Václav Havel; A MAN amongst politicians.
Václav Havel died on December 18th. He was an intellectual, an artist, dissident and despite his own misgivings a popular politician. He was the last president of Czechoslovakia from 1989-1993 and the first president of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003.
His views regarding politics, the morality of man regardless of his station and situation and the ability of an individual to make change are legendary.
The following is a slightly trimmed down version of statements he made in 1998 as shared on project syndicate.
The following deserves a place in the mind of every American considering the upcoming presidential election, arguably the most important in the last 20 years, and the general state of the Republic as we find it today.
Prague, Czech Republic – Does an intellectual – by virtue of his efforts to get beneath the surface of things, to grasp relations, causes and effects, to recognise individual items as part of larger entities, and thus to derive a deeper awareness of and responsibility for the world – belong in politics?
Put that way, an impression is created that I consider it every intellectual’s duty to engage in politics. But that is nonsense. Politics also involves a number of special requirements that are relevant only to it. Some people meet these requirements; others don’t, regardless of whether they are intellectuals.
It is my profound conviction that the world requires – today more than ever – enlightened, thoughtful politicians who are bold and broad-minded enough to consider things that lie beyond the scope of their immediate influence in both space and time. We need politicians willing and able to rise above their own power interests, or the particular interests of their parties or states, and act in accordance with the fundamental interests of humanity today – that is, to behave the way everyone should behave, even though most may fail to do so.
Never before has politics been so dependent on the moment, on the fleeting moods of the public or the media. Never before have politicians been so impelled to pursue the short-lived and short-sighted. It often seems to me that the life of many politicians proceeds from the evening news on television one night, to the public-opinion poll the next morning, to their image on television the following evening. I am not sure whether the current era of mass media encourages the emergence and growth of politicians of the stature of, say, a Winston Churchill; I rather doubt it, though there can always be exceptions.
To sum up: The less our time favours politicians who engage in long-term thinking, the more such politicians are needed, and thus the more intellectuals – at least those meeting my definition – should be welcomed in politics. Such support could come from, among others, those who – for whatever reason – never enter politics themselves, but who agree with such politicians or at least share the ethos underlying their actions.
I hear objections: Politicians must be elected; people vote for those who think the way they do. If someone wants to make progress in politics, he must pay attention to the general condition of the human mind; he must respect the so-called “ordinary” voter’s point of view. A politician must, like it or not, be a mirror. He dare not be a herald of unpopular truths, acknowledgement of which, though perhaps in humanity’s interest, is not regarded by most of the electorate as being in its immediate interest, or may even be regarded as antagonistic to those interests.
I am convinced that the purpose of politics does not consist in fulfilling short-term wishes. A politician should also seek to win people over to his own ideas, even when unpopular. Politics must entail convincing voters that the politician recognises or comprehends some things better than they do, and that it is for this reason that they should vote for him. People can thus delegate to a politician certain issues that – for a variety of reasons – they do not sense themselves, or do not want to worry about, but which someone has to address on their behalf.
Of course, all seducers of the masses, potential tyrants or fanatics, have used this argument to make their case; the communists did the same when they declared themselves the most enlightened segment of the population, and, by virtue of this alleged enlightenment, arrogated to themselves the right to rule arbitrarily.
The true art of politics is the art of winning people’s support for a good cause, even when the pursuit of that cause may interfere with their particular momentary interests. This should happen without impeding any of the many ways in which we can check that the objective is a good cause, thereby ensuring that trusting citizens are not led to serve a lie and suffer disaster as a consequence, in an illusory search for future prosperity.
It must be said that there are intellectuals who possess a very special ability for committing this evil. They elevate their intellect above everyone else’s, and themselves above all human beings. They tell their fellow citizens that if they do not understand the brilliance of the intellectual project offered to them, it is because they are of dull mind, and have not yet risen to the heights inhabited by the project’s proponents. After all that we have gone through in the twentieth century, it is not very difficult to recognise how dangerous this intellectual – or, rather, quasi-intellectual – attitude can be. Let us remember how many intellectuals helped to create the various modern dictatorships!
