Monday, December 19, 2011

Another great man passes

It has been a bad week for writers who influenced your humble blogg'r in his young adulthood.

As most of you know, Václav Havel has passed. First Hitch, then Václav; both died as a byproduct of a love of cigarettes, BTW.

What a giant - and a perfect example of the mindlessness of the Communist mindset in the face of human nature. Afraid of a guy who wrote plays.

Well, in the end he won; in spades.

The great thing about Havel was the same thing that drove me to him - a focus on freedom. Shortly after it was published back in 1991, I picked up Open Letters: Selected Writings; there it is in the upper-right corner pulled out from its place in my library this morning.

A well worn book that I took on deployment in '92. It could use a good translation - but for anyone who wanted to look in to the mind of a free man living in an intellectual prison, this should be on your short list.

Anyway - thank you Václav.Jindřich Šídlo I think outlines him very well.
.... Vaclav Havel was neither an angel, nor God, and he knew that the nation would not change.

For all that, he always did exactly what he thought was the right thing. He talked constantly about things that were not exactly easy to listen to after years of hearing about them over and over again – morality, conscience, responsibility, but also of racism and corruption, whose dangers he was very quick to recognise in the early 90s.

And he did all that knowing full well the risk that people would measure his words against their own experience and against what he would do himself. A confrontation between moral authority and politics in the real world cannot, it seems, end up without some disenchantment all round.

Truth and love have not won over lies and hatred, but there can be no doubt that everything Vaclav Havel did or said arose from his deepest conviction that precisely that way leads the path. And no matter what the majority may think about it at any moment.
As a side note - it looks like Admiral Stavridis and I are on the same page here.


Anonymous said...

Kim Jong-il

Aubrey said...

I had the honor of meeting President Havel several times, and am immensely impressed both with the man that he was, and with his intellectual gifts. My Czech is not good enough to truly value his works in their native tongue, but even in translation they are worth reading.

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of autobiography "To the Castle and Back". It is a great read, and easily available in English from Amazon.

My current work takes me to the Czech Republic and Poland every year, and I cannot tell you how much I value those countries, their people, and their culture...

Kristen said...

He was a truly great man.  My parents have friends who were refugees from communism in eastern Europe.  They loved his writings and admired his courage greatly.  Thank you for offering this tribute to his memory.

byron's internet daddy said...

Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And Frank Zappa sing thee to thy rest.

ewok40k said...

It is said God takes away good men and bad men in balance, and I can just start to believe it as one of worst dictators follows to the afterlife one of greatest freedom fighters of the last century...

FCC(SW) said...

Ah, CDR, you just get better and better.  No wonder I keep coming back to this here blog.

Little-known and no-bu11$hit fact ... back in 1991 (long before I ever dreamed that I'd join the navy (and in fact, at the time, I probably would have laid a solid, straight, four-knuckler squarely upon the nose of whoever progosticated at that time that I was going to do so), this young FCC-to-be -- having, presumably, read too much Hemingway and Kerouac, in the wrong proportions -- quit  the solid, union phone company job ("work for a UTILITY, it's Job Security!" dad, the then-recently-retired Marine had advised), and moved to Prague.  Naturally, on the flight over, I had no idea what a magical kingdom that seemingly random idea would lay upon me; but my year-and-a-half there during those monumentally formative months (for both the country and for me) are a source of beautiful and fond memories.  And I owe most of that to Mr. Havel (and, too, to Mr. Aleksandr Dubcek (PHON: DOOB'-check) , his Slovak counterpart -- on whose account, in those days, I was fired from a relatively well-paying radio gig for telling the following joke that had been relayed to me by one of my English students:  "When is the last time that Meciar (PHON: MAY'-chee-arr) wore coveralls?  A: When he was "Fixing" the brakes on Dubcek's car.  It was funny at the time in a Tepid-War, fatalistic kind of way.

Pane Havlu, na sledanou ...

FCC(SW) said...

Pivo dobry
Divky hezky
Ta jsou darky
Zivot Cesky

("Good beer
And beautiful girls.
These are the gifts
Of the Czech life.")

Douglas said...

And in the Guardian... those old defenders of the Soviets in England... they're lamenting that he helped transistion East Europe from Communism to freedom. They blame him for not giving the great socialist revolution the credit it deserves for... I kid you not... putting people first. The monstrous old regimes and ideas still have faithful defenders at rags like the Guardian and the Nation.