Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Vaclav Havel

my tendency to trust where inappropriate, my politeness, my silly faith in signs of good intentions on the part of my antagonists, my constant self-doubt, my effort to get along with everyone, my constant need to defend and explain myself.
- VH

Havel’s basic geostrategic instincts were sound. He was one of the first to warn that the Putin era “weds the worst of Communism with the worst of capitalism.”
Putin is worth $200M 

 Havel discovered—in the words for which he is best remembered—that hope “is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Those are words you have to earn the right to say, and Havel did that, not just through endurance but also through failure and shame ..
- VH

A quarter century after the Velvet Revolution,Václav Havel's legacy is in disarray. His life illuminates a dissident generation's dreams and the revenge that history has taken on them.

Heroism is essential to politics. We live for the hour when a politician stands up in Theodore Roosevelt’s dusty arena and we recognize, with astonishment, that here is a person prepared to take risks, tell us what we don’t want to hear, face possible defeat for a principle, tackle insuperable odds, and by doing so, show us that politics need be not just the art of the possible, but the art of the impossible. 
By the mid-1960s, all along Národní Street in old Prague, a brilliant generation of artists, dramatists, novelists, filmmakers—Jiří Menzel, Milan Kundera, Miloš Forman, the philosopher Jan Patočka—had created an audience of young Czechs who were, in effect, living in truth, outside the propaganda bubble, in a prefiguration of what the dissident Václav Benda was to call a “parallel polis.” The authorities, with the condescension of the powerful, permitted this polis to emerge, because they never imagined that those in it might one day overthrow them.
In January 1969, Jan Palach, a philosophy undergraduate, burned himself to death in Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet invasion. Unlike most of his fellow dissidents, Havel did not react to Palach’s death with tears, desperation, or hopeless rage. Instead, like the politician he was to become, he gave a television interview in which he declared, with strange—and up to this point uncharacteristic—bravado, “There is just one road open to us: to wage our political battle until the end … I understand the death of Jan Palach as a warning against the moral suicide of all of us.” Moral suicide—taking a job with the regime, informing on your erstwhile dissident friends—became a standard if depressing mode of collaboration in the 1970s. The parallel polis collapsed, leaving the few remaining dissidents to face the full pressure of the regime alone. Of that long decade, Zantovsky writes, “few … can imagine the twilight mood, the torpor, which resembled a state of semi-anaesthesia.”