A good politician should be able to explain without seeking to seduce; he should humbly look for the truth of this world without claiming to be its professional owner; and he should alert people to the good qualities in themselves, including a sense of the values and interests that transcend the personal, without taking on an air of superiority and imposing anything on his fellow humans. He should not yield to the dictate of public moods or of the mass media, while never hindering constant scrutiny of his actions.
In the realm of such politics, intellectuals should make their presence felt in one of two possible ways. They could – without finding it shameful or demeaning – accept a political office and use that position to do what they deem right, not just to hold on to power. Or they could be the ones who hold up a mirror to those in authority, making sure that the latter serve a good cause, and that they do not begin to use fine words as a cloak for evil deeds, as happened to so many intellectuals in politics in past centuries.
Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.
Vaclav Havel 1936-2011
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LIKE. I like the complete about-face from the last post. Reading about him reminded me of Yelstin a bit too.
Thanks for adding a sparkly ray of sunshine to my day!
Everyone is moaning and groaning about Kim Jong Il, my next post, and CNN is flapping it’s gums ridiculously about “The End of the Iraq War”, a future post, and the presidential prospects look so insanely horrible The passing of a Man of note seems to have been given less than it’s due.
You seem to be on a bit of a writer’s roll lately.
Hopefully all of this shit in America and everywhere else can give rise to some politicians with some balls, who stand up and ignore the populist bollocks and just get on with the job, doing things they believe in. America seems pretty fucked with the current election lineup though. A Republican win would spell doom I reckon.
Iraq will probably turn into another ‘mission accomplished’ after the troops get out. I certainly hope it doesn’t, but it certainly is a possibility.
Republican and Democrat, it’s all just more smoke for the screen. They are two sides of the same corrupted useless system. In America right now, as it stands, I don’t think it would be possible for the type of politician we NEED to climb the ranks and get elected. A genuine radical who is taking care of middle America first not pandering to the 1%.
And next, Iraq a success? Yeah sure I think it was a total success. Killed hundred of thousands of Iraq civilians. Destabilized that region even more than it was. Engendered even more hate internationally for the US and it’s politically powerless citizens. Put some money in some more rich pockets while plunging the rest of the country further into absolutely abysmal levels of debt. Oh and killed 4000 US service men and women (this number does not even include contractors; Americas private army)
I think my sarcasm may have slipped a little, but I was referring to everything going to shit just after Bush basically declared everything done and dusted.
You are right about the system, having to have a small fortune to run for president isn’t a good starting point. I saw an interesting article about how politicians can set their own electoral boundaries, so there are these electorates that look like nokia snake games.
Mike Gravel. He was in the running in years back and basically the press told everyone he was insane. He isn’t. He is a radical. And he’s still around.
And sure Bush was a fool. Comically so. Obama is not better and I detest him. His speech he gave at Fort Bragg pissed me off.
Seems like a very good man. His comments seem simple yet its the sort of thing we have all forgotten. Really strikes a cord. What the world needs.
While on the topic of dictators (it was mentioned briefly in the post), my faves are Castro and Stalin. I am a fan of the crazed writting of Thommas hobbes as well. While not true he makes some interesting points with his entire we all need a tyrant over us phillosophy. Castro what a beard.
anyway sorry for any bad grammar or mis spellings. I am in the grip of the usual holiday feelings and have been trying to drowned myself in a massive amount of pills and a bit of liqour.
Still have to find something good for pen pal’s x mas present…
That’s the thing- I don’t think these are things we have forgotten as people. Not at all.
We do have a sort of Orwellian Double-think going on though. Inside I think most of us know how FLAWED and BROKEN the systems are. We all know. Yet at the same time the programming that the system has used on us since DAY ONE of all our lives is so distracting and confusing that we cannot focus on what our natural instincts are screaming.
