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Travel magazine misses mark with Culture Shock
Sweet fantasies abound in Slovak politics
Destruction of SMK departure over-billed

Travel magazine misses mark with Culture Shock

Dear Editor,
I have read some articles in sixth edition of the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide. I thought it was a nice publication with quality paper and nice pictures, until I began reading the text. I was really not impressed by the Culture Shock story ["Culture Shock: A few tips" by Chris Togneri, Spectacular Slovakia 2001, page 15].
Maybe the idea was to write something funny but the result is really poor. I have never ever read anything about Slovaks as flimsy as this article. It would be very easy to counter your arguments, your vigorous ideas and living experiences here, but there is no reason to do so. Every nation has of course some "extras", but I do not understand who would find any value in an article like this.
I have been in the US and I could write about all those fat people, the McDonalds culture, people thinking Dostoyevsky is a cartoon, Las Vegas, ecological ignorance, people who dry their dogs by putting them in a microwave and others who win money on law suits after they harm themselves in a way the instructions did not warn against. But tell me why I would do this?
I would rather go to the cinema to study the intellectual dimension of Star Wars.

Ondrej Ivanco

Sweet fantasies abound in Slovak politics

I noticed with interest Robert Fico's comments about his new campaign director, Fedor Flašík, whom Fico described as being able to, "turn water into Pepsi-Cola", and capable also, "of other 'Slovak miracles'" ["Former HZDS image-maker now Smer campaign boss," News Briefs Vol. 7 No. 31, August 20-26, 2001].
Notwithstanding that it is not even wine that Mr. Flašík can transform simple water into, but a sugary pop beverage instead (maybe the Christian symbolism would have been too much, after all), it reminded me of the important role of saccharin fantasy in Slovak politics today and the surprisingly short memories of the general electorate.
The front runners in the polls are still the sugary pop artists of the HZDS and Smer parties. As in Orwell's Animal Farm, it is getting difficult to tell apart the old oppressors (what an old fashioned word that is now!) and the liberators - HZDS, Smer: what's the difference? Neither actually has a sense of or interest in the real problems that afflict the country, and hence no plan to actually solve them. They have, however, convinced the electorate that things are bad, nay worse, and they need another go round to fix them.
For some reason there is no popular alternative to these "danger parties" who can effectively say that it is in fact better than it was (obvious to anyone who goes to Slovakia regularly). Instead, the parties of the "dark side", representing every prejudice, inadequacy, and sense of unblemished pride ever felt by a Slovak, sell their magic spells and peddle rumour, cause potential trouble for the vast majority of people who simply want a peaceful future, and generally burn through their reserves like those buzzing creatures that fly around at night and die the next morning, doing no one any real good, except themselves if they reach the nirvana of Power
But Slovakia's "next morning" is still a long way off and there are terribly many of these buzzing creatures still around, many of whom ought to be, if not in jail, at least out of Slovak politics.
So another magician is installed to turn the granite of the Tatras (or is it the Alps?) into gold. Maybe Slovakia needs another four years of one of these "wonder parties" to inflict some more pain on this tiny nation and remind it again how dangerous its democracy is. Then perhaps at some later date we will enter an era when people will not be so easily duped.

Peter Knazko
Ottawa, Canada

Destruction of SMK departure over-billed

It is very likely that the SMK's imminent departure from the coalition will have a far less destructive effect on the government than has been billed in the Slovak media (by those who are both for and against a destructive outcome) ["SMK packs its bags: the beginning of the end" Editorial Vol. 7 No. 30 August 13-19].
Once they leave the coalition, the SMK will really have nowhere to go except back to their seats to continue to lobby, as before, for the causes of the Hungarian minority. They have no other partner with whom to join, since the HZDS, SNS, and probably Smer are anathema to them, and, as you say in your editorial, they can still vote with the government on issues that are not ethnically dangerous to maintain a majority of hands on the government's side until elections next year.
One could even say that the SMK has served its purpose in the current government. By pushing the coalition to take a more balanced stand on ethnic issues than they may have otherwise, they have enabled the government to fulfil certain EU expectations on minority rights.
Once out of the coalition, the SMK may be in an even stronger position as king makers than before but would be unlikely to gain any advantage in doing anything about it. As things stand, the preferred kings are already in power. More important, with the SMK out of the ruling coalition, the government, on the one hand, will be free of the energy drag that befell them whenever the SMK threatened to break ranks, and the SMK's constituents, on the other, may be reassured that their ideals have not been forsaken.
It is really a question of how the SMK's ubiquitous 10% can be used for the constructive good of the Hungarian minority, while doing as little damage as possible to the present government. It appears that removing themselves from the coalition may be the best decision that the SMK can make.

Peter Knazko
Ottawa, Canada

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