In interview, Vaclav Havel talks about 'era of disgust' in Czech politics





PRAGUE — It was supposed to be an interview about the revolutions that overturned communism 20 years ago in Europe. But first, Vaclav Havel had a question.

Was it true that President Obama had refused to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington?...

... But Mr. Havel’s reticence did not prevent him, during a 45-minute interview, from aiming squarely at what he called the current “era of disgust” in Czech politics.

“If you look at the C.V.’s of current Czech politicians, you see that most of them are in their 50s,” he said. This means they matured in what he called “early normalization,” roughly from 1969 to the mid-1970s, when the Soviet-led invasion that crushed the brief Prague Spring reforms of 1968 gave way to a dull and autocratic regime dependent on Moscow. “One of the darkest periods” of national history, Mr. Havel said.

In his view, those years have marked many current politicians, leaving them prone to conspiratorial thinking and acts of petty deceit. Compounding that, he said, is “some kind of existential crisis” caused by a global pursuit of materialism and by the specific Czech legacy of 40 years of Communist government.

Indeed, the contrast between the atmosphere in Prague today and during the magical autumn of 1989 and the Velvet Revolution could scarcely be greater. Today, the city is a freer, far wealthier place than 20 years ago, with private property restored and millions of tourists proving an economic if not aesthetic boon to one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals...

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