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GUEST COLUMN - THE MAPLE LEAF

Whether to vote, or to mow the lawn

While I was away visiting Bratislava, my handyman Maťko fixed a button on my washing machine and the door to the porch. Now I just have to find someone to mow the lawn. Besides these problems, in about three weeks we will have provincial elections in Ontario. The current premier will probably win again because the economic situation is pretty good. That means the Progressive Conservatives will stay in power, while the Liberals and the Social Democrats don't have a chance. Worse than that, however, I'll have to go out and find someone to mow the lawn. I'll go to vote too, if I remember.
If I were in Slovakia, I would have bigger problems with elections than with my lawn. I have looked at the list of Slovak candidates, I've watched the election ads, the discussion shows with the potential presidents, and in truth I would rather mow the lawn myself. The whole presidential race seems to me like deciding whether you'd rather be shot, knifed, suffocated or drowned. A tough choice.


Some voters have been asking themselves what all the fuss is about.
photo: Vladimír Hák-Profit

While I was away visiting Bratislava, my handyman Maťko fixed a button on my washing machine and the door to the porch. Now I just have to find someone to mow the lawn. Besides these problems, in about three weeks we will have provincial elections in Ontario. The current premier will probably win again because the economic situation is pretty good. That means the Progressive Conservatives will stay in power, while the Liberals and the Social Democrats don't have a chance. Worse than that, however, I'll have to go out and find someone to mow the lawn. I'll go to vote too, if I remember.

If I were in Slovakia, I would have bigger problems with elections than with my lawn. I have looked at the list of Slovak candidates, I've watched the election ads, the discussion shows with the potential presidents, and in truth I would rather mow the lawn myself. The whole presidential race seems to me like deciding whether you'd rather be shot, knifed, suffocated or drowned. A tough choice.

I'll give you a concrete example of how things go in a world where everything Slovak is great and everything to do with international conglomerates trying to run the show is bad. I've already mentioned in this column Slovak composer Miro Bázlik, who for tzhe daily paper Slovenská Republika was crying his eyes out that the Slovak parliament (and government) werre not behaving like their Yugoslav counterparts, that NATO is the source of all evil and international capital is ruining the world. This same Bázlik did not for a moment hesitate to put out a CD of his music with the support of the Big Bad Capitalist George Soros. So much for Slovakophiles.

Exactly the same thing has been happening on TV screens as candidates shit their pants over how Slovak they are. Not even the shoes that they wear are Slovak. Nor, do I think, are Harley Davidson motorcycles handcrafted by Slovak And Proud Industries from Očova.

I know I should try and say something constructive and useful about the presidential candidates, but I have one question: If this selection of candidates is the best we can produce, what is the purpose of having a president at all? (If I followed this line of questioning further, I would have to ask what is the purpose of having a goverment, parliament, municipal representatives... and maybe I would have to ask finally what is the purpose of Slovakia's being Slovakia?)

Wouldn't it be easier and simpler if parliament decided that we didn't need a president, and that the few symbolic powers which the president wields should devolve to the Prime Minister or the Speaker of Parliament? Another possibility would be that the presidency was given to whoever paid the most for it. Each day that the presidential function was performed, several million crowns would flow into the state budget, and everyone would be happy. I know that there would be a danger that the president might become a tunneller or a mafia figure, but on the other hand, think how pissed off Slota would be if the Hungarian named Rezeš became president.

If it appears to you that I'm becoming absurd, please understand that this isn't a political analysis or a prediction. I'm just sitting here and babbling whatever comes into my head. After all, I'm only a musician.

Peter Breiner is a Slovak pianist who now resides in Toronto.

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