All posts filed under: Notes

My Lesson On Self-Defense

  The best self-defense for foreigners: Learn the local language.   This came to my mind while thinking about some unpleasant experiences when I was new in the Czech Republic and often ended up with the short end of the stick. If you don’t know the local language well, you cannot defend your rights efficiently, you miss essential information, it is difficult to find helpful people, and defending yourself consumes much more time and energy. And, even worse, you cannot respond adequately if people yell at you. Featured image by Jirka Matousek

Xenophobia, or Violence on the Path of Least Resistance?

In discussions about migration you frequently hear the word “xenophobia”.  I suspect that this word is often used as an euphemism for “racism” – possibly in order to avoid the R word and not to snub the majority population. “Phobia” means fear, and xenophobia is the fear of the unknown, or people with an unknown background, or strangers. Often this is accurate, but in many cases the word xenophobia risks to turn perpetrators into victims. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you deserve professional care and to be safeguarded from situations that trigger your fear. I don’t think, however, that every person expressing their hatred against foreigners is suffering from a regrettable fear of the unknown. The symptoms may be the same, but the causes don’t need to. Pedophobia, for example, may result in violence against children. You cannot, however, conclude now that violence against children is always (or mostly) caused by pedophobia. This would naturally excuse any kind of child abuse. An obvious reason for child abuse is simply that children are weak, and therefore …

About being a (privileged) migrant

At the recent protest against the high level of racism in the country where I live, R. had the great idea to make an improvised banner. We first considered to write that expats are also migrants, but the use of “expats” was a bit problematic, not fitting into the context of refugees, and not everyone was comfortable with that name. We then ended up with the message: “We’re migrants. Migration is not illegal.” Actually not a very controversial statement. The Czech Republic is certainly not the forefront of grassroots democracy. This is a stereotype that many foreigners from the Western hemisphere use to fall for, persuaded by images of peaceful masses resisting the Soviet occupation or demanding the Communists to step back, and by figureheads of civil society such as the late Václav Havel. Neither is it the place where to find particular empathy with the disenfranchised or solidarity among the “men in the street” – if I may indulge in this ironic understatement. Public protests seem to draw masses only if they are based …