Living Within The American Lie, On The Passing of Vaclav Havel

Occupy Wall Street protesters and police line, Liberty Square aka Zuccotti Park, NYC, October 2011

“In highly simplified terms, it could be said that the post-totalitarian system has been built on foundations laid by the historical encounter between dictatorship and the consumer society. Is it not true that the far-reaching adaptability to living a lie and the effortless spread of social auto-totality have some connection with the general unwillingness of consumption-oriented people to sacrifice some material certainties for the sake of their own spiritual and moral integrity? With their willingness to surrender higher values when faced with the trivializing temptations of modern civilization? With their vulnerability to the attractions of mass indifference? And in the end, is not the greyness and the emptiness of life in the post-totalitarian system only an inflated caricature of modern life in general? And do we not in fact stand (although in the external measures of civilization, we are far behind) as a kind of warning to the West, revealing to it its own latent tendencies?”

– Vaclav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless” 1978, Prague

Reading this essay earlier in the Spring of 2011 stuck with me and continues to motivate my choices in making a better world to live together in. Vital voices like Havel’s, worth passing on to future generations. Meditating on why his dissident voice still matters today here in America.

(* Updated quote with full paragraph for more contextual punch, but it’s that last sentence that rings so loudly here in 2011.)