Critical Context

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The Memorandum must be understood in the context of the everyday situation of the citizens of the former socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War era. As is clear from the numerous “stupid policeman” jokes which color the contemporary humor of these peoples, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, and Hungarians were accustomed to looking on their governmental systems with a large dose of satire and irony. However, as mentioned above, as incompetent as the socialist bureaucracies of Eastern and Central Europe were, they were not to be taken lightly. In addition to the external threat of reprisal against nonconforming citizens (which saw Václav Havel imprisoned several times), there existed also a no less serious internal threat, that which destroys Gross: the danger of acquiescing to the system and renouncing one’s own inner self for the external peace of an obedient, well-fed beast of burden.

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Critical Overview