View Full Version : A Signal from Radio Prague

James Brody
January 7th, 2007, 08:16 PM
Late evenings, I listened to the call sign of Radio Prague when I was an Army brat in Northern Italy. I was a hothouse plant there, kept in American culture by my preferences and those of my parents, except for access to American things by radio.

Radio Luxemborg played the Top 10 one night each week, and Italian television offered Indiscobolo that played an American popular song once each day. Thus, left to my own at bedtime, I acquired novel bits and pieces through the late night broadcasts, visitors in my protected bubble even if I couldn't interpret their meanings.

Fifty years passed and I met some Czech students in Detroit at the ISHE meeting: the 6 of them were the brightest point of the conference and female, beautiful, and smart. I have since remembered Radio Prague and found it again several weeks ago at www.radio.cz.

It's a delightful site in five languages, and a lot of fun but I cannot be sure of the symbolism in some of its material. The following piece, for example, could be an example of the comparative resilience of bottom-up organizations in human affairs. It also parallels aspects of our own mess in Washington.

I was delighted with it until I reconsidered her second paragraph and that the Communist Party is a player in Prague just as they were in Italy but in far more threatening way. After all, older Czech's remember Russian tanks from WW 2 and Putin still refines them and tests them in Iran. I am, thus, worried that she worries.

As was true 50 years ago, I can't interpret a signal from Prague. I offer the following.


So what's with the government?

[07-01-2007] By Daniela Lazarova

"So, another year has gone by - and although Santa was generous to us Czechs as usual - one thing he forgot to bring is a stable government. Still, over the extended holidays nobody seemed to miss it. As usual Czechs wallowed in a series of fairy tales where good triumphs over evil and where it all ends with a big wedding and a young, wise and capable king on the throne. However, when the nation shook off its collective hang-over at the start of this week it was clear that one thing had not changed - the Czech Republic was still the biggest non-governmental organization in Europe.

Even President Klaus grumbled a little after his traditional luncheon with the prime minister at Lany Chateau. "It would be nice if I could meet here with the same person twice" he joked in reference to the constant change of prime ministers. During his term in office so far Mr. Klaus has roasted venison for prime ministers Topolanek, Paroubek, Gross and Spidla. Prime Minister Topolanek would doubtless be only too happy to oblige and turn up again next year - but at this point the chances of that happening are slim. In the first three or four months of the fruitless seven-month-long search
for a new leadership Czechs retained their good humor, cracking jokes about Czech politicians and putting up illicit billboards. Now even the biggest optimists are running out of steam and people are wondering how long politicians can go on playing this game. Luckily, for the time being, the country seems to be running just fine without it. The economy is booming and the crown is stable. "A government? I'm no longer used to the idea of having a government" a Czech comedian quipped recently.

However at the back of our minds there is an uncomfortable feeling that at some not too distant date we may all pay a high price for this drawn-out political crisis. Even the country's oldest inhabitant - 108-year old Marie Kraslova now rails at the political instability. Mrs. Kraslova was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and often recalls the day when Emperor Franz Josef rode into their village and she saw him close up as a child. Her life spanned the birth of Czechoslovakia, the years of the first republic, the Nazi occupation, the communist years and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Today at 108 she fears she may not live long enough to see another stable government. "I can't understand what is taking them so long" Mrs. Kraslova said when she was interviewed by reporters. Join the club Marie, nor can another ten million Czechs. Maybe one day we'll figure it out."

Axelrod R (1997) The Complexity of Cooperation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.
Barabási, A-L (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks. NY: Perseus.
Sowell, T. (2002) A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. NY: Basic Books.

James Brody
January 13th, 2007, 06:21 PM
Three Czech political parties balance the Communists: the Greens, the Christian Democrats, and the conservatives. Many Czech's not only remember the Communists all too well and don't want them back but also watch the Russians build a powerful petroleum supply industry. (As someone remarked today, the Communists once ran a bankrupt, inept petroleum system in Russia, western business skills rationalized it and made it strongly profitable, and now the communists take it back by means of regulations!)