Good point. Instincts…our genetic memory…hmm…It all ties into survival, thats what psychology has taught me. In some weird way it all goes back to survival. Psychology has also taught me whe run dual processors and the hardware and main program is our subconscious and that our personalities are a sub program software lesser sub routine that can be split almost infinitely without too much in the way of problems. Look at multiple personality disorder…When its real each sperate personality uses each part of the brain differently just like cat scanning completely different people…
double speak, dual processing, programing us to ignore instincts…something important there I am sure…
Now this is probably off topic but our dream portion of the sleep cycle is a defrag routine for our brains that organizes and mixes and then reorganizes everything down to details we didn’t even think we took in. While looking at a Kanji wall scroll that translated to “chaos is where dreams come from” it made me wonder about this defrag sleep thing and its possible connections to schizophrenia… see like diabetes you can be prone to schizophrenia and then have things trigger it. Get fat and your diabetes prone body says that works and flips on the diabetes switch. Well a certain part of the brain is generally underdeveloped in schizophrenics (sometimes due to malnutrition as a baby other times to being born premature) and then an extremely stressful life event finally triggers it.
either way I am just sick of waking up. all these thoughts are interesting to me but fact is it is x mas season and I can’t live feeling the way I do every x mas I hate it and don’t wanna face it ever again. I need sleep… so damn sick of waking up… turn 32 tomorow thats 32 F’D! x mases I have lived through… I make it through every year but am so damn sick of it and the way it makes me feel every year.
Yeah a great man died, wish I had known more about him while he was alive. Looks like everyone is trying to point away from that great man’s death so that he can be quickly forgotten. All so we pay more attention to another hollow election and some scare about korea all to get the public into a blind do anything they are told panic…
Interesting that you mention sleep.
I have never slept so much in my life as in the last three months.
I was never the type that fell asleep at school, in fact I envied students that could. I had to sit, conscious, through all the bore.
But since October I’ve oscillated between a light form of insomnia and then marathon stretches of sleep. It’s all purely psychological as well. Nothing physically has changed at all.
Anyway it has been interesting.
I think if more people followed Havels advice, and worked on things simply because that thing seems to be the right thing to do, then gradually our collective situation would change for the better somehow.
yeah if you payed close enough attention to the last election the one candidate would spout what the state they were in wanted to hear while spouting what the state the opponent was in wouldnt want to hear and eventually when they had made their rounds you could look at state by state and compare the speeches and both the democrat and the republican were saying the same things in each state… and everyone forgets about the one slip up that should have spelled doom for the winner… Obama answered a question about what to do about the situation in Iran by breaking out in a beach boys song with the lyrics switched to bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran… the next day his PR people blamed it on cough medicine and all was forgotten… both parties spouted the same crap and neither candidate had a shred of any real humanity…
this world needs THX1138 to become reality…
as for the insomnia and then sleep binges could be a few things. A person builds up sleep debt and it tends to stay until they catch up. It maxes out around two weeks though, for some unknown reason.
Long time fans of weed have learned that occaisional bouts of insomnia happen and can be cured with a simple break from the habbit. Once the individual has caught up enough on sleep then they can go right back to the habbit with no ill effects.
there are some general things to help reset your sleep schedule to something you are more comfortable with. Stay up till you would want to go to sleep. Like getting out of jet lag and adjusting to a new area. Just keep on plenty of light and eat normal. Then when its about two hours before you would normally sleep erase all sources of light and stop intaking liquids.
Sound is a case by case thing. It is generally either no sound or white noise. It seems that even at high volumes if you are a white noise person it still does the trick. Don’t force it just relax and let your mind wander to boring mundane things.
Melatonin in low doses is easy and legal to obtain over the counter. It is what your body produces to make you sleepy anyway. Pop one about 15 min before you intend to sleep. Start at 1mg and slowly work your way up to what dose you need. People usually don’t need above 3mg. !mg does fine for me, I just have to many things waking me up. Oh if you are not used to it melatonin can give you intense instant dreams.
I know various herbs and medicine that can also help. One of my friends is a sleep doctor. Strenuos physical activity about two hours before sleep also can be helpful, you know crash after a good workout and sleep like a babe.
