What a bunch of ungrateful shits

Author: Honza Cerny
Location: Usti nad Labem
Maticni Street in Usti nad Labem was the location of a wall which Czech residents built in 1999 between themselves and their Romany neighbors.
The “tent-in” protest of Romany activists against the Maticni wall took place last fall. The weather was cold and rainy, and we offered the group shelter in our office. The leader of the group fell ill and slept inside. We had other people sleep in our office, too. And they used our facilities to dry their clothes and sitaround and talk.
It was a non-violent protest, and we liked it. So we kept inviting more and more people to come and learn about the true nature of the problem. At night, we made fires and had a couple of great happenings.
There were musicians among the protesters, and we decided to play music together. I brought a violin and two guitars, one of which I had borrowed from a friend of mine. When I decided to go home that night they were still playing and I left the instruments with them. They promised to return them undamaged the following morning.
But they took me by surprise. In the morning, the musicians and their tents were gone. And in the office there was only one guitar.
I immediately made calls to the protesters I knew. I called places all over the country. But I learned nothing. They told me to wait until their next meeting: they would find out then who had borrowed the guitar.
I waited, but received no reply. I called the leader of the protesters andexplained that we needed to take action. He accepted responsibility for the lost guitar, whether it was theft or negligence. If it was not found, he promised to call upon all the activists who were in Maticni to pitch in and buy a new one.
Finally, I had to sell my car to reimburse the owner of the “lost” guitar.
I often talk with experts in civil disobedience, but I am waiting in vain for people to act according to the rules of good interpersonal relations. Who knows? Maybe this will yet happen.
Our experience with the protesters has made me bitter and disgusted.
And my colleague Vitek was sad that the protesters did not even thank us. They were quite rude to him, and once even made him leave his office when they wanted to have a closed meeting.
Also, looking back I realize that the protesters’ interest in Maticni and the people living there was strictly limited in time. One of the activists boasted about the importance of our cooperation. But we haven’t heard from him since.
I began to understand the concept of collective guilt. “What a bunch of ungrateful ****s,” I thought.
I want very much to get rid of this feeling. I don’t want my mind burdened with resentment. I hope the people responsible will be helpful and keep their promise so that we can all get on with our lives.
I’ve written a letter to the leader of the portest, once again once again explaining what happened. If he does nothing about it, I guess I’ll just have to live with it.
After having hesitated for quite a while, I also decided to forward a copy of my letter to other activists whom I know, to my government administration acquaintances, to NGOs, and to Romany periodicals.
The story will live its own life.
And we’ll see what happens next.

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