I have recently heard and read some interesting things about what has been going on in Toronto’s Czech community, particularly Masaryk Memorial Institute. Some of us in the community are capable of turning mice into elephants with an interesting twist on reality.
However, that is not the point of this piece. I don’t want to get caught up in those issues because then I’d be a hypocrite doing exactly what everyone else is doing, which is precisely what I hope to stop with this article.
Although I have never lived in Czech Republic, I have visited there frequently throughout my life and retain both the language and culture. I have noticed that gossip is a favourite pass time of all Czechs, and that goes for Czechs living in Toronto as well. Really, Toronto’s Czech community is very similar to small towns in Czech Republic, except that we are more spread out from each other, which seems to be a big problem for us, especially in regards to gossip.
In Czech Republic, what tends to be some secret whisperings behind closed doors turns into a very different type of gossip in Toronto. Here, we rely heavily on the Internet for communication, which can be much more dangerous than talking about your neighbours in the safety of your own home. Something I think we should all remember is that gossip on the Internet can easily turn into libel – a quite serious offence. Of course, this isn’t something we think about daily. The Internet is very interesting because it creates a common ground for everybody, and with freedom of speech, why would we hide our opinions? Isn’t everybody entitled to their own opinion, and expressing it however they wish? Almost. Freedom of speech does not necessarily protect us from committing libel offences. For those of you who are not completely familiar with this term, it is ‘a published false statement that is damaging to one’s reputation; a defamation’. Really, all I can tell you is, sure, have an opinion, but just make sure you have your facts straight before publicly displaying it.
In my opinion, which of course you may all disagree with, Czechs in Toronto tend to be a little feistier than those in Czech Republic. Although gossip is everywhere there, the people live so close together that they have to get along. Here, since we’re all so far from each other, we often don’t care about what kind of gossip we spread. This combined with the fact that not everybody always pays attention to what is going on in the community creates the same kind of phenomena that happens when children play ‘Broken Telephone’. Everybody has a distorted sense of what the original message was.
And anyway, why do we think we are so important? Why must everyone on the World Wide Web know our petty disputes and disagreements? And in any case, it is only our opinions, which are quite often very far from the reality of things.
The Czechs I know back home are always relatively peaceful. Yes, if they have problems with someone, then they avoid them, and crack witty jokes when they do happen to be around. But at the end of the day, everybody still ends up at the local pub for beers. I hope Toronto’s Czechs can go back to this kind of civilized behaviour, enjoying beer and wine together whenever they meet, and forget about all their petty disputes.