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This is an article which appeared in the German Newspaper Die Zeit originally in German, the English translation was do by Ralf Weiderman and Kristen Flory.

Die Zeit, Oct. 27, 1994

The Activist

Prague, Wenceslas Square, Museum metro station: Outside stands a tall guy with long hair. On the lapel of his jacket is a button that says "Protest" in Cyrillic letters. The man is an American, but is called, somewhat unusually, Paxus Calta - walking with a springy step in well-traveled tennis shoes. He is a vegetarian as well. He repeatedly searches the menu of the restaurant Variete, as if there might be some hidden section for vegetarians. I hear he is 36. He doesn't drink alcohol; he likes the effect, but not the taste.

He doesn't smoke either, apart from joints, which one inhales rather than smokes. Just now there was an action in front of the US Consulate: STOP US FUNDING OF SOVIET NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC! Paxus pulls a toxic yellow rad suit out of his travel bag. This is Greenpeace wardrobe for such occasions, but Paxus is not with Greenpeace. He is a member of the Czech environmental organization DUHA, as well as a member of WISE, with international headquarters in Amsterdam. At these actions here in Prague and in Vienna it was mostly about pictures; pictures for the Temelin Task Force in Washington, with which they could show the American Congress that the protest against the nuclear power plant in South Bohemia is international. QED.

So, Paxus: international environmentalist; single and childless. A girlfriend sent him his sweater; the jeans are also a donation. He lives on 150 DM per month. Actually, considering the stench, there should be a smog alarm in Prague today. In Northern Bohemia people live an average 7 years less than in the rest of Europe, and in Prague there are 20,000 US Americans and six McDonald's as well as yogurt in recently introduced non-recyclable plastic containers. The president of the West is visibly called Coca-Cola, and his platform is obvious: "You can't beat the feeling." Paxus took leave of the home of the brave in 1988, but the West is making more inroads in the East than he is.

So, back again to Paxus and why we are going with the Czechs to Brno in the south of the country. Once upon a time there was another Paxus, one could say: the son of a father who had 50 employees. And there was this American Dream whereby the upper-middle class improved their incomes. That also was Paxus back then. He was - how can one say it? - he was the university's "most outstanding student." His major was economics. Wasn't software the big thing, those young pioneers from Apple, etc. who earned 10,000 dollars in the time it took Dylan to sing his "Idiot Wind?" Paxus had two software consulting companies in San Francisco and Washington, D. C. and was earning 20,000 dollars a month.

But somehow it was too easy, too fast. Too young he was already successful and like his father. A future like a bouquet of roses, but horribly predictable. "...It was interesting, but it wasn't a challenge," says Paxus. Paxus dropped out, changed, joined the anarchists and battled with words, sometimes with deeds against US military intervention. Vaclav Havel? What does he think about him? "Well," says Paxus, "Havel was a political prisoner, like me, just in jail longer." After being released from a short prison term came the realization that the US citizens whom Paxus wanted to change understood change as meaning better weather. When, in their thick-headedness, they elected George Bush, Paxus realized that he was living in the wrong country and became a political refugee.

His bank account would have permitted him to but a piece of the West Coast. Instead, he took to the sea, hitchhiking on freighters across the Pacific: Hawaii, Hong Kong, and then Amsterdam. Just then the champagne corks were popping at the Berlin Wall.

The East had been opened: wide unexplored pioneer land for all sorts of adventurers with a purpose. Paxus had worked in Amsterdam for WISE, an organization which collects international information about nuclear energy. Also confidential and sometimes secret documents were received from sympathetic people in their respective ministries.

Paxus is actually opposed to westerners going on adventure missions to the east, but the Czech group DUHA called him, needing western environmental knowledge and an experienced activist. So Paxus traveled east to Brno, with his toxic yellow rad suit in his luggage, as well as a magic marker, a roll of wide tape, and a pocket knife - things that every good activist should have, according to Paxus (no, the knife is for cutting paper when you need to leave messages in train stations, etc.).

So, Paxus, as he in a way follows the nuclear power plants deeper and deeper into the east, like his forefathers went to the west. Temelin in the Czech Republic hasn't yet been stopped and already the Romanians are calling him: "Help us build an environmental organization." But first Temelin! Paxus shows me the DUHA office in Brno's old town. Here he works against the billion-dollar project, against the Czech government, against the multinational Westinghouse which they claim has greased the palm of Czech Prime Minister Klaus in order to get the Temelin contract, and not lastly they are fighting against the 60% of the population which thinks highly of nuclear power. They have posters on which Indians maintain that people cannot eat money They have old computers. The telephones are tapped.

Paxus is immediately called from all directions - where ever he is, he's wanted. Except for Paxus and a volunteer from the USA, the five to ten people here are all locals, who in the eyes of official Prague are Bolsheviks who want to sabotage progress. The official language here at DUHA is English. The volunteer's name is Erikk Piper, who joined a, as he puts it, liberal American church to do two years voluntary service for a cause on which side one doesn't really know how God stands. Does he at least know if Temelin can be prevented? "I'm an agnostic," says Erikk.

Paxus, again, shows me a billboard of McDonald's advertising in Brno that has been pasted over with pictures of dirty, dark slaughterhouses. In the West this would be a harmless protest, but less so here. "McDonald's doesn't allow this," says Paxus, "yet it has been pasted here for over a week already." By what authority does the Big Burger "allow" something, one asks oneself, and then hears that the police used tear gas at the recent opening, not against the handful of demonstrators who were peacefully holding up signs, but against the press to prevent the publicity of the protest.

Paxus came here three years ago to train the DUHA people. Action training, non-violence training: he learned this in the US. This is knowledge that the Czechs urgently needed. "I mainly teach them how not to get beaten up by the police," says Paxus. Dealing with outraged workers who defend their plant is also practiced. Besides the practice is also the theory. So-called strategy games simulating a year's events: a pro-nuclear PM is elected, unemployment rises, the people want nuclear power. What do you do? How many people can you realistically can into action after a small nuclear accident in Russia? After a big one?

Evenings they analyze government documents: introduction to the language of contracts and communiques. But Paxus also knows how to build toilets, how to write press releases to put pressure on parliament. The Czech environmentalists are still inexperienced in these matters; democracy is still teething in their country. How did the director of the Kozlodoy nuclear power plant down in Bulgaria put it to Paxus and some others who had blocked the entrance somewhat? "Black is white, light is dark, truth is lies, thank you for coming to Kozludoy and here is a pen as a souvenir."

Train station in Brno. Paxus has to go to Vienna to some action meeting. "For your daughter," he says in parting. For my little daughter, among others, he wants to stop Temelin, which is in Bohemia, nearer to her bedroom than Chernobyl. And after Temelin...who knows? In Lithuania there are unfinished nuclear power plants. Westinghouse. Siemens. Everyone is already pawing at the ground. Also the Lithuanians have asked Paxus if he couldn't help them start up an environmental movement. "I'm a hired gun," Paxus once said, and he comes cheaply: 150 DM per month. At that price the East European environmental movements can, so to speak, rent him. YOU CAN'T BEAT THE WESTERN KNOW-HOW, both the bad and the good.