A Dream for Czechoslovakia

Václav Havel, translated from the Czech by Paul Wilson

I often think about what our country will be like in ten, fifteen, or twenty years, and I regret that I cannot, for a moment at least, leap over the hard years that lie ahead and look into our future.

That life is unfathomable is part of its dramatic beauty and its charm. So is the fact that we know nothing about our own future, except that some day we will die. Nevertheless, let me attempt to describe, briefly, the kind of Czechoslovakia I would like to see and strive for with my limited powers.

I will, in short, dream for a while.

In the first place, I hope, the atmosphere of our lives will change. The shock of freedom, expressed through frustration, paralysis, and spite, will have gradually dissipated from society. Citizens will be more confident and proud, and will share a feeling of co-responsibility for public affairs. They will believe that it makes sense to live in this country.

Political life will have become more harmonious.1 We will have two large parties with their own traditions, their own intellectual potential, clear programs, and their own grass-roots support. They will be led by a new generation of young, well-educated politicians whose outlook has not been distorted by the era of totalitarianism. And of course there will be several smaller parties as well.

Our constitutional and political system will have been created and tested. It will have a set of established, gentlemanly, unbendable rules. The legislative bodies will work calmly, with deliberation and objectivity. The executive branch of government and the civil service will be inconspicuous and efficient. The judiciary will be independent and will enjoy popular trust, and there will be an ample supply of new judges.2 We will have a small (40,000 strong?), highly professional army with modern equipment, part of which will come under an integrated European command. A smaller, elite unit will be part of the European peacekeeping force. A well-functioning, courteous police force will also enjoy the respect of the population, and thanks to it—though not only to it—there will no longer be anything like the high crime rate there is now.

At the head of the state will be a gray-haired professor with the charm of a Richard von Weizsäcker.

We will, in short, be a stable Central European democracy that has found its identity and learned to live with itself.

Czechoslovakia will be a highly decentralized state with confident local governments. People’s primary interest will be in local elections rather than the parliamentary ones. Each town and city will have its own individual face and its own inimitable spiritual climate—the pride of the local authorities. Municipalities will finance their affairs from municipal taxes, rather than from transfer payments, and will no longer need to complain constantly about never having enough funds, or to seek revenue from the ownership of various enterprises. The governments and administrations of the different historical regions will be intricately structured: Moravia and Silesia will once…

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