Meanwhile, the Czech Prime Minister expects a baby from his mistress, his wife refuses to divorce him, and the Christian Democrats might, or might not, support his remaining in power. And a club of Monarchists campaign for Prince Phillip to be their king! (See below)

I REALLY like these people but worry about them! I doubt their being part of the EU will dissuade Russian ambitions to get back what they had before.

Again, by Daniela Lazarova whose English is better than mine!

"On January 6th the pro-monarch league traditionally makes its way to Prague Castle to demonstrate in favor of turning the Czech Republic into a monarchy. It is a funny costumed procession wearing the colors of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, waving the Austro-Hungarian flag and singing the Austro-Hungarian anthem. Led by a donkey and a goat it goes from Wenceslas Square to Prague Castle, which it claims President Klaus is inhabiting illegally. The pro-monarchs league believes that the country would be better off with a king on the throne and says the drawn-out political crisis is ample proof of this. They have been looking around for a possible successor and their favorite candidate is Prince Charles. "It doesn't look like he's going to be king of England - so maybe he'd like to come over and be our king" - one of them said. "

And in another entry by Lazarova:

"Now to come down to earth - Czechs may not be happy with their present leadership but they see no reason why they shouldn't make some extra money by betting on developments. The two hot topics right now are: will the government survive a vote of confidence and will the prime minister's mistress give birth to a boy or a girl. At least the nation hasn't lost its sense of humour. Next thing we know people will be betting on whether the prime minister will go on paternity leave."

James Brody
January 25th, 2007, 01:04 PM
Daniela Lazarova's essay "So what's with the government?" (January 7, 2007) first caught my attention, her follow-up on their Prime Minister's pregnant girl friend hooked me. She did it again with this piece on January 20th, one perhaps more meaningful to an old guy who remembers these days! Another story: Czech investigators find that their pizza has "fake" cheese, a mix of vegetable and starch! Full articles at http://www.radio.cz/en/current/magazine. My apologies that I trimmed Lazarova's very readable prose!

"A pub evening "communist style"...decorated with...memorabilia...found in...attics - red flags...stars, hammers and sickles...slogans...revolutionary music and...waiters (in) communist youth uniforms...(T)he owner served beer, rum, vodka and goulash for communist prices - more precisely for 1986 prices. Two thousand beers, two thousand vodkas, two thousand rums and 250 servings of goulash...all disappeared."

One fellow did extra chores at home in order to get his wife's blessing and about $4 later covered his tab for 10 beers, 10 rums, goulash, and rolls. Guests also received a communist party medal at closing. And in a parallel to our own legislators, "The pub's owner Petr Holinka says he's happy to give regulars a treat. 'If Czech deputies and senators can drink for next to nothing - why not let normal people try it once a year' he said with reference to the low price of alcohol on Parliament premises."

Two nations separated by 4000 miles but united by the same outcomes in different contexts...


James Brody
February 16th, 2007, 04:58 PM
CZ & Toynbee

Toynbee explained the rise and fall of 19 of 20 civilizations:

"Briefly stated, the regular pattern of social disintegration is a schism of the disintegrating society into a recalcitrant proletariat and a less and less effectively dominant minority. The process of disintegration does not proceed evenly; it jolts along in alternating spasm of rout, rally, and rout. In the last rally but one, the dominant minority succeeds in temporarily arresting the society's lethal self-laceration by imposing on the peace of a universal state. Within the framework of the dominant minority's universal state the proletariat creates a universal church, and after the next rout, in which the disintegrating civilization finally dissolves, the universal church may live on to become the chrysalis from which a new civilization eventually emerges." Toynbee, 1958, p 23.

The following clip by Colin O'Connor of Radio Prague suggests to me that the "proletariat," whether Czech or American are now in the winter of their discontent. Determined, creative individuals in both countries resist dissolution, perhaps feel safer when Congress is not in session, and look to join a swarm against whatever rules emerge from top-down.

