Friday, June 03, 2011

What can we learn

... from some of the 20th century's most noted leaders? That is a question put by The Independent, which then addresses Vaclav Havel:

There are young people in the world today who are in the situation you and your peers were, in which they have to make a choice – people in Cuba, in North Korea. They have to decide whether to seek something else, whether to fight against the system, or take an easier path and live their life as the system exists. What would you say to them?

Well, I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to give them much advice. But I might say in passing that when someone makes the effort to become a dissident and joins the opposition and runs the risk of being persecuted, that fateful step has two positive aspects to it.

The first is that they feel good about being in harmony with their conscience and their beliefs. When you lie a little or make compromises you shouldn't, you can have the ugly feeling of being soiled. If you decide to do something good, regardless of whether that advances your cause or not, you at least have the positive feeling of being on the side of truth.

And the second aspect – and the experience of my country and of the other post-Communist countries bears this out – is that these seemingly pointless, quixotic efforts may rather quickly turn into something important and may eventually bear fruit. They just may be successful.