Stress avoid it, it can make sleep worthless as does passing out drunk. If your getting dark circles around your eyes and paranoid feelings then your building up melatonin and something is preventing the sleep after that comes this crazy stuff where your eyes start messing up. at first the edges of shadows move funny and with extreme sleep deprivation comes these little sparkly spots every where you look as your eyes are just all f’d up from lack of sleep. With my allergies it is not uncommon for me to go over a month without sleep in the spring or summer.
“Republican and Democrat, it’s all just more smoke for the screen. They are two sides of the same corrupted useless system. In America right now, as it stands, I don’t think it would be possible for the type of politician we NEED to climb the ranks and get elected. ”
I rant about this all the time to Obama supporters. I voted for him which required a party switch but I knew to come up in Chicago politics……fucking CHICAGO!!…he had gotten dirtied up proper. His rants about lobbiest and then having off the W.H. books meetings with them to avoid a paper trail is a new level of fucked up.
They are all the same. The game of politics is a dirty one and under it’s current configuration it is simply impossible for a true leader to emerge. Watching extremist elements from the left and right attack each other is like watching a bi-polar skitso have an argument with himself….
You honor a man among children with this post.
Havel said it well in the bit I copied talking about how in these times it is set up to make it nearly impossible for a “super statesman” someone like a Winston Churchill etc to emerge.
It’s a shame.
The USA needs someone now more than every.
This article reminds me of that quote by Santayana: “When Socrates and his two great disciples composed a system of rational ethics they were hardly proposing practical legislation for mankind . . . They were merely writing an eloquent epitaph for their country.” Beautiful, eloquent words from Mr. Havel indeed, but really, pointless and hollow. Sorry to sound cynical but all human beings are animals, concerned only with self-interest. It’s just the way it is, has been, and always will be.
I think I’ve never been happier to be a non-voting convicted felon, given how FUBAR the good ‘ol US of A is. Being told that you’ve been kicked off the voter rolls is pretty much carte blanche to never give a true, solid, peanut-riddled shit about politics ever again in your life, and I was 18 when that happened. And I doubt once I start collecting Social Security and Medicare (if they aren’t bankrupted and I live that long) I’ll give a shit either. I registered, was arrested (here in Bodymore, Murderland you don’t even have to be convicted to be disenfranchised, just arrested and charged with a felony), and two weeks later I got a letter in the mail from the election commission that I was done. I never even got to vote in a fucking mid-term election, never mind a presidential one.
I still follow current events, but it’s with the same passive “meh” attitude I have when I watch a boring-ass baseball game. Horribly short-sighted, callous, and ignorant I know, but I own firearms (illegally) and an Anarchist Cookbook, and I’ll give you a quote by the great Chairman Mao: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Just ask any of the impotent Occupy protestors who’ve been maced for exercising their constitutional rights, or all the Egyptians who saw their hopes and dreams dashed by the already entrenched Egyptian generals that took power. I’m not saying that the people can’t affect change, I’m just saying that they have nowhere near the laser-like focus to keep history from repeating itself over and over.
Anyway, sorry for the long-winded, rambling, unnecessarily cynical comment. I suppose Mr. Havel’s words struck a chord with me, and the “meh” attitude had to be discarded at least momentarily. Also I’ve been a lurker here for quite a while, and I just wanted to say that this is probably the only blog I’ve come across in recent memory that’s consistently worth checking in on and reading. Excelsior to all who contribute! Aah, if only The Misanthropic Bitch was still active. I’ll also try to keep any possible future comments below 30 words.
Ramble on, ramble on. Really.
We love the long comments. It means one way or another someone, somewhere is thinking and committing to typing something as opposed to a half hearted click of the “like” option.
:My grandmother finely succumbed to that rabid jaw cancer. She’s gone, we have no money for a funeral and I am turning tricks to feed my triplets.:
Then we just set our cheese burger down long enough to click “Like” and go on with our day.
Comment away and be as cynical as you like. Viva la Free Speech.