This morning, while everyone was still sound a sleep and while preparing breakfast for myself, I stumbled upon a book. I shall soon tell you what book it was and why I should have read it much earlier but the coincidental encounters are often better than those long planned. But first let me tell you a bit about last weekend.
On Friday, Adam and I have travelled by train to Prague with my youngest brother Milan. Since he was a little boy so many things have changed and so weekends spent together are now in many ways much more interesting than they were back then. The best thing about it is that we now can have discussions about topics other than “Warcraft”, “Napoleonic wars”, “WWII” or some other war-computer game related theme. This weekend was mainly in the line of law, when it is possible not to obey and why, when there is no other chance to show that something in the juridical system is not right than by consciously breaking it, when you should never do it, how long does the guilt prevail and when the bad deeds can be forgiven but not forgotten (like in case of inquisition and the Nazis or communists and what difference there is). In many ways these discussion are mind opening (hopefully) for everyone. I hope that by discussing with my brother we can help him to see new angles and make him a more open-minded person. Certainly he does presents to me many new views and opinions I would never have thought of.
One of the topic that we got to through and one that we talk about rather frequently (not only) this summer is so called “Questions of Gypsies”. You may ask why do we talk about it that much. Well the thing is that in general in seems that the Czech society lives to find the solution to this question, media are constantly bringing updates on the many marches against the nonconforming and the reasons one hears why they are nonconforming are simply not that strong (the most used one is that they are noisy). Furthermore, the other thing is that my brother has to deal with this question, and the attitude that is prevailing in the Czech society, on his own. And so we talked why it is better to be a good example for the majority rather than standing on the side of those complaining and labelling others as such.
So going back to this morning – while waiting for the kettle to boil I have look at a book that was lying on the table open and started to read. And then I thought this goes to the point of the above discussions and so I decided to translate and share it with others. It is simple, almost obvious and in this is the wisdom. It does not solve the question, it does not explain why but it does show how dangerous labelling and generalisation is.
“The year 1974, tableau of our leaving class was ready to go on display into the window when the headteacher had suddenly changed her decision. Reason? I had long hair on the portrait. It had to be shortened, I had to be photographed once again.
However, this was a trivia compared to the persecution committed on others. In those times, there were brave people that would not attend to the election. They were nonconforming, allegedly the pests of the society. Others kept persistently on coming to the church. They, too, were on the list of nonconforming ones. And how many of nonconforming has ended in horrible camps or jails during the twentieth century.
I would rather not play with that word at any cost. Who are we going to describe as nonconforming next? I am sorry, but this idea has crossed my mind, that maybe the children in the nurseries that refuse to sleep after lunch. They distract others, they won’t leave the teacher to rest. We could take all these children to one place, or not? And if they refuse to sleep, rascals, then they could perform some delicate jobs… Or other crazy mind could find some fans by claiming that people with disabilities are nonconforming, they are the cause of delay on public transport; all these special facilities that has to be done for them! And all these, dear madam, is paid by us – the tax payers! Should they rather repair the roads…
Stop using this disgusting word while we still have a chance. Perhaps one day when we grow old and we won’t be fast and sharp enough any more, we might be the one labelled.
The book is written by Daniel Ženatý, a minister of Czech Evangelic Church that I belong to and my family has the pleasure to know him. My mum bought this book to Adam as a Christmas present and I only skimmed through but sometimes it is better to discover things by a coincidence as they touch on the topic you are thinking of yourself.
Ženatý, Daniel. 2011. “Maturitní tablo” in Nejsme na útěku. [kalich]. Praha. p66