct framework is working in this country without any horrible consequences. This also gives us hope for the future, that improving the workings of democracy in our country is still possible, even if now we are experiencing rather tragic "fouls", especially when it comes to equality, incompetent politicians, and a decline in human dignity.

Today we still have the possibility that everything that is at stake will gradually be corrected. In my lifetime I have also experienced what a lack of freedom means, both for myself and my family, including jail, my children being forbidden to study because they came from an environment the communists didn't like, being forbidden to travel abroad, and the shameful activities of the state security apparatus, which led people to inform on one another and to complete hypocrisy in all interpersonal relations.  

I am able, therefore, to appreciate the improved conditions in our country after the Velvet Revolution. I reject the arguments, made by many, that things were better under the communists.

I admit that we did have some sort of egalitarian social security and full employment before 1989, but that eventually led, of course, to economic decline and the fall of the regime. In addition, all of our culture, our morals, and our society were devastated.

We bear the burden of the consequences of that regime's actions to this day. If we object to our current conditions, then let's work to improve them - ideally beginning with our own selves!


Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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1989, Komentovaná událost, Komunismus, Lidská práva, Osobnosti, Aktivismus, dějiny, demokracie, Romská reprezentace, situace ve společnosti, zrovnoprávnění, 17 November, Commentary, Czech Republic, History, Karel Holomek



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