These were not the protests of disgruntled trade unionists, nor the traditional handful of anti-system despairers. The assembly, peaceful and non-violent this time at least, evoked a variety of emotions and reactions among members of the complacent educated urban elites.
Understand and despise
In principle, they can be divided into two large groups, which we can call “rejecters” and “comprehenders” for simplicity. The naysayers see it as hateful people who applauded racist slurs, expressed support for the Russian occupation, hate democracy and are actually too stupid to understand the more pressing issues of today.
Understanders are willing to admit that at least some of the participants are unhappy people who worry about their future, need understanding and dialogue, and yes, even understanders seem incapable of understanding more complex entities. May be.
However, the rejecters are bound to find themselves under the suspicion that they despise the common people and actually, in a sense, do not want democracy when they know better. They understand that they did not understand that the situation is more serious than convincing a guy with Putin on a T-shirt that living in Russia is not easy. And it may also occur to us that in the understanding attitude there may be a strong dose of condescension towards the simpletons, which of course has never worked.
I like to admit that much of what the naysayers and the understanders are saying has occurred to me as well. At the same time, I suspect that the naysayers and the understanders may have a different opinion, but otherwise have much more in common.
Many protesters are afraid, no doubt. Who wouldn’t be afraid of the future in times of war, rising prices and a state that doesn’t always respond flexibly. But when we talk about fear, it would be correct to admit that there are two fears. The rejecters and the understanders are obviously also afraid – especially of those who have arrived in the center of Prague. And rightfully so.
On Wenceslas Square, for the first time on such a large scale, things were said in broad daylight and without shame, which until now people have mostly sent to each other on the Internet or said somewhere over a beer. Often stupidity and outrageousness, but even those sometimes delight and relieve tension – and this hitherto suppressed voice has found unexpected self-confidence and will no longer want to be silent.
Pied Pipers 2.0
And that’s where the fear comes from. Many of the understanders may have at least symbolically appeased the awakening beast with their alleged understanding. The detractors offer online verbal aggression against the so-called “desolates” and it is often also an expression of fear.
It’s the horror of returning something that was already there. The modern era has freed millions of people from all sorts of traditional shackles, but it has left behind a fragmented society that has lost its resistance to the agitators, liars and ratters who have repeatedly led it to the brink.
After World War II, the crowds were seemingly pacified, in the West by democracy, in the East by dictatorship, and in both cases by consumerism and social programs. It wasn’t that long ago that we believed it was forever. But forever is only eternity.
A new, somehow persistent and gradually crystallizing “Dissatisfaction with a capital N” began to appear in connection with covid. Now, due to energy prices and undoubtedly Russia’s destabilization campaign, there is no reason to expect a lull.
So there are two kinds of fear, those who are afraid and for a little peace of mind are willing to subscribe to anyone who will be able to intercept their malice. And then the horror of those who fear that their less bright neighbors will drag them down with them into the abyss. It wouldn’t be the first time. But things rarely get so bad that nothing can be done. After all, I also ch-á-pu that not everyone at Wenceslas Square was hopeless idiots.
The author is a commentator on Czech Radio