Monday, October 14, 2002

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A TRUE LIBERAL: I don't always agree with Vaclav Havel, but nevertheless it is easy to descend into hagiography when discussing him. His September 19th address in New York, republished in the New York Review of Books, is typically eloquent. He is both personally and politically humble. He notes wryly, "The warning voices of poets must be carefully listened to and taken very seriously, perhaps even more seriously than the voices of bankers or stock brokers. But at the same time, we cannot expect that the world—in the hands of poets—will suddenly be transformed into a poem." His three lessons of "high politics" are worth quoting in full; I'm not sure I completely agree with them, but I am glad someone of Havel's stature can articulate this viewpoint:

"(1) If humanity is to survive and avoid new catastrophes, then the global political order has to be accompanied by a sincere and mutual respect among the various spheres of civilization, culture, nations, or continents, and by honest efforts on their part to seek and find the values or basic moral imperatives they have in common, and to build them into the foundations of their coexistence in this globally connected world.

(2) Evil must be confronted in its womb and, if there is no other way to do it, then it has to be dealt with by the use of force. If the immensely sophisticated and expensive modern weaponry must be used, let it be used in a way that does not harm civilian populations. If this is not possible, then the billions spent on those weapons will be wasted.

(3) If we examine all the problems facing the world today, be they economic, social, ecological, or general problems of civilization, we will always —whether we want to or not—come up against the problem of whether a course of action is proper or not, or whether, from the long-term planetary point of view, it is responsible. The moral order and its sources, human rights and the sources of people's right to human rights, human responsibility and its origins, human conscience and the penetrating view of that from which nothing can be hidden with a curtain of noble words—these are, in my deepest convictions and in all my experience, the most important political themes of our time."

posted by Dan on 10.14.02 at 01:23 PM