PANEL DISCUSSION 2023
CENTRAL EUROPE WILL BE BORN JUST LIKE A NEW QUEEN IN A BEEHIVE
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me as a panelist. I am still not sure whether I belong to such an honourable forum. Because I know that nothing is a coincidence, I would like to greet you on behalf of my son Vojtěch (Adalbert). When I was selecting a name for my son, it was a clear choice. We will see.
Professor gave me a free hand for choosing any topic I like. I don't know whether it was a good idea, but you will see. Some time ago, I started keeping bees and when you keep bees, there are so many ideas in your mind.
Many books have been written about Central Europe, its history, its uniqueness, and its worldwide reputation. If I recall correctly, I myself inaugurated one of them, entitled Central Europe Revisited by E. Brix and E. Busek, on the premises of the Chamber of Deputies as its chairman at that time. Given my origins, my view of the world and what is happening around us cannot logically be other than Central European. And I think it is, quite rightly, a source of my pride. Even to the extent that I am convinced that if Central Europe has an imaginary centre, a heart, it could be my homeland Moravia.
From this point of view, I am really very interested in where our family of Central European countries is heading. It's not always a completely cheerful topic, so I'll allow myself a little anecdote, a little step aside. Because as I sometimes meditate about this topic, I will relate it to my hobby of beekeeping. Bees and their life can be a very surprising source of inspiration. Some of the parables are chilling.
For example, did you know that each bee colony as a whole behaves very similarly to a warm-blooded mammal? Including maintaining a stable body temperature of around 35°C in the hive? That each bee has a clearly defined role like the individual cells in the body of higher animals? And you would think the queen bee would run it all within the natural hierarchy? No, it is not. The colony kind of knows what is best for it. It knows how it is doing, when it is time to swarm or in what shape the queen bee is right now. And sometimes the colony itself decides it needs to be replaced and raises a new young queen and kills the old one. It's called a "silent requeening". But who will tell the bees that the new queen needs to be fed, and the old queen is still working for the hive and probably has no idea what is in store for her? Scientists have found that the queen secretes a pheromone called queen substance, which is full of information and which, thanks to cleaning and feeding, is spread in small amounts by other bees throughout the hive so that at any moment each bee knows how the whole colony is doing thanks to the queen. But we basically conclude that some collective information is decisive. Millions of years of evolutionarily anchored rules. Tracks that lead somewhere but cannot be left.
And is not every human civilisation similar to a beehive? Is not it just an organism one order of magnitude higher? And can the same patterns be traced in its behaviour? And who and what has a major influence on the decision-making and direction of such organism?
Can an individual even change whether a civilisation will develop or perish? Are we able to learn from history and avoid the fate of our predecessors? Strangely enough, by musing about bees, one arrives to conclusions made by a number of authors, e.g., by Prof. Miroslav Bárta and his book "7 Laws – How Civilisations Are Born, Grow and Decline", which among other things deals with the current civilisation and describes it as the first truly global one.
And this brings me to the key point, which is to reflect on the role of Central Europe and its civilisation in shaping the future of Europe and the global world. I am convinced that we are indeed experiencing a historic moment that will determine the future direction and duration of the current world order and values. After years of relative affluence and, let's say, comfortable governance on debt, we are witnessing a fundamental clash of views between progressivism and conservatism, or if you prefer, ideology versus realism. It is also a matter of providing for ordinary everyday human needs. It is confirmed that the division between the right and the left today is rather secondary. Some commentators also speak of a clash of views between the detached elites and ordinary citizens. And because the situation in Central Europe is a bit different, because the countries of the former socialist bloc had their own troubles with communists years ago and the Western cultural revolution passed them by, the imaginary battle line is in Central Europe. After all, we can see that from the results of many elections around us.
The society in our country is truly polarised and deep divisions of opinion can be observed in other Central European countries as well. An important phenomenon is that the political centre is completely absent. Moderate parties are not "attractive". Voters are being forced to choose the sides. Labelling and dividing into democratic and non-systemic or non-democratic groups is common. And if some politicians try to be constructive and seek consensus, they are gradually and consistently pushed to one side or the other by the media. And please believe me that after ten years in politics, I personally experience this shift, this gradual transformation very strongly. Thus, where there should be a centre, we see a constantly widening and deepening gap. Virtually all politicians, regardless of their affiliation, like to talk about overcoming and closing it. Unfortunately, almost all of them mean that they will drag the vast majority of voters to their own side, into their own ideological bubble. And thus, paradoxically, they contribute to its widening. Unfortunately, where the current elites cannot make persuasive arguments, manipulation, and propaganda (which, by the way, is strikingly reminiscent of the communist one) and slowly also censorship and criminalisation of different opinions are making their way in.
But the essential question I ask myself is who is actually doing this to us? After all, no one can point to any particular person whose intentions are the cause of all that happened to us. Why are we unconsciously gradually shifting to positions which would have been described as extreme twenty years ago? Is it enough if we blame social media, information overload on the internet, and ever-present shortcuts as the culprit? I'm sure it is not. Although it is well established that bad news spreads eight times faster than good news, we cannot look for answers here. And I leave conspiracy theories aside completely. I'm afraid it is mostly our instincts and our civilisation. For example, our human instinct to be part of a community, to be part of the majority and to be perceived positively by people around us. To be praised. Each of us may know from personal experience how difficult it is to go against the majority opinion and how cruel and uncompromising human society can be in such a case. But who will decide on what is right and best for society? And we could go on.
That's why I wonder whether we are not similar to bees. Have we reached the final stage of civilisation and is there nothing that can be done about it? Can we choose or can we not choose? Should we accept the idea that everything is predetermined anyway, and we are unable to make an impact and are part of an aging and declining civilization? Or, on the contrary, is it possible to resist and prove that we are evolving, and any trend can be changed through knowledge of history, scientific progress, and self-awareness?
I really don't know the answers to these questions. However, I am convinced that the tipping point has not yet been reached. That we can still show that we are not determined to collapse. That we have not yet exhausted our potential in Central Europe. That our countries are currently a source of realism. Of course, I do not rule out that this is just a manifestation of my own geopolitical self-centeredness.
In any case, current events show that it is absolutely necessary to have strong people active in politics who are not afraid of majority pressure and possible ostracisation. We need to make sure that we are not in the tow, in the words of Petr Robejšek, of "second-rate political and media elites who are incapable of democratically handling the different and free will of the people". In known history, we can find many instances where individuals have been able to stand up to the sometimes self-destructive efforts of the majority. Perhaps we are not like the bees and can influence the rules of the game.
But to conclude the beekeeping parable of civilisation in Central Europe on an optimistic note. Part of the natural cycle is that when conditions are right, a new young healthy queen is born in the hive. The old one then leaves the hive with part of the colony and looks for a new place to live in the form of a swarm. Sometimes it also means the sanitising of the hive, because they take a lot of mites and other mess with them. The new queen remains in the hive and completely new prosperous generations are born from her. Let's hope that when the time comes for change, we will talk about recovery and a hopeful future of the Central European hive, and not about the loss of bees.
Thank you for your attention.