2/11/07 Colin O'Connor
"A new survey has indicated that almost three quarters of the Czech population don't think that today's political representatives are any more respectable or honest than communist functionaries were before the Velvet Revolution...A majority of 56 percent, however, were convinced that contemporary politicians had a higher level of expertise and were more capable than their communist predecessors. A large majority of 83 percent didn't think Czech politicians paid enough attention to people's opinions."

Toynbee A (1958) Civilization on Trial and The World and the West. NY: Meridian.

James Brody
March 5th, 2007, 02:31 PM
Czechs, like the Russians, have a strong tradition of folk sayings.

My favorite these days:
"January is king of the winter,
"February strengthens the fields, making them white
"March we move behind the stove
"April, we'll still be there
"May, we drive the goats to the grove."

(Love that fourth line!)

Radio Prague (www.radio.cz) has a remarkable history, it also has several opportunities to learn some basic Czech: for example,

James Brody
April 6th, 2007, 04:33 PM
My interest: There are hubs in networks and boundaries between them. Chagnon's descriptions of the Yanomamo fit this description, so does most political organization as well as neural ones.

Central Europe, once the buffer between the former USSR, western Europe, and the United States gained new freedoms in the early 1990s. The Czech Republic (roughy 10 million people in slightly more than 300 square miles) along with Slovakia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Romania--rediscovered boundaries, languages, and culture in 1993.

Twenty-four years young might imply their being in an r selection phase when fledgling organizations rapidly grow, sometimes without regard to remote futures. The rest of us, perhaps too comfortable and too densely organized life, make few children and become more "sensitive."

I am, however, an r-selected individual, navigating through and annoyed by the seas of K-selection around me. I find turbulence exciting: will those nations in Central Europe retain vitality as if a newly expanding religion and defend themselves against both relativism and waves of newcomers? Or will the educated "elites" race into secular relativism in the European Union, proclaim universal rights to be peculiar, predatory, or victimized, and alienate traditional groups? (The German capital of Weimar between roughly 1918 and 1933 experienced the same stew and paid dearly for it: conservatives in the military and in tradition-oriented communities soon embraced National Socialism and Hitler as its prophet. Much of that decision grew from inflation and desperate poverty and much of it from "too much too soon" in turbulent experiments by the intelligentsia (and the bipolar!) in the arts, philosophy, and morality.

I must admire the optimism and zeal that I find in the few Czechs I met in Detroit at an ISHE meeting. I also fear someone's betraying them. Visiting Radio Prague (www.radio.cz) is, thus, a very relevant study in modern turbulence and order, zeal and cynicism. Clips from recent news items show that mix but, like a Saturday morning movie serial that always ends each episode with the hero hanging over a cliff, don't allow a clear sense of outcomes. The movie-makers had to give you happy endings so that the hero lives through another segment and you come back next week: real life has no such guarantees.

For example:
- The Republic (and that of Hungary) is open, with some protests, to hosting US radar bases despite Putin's bluster. (Poland agreed to host the missiles!)
- Healthcare reform...
- Ethnic tension between the Romany group and Czechs*
- Bullies and violence are a growing problem for young Czechs...
- The Justice Minister unveils an anticorruption program (surveys on Wikipedia note the Czech Republic to have perhaps more than its share of corruption and alcoholism. (Does one gene serve two purposes? And is it widely shared, like much of the Czech vocabulary, with Russians? But, I didn't say that!)
- What is the future impact of multiplex theaters?
- And what about the Republic being a crossroads for human traffic (aka slavery), particularly for the sex trade...
- Whether or not to continue in the European Union, open borders, and free movement into the Republic from groups of people who are uneducated, untrained, and more interested in settling enclaves than in blending.

Imagine! All this packed into only 337 square miles! It's also something of a time-warp: It is us as we were at the beginning of the '60s. I hope they do better than we did.


