Karel Janeček: How to treat psychos who get into power

Democratic systems are imperfect and sometimes psychopaths and sociopaths get into power, says entrepreneur and anticorruption fund founder

Politics & Policy|Society
Ondřej Koutník | 06.04.2012
‘People's annoyance will graduate,’ Janoušek and Bém are behind us, now the next round is Public Affairs at the Court. Plus the Unions are going on strike. It'd be symbolic if the protests culminated at the same time as the commemorations of the first year since Václav Havel's death," says the NFPK founder

Entrepreneur Karel Janeček, mathematician, algorithmic trader and founder of the company RSJ, is known in the Czech Republic as the bane of corruption who doesn’t mince his words. He took up the mantle a year ago, when he founded the Anticorruption Endowment Fund (NFPK), which has launched several major causes in the past months — especially around the scandal-ridden Prague public transport company (DPP). He also supports young Czech scientists through the Karel Janeček Endowment Fund (NFKJ).

What does Janeček think about these socially troubled times, which could result in mass demonstrations in the near future due to the immense disgust with the political situation in the country? The public should rise up; however, in his opinion, it should have a touch of “Velvet.” In an open conversation, Janeček says that he would dare to lead the protesters in Wenceslas Square and to formulate the demands of a public sick of the current Czech political scene. He also explains why we shouldn’t be reluctant to use a spicier phraseology to describe the corrupt, one that doesn’t need to be bracketed.

Of psychopaths and sociopaths

Q: You have entered the fray against corruption, and your adversaries have lodged a complaint against you. Due to the large amount of time you devote to the activities of the anti-corruption fund, you resigned from the Board of Directors at RSJ. Do you feel you’re a bit of a modern dissident?

JANEČEK: In fact, I’d say yes. A lot of forward thinking and courageous people have actively joined the fight against the local psychopaths and sociopaths.

Q: Against whom?

JANEČEK: A psychopath is someone who has no feelings. He only does what he thinks is good for him, regardless of how it harms others. A psychopath is able to kill a small child, if he thinks he might gain from it. I recommend you see the documentary Fishead, which is about such “corporate psychopaths.” The basic idea of this film is that our society is structured in the shape of a pyramid. Only a few people at the top create the conditions for the majority below. The document points out that people at the top of the pyramid are often greater psychopaths than those — in quotation marks — below.

Unfortunately, democratic systems are not perfect and sometimes these psychopaths get into power on the basis of elections. When such a psychopath comes to power, he also affects the people in his immediate surroundings, such as co-workers. So, even a relatively decent man can be infected by a psychopath. Unfortunately, the state system or public administration has no defence against these phenomena. It's a vicious circle of wickedness. Ethical values get a beating.

Q: Can you give an example of someone in state administration or politics who has met with a similar fate? Someone who has entered the circle of evil, as you describe it?

JANEČEK: A typical example, in my opinion, is Mirek Topolánek [the former prime minister and Civic Democrats (ODS) chairman]. At the start he was not an out-and-out “git,” but he let the system get to him. The final result is that the psychopath becomes a sociopath. This is someone who behaves like a psychopath, but circumstances have forced him into this state.

Q: Are the Czech “godfathers” [corrupt psychopaths or sociopaths?

JANEČEK: I think that they are mainly sociopaths. These people have hardly any ethical values; it doesn't strike them as wrong to harm others, to steal from them. As if they still lived under the motto “who doesn't steal, steals from the family.” I don’t think, for example, [controversial lobbyist] Roman Janoušek is a psychopath. But he is a complete – and forgive me the word – fucker.  ‘I don’t think, for example, Roman Janoušek is a psychopath. But he is a complete – and forgive me the word – fucker.’

Q: You really don’t mince your words. Can I use that expression in the interview?

JANEČEK: I'll try to explain why I think that this word is not vulgar; rather it gives a true picture.  The question is: What other term can you use for these thieves and bung-takers? Robber? — it’s like from a fairytale. A lobbyist? That insults decent lobbyists. A thief? It’s too weak. Entrepreneur? That is completely tragic. Villain? It’s like from a western. A mobster is also rather a positive word; it’s what they often jokingly use amongst themselves. It evokes a sense of adventure. Corrupt person is very weak, almost like naughty boy. The word, which best describes him is fucker, though, of course, for some it’s too rude. Another good term is “black soul.” Do you think they’d use that among themselves? I'm convinced they wouldn’t.

Q: Do you think these sociopaths, as you call them, are happy? Are they satisfied with the wealth and power they've gathered?

JANEČEK: No, I don’t think so at all. They are not happy, even if they do well for a while. Janoušek is an example. Do you think it is a coincidence that he was "pissed" on the morning he ran someone over? More than one person has told me that he's been in a bad way for quite a while now. Even if these black souls do well in the short term, they can enjoy their power for a while.Everyone licks their arse, they are arrogant to their subordinates, staff and so on. This satisfaction is short-lived.

Q: What can you do with sociopaths? Take the Mickey out of them, parody them with theatrical games?

JANEČEK: Of course, we must ostracize them.  The AFE, for example, has a specific project lined up that is awaiting approval by the Board. A beautiful example is the new anti-corruption travel agency Corrupt Tour. Such activities try and get society to look on the corrupt with disrespect. And this destroys these black souls.

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Not quite enough

I really admire the author, who admitedly has the resources to do like many and leave the country. Yet, he stay and fights to better the conditions. Bravo!  I am not native but have developed a love for this country as many have, who have committed themselves to living in and hopefully bettering the Czech Republic. 

The major point that is missing from this article, is that you cannot count out Bem and others who are currently sidetracked or marginalized. Until people start having assets stripped and go to jail, for long periods of time, what deterrent is there for future politicians and businessmen to act in the same way?

The intelligence services are reporting to the very people who are implimented in their reports at best. At worse, they are activily consipring to gain compromissing material and or block the efforts of those who try to do the right thing. Ask how many folks all of a sudden lose their security clearances, or don't get their contracts renewed in public service. 

If those who abuse the system, sit back in thier villas or in Spain or France in their Villas, while the newspaper writes bad stuff about them, I dare say, we won't lessen the incentives of our officials to be corrupt. 

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