Miloš Zeman : from president to patient
It may seem strange that Czech President Miloš Zeman is offering a 100,000 CZK reward to anyone who finds an article that simply doesn’t exist. Zeman is, however, totally convinced that he saw the article - in which he claims that Ferdinand Peroutka (a former notable Czech journalist and writer – Ed.) called Hitler a ‘gentleman.’
Many people view this latest incident as a part of the President’s theatrics and unfortunate habits, which also include not admitting to mistakes. Nevertheless, Miloš Zeman remains adamant that he indeed did read such an article. But the real issue here is not about Zeman admitting his mistake, but about where the real truth lies. In this case, the truth lies in Zeman’s head, or more specifically, in his brain. Zeman has ceased being a president, and is becoming a patient.
The human mind functions in such a way, that when our brain registers something, it needs to place it somewhere. Our thoughts, including our memories, are literally ‘stored’ in anatomical structures of certain parts of our brain. If any part of a memory is taken away or if the synapses that lead to it are severed (this can be seen with aging, diabetes, effects derived from alcohol, smoking, poor diet – all the things Zeman is known for), individual memories become inaccessible or disappear. When a memory, or any part of it, disappears, the brain fills in the gap with another memory or thought. These thoughts or ‘fillers’ generally come from closely-linked or associated themes.
During aging, all memories degrade, and so they may become rather inaccurate over time. Yet, when we recall them, we remain fixed in our conviction of their content. Though memories decay, they are still expressed as false convictions, such as Zeman claiming to have read a statement from a man, which was never issued (not only did Peroutka not say it, but he paid dearly for his anti-Nazi efforts by being sent to Dachau - Ed). The explanation here is, that Zeman really did read something about Peroutka, something about Hitler being a gentleman, and something from the magazine Přítomnost (where Zeman claims he read it originally – Ed). Once, these memories were separated from one another, but over time – due to aging and effects mentioned above, Zeman’s brain merged them into one, into the lie that Zeman believes in today. This is the same process as when an old married couple fights over whether it rained or not on the first day that they met. They each have their own version of the weather, which they both vehemently defend.
From a neurological point of view, the president’s latest escapade is telling, as it is fresh confirmation of a current state that will unfortunately only get worse. The President is becoming a patient with a leaky memory, who is increasingly unable to control and regulate his statements and behavior, as evidenced by his increasing vulgarisms, episodic episodes of “imbalance,” and increasingly trite analyses. The problem is, that according to the Czech constitution, one cannot sue president-patient Zeman for his false claims or rude behavior (as Peroutka’s family is doing), due to immunity of his office. Instead, such lawsuits must be transferred to the state. That means, onto us. Zeman’s illness is now becoming our national handicap.
Translated by Natalie Rybová, edited by TNP