All men are equal

20-08-2006

There's a Czech saying that goes "Vsichni jsme si rovni ale nekteri jsou si rovnejsi" - all men are equal but some more equal than others...in other words there will always be an elite for whom the rules can be stretched. And the Czech elite certainly does its best to keep this saying alive.

The most recent example of this is afforded by the new road legislation and police president Vladislav Husak. When a newspaper reporter filmed the police president speeding to work in blatant disregard of the new legislation -while drivers around him crawled at the prescribed 50 km per hour limit - the police boss first denied everything and then apologized to the interior minister and meted out his own punishment - a ten thousand crown "fine" donated to charity and a three-month self-imposed ban on driving. Had he been a mere commoner on the road - his fine would have been over 22 thousand crowns and his drivers license would have been confiscated for 6 months, after which he would have had to take his driving test all over again. This incident resulted in much bantering in pubs around the country as pub regulars joked about how they would punish themselves for their driving offences. That appeared to be the end of it -until this week when a funny mail circulated around the country. It was a letter from a "commoner" to a police station in Prague's Strasnice district. The author - who had been asked to come round to the police station over a parking offence said he was terribly sorry about the violation. He admitted he was in the wrong and said he would punish the offender most severely - with 50 extra sit-ups every morning for a week and a ban on driving for the rest of the day. He enclosed 50 crowns for the traffic warden who had been so alert as to spot the offence. The police chief rose to the occasion, writing back in kind and returning the 50 crowns with the suggestion that the offender buy his kids ice-cream. "I remember the letter well," the police chief said when he was contacted by the media about it - "we don't get many of those - and I didn't want to beat around the bush. So I dealt with the guy on the level."

A most refreshing response for all those who would have liked to do the same but lacked the audacity. It let Czechs know that many police chiefs and traffic wardens were sympathetic and embarrassed by their superior's behaviour and that their life would be much easier if they didn't have to account for it.

20-08-2006