All of this concerns us more that we are ready to admit. The current global crisis is no longer merely about how many billions should be pumped into the economy so that we can go back to accumulating wealth; it is increasingly about the societal processes that will have a far greater impact on the world than the fall of communism. To my mind, this is something very few people in the post-communist world are prepared to acknowledge. It seems to me that we still differ from the West in the delay and reluctance with which we reflect on our own blindness. This applies both to our perception of the past twenty years of building capitalism, as well as to our perception of communism.
Perhaps there is certain logic to this reluctance: we simply do not want to relinquish our position at the top of the league table of the great events of the past half-century. During a recent panel discussion in Vienna, the British historian Timothy Garton Ash said that 1989 was the greatest moment in European history. “Can you suggest another date?” he asked, noticing several raised eyebrows in the audience. Garton Ash is right: however much you rummage through European history you won’t find a more fitting date.
However, that was twenty years ago, and we cannot halt the flow of history just because we wish to. In fact, we should be glad that history has granted us those twenty years as a kind of preparation for worse times. For instance, we have been lucky that Nato was enlarged ten years ago, at a time when Russia was too weak to stop it. We have been equally lucky that the EU enlargement took place at a time of economic euphoria. Had the crisis hit in 2000, we might still be knocking on the doors of Brussels, because the West would have been preoccupied with its own problems.
Central Europe has never experienced the degree of political freedom it enjoys today. If the world and Europe do not descend into chaos – and the threat today is more real than we are ready to admit – we will be able to say in a few decades that the achievement of central European nations has been truly stunning.
Yet this performance, though stunning, has so far been more or less conformist in nature. Of course, there have been lively and at times emotional debates about the appropriate course of action, but the terms of this debate have always been framed by the West and its values. (…)