Bonfire of vainglorious laws

IF ANY Slovak government has in any way been predestined to pass such vainglorious legislation like the Patriotism Act it really is the current Slovak government, chugging along with Ján Slota and his Slovak National Party (SNS) in one of the driver’s seats.

IF ANY Slovak government has in any way been predestined to pass such vainglorious legislation like the Patriotism Act it really is the current Slovak government, chugging along with Ján Slota and his Slovak National Party (SNS) in one of the driver’s seats.

To crown off the nation-breeding efforts of the Smer-led ruling coalition the next step should perhaps be a super-expensive fresco painted on the interior of the parliament building featuring shiny-happy Slovak children with little flags in their hands and little Lorraine crosses pinned on their white-blue-red dresses sitting in classrooms wrapped in national flags and loudly singing the national anthem.

While the image of a patriotic fresco is just hyperbole to emphasise that by adoption of such kinds of legislation a nation has lapsed back to some form of adolescence, one should be extremely careful with offering such an image, since given the current makeup of this government such a zany seed might find fertile ground.

And Slovakia has seen it all: the idea of having tongue-watchers running around guarding the full-blooded euphony of the Slovak language while giant Lorraine crosses are erected around the country as reminders for those who might – even for a millisecond – forget who owns the land under their feet. It is very doubtful that any of these showy initiatives will make Slovaks feel prouder about their nation. Quite to the contrary, most citizens might feel quite annoyed about the assortment of people who are occupying seats in this parliament.

The Patriotism Act, passed just a couple of months before the national elections, orders every single public elementary, secondary and high school to play the national anthem every single Monday morning in such a way that every single student will hear the piece. Every single classroom of every public school will feature on its walls the state symbol, the national flag, the preamble to the constitution and the words of the anthem. So that not only children fully take in this melody of patriotism, the anthem will be played at the start of each state parliamentary session, at meetings of local parliaments and at all sporting events organised by national sport bodies. And every civil servant who takes a post within the state administration will take a formal oath of fidelity.

Previous laws which were manufactured with the intention of regulating people’s feelings and “nurturing” their consciences by imposing on them endless repetitions of slogans, and songs, and images mostly went wrong and left a very bad historical aftertaste.
So it is quite doubtful that this self-serving piece of drivel posing as a law will be the right tool for the patriotic education of Slovaks.

What if some parents simply decide that they do not want to expose their children to hearing the national anthem every Monday? What option will they have? Sending their kids to private school? Will the nation then be divided into the patriotic state-run camp and the ‘others’?
There are schools around the world where the national anthem is played, maybe even every day, and often it might be the school principal who decides on these procedures, perhaps with agreement from the parents.

According to Wikipedia, there are even countries where the national anthem is played before screening of a movie or in theatres before performances. In many countries radio and television stations sign off by playing the national anthem after they finish broadcasting.
But for Slovakia the legislation has a very unfortunate karma, the worst possible timing and the least convincing legislative parents.

Since the adoption of the law falls so close to the national elections one cannot quite vanquish the queasy feeling that this all might just be a very lavish campaign tactic to heat up the hearts of those nationally-oriented voters – even while it is not at all clear who will pay for those tens of thousands of flags and other items of national pride.

While it was quite predictable that the SNS might crown its closing months of rule with another piece of legislation to annoy those whom Slota and his buddies call the enemies of the nation, it is surprising and disappointing that the opposition parties did not muster a vote en masse against the legislation and the most they were able to manage was abstaining, being absent or not voting at all.

But a patriotism law such as this one carries a embedded risk for its creators since the law could produce quite the opposite effect – honest, hardworking citizens who really do love their country could develop a deep aversion towards these expensive, imposed shows of patriotism as well as for those politicians who exploit the true concept of patriotism as just another political tool.

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