Michal Havran

    is a theologian and writer. He lives in Bratislava. He studied Protestant theology in Strasbourg and political theology at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris. His bestselling novel Kandidát (2013, The Candidate), co-authored with Maroš Hečko, was adapted into a feature film. In 2015 he published a collection of critical essays, Besnota (Foaming at the Mouth). His first novel, Analfabet (God is Illiterate) appeared in 2016 and was shortlisted for the Anasoft Litera prize; his most recent publication is a collection of essays, Obesíme ťa (2017, We’ll String You Up). He fronts a weekly discussion show, Večera s Havranom (Dinner with Havran), on state TV, and the occasional discussion programme, Európska kaviareň (European Café). “We all share the responsibility for this state of affairs: we have all contributed to Ján’s [Kuciak] and Martina’s [Kušnírová] deaths because we stood by and let an atmosphere of impunity for those who ordered their execution prevail. We all share the blame for the fact that Slovakia now boasts former policemen, hired killers, illicit murder brokers and a price list for human life. All of us, not just those who run this country. For thirty years mobsters have been murdering each other, not just in the 1990s: it is still happening today, even if on a somewhat smaller scale. And we have known for thirty years that there are psychopaths amongst us, liable to pull out a gun at the traffic lights. The violence in Slovak society, the violence in sport stadiums, in pubs, on the roads, is the result of our desensitisation and reluctance to strive to be more civilised. Yet it is at odds with our self-perception and self-image. We see ourselves as decent people, with pets and gardens, a hospitable country with a lovely countryside and customs, but something in our collective consciousness has disintegrated, we have coarsened and come to believe that the world is a cadaver from which everyone has to tear off bloodied chunks of the juiciest flesh. We do whatever it takes, Slovakia is famous abroad not for the Štrbské pleso tarn and the Detva folk festival but for selling arms to jihadists, for prostitution and dog smuggling. Nevertheless, we are hypocritical enough to reassure ourselves that we are exceptional and unique, but the more loudly and more often we repeat this, the more we assert ourselves, the deeper the gangrenous brutality seeps. We have a serious problem, which has to do not so much with our habitual inability to maintain the standard of an affluent European country as with the mentality that shapes us, makes us reflect on how we should live in this country and what the purpose of it all is. Contract killings must not become a part of a nation’s mind-set, people shouldn’t speculate about it, because discussing death is the first symptom of internal decay. Street protests were a reasonable first step in trying to figure out what has happened to us, to understand how our neighbours and friends could have turned into people who hire assassins, and why money has suddenly become more valuable than human life. But it will take years to repair the damage caused by years of brutality that is now part and parcel of our social life. To succeed in this endeavour, we must find the strength to admit to ourselves that we are not as innocent as we have always imagined ourselves to be, that we have become complicit in many issues, that this has historically been a part of us and that the time has come to face up to our crimes, past and present. Otherwise we risk becoming a sick society and losing control, and at some point, this process will be irreversible.”
    Photo: Peter Župník / Central European Forum