He proposed to his current wife over the phone, they scheduled a wedding within a few hours, and if they have an occasional quarrel, it‘s because of the affairs in the Pirate Party. And it is also politics what takes up most of Ivan Bartoš‘s time at the moment, but he does occasionally find time to play collectible cards or see an alternative concert. In an interview with LP-Life.cz, he revealed how he feels about money, turning forty and true romance.
Can dreadlocks be used instead of a pillow?
Well, they can. Sometimes it‘s uncomfortable, when they get too long, I've already had mine reaching my bottom. But the good thing is I haven‘t had to comb my hair in the morning in the last ten years.
But you wash them, right?
I do, just like any kind of hair. You need to take care of them, the only thing you don‘t do is comb your hair.
I guess you get these hair related questions a lot…
What Mark Twain said still stands true, "the clothes make the man". People tend to pay more attention to what others have on their head than to what they have in their head. But I think it‘s the same as when women comb their hair and then it occurs to them that they could get a bowl cut. In my opinion, people should wear a hairstyle that makes them feel good and dress in a way that makes them feel good. In my case, a suit and a shirt definitely aren‘t it.
Do you remember the times when you were working in IT?
It wasn‘t that long ago, actually. I really used to work in IT, but I had studied philosophy and theology. I only got into IT because we'd grown up with it. Also, the income is much better than if you finish your degree in theology and become a Hussite priest. So I‘ve been working in IT since high school, as a freelancer and later for Monster Worldwide, Deutsche Telekom or the Czech U:fon, but it was always related to architecture. I wasn‘t programming, I was designing whole solutions.
Like when you‘re an architect designing a house, but you need to know what is going to be in which room and how the rooms will be connected. It's work at a drawing board, only the board is in your computer, and you're designing the way in which you‘ll be receiving PDF invoices from your operator and how it will be calculated. It is a job that pays significantly better than that of a Parliament Member. So it was a significant financial drawback for me. (laughs)
Is there something you‘re struggling with in the Chamber? I assume they're still printing out everything here...
We have already introduced a lot of things aimed towards the digitalisation of the Chamber, whether it is the possibility of using an electronic signature or sending certified documents. The Chamber really still mostly sticks to paper, but we‘ve reached an agreement with the Chancellor and new things are gradually being put into practice.
We would need to have a screen in the Chamber so that we could project stuff. Because if you want to show something, a graph for instance, you have to hold a large paper sheet and try to find the camera... The security of the Chamber could also use some improvements, MPs should stop accessing e-mails from their phones, they can be easily falsified that way. We've already had that happen.
Is it true that deputies from the Pirate Party were trying to get a grill for the Chamber, so that they could do barbecue on the terrace?
That was fake news, we've learned the hard way that most people in the Chamber don‘t know the first thing about irony and how easily MPs from other parties are able to lie. I walked out to the terrace that we‘d inherited, saying, “Wow, that's a great terrace, it would be nice to have two garden grills here. Two days later, I read in a tabloid that the Pirates had ordered a grill through the management of the Chamber, but fortunately the Heritage Society intervened. And two MPs from another party confirmed it. So it was a hoax that was living its own life. (laughs)
You have a sense of humor about it. What else has happened to you here in the Chamber?
There are many similar stories. When I was younger, I was really into all kinds of theories. I wouldn't say exactly conspiratorial theories; I just liked to dig deeper, thinking „hey, there could be a bit of truth here“. And suddenly multiple sources wrote that I belonged to the Illuminates. Or last year I was with my wife and daughter in Catalonia and we went to see an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art - Dark light, the influence of occult practices and psychedelics on the culture of the 20th century. And then I read that I had visited a Masonic lodge. Sometimes it amuses me, sometimes it hurts when a pretty straightforward thing gets misinterpreted within a few days. It can be quite a shock, how much it got twisted.
Have you already experienced any awkward situations in politics?
