Bringing down an empire with words

Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright who spent 5 years in prison for undermining the communist regime, has died.  After communism in Russia and eastern Europe was so discredited that it fell apart, Havel was elected president of his newly freed nation.

It was the writers who did more than anyone else–yes, more than Ronald Reagan and more than the Pope–to bring down the communist system.  It isn’t enough–though it’s very important–for outsiders to stand strong against an evil empire.  The key to bringing down an evil empire is to turn its own people, including those who run the empire, against it by awakening their conscience to its evil and their complicity in it.

Some words from Havel:

After being unanimously elected president of Czechoslovakia by the newly free country’s Parliament in December 1989, Mr. Havel set the tone of the new era in a speech Jan. 1, 1990, his first day in office. Communism, he said, was “a monstrous, ramshackle, stinking machine” whose worst legacy was not economic failure but a “spoiled moral environment.”

“We have become morally ill because we are used to saying one thing and thinking another,” he said. “We have learned not to believe in anything, not to care about each other. . . . Love, friendship, mercy, humility, or forgiveness have lost their depths and dimension. . . . They represent some sort of psychological curiosity, or they appear as long-lost wanderers from faraway times.”

Vaclav Havel, dissident playwright and former Czech president, dies – The Washington Post.

Does our free society now share that moral illness?  What dissidents do we need?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I would agree that such is true in some cases. I would add to that, however, that those virtues Mr. Havel cites have also become ends in and of themselves, instead of means to an end, or a by-product of something better (as Christianity teaches). You’ll find many people lamenting the loss of love and virtue, but in reaction they extol these things as goals to be attained. In contrast, Christianity extols Christ, and salvation in Christ alone, with the result being an outpouring of these virtues. When you lift up the virtue over the Source and Giver of the virtue, you turn that virtue into an idol, and the end result is spiritual vice.

    By the way, you are right, Dr. Veith, in the influence of the writers, and I would expand this to artists in general. And it works both ways: just as artists can build up a culture, they can be just as instrumental in corrupting it and tearing it down.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I would agree that such is true in some cases. I would add to that, however, that those virtues Mr. Havel cites have also become ends in and of themselves, instead of means to an end, or a by-product of something better (as Christianity teaches). You’ll find many people lamenting the loss of love and virtue, but in reaction they extol these things as goals to be attained. In contrast, Christianity extols Christ, and salvation in Christ alone, with the result being an outpouring of these virtues. When you lift up the virtue over the Source and Giver of the virtue, you turn that virtue into an idol, and the end result is spiritual vice.

    By the way, you are right, Dr. Veith, in the influence of the writers, and I would expand this to artists in general. And it works both ways: just as artists can build up a culture, they can be just as instrumental in corrupting it and tearing it down.

  • J

    I would say that our country is in a battle against relativism which is the “moral illness” that is described. I’ve been reading John Piper’s book, Think, and in it he has this quote…“During the next hundred years, the question for those who love liberty is whether we can survive the most insidious and duplicitous attacks from within, from those who undermine the virtues of our people, doing in advance the work of the Father of Lies. “There is no such thing as truth,” they teach even the little ones. “Truth is bondage. Believe what seems right to you. There are as many truths as there are individuals. Follow your feelings. Do as you please. Get in touch with your self. Do what feels comfortable.” Those who speak in this way prepare the jails of the twenty-first century. They do the work of tyrants.”
    ― Michael Novak

  • J

    I would say that our country is in a battle against relativism which is the “moral illness” that is described. I’ve been reading John Piper’s book, Think, and in it he has this quote…“During the next hundred years, the question for those who love liberty is whether we can survive the most insidious and duplicitous attacks from within, from those who undermine the virtues of our people, doing in advance the work of the Father of Lies. “There is no such thing as truth,” they teach even the little ones. “Truth is bondage. Believe what seems right to you. There are as many truths as there are individuals. Follow your feelings. Do as you please. Get in touch with your self. Do what feels comfortable.” Those who speak in this way prepare the jails of the twenty-first century. They do the work of tyrants.”
    ― Michael Novak

  • Rose

    The St Agnes Convent in Prague is now part of the National Gallery with a wonderful collection of medieval Christian art. When I visited, the uniformed women ticket takers and guards seemed more like relics than the art. They treated visitors with officious disdain. Havel did not retaliate against former Communist officials. They were simply reassigned. So here were a handful of former high officials, I’m guessing, assigned to guard priceless Christian treasures. Havel had a wonderful sense of humor.

