Photo: Peter Župník
The more the communist regime becomes a distant memory, the more obvious it seems to me that the essence of this world is located in a different dimension than that defined by political regimes. Admittedly, from the factual point of view, dictatorship and democracy are worlds apart, since democracy enables me to freely voice my outrage at the state of affairs and under certain circumstances – provided I am willing to expend the necessary will, time and energy – to try and do something about it. However, if I compare the horror at the rule of lies and hatred I felt then and the one I feel now, I cannot detect much difference.
And since I am sure that democracy – albeit in the form in which we experience it in Slovakia today – is incomparably preferable to dictatorship, I have to look for the causes of my horror outside the framework of political systems. They are rooted in my grim realization that lies and hatred thrive most when they are ignored. I am not surprised by the existence of lies; what does surprise me, though, is their tendency to expand, especially if truth chooses to maintain a polite silence.
There is one lesson the story of communism ought to have taught us. By working so hard at suppressing love and truth (understood in the universal sense in which it was conceived by Václav Havel) the regime had become so swollen with lies and hatred that it caved in under its own weight. It took only a gentle push on the part of those who had politely resisted it, driven by their love of truth, to bring about the its final collapse.
While I am glad this happened, I am concerned that the same fate might befall democracy. For it seems to me that it is beginning to swell with lies and hatred at a perilous speed, and that lies and hatred inevitably expand due to a lack of love and truth that politely clear out of the way. I don’t wish democracy to become so swollen with them that it will cave in under its own weight. I am not happy to see that many frustrated people in Slovakia think this way (their numbers are even bigger in the Czech Republic), claiming that this rotten and mendacious system needs to be torn down and replaced by something new.
For while the essence of this world is located outside of the framework of regimes, it does seep into them. Lies have always served as a working tool of hatred, even before such a thing as a regime ever existed. And they have always served to dominate those who wanted to live in truth and love. In this respect there is no difference between a dictatorship and a democracy – they just provide different frameworks for the same struggle.
However, the single greatest advantage of democracy is that it is a kind of laboratory that allows the essence of the world to reveal its natural form. Truth and love have been given the same chance as lies and hatred. The winners are the ones who are more committed to achieving their goal. Speaking the truth and loving people really isn’t easy these days. It is revolting constantly to point out the deluge of lies and sickening to watch hate-filled mobs. But if we keep love and truth to ourselves we will lose democracy. And it is naive to rejoice at the prospect that one day it will collapse, swollen with lies and hatred. For we won’t get another chance to build a genuine democracy. It’s not that easy. That’s what Václav Havel meant when he said, initially slightly tongue in cheek, that truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred, but he meant it increasingly seriously as he repeated it over and over again. Must is the key word here. It means that if lies and hatred prevail we must all accept responsibility for it. Because we believed that the word must does not concern us.