Student's declaration 15th anniversary of November 17, 1989
We, who are students now, were children at the time of November 17, 1989, so we know what that time was like only from other people’s accounts. Many describe it as the most wonderful period of their lives, in peculiar agreement: the euphoria which marked the end of the “desolate decades when time stood still and freedom was non-existent” (Havel) definitely transcended the boundaries of personal experience and was shared almost by all.
It was then, too, that something like common consciousness awoke again, and with it also the interest in public matters. This interest was what most sharply distinguished the months after November ‘89 from the years before.
All this was, of course, more than just a change in public feeling: November ‘89 became a landmark of our country’s history, thanks to which people could finally step out of the narrow circle of their private lives and resume the responsibility for the future of their country. This is, after all, the most important legacy of the November events.
We, today’s students, live in a time when the post-November enthusiasm has long since petered out. This is probably natural; the alarming thing is that all the ideals of that time seem to have petered society at large is mostly a distrust of any common interest and above all reluctance to do anything for it. Even students are unwilling and sometimes afraid to speak out against blatant wrongs they see around them. The prevailing attitude is a pragmatic concern for personal interests only – for comfort and convenience in private life. It is good to remember that hiding in one’s privacy was a characteristic feature of the pre-November times.
While the former regime used force and oppression to make people care only for themselves, today we seem to do it of our own free will. We have accepted a somewhat dangerous idea that putting private interests first is the main advantage democracy has to offer. As if democracy were only a kind of consumer service, enabling people to enclose themselves within a circle of everyday amusements. Such concept of democracy has little to do with the real thing: the indifferent (and slightly disgusted) watching of what goes on in the public sphere was typical of the Husák regime. Are we not unconsciously making way for something similar?
We, students, do not want anything of the sort. Hoping that we are not the only ones, we appeal to everybody else to join us in the following:
– Respond to all kinds of arrogance shown by politicians, officials, superiors or even teachers. Use all means to prevent arrogance from becoming a universally successful method.
– Avoid ambiguous interpretations of the Communist past, and still more its whitewashing. Be wary of all calls
for such reinterpretations. Prevent people who were subservient to the former Communist regime from holding important public posts.
– Prevent public figures from taking advantage of our leaky memory. Help create an environment in which a wrong is called a wrong and is remembered.
– Join together whenever a good thing can be done by pooling forces and resources.
We, who are students now, were children at the time of November 17,1989, and we know what that time was like only from other people’s accounts. But its message seems to us as important as ever – and we will do our best to ensure it will not be forgotten.
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