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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Kopanec

IF THERE is one video you really need to see to understand today’s Slovakia, it’s the one where skinheads from Nitra kick helpless people in the head and slap a waitress trying to help. Not that a kick (kopanec) in the head would be so commonplace. But it illustrates one of the greatest threats ahead of us – the one of rising extremism.

IF THERE is one video you really need to see to understand today’s Slovakia, it’s the one where skinheads from Nitra kick helpless people in the head and slap a waitress trying to help. Not that a kick (kopanec) in the head would be so commonplace. But it illustrates one of the greatest threats ahead of us – the one of rising extremism.

This week, an opinion poll put Marian Kotleba’s ĽSNS party into parliament for the first time in history. Kotleba no longer wears a uniform, and his party doesn’t officially demand the creation of a corporatist, fascist state. But he has yet to retract his statements denying the holocaust, and he still travels in the company of men with shaven heads and builds his popularity on Roma-bashing. There is only an indirect link between the aggressors from Nitra and Kotleba. But even if there was none, their actions would still capture the essence of what he stands for.

Before the second round of regional elections, which Kotleba later shockingly won, even some “standard” politicians failed to endorse his opponent, Vladimír Maňka, claiming that his Smer party is responsible for the state of the economy, the rise of extremism and blah, blah, blah. What was obvious then and should be clear to everyone by now is this – no one from Smer ever goes around punching people. And that’s a pretty significant difference.

So what should be done to stop the wave of extremism? First, the government needs to prove to people that the state can deliver justice. Unpunished corruption scandals, a lack of security in the proximity of Roma settlements and the arrogance of top representatives of the judiciary force even moderates consider extreme fail to do that.

The second solution lies in the formation of a credible political alternative to Smer. Over a fifth of Kotleba’s current supporters voted for Fico in the 2012 parliamentary elections, according to a recent poll. Not only is the fragmented right unable to attract them, but also people who voted for the right before it imploded. The presidential elections are a milestone. If in their wake no strong alternative is formed, we’ll likely see further years of stagnation on the right.

And lastly, the education system is in desperate need of improvement. The fewer people who can be fooled into thinking that the holocaust was not real, the better. But it’s not just about knowledge. Schools also need to put more emphasis on making kids more sensitive to the needs and rights of others, so that a kick in the head is never an acceptable solution to any of your problems.

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