An interview with Ladislav Jakl, an aide to the Czech ex-president Klaus
Mr Jakl, let us talk about two important events. The first one was October 28th, an anniversary of the 1918 birth of the independent Czechoslovakia when the primary goal should be to remember that event, not just to hand out some awards. How do you view this special day and should the medals have been picked in person, as in previous years? Or is it right that the president has postponed this ritual?
Your question seems to imply that you have embraced the delusion, like a substantial part of the Czech journalists did, that the essential event that takes place at the Prague Castle on every October 28th is the Ceremony of Handing Out the State Awards or something like that. But don't despair: the current president Miloš Zeman has succumbed to the same delusion. So I would like to clarify these matters: the medals aren't the main focus of the holiday event at all. It is the Ceremonial Assembly Marking the National Holiday – the Day of the Republic. Something like the State of the Union address which they have in the U.S. The most important presidential speech in every year. The most important message of the head of the state to his nation. A speech exposing the balance sheet and evaluating the recent 365 days, proposing the president's views about the essential societal problems, his opinions about the main topics that are hot in the country, answers to questions that haven't been posed and a response to the public's worries. A speech where the president tries to capture the vital societal and political trends, expose the international context, attempt to redefine the idea on which the country was built, as shaped by the ongoing civilizational and cultural shifts and movements.
Such a speech should primarily bring the opinion of the first citizen of the country about the living problems, current challenges, and that should incorporate them into the context of the national existence and the statehood. And those awards? Yes, 28th of October is also the Day of the Orders when the medals may be handed out but the same event may take place on January 1st, too. The distribution of the awards may be but doesn't have to be a part of the Ceremonial Assembly. Lazy and superficial journalists have been writing about this event as if it were just a ritual when medals are handed out. This meme has even gotten to the TV programs. And many people have bought it. Sadly, President Zeman has embraced this idea, too. He was incentivized to embrace this meme because he is fundamentally avoiding one of the main duties of the head of the state: to deliver a vital, prepared, viewpoint-based, opinion-rich, summarizing, political, and societal speech. Maybe he doesn't want to add extra work, maybe he wants to prevent analyses and autopsies of his attitudes. And that is why he hasn't given such a speech during his 7-year-long tenure so far. Instead, on every 28th of October, he offers his tales about the decorated people. Instead of a live broadcast of a New Year Address, the citizens are getting a pre-recorded verbal can with a Christmas greeting. His predecessors – Havel and Klaus – were not simplifying their job in this way. They felt that they had the duties to regularly appear in front of their nation and to straighten out their bills, to outline the vision for the state and the society. One wasn't obliged to agree with them. It was possible to tear and shred the speeches but at least, there was something to shred. Zeman – and it doesn't matter much whether it's because of buck-passing or a desire for comfort – is repeatedly escaping this central annual presidential duty of his. Given these facts, returning to your question, it is not so important whether he was or he wasn't distributing the awards. It is not even essential whether he spoke in front of the government, lawmakers, or diplomats. Nothing was preventing him from delivering his speech at least through TV stations, from any place. But he failed to do that, too. He was just offering an excuse for not having organized a ceremony while referring to his ten-day-old wear a mask pledge.
So wasn't the speech that you demand presented those ten days earlier? When he talked about the need to respect the current anti-epidemics restrictions?
That's exactly the incorrect interpretation. First, I must touch the question how the political spectrum reacted to his "wear a face mask pledge". In my opinion, the reaction was shameful. The opposition hasn't understood at all that the president has completely missed the atmosphere of the times how it is felt by the public. The opposition leaders just nodded their heads because they couldn't even imagine what could be wrong about a face mask pledge. And in order not to suddenly look to pro-Zemanesque, they started to cover their nodding by sentences about previous Zeman's speeches that were allegedly ugly. And finally, Zeman said something pretty. And the prime minister Mr Babiš? He even said that it was one of Zeman's best speeches, if not the best speech, ever. You know that I have never belonged among the anti-Zeman barking dogs. And because I haven't barked with them in the past, I don't have to happily twist my tail now, either. So I must say that as far as I can say, it was the other way around than what Babiš saw. It was one of the worst, if not the worst, speeches by Zeman ever. What did he say to his nation in his face mask pledge? To obey the regulations and restrictions. Nice. The authorities should be stringently punishing and fining the "face mask deniers". And then three times, he kept on repeating comments about "the few inches of a cloth" that will apparently bring us salvation. And that was it. According to the president of our republic, the most important current problem is the wearing or not wearing of the face masks. Is he serious? He is. Otherwise he wouldn't repeat this idea thrice in a row and he would mention other, much more essential, troubles. So according to the president, the face mask fashion is the main ache that the public feels. Can't he see hundreds of thousands of people who are afraid of their existence? Can't he see that his country resembles a fairy-tale kingdom cursed by the Winter Queen and covered by a black baize? Can't he see the frozen, lifeless streets? Hundreds or thousands of bankrupt small business owners? Can't he see millions of people who are rightfully afraid of their future, of their job, of their savings? Can't he see the old people who have been maneuvered into home prisons and stripped of the right to be visited by their beloved ones? Can't he see the social catastrophe that has the potential to become a tragedy within months? Does he have nothing to say about any of these matters? I was outraged by all of it.
