Friday, January 01, 2010

Czech president: New Year address

Dear fellow citizens,

as every year, please accept my greetings and wishes for a peaceful, happy, and successful new year.
See also: video with the address (in Czech)
The first of January is usually a day to evaluate the previous year and to look at the following year whose first day we are just experiencing. I will do the same thing. Let me begin with the first point: neither we nor the future historians will consider the previous year to be a smooth deal.

Our highly unstable government or Mirek Topolánek, which managed to survive for a long time since the unhappy election draw in 2006, finally lost the confidence of the lawmakers in March. This event occurred for the first time since the 1918 declaration of Czechoslovak independence. However, it turned out that we were unable to organize early elections which are needed to produce a government with the mandate from the people. It's good news that the new government of Mr Fischer, created by a political compromise, is so far successful in dealing with all the challenges: it's surely more capable than people have generally expected.

Our economy finds itself - similarly to the economies in most of the countries - in a crisis which is the deepest one during the 17 years that have lapsed between the birth of the separate Czech Republic and today. In 2009, the decrease of the GDP was at least four percent. In plain English, it means that we have produced less than in 2008 so our ability to spend and buy things is correspondingly lower. This decrease affects all of us and it's important for us to share the burden instead of placing it upon our children. It's irresponsible for some occupations or interest groups to argue that they live above or outside this general decline.

Fortunately, the economy and politics are not the only things that matter in our lives. Behind the statistical averages, we may find very diverse human lives. For many of us, 2009 was certainly a happy and successful year. Many factors affect the results: a functioning family, tight inter-generational relations, mutual tolerance, and sensitivity to the near and dear. Let's remember these things in 2010, too.

The year 2010 will be an election year. Much like in 2006, we will elect our Parliament, Senate, as well as the local, municipal authorities. Only the regional bodies will remain unchanged. Once again, we will be given the opportunity to express our opinions about the public matters. Let's try to contribute to an election outcome that will produce a strong and operational government that is so badly needed in our country.

The economy will probably bottom out but the growth is likely to remain modest. Our state - which really means all of us - will face serious challenges with its budget. The citizens won't support the idea of higher taxes (which is sensible because it makes no difference in the short term and it hurts in the long run). But they will also expect the state to provide them at least with the same services that they have gotten used to. It's obvious that these two efforts have the opposite signs and they are mutually incompatible. Let's believe that the elections will give birth to a government that will have the strength and courage to solve this puzzle to the benefit of all of us, the citizens of the Czech Republic.

However, we must already start to work on this challenge. Instead of solving problems of this kind, it has become fashionable for many people to escape to the future and to try to solve the problems in the year 2050 and sometimes even 2100. Some politicians rely on their expectations that not they but someone different will be held responsible for their current behavior, fantasies, and unrealistic pledges.

However, that's not how the world works. The future is already beginning now and its character will be shaped by our acts today, tomorrow, and every other day that follows. What we need is a solid, stable in the long term, and very practical compass showing us where to go and how to get there. This compass must be based on the belief in the sensibility of the behavior of genuinely free citizens rather than the confidence in the redemptive abilities of the government. All of us should do what we can do, what we like to do, what we can offer to others. Let's not allow anyone to dictate us what we should do. Let's believe in our intuition, our natural interests and motivations, and let's act according to them. Let's do things that are consistent with our awareness of something that transcends us and that includes us as its building blocks. Each of us should search for such a thing on his own behalf and for his own sake.

Let's help to the needy but focus on places where the help makes sense and that are within our range of visibility. Most of such places are nearby. Before we send our money to the account of an organization that will resend a part of them abroad, let's look at the lives of our neighbors, other people in the building, in our village, in our town. Let's look around. Let's live in the genuine reality rather than the TV reality. Let's do things that make sense rather than things that will be applauded.

Let's sensibly think about the future but let's reject the hysteria artificially engineered by those who want us to believe that it's necessary to stop the economic growth and the societal progress. To save - i.e. to rationally and responsibly deal with the resources that Nature offers us - is an absolute duty of everyone and everywhere. But we can't accurately imagine the technological prowess, maturity, and wealth of the generations that will come after us. We can't know what fraction of the currently known and available natural resources can be consumed by us - because of them. Is it one hundredth, one thousandth, or one millionth? And will the people in the future need the resources we save at all?

One thing is clear: we don't live because of any benevolence of the past generations and so far, we don't owe anything to the future generations. The only possible debt could be created if we failed to leave a free and prosperous society to them.

Exactly in this sense, let's do the best we can today, tomorrow, and on the day after tomorrow. What will happen in 100 years should be left to the authors of science-fiction. Let's keep both legs on the ground and let's deal with the problems that belong to us. There are more than many.

I wish a successful year 2010, a year of a good mood, a year when politics regains its content, and a year when we extricate from the current economic crisis to all of us. It will be easier if the highest possible portion of us will find a common language, mutual respect, and understanding.

Thank you for your attention.

Václav Klaus, the Prague Castle, January 1st, 2010

Translation: L.M.

Bonus: Václav Klaus's speech on the 2nd Heartland Institute International Conference on Climate Change. I found it very wise and entertaining.

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