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Reader feedback: Need to find heroes

Slovakia lags behind in innovations, says EC, Flash News, January 13, 2006

The problem with Slovakia is that the people are excessively optimistic. They really believe that if only the government (or foreign investors, or God) knew or cared they could solve all their problems.

We need to spread a sort of realistic pessimism, that Father Christmas is not going to arrive, because otherwise every disappointed Slovak is going to retreat to the pub or "the bosom" of their family to wait for the next government or the next foreign power to come and put things right.

I think the "surliness" thing is something quite different. You have to remember that Slovaks live in much tighter networks and they are expected to show real loyalty to their family, people they went to school with and so on. For example, in the December SPEX interview with [businessman] Ivan Kmotrík he complains about exactly this: the weariness of the favour mill, and being rich he gets asked for a lot of favours.

In other words: if you say "we must do lunch some time" to someone in Slovakia they will hold you to it. In London with its fluid networks and anonymity, it is just words, a piece of politeness, and people pass it about like herpes. So Slovaks reserve their happiness for occasions when they really need it. If the woman in the Post Office says, "Have a nice day!" to everyone, how is she going to show extra special respect to the mother of her brother-in-law, etc.?

As regards innovation, it bothers me that Slovakia seems to be becoming a country of managers and servants. Where are the people who actually make things?

The people in this country who are rich are people who are clever at moving stuff around and exploiting contacts. Whenever a new university faculty opens it is "management". Meanwhile, the ordinary people are pressed to smile and learn "service culture". They're also encouraged to take out huge personal loans, which will hardly encourage risk taking.

We need to find heroes who have the strength to push their own ideas and create something new. If you look for the "Slovak Bill Gates" on Google you won't find him, so we will have to create him (or her).

Roger,
Žilina, Slovakia

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