January 5, 2023 60 cyp

Facultas Nostra 2022, December - Editorial

People say that the years ending with an 8 have a special meaning for the Czech country. The years 1848, 1918, 1938, 1948 and 1968 have always represented a historical turning point that influenced our society for a long time. The years 1939 and 1989, in particular, are associated with the month of November, where students, especially university students, played a dominant historical role. November is also intertwined with other historical dates that have influenced developments in our countries for a long time.

On November 8, 1620, the Battle of the White Mountain (initially a skirmish) took place, when the Czech Estates Army succumbed to the Habsburg Imperial Army, followed by a change in the political status of the Czech lands with the promulgation of the Restoration of the Provincial Establishment in 1627, when about 90 percent of land ownership was changed. The assessment of this defeat has recently been reassessed by historians, showing that period that followed was far from a Dark Age (the real dark age came only in the mid-twentieth century) and that recatholicization may have saved us from complete Germanization by Protestants.

On 29 November 1378, Emperor Charles IV (as King Charles I of Bohemia and by his original name Wenceslas, son of John of Luxembourg and Elizabeth of Bohemia), one of the greatest Czech statesmen in history, founder of our university, father of Sigismund of Luxembourg, who was a true heir to his father's genius, unlike his half-brother Wenceslas IV, died. For a long time it was unknown in Bohemia, Sigismund became the heir of the Czech kingdom after Wenceslas' death in 1419, and he was prevented from ascending the throne by the Hussite rampage until 1936.

In November 1939, in response to the anti-German civil unrest during the commemoration of the 28th October holiday and the events connected with the funeral of the physician Jan Opletal, the German occupation authorities decided to close the Czech universities. On the night of 16-17 November 1939, 9 university student leaders are arrested and executed without trial, and over 1,000 students are taken to concentration camps.

The events of 17 November 1989 are much closer to us in time and much more confusing in their interpretation and understanding. The journey of the students parade from Albertov, the role of the State Security, the news of the death of student Martin Šmíd, all of that suggest that this was a pre-prepared action by parts of the state power. The student reaction was united, clear, immediate and effective, leading to the launch of the Velvet Revolution.

The two most recent events in November make clear the dominant role of students in the development of Czech society, which likes to be rebellious, but outwardly rather indifferent. We are on the verge of an ecological and thus economic catastrophe, if we are not already there. The hesitating world is playing into the students' efforts to save the world. The world is entering an economic recession, natural resources are scarce and vast areas are being depleted by literally plundering human activity.

Many years ago I was wandering through Asia and on one of my flights I saw a beautiful green hill below me. Kinabalu in Borneo. We went there 8 years ago, stayed in a hotel on the beach. Every morning, dozens of staff would head out to it to clean up the amount of trash that the sea had cast ashore overnight. The promised orangutans were older than me, and it was impossible to get around the island due to the never ending traffic jam. At the hotel, all I had to do was wash my hands briefly and immediately a maid, summoned by some sort of photo booth, would knock and change a once-used towel. There was an equally large building next to the hotel, it was a laundry and drying room for those towels, because nothing would dry in the 100% humidity that prevailed everywhere. And walking along the tidy beach, we picked up a subtle but persistent burning smell. At the reception desk, we were told that it was Indonesia burning the rainforest to establish plantations for palm oil production.

I encourage students not to wait for the next year of eight, or the next November, or the next conference of government leaders with the usual impotent outcome, to fight for the environment. Unless they intervene (and there is no one else sensible in sight), humanity faces the fate of the dinosaurs.

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