This is a strictly amateur blog, and my only ambition is to be able to say that, as an active citizen in a democracy, I made my voice heard. I was taught that democracy can never be taken for granted, every citizen must work to protect it every day. In the last couple of years it seems more important than ever to work at it. I am a modern citizen of Europe, somebody who lives with a foot in more than one country, consuming the media and joining in the dialogue in both my country of residence and that of my birth. Now the country of my birth is proposing to leave the EU; a real-estate dealer with a big mouth is US President, and a Slovak with a murky past will probably become Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. And yet, the fightback of the ‘moderates’ has begun, first in Austria, then in the Netherlands, then in France, and now in Germany. Which way will my two countries go? What does my life in one country tell me about the things that happen in the second one? I hope that this will be a sufficiently unusual perspective to make my posts interesting, sometimes, to some readers. You are welcome to comment and I will do my best to reply where appropriate.
There are many things wrong with British society, and I have never been afraid to speak of them to Czechs; I hope that then, if I claim something about Britain is really good, they will believe me rather than just suppose I am being “patriotic”.
One of those good things, I always argue, is the British justice system. When I first heard the dreadful news of the murder of Czech citizen, Zdeněk Makar, in London last autumn, I tried to reassure my Czech friends that our police will get the killer, and he will face justice.
The police did their job. Raymond Sculley was very quickly arrested and charged with murder. It’s usually a good sign, when an arrest and charges follow quickly. It suggests the police have received clear and damning evidence. In the meantime details had emerged of “Zed” in the press and social media. I quickly gained the impression of a hard-working and able young man who had gone to Britain to build a career and enrich his life experience, and was clearly succeeding. He had a group of friends there from the Central European countries, equally decent, and now horribly bereft. They organised a fund to ensure he could be returned home to lay to rest.
You might be surprised if I argue that the behaviour of Prague’s public transport ticket controllers is a commentary on the wider state of Czech society ; but I am going to try. And even if I fail, I hope I will convince you that DPP needs to urgently instruct its controllers to behave differently.
“This is an event like the fall of the Wall.” That’s what my friend Marco wrote to me about Brexit. He and I have been friends since 1994, and would never have found ourselves in Prague had it not been for the fall of the Wall.
The fall of the Wall was a great thing. There is nothing great about Brexit. Those in Britain who believe they are ‘getting their country back’ have believed a fairy tale. They cannot even agree what it means, but when I listen to them describing it, I don’t like the sound of what they describe. It does not sound like the Britain I was proud to grow up in.
“I don’t know how they sleep at night”, my friend said, “What are they thinking of?”
We were having lunch and as usual talking about politics. He is a well known person in the marketing communications industry; as are the the two guys he was referring to, who are both working as consultants to Babiš. I readily agreed with him.
In just four weeks’ time, the invoice-matching tax system takes effect. Until Erik Best discussed this in his recent Final Word, I was not aware that it was starting so soon.
Were you aware of it? And if you are running a small or medium sized business, have you considered how much this is going to cost you?
After reading about the absurd decision of UOHS regarding Klasa, I told myself that this could only be the decision of a person or people who have never hired or worked with a communications agency. And after all, there are many intelligent business people who have never done that. So it seemed reasonable to ask about the professional backgrounds of those at UOHS who worked on the case, and to enquire if they thought to hire external help from a consultant who does understand the business of marketing communications. If (as I suspected) they had not been able to use such expertise, then at least we could identify this as the problem, and propose a potential resolution; UOHS should seek wider business experience within their senior team, and sometimes also hire external specialists who can help them understand how a market, which they are investigating, works.
How often do you think about UOHS? In most cases the answer is probably “not often”. If however you are one of our readers who work for McCann-Erickson, or for Vodafone, you will be aware that UOHS have made decisions (or failed to make decisions) which have negatively affected your business. One commentator recently remarked that the value of business “frozen” under review by UOHS was so great that it represented the difference between positive and negative GDP for the country.
The strapline on the City Light ad is in English: “Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History” . It is a recruitment ad for Amazon, quoting a line from its founder Jeff Bezos. Amazon is not actually launching on the Czech market, but it is opening both a logistics centre near Prague, and an administrative centre in Dejvice. How the people there will “make history”, remains to be seen. But before they start , they deserve to know how Amazon is perceived in the European markets where it does business.
The Czech Republic that I know is populated by people who are moderate, tolerant, good at considering different viewpoints, and generally rejecting of conflict (except, unfortunately, when driving). Unlike in Hungary, Poland or Austria, Czechs have always resisted extreme right wing populist “solutions”. They deserve better leaders. Unfortunately, when they do not see good leaders, many Czechs choose to withdraw from the political process. The danger in such situations is that this allows extremists to appear more representative than they actually are, and thereby to gain more power than they should.