Thursday, August 12, 2010

In Memory: Jan Palach

Today is Wednesday, 11 August 2010.

Jan Palach was born on this date in 1948 in Prague. On 16 January 1969, at Wenceslas Square in Prague, he set himself on fire, as an act of resistance against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army. Palach died on 19 January 1969.

His death is usually regarded as a suicide. Such labeling distorts and degrades the meaning of his act.

It was an act of hope against hope. Surely, he would have known that such an act was unlikely to catalyze a widespread rebellion, and, that even if it did, such a rebellion would most likely be crushed. Perhaps he hoped/imagined that only so extreme an act, no different, in fact, from a soldier on a battlefield throwing himself on a grenade to save his comrades, might work.

Contrast and compare such an act to the behaviour of, say, W. Bush and Cheney, and the vast majority of all those who supported the Vietnam War with their mouths (and, very grudgingly, with their treasure): they were cowards, always ready and willing to throw, not themselves, but other citizens, on grenades. Equally, the vast majority of those who supported the conquest of Iraq were and are such cowards.

I don’t advocate self-immolation as a means of resistance to tyranny. However, we must never allow the demeaning of such acts by cowards whose only motivation is attempting to obscure their own low and craven cowardice.


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