From the Weeklies
Why do so many Czech politicians flaunt a blatant contempt for our courts? Watch that Zombie go! After taking a lot of insults at home, Czech singer Karel Gott lapped up public adoration in Hannover. And what would feminists think of this - many Czech men are still turning their wages over to their wives and asking for pocket money! Those are some of the interesting stories in this week's magazines.
If the judiciary is one of the three pillars of democracy, why are so many Czech politicians showing a blatant contempt for the courts? That's the question that Tyden magazine has attempted to answer this week in an article on "The arrogance of power". The two men whom one would most expect to set a good example - Prime Minister Zeman and Speaker of the lower house Vaclav Klaus - clearly have no respect for Czech courts, Tyden notes. Several politicians are now waiting in line to get an apology from the prime minister. An apology they are unlikely to get despite court rulings, the magazine says, since the prime minister's credo is "NEVER APOLOGIZE to ANYONE!"
Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus is no better, the paper says. He saw fit to express open doubt that the jury presiding over his party's court case might not be entirely unbiased and that the it might pass a political verdict. Many politicians fail to turn up at court hearings or develop a bad case of amnesia on the day.
What makes politicians behave in this manner? Psychologist Slavomil Hubalek says it is "a demonstration of power" and notes that the same can be seen in politicians contemptuous attitude towards journalists. "This muscle flexing attracts a certain brand of voter but unfortunately it puts us in the same league as the likes of Meciar and Lukasenko," Hubalek notes. Meanwhile, sociologist Jirina Siklova believes that in their attitude towards the courts and the press present day politicians are subconsciously copying the attitudes of the former communist top-brass who believed they were above everything and everyone.
Not all politicians behave in this manner but many do, says journalist Ivan Brezina. The only way to fight this is for the public to reject this attitude. If it hurts their popularity ratings they'll stop doing it. Unfortunately, Czechs are not responding in this manner and their trust in the courts hovers at around 30% - in other words the public trusts the courts as little as it trusts its politicians. This attitude is not new - the president of the Judges Association, Libor Vavra, told the weekly. Even during the First Republic politicians did not have a great deal of respect for the courts. "In the civilized world, a judge and a politician are equals and treat each other with respect, but it will take time for us to achieve that here," he says. Vavra believes that globalization will help to give his profession the respect it deserves. With globalization the clout of politicians decreases - while the role of financiers and business leaders grows. And they at least show the courts due respect, he concludes.
Although the excitement of its opening is long gone, many of the weeklies are still featuring reports on EXPO 2000. The Czech pavilion, dubbed "The Radiator" or "The Harmonica", has received mixed reviews. Tyden has put it in a nutshell: "a grandiose past and a humble present," it says, noting that once again Czechs have had to fall back on their past achievements in order to make an impression. Apart from the automaker Skoda, Czech firms weren't interested in Expo's promotion potential. Given the fact that a fair this size is unlikely to take place anytime soon, this attitude is truly inexplicable, the weekly concludes.
Meanwhile, Kvety magazine sports a snapshot of a smiling Karel Gott - the Czech singer who's been around for decades and whom people either adore or hate. Called a 'zombie' by one of his critics who argued that the Czech Republic had better things to show off at the Expo than an aged singer, Gott gratefully lapped up the adoration in Hannover, singing his heart out and drawing a crowd of several thousand people of all ages. If anyone doubted Gott's place here they should have seen this, Kvety says, noting that the singer was swamped by fans requesting autographs for themselves and their friends. After his rough treatment in Prague, for a few hours in Germany Gott was truly God, the weekly says.
"C'mon Dad give us a handstand! " - a familiar phrase in the Czech language which refers to the practice of men emptying out their pockets and turning their entire wages to their wives on payday. Although young people now manage their finances differently, many of the older and middle-aged couples retain this practice. The woman is the keeper of the home, buying clothes and food for the family, so she keeps a tight rein on the family finances. Husbands who turn over their wages are then given pocket money - and they know their wives will not nag them for anything extra until the next payday.
The trouble is, times are hard and money is short - including pocket money. "It is degrading to have to ask my wife for extra money but this is just not enough," says one 48-year-old man. "I am forced to borrow money from friends at the pub and every tenth day of the month I come home, turn over my salary, and out of the pocket money I get I just about repay my debts."
"They hate it - so why are so many of them putting up with it?" asks Irena Skurovcova in this week's Lidove Noviny supplement. Most men who practice this say it dates back to the birth of their first child. "Money was always scarce, the children needed things, we had to eat and rather than have my wife bother explaining every single expense, I just let her take charge. That way she knew how much there was and had to make ends meet. She's the one who shops and buys clothes for the whole family, so it seemed to make sense that way," the man says. "But occasionally I feel really bad about not having money on me. I just discovered I get less pocket money than some of my son's school-friends," he adds. He did make an attempt to resolve the situation but after several quarrels with his wife he admitted it wasn't worth the stormy consequences.
Wives who manage the family finances - and there are quite a few of them around - say that their husbands have no idea what the cost of running a household is. "Everything is more expensive - and we'd soon run out of money for basic necessities if I didn't keep track," they say. Psychologist Jana Sebkova says the reason why this arrangement works in so many families is that - since making ends meet is so difficult anyway - some men prefer to hand over that responsibility entirely and just focus on bringing home the monthly wage. They know their wives aren't spending money on themselves and they trust them to make the right decision for the whole family since they know better what the household requires. Others do it because they've done it for years, because their friends do it, and because it is what their mother told them was the right thing to do when they got married. Well, whoever said men have a easy life?