* According to Dita Asiedu: "Asked by a newspaper whether other people should receive state subsidies like Romanies, Mr Cunek said (a) non-Roma would need to get a suntan - an allusion to the colour of Romanies' skin - (and) cause chaos in their families and light fires on town squares before politicians would regard them as badly off. In the poll conducted by the STEM agency, 64 percent of respondents agreed with Mr Cunek and 58 percent said he should not have to leave his post in government."

Can you imagine the "Oh my" from American media?

James Brody
May 5th, 2007, 03:00 PM
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Romania...all former cell membranes between the Soviet Union and the rest of us. Will they show a greater exuberance and a greater loyalty to their ethnic traditions than elsewhere in the European Union or even in North America? Or will their younger generations leap to western hedonism, offend the older generations, and opt for "diversity" and open borders while, like the rest of Europe and America, failing to reproduce?

The coin spins, now at its apogee...

Meanwhile, here is a continuation of some news items available through Radio Prague: http://www.radio.cz/en/

President Klaus: our planet is blue not green
[03-05-2007] Daniela Lazarova

"Czech president Vaclav Klaus, an economist by profession, is preparing to do battle with environmentalists. In his latest book called "Our Planet is Blue - Not Green", which is to be released shortly, the president challenges the conclusions reached by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change namely that climate change is caused by human activity. The president on Wednesday presented his views to students at the Prague School of Economics... My conclusions are that environmentalists over-estimate the risks of global warming and I fear that they do this intentionally" the president told students, arguing that what is at threat today is not the climate at all, but freedom. .."

And the predictable rebuttal from Artur Runge Metzger from the European Commission who recently chaired an international conference on global warming in Prague,

"I think that all governments around the world are very conscious of the fact that you need to base your political decision-making on scientific facts and that is the reason that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was put into place -where you have a couple of thousand scientists going through all the scientific evidence, through all the articles that have been written in order to come up with very clear conclusions and I think that these clear conclusions run counter to Mr. Klaus' views."

The rest of Lazarova's article: http://www.radio.cz/en/article/90962

James Brody
May 5th, 2007, 03:03 PM
Sent to Lazarova, 5/3/07

Thank you, Daniela, for your essays! I find the Czech Republic to be an interesting parallel to American society but you are in a more dynamic phase, perhaps due to your recent liberation in 1993! I admire your innovation and your courage.

As for belief in global warming:

Humans swarm, no surprise! Charles Mackay started with "tulipomania" and recorded a dozen more examples (Mackay, Charles, 1841/1980, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. NY: Three Rivers Press.) He was on to these phenomena in 1841 and I would add the Beatles and global warming to Mackay's list.

My reasons?

1) There are rumors that Mars, Venus, and Mercury heat up in sync with Earth.

2) Ice cores...250,000 years recorded in a Greenland sample, 400,000 in one from Antarctica: The ice indicates that we heat up and cool down in a cyclic fashion with a phase of about 1500 years. We are due to get hot, perhaps hotter than now and perhaps as hot as it was 900 years ago.

3) I know people who always have the weather channel on in the background. The weather, like sex and death, may trigger adaptive behaviors for staying another month behind the stove or digging in, flying north or south, or having a manic episode.

International committees know the economic costs of "greenery" and have given exemptions for emerging economies. The peculiar reasoning is that everyone is entitled to pollute their fair share and countries that just now erect smoke stacks and fill our air with dirt are entitled to catch up with the rest of us defilers.

Finally, I enjoy some obscure language in regard to "paranoid schizophrenia." Our psychiatric manual for diagnosis and classification says that paranoids do not have the organizational confusion or indecision associated with most forms of schizophrenia. Instead, there is a rigid, unusually coherent sequence of ideas on a particular subject but those ideas conflict with common sense. Paranoid schizophrenia is also associated with grandiosity, rushed speech, and indignation when the believer is faced with skepticism. Not that I'm thinking of anyone in particular...


James Brody, PhD
Editor & Host, Evolutionary Psychology