You know what, I‘m not sure… nothing horrible, knocking on wood. I'm pretty open and I'm no killjoy, so I do create funny situations every now and then, for example in the press department where you can always meet a journalist. But I see some of the people around here so often that sometimes, when I get back from a vacation, I greet them with a „hi“. But then I realize it‘s not a friend. (laughs)
Outside of politics, what can make you most angry?
When people are cruel. I‘m not the type to get angry easily and I don‘t jump up and down on the excessive joy, excessive anger sinusoid. I don't drink, so I'm emotionally balanced. You know, when you have three or four beers in the evening, you can feel it the next day, you perceive these things more intensely.
So it bothers me when people throw tantrums once they encounter a problem, like when their car breaks down, and they yell at everyone. I always try to make some positive changes happen. When somebody makes me angry, I try to get over it and turn the situation around, so that he‘d have this "aha" moment. Which you can't achieve by attacking him.
Do you experience insults? In person or by text messages?
When I get a vulgar text message, I call that number back. Sometimes the number‘s a dud, so it‘s probably just bullying, a bit of a psychic terror. And sometimes a senior answers the call. He starts to stutter, and I politely ask him if he thinks its okay to write nasty things to a total stranger. And he replies, "I didn't mean it." People usually get their foot out of their mouth and apologize. Sometimes it's borderline illegal, so I make sure they understand that they can't simply threaten a family or write that they would gas somebody, as they did to Olga Richtrová recently.
In the real world, people sometimes approach me with a rude remark, but I am assertive, I stop in my tracks and go talk to the person, ask them what their problem is. I had about three or four spicier verbal confrontations, and in all cases the person - including a 2-meter tall skinhead here in Prague - eventually acknowledged that the friction edges were elsewhere. Fortunately, nobody attacked me, I have no security guard. Once I needed to get one, though, because a particular discussion in Písek escalated so badly that I was afraid some punks would come and start a brawl.
Do you ever regret going into politics?
I don‘t, because the feeling of remaining passive, watching bad things happen and knowing no one is trying to prevent them, would be crushing. If I couldn‘t go and say that the king is naked, and suggest an alternative or come up with my own idea, I might have to emigrate. And I like it here.
I‘ve heard you met your wife Lydia at a demonstration…
I didn't know her then. We had this video from a demonstration against ACTA, where there were about four thousand people. At the end of the video, a lady was putting on an Anonymous mask, and that was Lydie. She then joined the pirates, we started dating several years later and then we got married. We‘ve been together for five years already.
They say she invited you over to her place for a coffee and seduced you…
(laughs) Well, I don't know where you got the information from... It was in the time of European elections and I wasn't chairman the following year. I stopped drinking alcohol, started exercising and began to live my life a little differently. And she was probably waiting how this new Bartoš would turn out.
So yeah, she invited me, she said, "you should stop by for a coffee," and we started dating around Halloween. And then we got married two years later. But it was me who proposed, during a break in the company where I was working. I was smoking a cigarette outside and kind of called her to ask if she would marry me…
Over the phone? Seems like you‘re not the romantic type…
I proposed officially later. But even the wedding was like... She said "yeah" and then it was dormant for a while. One day, I woke up once and said, "You know what, we could get married." And within two hours we had everything planned out. We talked about it in bed, then we both called our parents that we had a date - November 17th – so that we‘d remember it. Because forgetting that you‘re supposed to get married could cause marital strifes. And November 17 is impossible to forget.
Have you already had a major crisis?
When Lyduška burned a stew? But it was her who got mad! (laughs) We don't really have crises, sometimes you‘re "high", sometimes "low". Life is not easy when, in addition to the politics you do as a job, it throws you into different life situations, a change of school, life issues.
Occasionally we argue because of politics, as my wife is a member of the Republic Committee - that is, next to the National Forum of All Pirates, the party's supreme body, which decides on budget and strategies. And I am a member of the Republic Presidency, we bring matters to the Republic Committee, but we are not members. And we are not always in agreement with my wife. I look at it from the perspective of the whole as chairman, she is in the Republic Committee and holds on to the ideological line, which is very difficult to bring into the practical world at times. So we discuss things like why she voted the way she did, that something should have been approved long ago, that the Republic Committee is lazy...
