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GUEST COLUMN

A priest analyzes Mečiar, his fellow Christians

The Church must accord the utmost respect to the right of a nation to self-determination. Indeed, broadly speaking, self-determination is one of the most fundamental and inalienable of human rights. However, the Church's mission is also to assess self-determination in a theological light, and to ask difficult questions whenever it feels that a nation~s pursuit of its basic rights is in conflict with the Church's primary mission.
A crucial mission of any church which calls itself universal is to insist that in the sphere of a state's right for self-determination, the rights of individuals are to be held superior to the right of nations. But in Slovakia, many Christian people have lost sight of this mission, seeing their role no longer as that of "sanctifying the entire world," but of sanctifying only that which is Slovak in the world.


Mečiar meets the Pope, July 1995.
Peter Brenkus

The Church must accord the utmost respect to the right of a nation to self-determination. Indeed, broadly speaking, self-determination is one of the most fundamental and inalienable of human rights. However, the Church's mission is also to assess self-determination in a theological light, and to ask difficult questions whenever it feels that a nation~s pursuit of its basic rights is in conflict with the Church's primary mission.

A crucial mission of any church which calls itself universal is to insist that in the sphere of a state's right for self-determination, the rights of individuals are to be held superior to the right of nations. But in Slovakia, many Christian people have lost sight of this mission, seeing their role no longer as that of "sanctifying the entire world," but of sanctifying only that which is Slovak in the world.

They have reduced Christianity's universal mandate to "the moral purification of the Slovak nation". But this narrow goal of national purification has been in jeopardy ever since the personality of Vladimír Mečiar was given a role in the moral life of the country.

According to the psychological profile of the so-called "Mečiar phenomenon," Slovakia's leader is a charismatic, talented man who is deeply sensitive to the profound but capricious moods of the masses, and who is able to satisfy their yearning for a father figure of divine stature.

Mečiar himself has fuelled such perceptions. In answer to a direct question, posed by Paul Lendvai during a TV debate, as to whether he suffered from a mania for power, he answered "no, I just know how to do it. I have the power."And in response to a question about his possible political models, Mečiar declared "I don't need any models, there's no reason to have any."

If we agree that this psychoanalytical picture of Mečiar is realistic, we should remember that psychoanalysis is based on psychopathology, a science which studies disordered personalities, in which conscious "mind" and "will" only seem to be in control, and are in fact manipulated by the far more powerful forces that at work in the individual and collective subconscious.

This collective subconscious can be scientifically proven only indirectly and incompletely. I hope that the reader will concede that there are not many people who are in closer daily contact with the collective subconscious than priests. The subconscious is an eminently human stratum where reason blends with instinct.

Based on my personal experiences, I can say that Mečiar's supporters belong to that group of Christians who are characterized by deep religious ignorance and formalism, by cultural backwardness and lack of education, possibly by egocentrism and amorality.

Their lives are in many cases troubled by alcoholism, dementia, moral devastation and even moral perversity, and over the past few years have been troubled further by xenophobia and nationalism. This part of our collective subconscious selected from the post-November politicians the one man whose personality most closely resembled its own: Mečiar.

For many people, Mečiar's personality has become more than acceptable - it has become a model. People carry Mečiar's portraits in their prayer books alongside pictures of the Good Shepherd, the Virgin Mary and other saints. His picture often hangs beside the crucifix. What does this phenomenon say about the role of Christianity in establishing moral norms for society?

Christianity views human personality in a slightly different way than does psychology. Psychology may define the personality of Mečiar as integrated because his reactions to different situations are stereotypical and predictable: they are dominated by self-confidence and aggression.

But the Christian, that is, morally assessed, stereotype will identify behind Mečiar's aggression and self-confidence a fierce lust for power, self-complacency, conceit and vindictiveness. In Christian terms, then, Mečiar does not personify "personality" but rather "antipersonality" - a stereotype of an uncontrollable and merciless lust for power.

It might be that in the pragmatic world of politics, such personality traits are an asset. But how should they be viewed through the moral lens of Christianity? The genetic theory of character holds that the character type of an adult depends on the extent to which generally-accepted moral principles are incorporated during the course of a person's development.

There are five basic character types: the first and simplest is the so-called immoral character, which corresponds to the patterns of behavior of a one-year old child. A childęs character is commanded by inner impulses without regard for the feelings of other people, and secures its needs by yelling or pandering. A child cries, sulks and has no sense of the appropriateness or scope of its needs. A child is ignorant of basic human emotions such as compassion and consideration. Other people serve only as a means of satisfying the child's needs.

There is no need to describe the other four types set out by this theory of character, because already the second type, which corresponds to the moral behavior of a pre-school child, is characterized by respect for the feelings of other people and by remorse, responses that are nowhere to be found in the public character of Mečiar.

What Mečiar displays in discharging his public office is the simplest type of character with its dual mode - "distress" and "delight". It is up to psychologists to say to what extent this is his real character. However, to say the least, he "plays" his role of a deeply immoral character with no conventional moral principles to the hilt. For instance, one never sees him caught off guard or embarrassed when reminded of the tendency of his statements and the rules of his game to change from day to day. His supporters are left to infer that a lie as a "working method" is acceptable.

C.G. Jung pointed out that "many Christians declare their unreserved support for the teachings of the Church, but their acceptance of Christian truths is merely superficial, a matter of rituals, habits and traditions. Their neurosis is caused by an internal discrepancy: they lack harmony between their inner craving for God and the religious system they put on like a suit of clothes, without real experience.

Such Christians in fact do not believe in Christ but simply know who Christ was. Their notions of a hero derive from the widely-known tradition of Christ, in which "wherever he went, he did good", where "he came to his people and they did not accept him", in which he was persecuted and maligned and eventually died because "his own people sold him to his enemies for Judas money."

Every local socioculture has its own version of the "godlike hero", which in the Slovak socioculture has undoubtedly been created by the folk tradition of Christ. Mečiar has adopted the trappings of this tradition. By his paranoid interpretation of political events, he casts himself in the role of the rejected and persecuted hero. Christianity is historically responsible for allowing its traditions to be abused in such a way.

Unfortunately, the Slovak church as a whole, our teachers of faith and morals, has not taken any stand against this new type of "personality". In fact, in the name of so-called good relations between the state and the church, the anti-personality imposed by Mečiar has even been accepted by some church leaders.

The problem is not only that history often qualifies such "good relations" - very suspicious in the context of generally spread clientelism - as collaboration. No, the issue is more important. The church's silence has lent tacit approval to the moral structure that Slovak society is assuming by making room for formless and amoral characters.


Pavol Žídek is a priest in the town of Sliač, between Zvolen and Banská Bystrica.


The views expressed in this column are the author's.

"Every local socioculture has its own version of the "godlike hero", which in the Slovak socioculture has undoubtedly been created by the folk tradition of Christ. Mečiar has adopted the trappings of this tradition. By his paranoid interpretation of political events, he casts himself in the role of the rejected and persecuted hero."

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