Zeman loves to paint himself as a tree that grew from social-democratic roots. In spite of that, he is deaf and blind to the families' fear about their future, to the people's lost income which has occurred or is likely to occur in weeks or months, to the bleeding self-employed people, terrifying losses that they are recording, to the fact that the government's financial rescue efforts will ultimately kickstart inflation which will threaten the people who depend on their savings to survive as seniors? Does the head of the state really want to claim that the central problem for all these people is "a few inches of a cloth", that the question that tortures them 24 hours a day is whether they should or shouldn't wear a face mask? People are collapsing under the weight of ill-considered restrictions, the education and upbringing of the youth is threatened, people aren't certain whether they will have enough money for basic needs in 2021, but the worries about the face masks are supposed to outshine all these problems? I must say that some truly substantial distancing from the real life is needed for a person to make a similar claim about the current society and the people's problems.
In this year, we are both witnesses and participants in events we didn't dream about. Aren't these events culminating with "Covid" leading to a replacement of the governments and economies across the world and do you see a certain Orwellian theory in all of it?
You know, I have never been a fan of the conspiracy theories of the most vulgar and most caricatured variety. I don't think that there exist some omnipresent puppet musters of the world civilization who are meeting somewhere under the bridge in order to deal out the cards so that they may cooperatively work on the destruction of mankind, each puppet master along the plan that was given to him. But I am a fan of a simple human wisdom: you may see the interests behind everything. Aside from the "hard conspiracies" which are both repeatedly worshiped in a sectarian way as if they were the historical cause of all events and repeatedly mocked, there also exist thousands and thousands of "soft conspiracies", simply agreements, acts of cooperation, coordination, and symbiosis between various people and interest groups that do favors to each other so that all of them benefit at the end.
Some media, politicians, and physicians succeeded in making the people fearful.
It is the easiest job in the world to make a profit out of panic, whether it is based on fear of a terrifying illness, evil extraterrestrials, or a murderous climate. Why? Because people stop thinking what it costs. And they are mindlessly paying and paying. Some of these situations may arise spontaneously, indeed. But interest groups get immediately glued to this situation and profiteer out of it. Yes, we are experiencing a transformation of the world as we have known it into an Orwellian world or, even more accurately, a Huxleyesque world.
Today, President Zeman accepted the resignation of Roman Prymula, the minister of health. According to some, his night trip to a restaurant was just a strategic mistake because he can't move in this media-political world. According to others, it was an unforgiveable offense because he should be a role model. How do you view this chair for an expert?
Many people have colorfully reacted to this scandal, they have enjoyed it, and I won't join them. Let me just mention what I was already saying when this Gentleman became a minister: people seem to succumb to the delusion that the government is an ensemble of specialists in various fields. No. It is a political organ. All members of the government are voting about everything. They are not managers of individual departments or chapters. Each of them is voting about the military questions, budgets, and agriculture; about the migration and asylum laws, criminal code, simply everything. Each of them is a politician. At least that's the primary job. And only after that, he may be an expert in a field.
That is why I am terrified when I see that no one is interested in the opinions of the new members of the government. Because those are really the essential thing. Does anyone have a clue which side will get the back of a new minister when the government votes about the super-gross wages, taxes, ban on firearms, and the adoption of babies by homosexuals? No one has a clue. And no one is asking questions. And that is horrible.
The U.S. presidential election is a far-reaching and widely observed event globally. Four years ago, we agreed that Donald Trump would have won and we were right. Has Trump moved the world in a direction and what is your expectation about the outcome of Biden vs Trump?
I don't want to bet; I am a staunch pessimist. But the question whether Trump has moved the world somewhere is a more interesting one.
Yes and no.
He didn't in the sense that the world, especially our world, the Western one, is dramatically moving somewhere, regardless of one politician or several politicians who can't do much even if they were seemingly the most powerful ones on the planet. The forces that have been changing the world in several recent decades, from a world respecting the individual freedoms to a progressivist world full of social engineering and collectivism, a civilization that doesn't hesitate to sactifice an individual to "higher" goals, are so incredibly powerful that even the president of the only superpower, the U.S., may at most slow down this tectonic shift.
And he did move it in the sense that he has almost entirely fulfilled his election program, his promises from the 2016 campaign which is what has made him unique among the U.S. presidents, at least since Ronald Reagan. He reduced the control of the government over the citizen, lowered the unemployment rate, and gave a new hope to many simple Americans. He was vigorously defending the American national interests everywhere in the world, perhaps not always wisely, but he has decisively avoided the kind of adventurous gambling which especially his two predecessors loved to engage in. But he still didn't have enough time for many things because his efforts were constantly boycotted by the American bureaucracy. Its influence can't be broken during one presidential term. If Trump got another term, he could perhaps have a chance to achieve more in the battle against this enemy than what he could have done so far.
On October 29th, 2020, Ladislav Jakl was interviewed by Ms Alena Hájková for VIPs dot cz (VIPosobnosti.cz)