Freedom means to choose one's fetters

Dear Friends, after some time, here I am with another blog post written in English. Why in English? Well, in the first place, I know you speak it. Besides, English has always enabled me to express my thoughts more clearly and precisely than Czech. Most of my love-letters and poems were written in English... The same ideas expressed in Czech might seem, you know, too banal... So, English, one more time.

Someone commented on one of my previous English articles that I would have had more readers if I had written it in the Czech language. Perhaps. But I do not post articles on my blog to get as many readers as possible. I don’t care about statistics. I simply write for friends. For my present good friends and perhaps to find a few new ones who will feel addressed by my view and in tune with me. This is the reason I write. Not for fame, not for popularity, but for you.
What’s new, you ask? What made me push the "Publish" button again? Nothing, in particular. Actually, I live a very comfortable and calm life without much new happening. Except, perhaps, that I am slowly becoming really tired. Tired of all the greyness in this country. Tired of all the political affairs. Tired of the attitude of the Czech government towards its citizens.

Yes, I know there are problems, these are everywhere, but I am becoming fed up by the permanently unfair approach. Recently, under the pretence of “necessary reforms”, the authorities have been trying to "fix" what has worked in the past and to impose new restrictions in many areas. While, at the same time, cases of old and recent corruptions pop up one after another. We are informed about the behind-the-scenes power struggles. As the proverb has it, those who speak most about morality, have none of it themselves.

I think I should stop reading the newspapers and watching TV news in order to live in blissful ignorance of the latest scandals and to preserve my peace of mind...

Yesterday, you probably heard that the Czech government was taken by surprise about why it is not receiving so much money in taxes. "Experts" have tried to explain this obvious fact by various factors. I will tell you the real cause: Because I am not the only one who feels disgusted. Ordinary folks, the middle class, the guarantee of stability and progress, are losing the motivation to invest their energy in new projects. Why should one strive to earn as much as possible if one sees one’s taxes end up in a black hole? When the government puts obstacles in the way of active people—those who are not a burden to the social system but, on the contrary, who support it?

A few years ago, I ran a successful translation agency myself. Well, it was not a giant enterprise but was still doing very well on the market, having many good corporate customers and providing translations in many languages. But I terminated this type of business, partially because I recognised that money does not bring happiness after you reach a certain level of income, but more especially due to the legislative and administrative innovations. You can believe me that the “market downfall” was not the reason to dissolve the company at all. I simply gave up dealing with “helpful” authorities and stopped striving to earn more. The website of the former agency, www.bonalingua.cz, displays only the basic information about me now. Which is enough to keep me quite busy.

My cousin, who ran two popular restaurants, once told me: "There is nothing better than to get yourself well employed." He meant that employees are guaranteed a monthly income without any worries and have very limited responsibility, while the creator of the employment position has to bear the entire pressure of the unfair system. I am really amused every time State employees go on strike.

And politicians wonder why they do not receive enough money from the commercial sphere (the only real provider of State income) so as to be able to spend it wastefully again? Instead, they announce that the retirement age is going to be significantly increased.

No, this article is not as optimistic as the previous ones where I purposefully avoided politics... Because I am feeling tired. I was born in Socialism, then did obligatory military service for one year, lived through bad and good times, but never before have I been so close to actually quitting.      

I am 35 now, which means I have about the same number of years to go before I am entitled to some rest... Of course, if I live long enough... And so I ask myself whether I should spend my remaining productive years in a country which is famous for its gloomy mood? As everyone who has lived abroad knows, the atmosphere in certain other countries is totally different. More joyful. Optimistic. People-friendlier. State authorities are more helpful. Indeed, why should a man endure the depression of the whole society if he has other options?

I travel often. Actually, I have created a location-independent lifestyle for myself, which allows me to make a living anywhere. I work only when I want to and without being disturbed - I am basically unreachable on the phone and handle all matters via e-mail. All I need is a laptop and an Internet connection. I work on my projects throughout Europe, in Africa, as well as in Asia and on a few islands, while my business partners do not even notice my geographical absence and the work is delivered in time. So for me, a permanent move to another country would be relatively easy. And I am always open to new opportunities.

However, having a family brings other factors into play and limits the selection of possible locations for a future new life. Kindergarten, school, healthcare, language.... Do I have the right to uproot and transfer my family to a brand new environment? On the other hand, is it not my obligation to make sure they grow up in a safe and pleasant environment which encourages rather than suppresses active people?

Alexander MehdeviSo I have to reconsider what is best for all involved. To move or not to move, that is the question. It is also possible that I will cool down after some time (especially if I totally stop reading Czech newspapers) and only take regular vacations as before. Or, should I live in a weekend cottage and spend the maximum time in the countryside and ignore what is happening “outside”, like people did during Socialism, to preserve my sanity? A solution too, kind of.

Perhaps the problem paradoxically is that the situation in this country still is not as bad as in 1948 or 1968 when hundreds of thousands of Czechs (and Slovaks) left their homes, regardless of an uncertain future. Apart from the constant prevailing negative atmosphere, people still have some freedom here, enough to attract immigrants and workers from other areas of the world. All countries present challenges, everybody faces their own problems and has to make the appropriate decisions.

Alexander Mehdevi, born in Mexico and who has lived in the US, Spain, England, Austria, France and other countries, finally to settle in Prague, said in an interview several years ago: "Freedom means to choose one’s fetters."

What a fitting quote.