Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vaclav Havel vs. Kim Jong Il

The world lost two leaders this past week and while most of us know about the death of Kim Jong Il of North Korea, I doubt many of us have heard that Vaclav Havel also passed away.

Who, you ask?

That's the point. Certainly, political unstability in North Korea has security implications for the United States which makes it highly newsworthy, but the life and positive impact of Vaclav Havel shouldn't be obscured by the death of a dictator.

Havel, the hero of has become known as Czechoslovakia's 'Velvet Revolution,' died Sunday. He was 75 years old. He was often described as one of the 20th Century's greatest freedom fighters after liberating his nation from communism and serving as its president from 1989 to 2003.

Investors Business Daily had this to say in their editorial:

Leadership: Europe's outpouring of grief over the death of Vaclav Havel, hero of Czechoslovakia's great Velvet Revolution, says much about its longing for more like him. His honesty and courage liberated Europe.

Some 75,000 Czechs bearing roses and candles lined up in Wenceslas Square beginning Sunday, as they once did in 1989, to pay tribute to one of the greatest freedom fighters of the 20th century


Havel, a playwright whose health had been weakened by years spent in communist dungeons, was an unlikely and yet perfect leader for leading Eastern Europe's liberation from communism. He unshackled Europe with the only weapon in his arsenal — words, which he animated and empowered by expressing them truthfully.

In the former Czechoslovakia, the nightmare of communism imposed after World War II was employed with a Nazi-like oppressive intensity, leaving a bleak society whose citizens got by on lies, collaboration, mediocrity and ratlike survival ethics.

"We live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore each other, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility, or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions. ... Only a few of us were able to cry out loud that the powers that be should not be all-powerful," Havel told his nation after being elected the first president of the restored democracy in December 1989.


Condemned from birth as a "bourgeois element," Havel was always an outsider who could never become a "new communist man" or a cog in the machine of "progress." Denied admission to university, denied jobs, denied permission to leave the country, spied on by secret police and refused liberty in prison beginning in 1979, he managed to free his country by standing up for freedom against all odds.

It was an incredible dream then — because right up until the end, no one believed communism would ever fall. Havel's Velvet Revolution changed that, as first a few thousand, and then a few hundred thousand flooded the streets calling for the regime's end — and the move spread like wildfire through Europe and eventually hit the gates of Moscow.

Havel's peaceful revolution, unlike almost any other, left all oppressive regimes — to this very day — uncertain about their self-declared permanence.


And yet, Havel himself said that standing up for freedom was the only choice.

"Humanity will pay the price for communism until such a time as we learn to stand up to it with all political responsibility and decisiveness," he said...

So while the world watches the tyrannical monarchy that North Korea appears to be (with a third generation ready to take over ruling that country), let us take time to remember a true leader who did more for the world than any dictator ever could.


Mad Jack said...

Nice post Maggie. I didn't know about Vaclav, but I'm glad that I got enlightened.

Timothy W Higgins said...


One of the things that Mr Havel is credited with saying struck me so much as a cautionary message that I posted about myself some weeks ago:

"Why bother with a ceaseless and in fact hopeless search for truth when truth can be had readily, all at once, in the form of an ideology or doctrine? Suddenly it is all so simple. So many difficult questions are answered in advance! So many laborious existential tasks from which our minds are freed once and for all!"

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