Vaclav Havel, the Czech writer and dissident

1 January 2012

whose eloquent dissections of Communist rule helped to destroy it in revolutions that brought down the Berlin Wall and swept Mr. Havel himself into power, died on 19 December 2011. He was 75. In a short profile, the NYTimes colorfully adds:

While many in the West worshiped Mr. Havel, in his native country he was regarded with deep affection but also ambivalence, and even scorn. His slogan during the revolution that truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred was mocked by foes, who accused him of naïveté. But he never lost his childlike idealism and would sign his name with a small heart.

Mr. Havel’s standing with Czechs faltered somewhat in 1997, after his surprise marriage to Dagmar Veskrnova — a flamboyant and outspoken actress who had once played a topless vampire in a film — only a year after the death of his much-admired first wife of 31 years, Olga. In January 1998 Parliament, resentful of what was seen as Mr. Havel’s arrogant behavior with his new wife and his meddling in political affairs, elected him to a second presidential term by only one vote. Read the rest of the article here.

In The Power of the Powerless, one of this most famous essays written in 1978, Havel wrote:

Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe.  Read the rest here. 

In 1989, the Velvet Revolution, a peaceful revolution which toppled a presidency, ended with the election of Havel as the first Czech president.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: