Skip to main content

Vaclav Havel

VACLAV HAVEL

VACLAV HAVEL

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel died December 18, 2011. The Associated Press report on his death said: "Vaclav Havel wove theater into revolution, leading the charge to peacefully bring down communism in a regime he ridiculed as "Absurdistan" and proving the power of the people to overcome totalitarian rule."

Havel was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1936. His family was wealthy, privileged, and of the highest social circles before the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. After the Nazis were defeated the Communists subjugated the nation for forty years.

He was married to Olga Splichalova for forty years. She died of cancer in 1996, and the following year he married the glamorous actress, Dagmar Veskrnova, who survives as his widow.

Havel was a brilliant thinker, writer, and playwright. He served thirteen years (1989-2003) as the first President of Czechoslovakia after it was freed from bondage behind the Iron Curtain. During those years, Havel was celebrated as one of the great leaders of the free world.

OLGA SPLICHALOVA (1933-1996) WIFE OF 40 YEARS TO VACLAV HAVEL

OLGA SPLICHALOVA (1933-1996) WIFE OF 40 YEARS TO VACLAV HAVEL

VACLAV HAVEL

VACLAV HAVEL

MAP OF CZECH REPUBLIC

MAP OF CZECH REPUBLIC

Vaclav Havel Bio

Vaclav Havel was a mild-mannered Roman Catholic intellectual. The Communist regime under which he lived most of his life feared his ideas and surveilled his every move. His plays and books were banned. Four times Havel was arrested for opposing what the Communist Party deemed politically correct.

He never promoted violence. But he was against the complete individual submission to Communist ideology that was demanded in exchange for a humble subsistence. Havel spoke out for honesty, truth, individual freedom, and personal liberty.

In 1979, Havel was publicly condemned by the Left-Wing government of Czechoslovakia as an enemy of the state. The government offered him freedom if he would move to the United States. He did not want to leave his homeland. So Havel served four years in a gruesome prison.

He returned to his country cottage in Bohemia where he continued to write about why "high moral standards and respect for the transcendent" are necessary in any society. He believed that individual responsibility was paramount in a free society. Havel fretted about the severe decline he observed of civility and manners in western societies. Even more so, he worried greatly over the decline of moral values and the growth of secular atheism in Europe.

In 1989, Vaclav Havel was arrested for the last time by the ThoughtPolice. Though he was sentenced to nine months in jail, an enormous public protest developed and he was released after two months.

He had no desire for political power and did not seek any office, but the public overwhelmingly desired him to be their first president when Czechoslovakia was freed from tyranny after the massive Prague uprising called the "Velvet Revolution."

VACLAV HAVEL

VACLAV HAVEL

VACLAV HAVEL SPEAKS TO THE VELVET REVOLUTION

VACLAV HAVEL SPEAKS TO THE VELVET REVOLUTION

PRESIDENT OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC, VACLAV HAVEL

PRESIDENT OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC, VACLAV HAVEL

DAGMAR VESKRNOVA (WIDOW OF VACLAV HAVEL)

DAGMAR VESKRNOVA (WIDOW OF VACLAV HAVEL)

'Politics, Morality and Civility' by Vaclav Havel

Politics, Morality & Civility is an essay written by Vaclav Havel in 1992. In it he stresses "the significance of moral values and standards in all spheres of life" and bemoans the fact that "freedom" has let loose "an enormous and dazzling explosion of every imaginable human vice." What has been lost is "responsibility and morality."

Havel sees politics descending into "an extravagant hunger for power and a willingness to gain the favour of a confused electorate by offering a colourful range of attractive nonsense, while faking concern about social justice and the working class."

Scroll to Continue

He laments a "gutter press" that spews "familiar sewage" and that "Analysis is pushed out of the press by scandalmongering."

Havel makes this interesting observation: "It is largely up to the politicians which social forces they choose to liberate and which they choose to suppress, whether they rely on the good in each citizen or on the bad."

He points out that many Leftist governments have purposefully excited "the worst human qualities, like selfishness, envy, and hatred."

Havel believed in politics infused with morality and strongly objected to political scientists who said that "morality has no place" in politics, which they deemed essentially "the manipulation of power and public opinion."

He believed that "the world might be changed by the force of truth."

Havel wrote: "Genuine politics are moral because it is— a 'higher' responsibility—only because it has a metaphysical grounding; that is, it grows out of a conscious or subconscious certainty that our death ends nothing, because everything is forever being recorded and evaluated somewhere else, somewhere 'above us' by God to whose judgment everything is subject."

Therefore, he argues: "Genuine Conscience and genuine responsibility are always, in the end, explicable only as an expression of the silent assumption that we are observed 'from above,' that everything is visible, nothing is forgotten."

He reminds us that there are "moral dimensions of all social life," and "morality is, in fact, hidden in everything."

He writes: "Whenever I encounter a problem in my work and try to get to the bottom of it, I always discover some moral aspect, be it apathy, unwillingness to recognize personal error or guilt, reluctance to give up certain positions and the advantages flowing from them, envy, and excess of self-assurance, or whatever."

Havel teaches that "the dormant goodwill in people needs to be stirred. People need to hear that it makes sense to behave decently. Goodwill longs to be recognized and cultivated. people want to hear that decency and courage make sense."

Havel is convinced "that politics is not essentially a disreputable business; and to the extent that it is, it is only disreputable people who make it so. I would concede that it can, more than other spheres of human activities, tempt one to disreputable practices. But it is simply not true that a politician must lie or intrigue."

Still, he admits that "the cynic, the vain, the brash, and the vulgar are drawn to politics."

Above all other human activities, Havel is concerned with culture. He writes "that this catastrophic decline in the general cultural level frightens me more than economic decline does."

He adds "however important it may be to get our economy back on its feet, it is no less important to do everything possible to improve the general cultural level of everyday life." I

n conclusion: "We must initiate a large-scale program for raising general cultural standards."

Vaclav Havel is no pie-in-the-sky dreamer. He writes: "A heaven on earth in which people all love each other and everyone is hard-working, well-mannered, and virtuous, in which the land flourishes and everything is sweetness and light, working harmoniously to the satisfaction of God: this will never be. On the contrary, the world has had the worst experiences with utopian thinkers who promised all that. Evil will remain with us, no one will ever eliminate human suffering, the political arena will always attract irresponsible and ambitious adventurers and charlatans."

Why? "Because God wants it that way. It is an eternal, never-ending struggle by good people against evil people, by honourable people against dishonourable people, by people who think about the world and eternity against people who only think of themselves and the moment. I feel a responsibility to work towards those things I consider good and right."

Havel says, "Perhaps we can all agree that we want a state based on rule of law, one that is democratic, peaceful, and with a prospering market economy."

Some insist that the state be used to force 'social justice' on its citizens. But "a functioning market economy can never guarantee any genuine social justice. People have, and always will have, different degrees of industriousness, talent and last but not least, luck. Obviously, social justice is something the market system cannot, by its very nature, deliver. Moreover, to compel the marketplace to do so would be deeply immoral. Our experience with socialism has provided us with more than enough examples of why this is so."

Havel continues: "I am convinced that we will never build a democratic state based on rule of law if we do not at the same time build a state that is—regardless of how unscientific this may sound to the ears of a political scientist—humane, moral, intellectual and spiritual, and cultural. The best laws and the best-conceived democratic mechanisms will not themselves guarantee legality or freedom or human rights—anything, in short, for which they were intended—if they are not underpinned by certain human and social values."

He adds: "Without commonly shared and widely entrenched moral values and obligations, neither the law, nor democratic government, nor even the market economy will function properly. They are all marvelous products of the human spirit, mechanisms that can, in turn, serve the spirit magnificently—assuming that the human spirit wants these mechanisms to serve it, respects them, believes in them, guarantees them, understands their meaning, and is willing, if necessary, to fight for them or make sacrifices for them."

Havel reminds us "the meaning of the state, which is, and must remain, truly human—which means it must be intellectual, spiritual, and moral."

He concludes that "it demands the courage to breathe moral and spiritual motivation into everything, to seek the human dimension in all things. Science, technology, expertise, and so-called professionalism are not enough. Something more is necessary. For the sake of simplicity, it might be called Spirit."

MR. & MRS. VACLAV HAVEL

MR. & MRS. VACLAV HAVEL

References

My source for this article is the monograph published by The Trinity Forum "Politics, Morality, and Civility" by Vaclav Havel with a foreword by Alonzo McDonald. This monograph and many others are highly recommended and available from The Trinity Forum.

A MULTITUDE GATHERS IN PRAGUE TO HONOR THE LIFE OF VACLAV HAVEL (PHOTOGRAPH BY PETR DAVID JOSEK, AP)

A MULTITUDE GATHERS IN PRAGUE TO HONOR THE LIFE OF VACLAV HAVEL (PHOTOGRAPH BY PETR DAVID JOSEK, AP)

Comments

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 17, 2016:

Larry~ Thank you for your comments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 17, 2016:

Frantisek~ Thank you for bringing that idea to light. It is something I had never heard before from any quarter.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 17, 2016:

Debora~ Well, you certainly have a different view of Vaclav Havel than I do. Still, your comments are welcomed here. God Bless You.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 17, 2016:

Riki~ I enjoyed reading your comments, as tinged with sorrow as they are. And I surely agree with you that "My parents lived full lives and had . . . the light of love during 63 years of marriage. This is how it's supposed to be."

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 17, 2016:

Johnson~ Thank you very much for your erudite commentary. I find your remarks quite insightful.

Frantisek on June 29, 2015:

His family supported the Nazis! He was a lunetic person!

Debora on August 30, 2013:

Bravo! We will, hopefully, not see the likes of Havel and Gorbachev again. With Slavic Blood on their hands, if not in their veins, these reilved creatures surely were "Quislings" for the debauched Western Empire that seeks to equate Slav with slave. One must wonder if Havel saw, on his deathbed, the coming end of Empire and the rebirth of Eastern Europe and Russia, the Mother of us all?

Riki on August 28, 2013:

Over the past 10 days I lost both my parents, my dad and then my mom. During this peorcss the days were filled with love and learning and relationships and light, never darkness. I learned so much about life, about the peorcss of dying and about my own value to friends and family. My brother and I spent hours and days reflecting, reconnecting and hoping for a better future for our children and grandchildren in the wake of the tragic shooting and the loss of beautiful, innocent lives and potentials never reached. My parents lived full lives and had the love of two children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They had the light of love during 63 years of marriage. This is how it's supposed to be. What happened in Newtown is not how it's supposed to be, but we must go forth and follow the light, not the darkness, as there is so much to be learned and so much to still do. When there is hope in darkness the light will shine through.

Johnson on August 28, 2013:

to have oberved that the ployhcsogical resistance of modern nations to war was so great that "every war must appear to be a war of defence..." What better way to assure that than to rename the government department that wages it Defense -- pardon the American spelling.Has Falcon perhaps unlocked the next step, which is to say, renaming DOD as Department of Humanitarian Intervention (DHI)? This only as an intermediate step toward the final veil when it becomes simply the DOP, Department of Peace ?Lasswell by the way was a close student of the Committee On Public Information during the same World War I, on which young Bernays served as a shining light and the main job of which was to demonize Germans.World War I again wasn't that the war to make the world safe for Anglo-American empire ? Whatever one wishes to do with that, one might note, as one has seen no one else do, that what began as mainly domestic propaganda in World War I, expanded into a domestic and world effort during and after World War II.But that is a vast subject, even for a footnote.Obviously with all these footnotes and good soldiers and trains one again has run out of time for Havel's masterpieces.Perhaps Angela Merkel deserves the final word on Havel as politico. Greeting his demise with dismay, reports Reuters, Merkel is said to have written: "His dedication to freedom and democracy is as unforgotten as his great humanity. We Germans also have much to thank him for. Together with you, we mourn the loss of a great European. Merkel is almost universally portrayed and portrays herself?--in the western media as a homey and homely figure, closer to a dumpy Little Orphan Annie than Mrs. Thatcher's slick and glossy attempt at Daddy Warbucks. Might it be noted that she was raised and educated in auld East Germany, and highly educated at that--as a physicist. If one dares to attribute her a certain irony, one will find the above message not only as finely crafted as anything you are likely to find in Havel, but far more witty--indeed hilarious.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 07, 2013:

Silva Hayes— Thank you so much! I sincerely apreciate your kind words. It is great to "see" you again. I hope all has been well. I need to come by and see what you've been writing lately. Good of you to come.

James :-)

Silva Hayes from Spicewood, Texas on January 06, 2013:

Brilliant, James. So relevant to the state of the world today. I will read this again and again.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 27, 2012:

Derdriu— I love this scrumptious line of yours: "a wonderful eulogy for an unusual individual who showed that poets can be statesmen."

I am just so happy to once again read such praise of my work here on HubPages from you. I humbly accept your laudatory remarks but we'd better stop before I get the big head. :D

Just kidding! Bring it on. I can take it.

Thank you for everything. And you are welcome.

James

Derdriu on January 25, 2012:

James A Watkins, What a considerate, factual, intelligent tribute to Vaclav Havel! You excel at balanced interpretations and careful presentation of facts when presenting the life and times of people, places and times. In particular, I like the way in which you situate the great Czech president within the context of the influences on his personal life and professional activities as well as within the wider picture of history and world events. It's a wonderful eulogy for an unusual individual who showed that poets can be statesmen.

Thank you for sharing, voted up + all,

Derdriu

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 07, 2012:

suzettenaples— I have not been to Prague but by all accounts it impresses people as you say it did you. That is awesome that you actually traveled Behind the Iron Curtain. Wowser!

I surely agree with your assessment of Vaclav Havel. I love him! Thank you for your gracious compliments. I appreciate you reading my Hub. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 06, 2012:

Eiddwen— Thank you, Eddy, for the voted up and the wonderful compliment.

I will see you soon!

James

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on January 06, 2012:

Great article, James. Vaclav Havel was an extraordinary man and world hero. I remember the "Velvet Revolution" and how sad that all revolutions cannot be in this manner.

I visited Prague while it was still behind the Iron Curtain and what a wonderful city and country the Chech Republic was at that time and is now.

Under communism, I really felt for the people, but even then, the beauty of Prague rose up and was visible. Havel will be remembered as the savior of the Chechs.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 05, 2012:

Tamarajo— Vaclav Havel was indeed a brilliant thinker. He does make it sound possible for morality to play a role in politics—even necessary.

I am glad you enjoy my articles. Thank you for saying so. As always, I appreciate this visit from you and your fine comments.

Eiddwen from Wales on January 05, 2012:

One word for this one James:- Brilliant !!!!

A vote up for sure.

Take care and enjoy your day.

Eddy.

Tamarajo on January 02, 2012:

I always learn so much from your articles James. I sincerely had never heard of Havel before. He certainly was a brilliant thinker. I enjoyed reading of His political and moral philosophies. it seems at times like politics and morality are such worlds away from each other yet he makes it sound possible.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 30, 2011:

Hello, hello,— Yes, I surely agree completely with your sentiments that you succinctly and pithily expressed in your comment box. Thank you for reading my Hub. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. :)

Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 27, 2011:

A great loss to the world and especially to his country. He was the ideal politician. They all could take a leave out his book. That is a politician one can respect.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 26, 2011:

htodd— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 26, 2011:

Sueswan— Hello Sue!

Thank you for the kind compliments as well as the voted up and awesome!

I love the additional quotes you provided in your comments, especially the second one, if I may repeat it:

"As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it."

Wow! There it is.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!

htodd from United States on December 23, 2011:

Vaclav Havel ..He was really great ..Thanks for putting insights on it

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

JuliaFine— Welcome to the HubPages Community! I see you just joined 24 hours ago. I will come over and check out your Hubs ASAP.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Thank you for reading my article.

Sueswan on December 23, 2011:

Hi James,

I was not familiar with Vaclav Havel. I was very impressed with your hub and the following Havel quotes .

"I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions."

Vaclav Havel

"As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it."