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Expecting the Unexpected: Is it More than a Bonmot?

Projevy a vystoupení, 16. 2. 2023

I take it as an honour to be invited to attend the dinner and to participate in this debate, organized by my good old friend Shafik. I dare say Shafik, even though I should say Mr. Shafik Gabr. We all know him by his first name. His unending engagement in gatherings like this one and bringing people from different nations, cultures and continents together is amazing. I always have the feeling that we don’t express our gratitude to him sufficiently.

To be frank, I have a problem with the title of tonight’s debate. It is, generally speaking, our duty to think even about unexpected events and developments. But I take the title also as an implicit statement about the reality, about our contemporary world. And here starts my problem. I wouldn’t call it the unexpected.

I don’t want to be an iconoclast all the time. Two weeks ago when attending a conference in Vienna, I protested against its title “Shaping the Future”. It implies a constructivist ambition unacceptable to me. For someone who spent more than half of his life in communism, which tried to shape the life of us all, I am suspicious of such ambitions. The future can’t be and shouldn’t be shaped.

The title implies that we live in unexpected times. I don’t consider today’s developments unexpected. Many of us have been warning against what is going on these days for years. Even when considering the war in Ukraine, it was expected by many of us at least since 2014. The details are always surprising but the trends and tendencies are usually quite visible and predictable to anyone who wants to see them and pays attention to them.

The fundamental reversal of these trends came already decades ago, if we stay in the modern era. It started in the sixties, both here in Germany with the lunacies of the Frankfurter Schule and in America with the early signals of green thinking, of aggressive feminism, of cancel culture and similar – the substance of the West changing – ideologies and doctrines.

We don’t have enough time to discuss it here now, we have to eat. Shafik should organize a conference about it in his Cairo. I brought with me my small book, published two weeks ago, a collection of my recent speeches with the title “Brave New West”. Most of you know that it slightly but purposefully changes the title of an iconic Aldous Huxley’s book “Brave New World”. Anyone who wants, can take it.

The subtitle of my book asks: “Is It Avoidable?” Yes, it is. But it would ask for a radical change of our thinking and political behaviour. It would require a sort of revolution, not the undemanding and short-sightedly comfortable continuation of our current irresponsible muddling through.

My conclusion is the following: The ongoing moving towards a brave new West has been expected, the much needed change of our thinking is not happening, much to my regret.

Václav Klaus, Notes for the Opening Dinner: "Expecting the Unexpected at the Munich Security Conference: 2023 and Beyond", Hotel Bayerischer Hof, Munich, February 16, 2023.


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