(This time I decided to keep a Q&A format with highlights of this very special interview: the one with my boss. A short intro – Boris is a Slovak member of the European Parliament and member of the foreign affairs committee, working on rAfrica (being the vice-chair of the delegation for relations with South Africa), the Middle East, the South Caucasus, and well, Europe. This man has many hats: he is a philosopher, a ‘leftie’ by his own words, concerned with the injustices of the world and with alternative views on the future of social democracy in Europe. He is also a wine connoisseur and an African food lover – oh well, there are still stories I’d like to tell about him. To be continued.)
Q : What was it like growing up under the communist regime in Czechoslovakia ?
Boris : Oh, it’s not so simple, the communist era in Czechoslovakia was quite a complicated time. I was entering my teenage years in the 1960s, at a time when a revolution had already begun, the atmosphere was warming up and the weather as well!* It was not a revolution in the violent sense, what happened is that everything that we had been taught, that we thought of as firm until now was going to be reversed – and that was fascinating. It was a beautiful time. Finally we were fighting against the conventions that limited us and tied us to the old world. We felt like an integral part of the world – not the one we knew, but the world as it would become.
Q : Do you remember (another) situation of injustice ?
Boris : Well, we are living in a permanent condition of injustice in this world. So I could not be able to give you a specific example, there are so many of them! I think we are all permanently unfair to each other, because people wish for different things and one does not always know what the other person wants. What is fair from your point of view or interest – can be unfair from another point of view or interest. The same goes for politics – when you work in politics you must find an interest between parties. What matters is to try to find a compromise when realising that the other feels unfairly treated. We are all humans, we make mistakes – but luckily, as humans we also have the ability to fix them.
Q : Which human has influenced your life the most?
Boris: Myself. (It made me laugh). In the sense that, even though I always led dialogues with people, even though in my family me and my sister were always included in the debate; at the end of the day I always re-questioned everything that I was taught. I always felt the need to go to the root of things, perhaps that is why I studied philosophy. In that sense, no other person influenced me as much as I influenced myself, because of the free will that characterises humankind: no matter the external influences, your decisions are always your own. In the end, you become your own will.
Q : Who/what made you interested in politics – your parents perhaps ?
Boris : Oh my parents (he laughs) they never cared about politics too much, probably because they suffered from politics too much. My grandfather was jailed for almost 20 years; my mother and uncle were not allowed to study because of the regime, but they were still optimistic people – they taught me how to behave in a fair way – back home we call this to ‘build character’. It means to be fair.
Q : What do you mean by being fair ?
Boris: Well, I try to be just to myself, to the other, to my environment. But being just also means being strict. When you are fair, you can freely decide but you must be strict when you do; you must fulfil your commitment, stand beside your words and be loyal to your decisions. That is how you remain fair to yourself and the other.
Q : It seems you are in the quest of being the best version of yourself as a human. Why so?
Boris : I have to be this way, because if not, I could not hold my own self in esteem. That would be the worse feeling in the world for me, to feel I have lost this sense of ‘seeking fairness’ and keeping my value as a human.
To be a human being means to make a constant effort and always re-question yourself, to say and do things in the most human way possible. The question that remains is: what does it mean to be the most human ?
*He is referring here to the Prague Spring, a brief period of liberalization in Czechoslovakia under Alexander Dubček in 1968, aiming to grant the press greater freedom of expression; but also promulgating a reform program that included autonomy for Slovakia.