Impuls 99 – Consensus and Confrontation
Approximately six months ago, a group of concerned Czech leaders began meeting informally to discuss the condition of the Czech Republic. The group increased in size, as did its level of concern. On Friday July 23rd, the IMPULS 99 declaration and initiative were formally unveiled, with 186 signatures at the bottom. The declaration, along with the list of initial signatures, was published in full in last month’s issue.
The response to the declaration has been overwhelming. To-date, there are over 2,000 signatures, and rising. Signatories include cardinal Miroslav Vlk, Senator and Labor Union President Richard Falbr, Academy President Rudolf Zahradník, National Bank Vice-governor Zdeněk Tůma, Oscar winner Zdeněk Svěrák, writer Ivan Klíma, doctors, lawyers, artists, students, and pensioners. Volunteers have stepped forward. Signatories are being organized into groups which shall form the functioning units of the initiative, providing input both at their „local“ level, and every two months at planned forums, which shall systematically address and publish findings regarding the areas of concern outlined in the declaration. The first forum is planned for Sept. 21st in Brno and a week later in Prague; the theme is EU integration. All forums shall be open, with dialogue remaining at the public level.
IMPULS 99 has stirred up widespread debate, receiving extensive local and even international media coverage. Thus far, if nothing else, the initiative has clearly uncovered the current mentalities of the ruling Czech political elite, press, and people. Most of the top Czech politicans, and many members of the press (much less so radio and TV broadcasters) still continue to completely ignore the contents of the declaration, and instead view it as a direct threat, or at the very best, a well-meant but misguided apparition.
Perhaps not surprisingly , the expected drivel from the Communists denouncing the initiative found an (un)likely ally in parliamentary and ODS party Chairman Václav Klaus and his devoted deputies. However, even respected authorities like Pavel Tigrid joined in to champion the line „if they really wanted to change politics, then they should have the courage and enter politics themselves“. Such statements give IMPULS 99 its greatest legitimacy, since they betray either ignorance (and sometimes arrogance) of just how open democratic societies really work. We believe that Czechs should not have to join a political party or run for office in order to be able to influence those fellow citizens whom they elected and whom they pay. Initiatives which seek to positively influence, and not take over, politics at a national level are part of all mature democracies. IMPULS 99 is such an initiative.
The aim of IMPULS 99 continues unchanged-to provide an impulse for constructive dialogue and change, while recognizing that such initiative must come from all sides – elected official, citizen, and the media. In this respect, it should be noted that by signing, one signs a contract with oneself, as per the last paragraph of the declaration, which taps into the Kennedy line: „ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country“.
In the Czech Republic, the gap between those elected and those whom they serve has grown untenably large. This explains the ever-growing list of signatures of business, civic, and religious leaders, who in turn represent the 80% of Czechs who are dissatisfied with their parliament, senate, and cabinet. We believe that our elected fellow-citizens, many of whom do indeed work hard, members of the press, and other interested parties, will look at the declaration and at the growing list of signatures, and realize that there is a dissatisfied public, yearning and clamoring for change in the political gridlock and in the social stagnation that has set in, That change will come, and I believe that IMPULS 99 will play a part.
Martin Jan Stránský
|The New Presence||September 1999|
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