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Culture and values go hand-in-hand

AFTER attacks on post-communist developments in Slovak politics and economics, the alarm clock has started ticking for culture. Turnover in ministerial positions, ambiguity in artistic cirlces, and upside-down values disorient young generations and blatantly point out the degradation of culture and society as a whole.

AFTER attacks on post-communist developments in Slovak politics and economics, the alarm clock has started ticking for culture. Turnover in ministerial positions, ambiguity in artistic cirlces, and upside-down values disorient young generations and blatantly point out the degradation of culture and society as a whole.

The shock over the state of today's culture brought together 33 people from various spheres of Slovak life, including a political analyst, a psychologist, a mathematician, a philosopher, a surgeon and a priest. On May 13, after three months' work, they presented 1000 Words about Values and Culture, an appeal directed mainly at politicians, who they believe still perceive culture as an ornament rather than the keystone of a nation.

"We don't want to cause a cultural revolution," political analyst Samuel Abrahám, one of the appeal's signatories, told The Slovak Spectator, "and nobody has the illusion that politicians will change their indifference to culture all at once. But we want to prevent ending up with the fatalistic resignation of seeing every effort as a useless attempt - 'Na Slovensku je to tak' [In Slovakia that's how it is.]."

The signatories hope the appeal will start a discussion about culture and the values that connect Slovakia with the rest of Europe. They want the wider public to understand its role as co-creator of culture; "that culture cannot be reduced just to art, and that artists do not produce culture [alone]." Getting rid of quality art means getting rid of one's own traditions, history, and identity.

"A society which calls itself democratic and which cares about its living conditions and the values it leaves behind has to require culture to blossom," Abrahám said. "In the same way citizens call for free elections, they have to call for quality cultural development. The problem is that free elections are required by the constitution, while quality culture is up to the individual. Therefore, we can easily fall into an enchanted circle in which nobody requires anything. This is the road towards a cultural desert."

To prevent this from happening and leave behind quality art and values that descendants will be proud of, Abrahám warns that culture should learn from the political mishaps of the 1990s, during which society was unable to foresee future development.

"Culture and quality art are no longer dictated by Communists, but one of their legacies is that our culture still isn't spontaneous, and we will face some difficulties recovering from that."


By Zuzana Habšudová

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