But these are not dramatic arguments. I have experienced ostentatious exits from the door with a slam about four times. And it was mostly me walking out. But we regret it immediately after the slam, so it‘s not more than occasional drama that keeps the relationship dynamic.
Do you still go to the park and buy a sausage on your dates?
We create our own kind of romance and intimacy. Much off this social stuff is clichés, the essence of having dinner together is that you turn off your phones and talk to each other. And it doesn't matter if you are sitting in SaSaZu or in a park at Žižkov with a sausage. Probably the most romantic thing I‘ve experienced with my wife was when we were making statues out of branches in the woods near Děčín in the winter a year after our wedding.
What do you do in your free time?
I play the accordion, although it‘s recently been stolen from my car. (laughs) I read, I watch a lot of movies because I'm a movie fan. Since the moment I started paying Netflix and HBO, I no longer buy DVDs, but I have at least five hundred of them in my collection. And when possible, I go to play Magic The Gathering, a 25-year-old card game I used to play when I was young. After the elections, I started playing with people who used to be world champions back then.
But I don‘t really have much time right now, so mostly I come home, spend some time with my family, and then I lie down in bed, read a book for half an hour and doze off. I‘ve recently got Tony Blair's memoirs My Journey on the recommendation of the Slovak ambassador, but when I started reading it in the evenings, it wasn‘t bringing me the necessary relaxation. Otherwise, I read fiction, mostly fantasy, recreational books. I‘m not looking for serious wisdom there, because I‘ve been reading philosophical things at university and I have a dose of politics on a daily basis. And I don‘t need to investigate pirate ideology; I already have a pretty clear picture.
You're approaching forty…
In the evenings, when everything is completely silent, I can hear my arteries developing arteriosclerosis… (laughs)
Have you already had some sort of crisis?
The question is, to what extent people are adressing me formally because they know me from TV and think that people from TV should be addressed with the polite V-form, and to what extent I am already an old fart. It is true that when young people wonder what I‘m doing at a hardcore concert or at a psytrance event, it bugs me a little.
But yeah, of course, I do have those "my youth, where are you" feelings. Or when I‘m telling a story about something that I think happened recently, and then I find out it was 20 years ago. That hurts me, and I sometimes get kind of melancholy. But I‘m holding on to that young way of thinking with my nails and teeth.
So you're not planning to make any major changes in your life?
You know what, I‘ve made some... I‘ve had a supplementary pension insurance for two months now and I‘m paying one for my wife, too! I've tried it a few times before, but it always required money, so I canceled the insurance every time and used the money for something else. Now I am determined that once there is 100,000, I won‘t touch it. (laughs)
What were you spending most of your money on?
Someone once told me that „Ivan has always been generous and his only limit was the size of his salary“. I‘m trying not to dwell on it, because from my point of view, money is like a stream. If you spend it without giving it much thought, the stream will flow on. I don't do things for money, and if you do something well, the money will come to you. And then you can enjoy nice things like a vacation.
What other ambitions do you have? Forty is also the lower limit for presidential candidacy…
We founded the Pirates because there was a need for social change that still hasn‘t taken place. So my ambition is to make the change happen. Ten years ago, we went into this thinking we had a great idea and that it would happen right away, but the journey is very long. So it might be that we‘ll manage to achieve five or six out of a hundred things, and then someone else will come and continue in our work. In a number of changes, the Czech Republic has is decades behind in comparison to Western Europe, the problem is in the laws that thwart its potential.
What about the presidential candidacy?
I don‘t have that ambition and I don‘t want this interview to imply that Bartoš wants to run for president.
Finally, something personal. Previously, you said you had quit drinking. When will you stop smoking?
Jesus... It's my weakness, there's nothing that can publicly excuse my addiction to smoking. It's hard to cut down on it, I don't want to make another promise, because promises should be kept. And I‘ve already failed to keep this particular promise. (laughs)