  • Rose

    The St Agnes Convent in Prague is now part of the National Gallery with a wonderful collection of medieval Christian art. When I visited, the uniformed women ticket takers and guards seemed more like relics than the art. They treated visitors with officious disdain. Havel did not retaliate against former Communist officials. They were simply reassigned. So here were a handful of former high officials, I’m guessing, assigned to guard priceless Christian treasures. Havel had a wonderful sense of humor.

  • Tom Hering

    “… we are used to saying one thing and thinking another …”

    This isn’t a problem in America. I’m not afraid to speak my mind because at least one of my family members, and at least one of my friends, and at least one of my coworkers is an informer – eager to score points with the secret police by turning me in.

    “Love, friendship, mercy, humility, or forgiveness have lost their depths and dimension …”

    Which is exactly what would happen if I couldn’t risk speaking my mind to anyone – not even to someone as intimate as a lover. But again, this isn’t a problem in America. Any comparison of life in America with life in the Eastern Bloc countries would be an insult to the people who lived in those countries – a complete failure to understand the depth and breadth of what they suffered.

  • Tom Hering

    “… we are used to saying one thing and thinking another …”

    This isn’t a problem in America. I’m not afraid to speak my mind because at least one of my family members, and at least one of my friends, and at least one of my coworkers is an informer – eager to score points with the secret police by turning me in.

    “Love, friendship, mercy, humility, or forgiveness have lost their depths and dimension …”

    Which is exactly what would happen if I couldn’t risk speaking my mind to anyone – not even to someone as intimate as a lover. But again, this isn’t a problem in America. Any comparison of life in America with life in the Eastern Bloc countries would be an insult to the people who lived in those countries – a complete failure to understand the depth and breadth of what they suffered.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Tom,

    Any comparison of life in America with life in the Eastern Bloc countries would be an insult to the people who lived in those countries – a complete failure to understand the depth and breadth of what they suffered.

    Preach it, brother. Too many times have I seen the flow and ebb of opinions, political discourse and even local petty bureaucracies equated with the worst sufferings of others. This trivialises the travails of the latter to no small extent, and induces a hero/martyr complex in those that engage in this sort of thing. It is the tactics of schoolboys, not of grown-ups.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Tom,

    Any comparison of life in America with life in the Eastern Bloc countries would be an insult to the people who lived in those countries – a complete failure to understand the depth and breadth of what they suffered.

    Preach it, brother. Too many times have I seen the flow and ebb of opinions, political discourse and even local petty bureaucracies equated with the worst sufferings of others. This trivialises the travails of the latter to no small extent, and induces a hero/martyr complex in those that engage in this sort of thing. It is the tactics of schoolboys, not of grown-ups.

  • Tom Hering

    Klasie, I guess I’m a little touchy about comparisons with the former Eastern Bloc. For decades, my dad (who passed away just before the fall of the Soviet Union) was an editor, and then editor-in-chief, of the largest Polish language, anti-communist newspaper in the world, Gwiazda Polarna. One indication of how bad it was behind the Iron Curtain is the fact that the fear, over there, extended all the way to here. There was always the suspicion, in the editorial office, that one of the Polish expatriates on the staff was a KGB plant. Maybe that was a silly fear, or just office politics, but it shows the frame of mind Poles developed in order to survive. How many Americans worry that a coworker is a government agent out to get them? Okay, maybe a few on the far right, and a few on the far left. But otherwise? We just aren’t living under the kind of oppression that others have had to live through. So any argument involving such a comparison strikes me as ridiculous – immediately.

  • Tom Hering

    Klasie, I guess I’m a little touchy about comparisons with the former Eastern Bloc. For decades, my dad (who passed away just before the fall of the Soviet Union) was an editor, and then editor-in-chief, of the largest Polish language, anti-communist newspaper in the world, Gwiazda Polarna. One indication of how bad it was behind the Iron Curtain is the fact that the fear, over there, extended all the way to here. There was always the suspicion, in the editorial office, that one of the Polish expatriates on the staff was a KGB plant. Maybe that was a silly fear, or just office politics, but it shows the frame of mind Poles developed in order to survive. How many Americans worry that a coworker is a government agent out to get them? Okay, maybe a few on the far right, and a few on the far left. But otherwise? We just aren’t living under the kind of oppression that others have had to live through. So any argument involving such a comparison strikes me as ridiculous – immediately.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I don’t think it’s a question of us being like those former Eastern bloc countries (now), but which direction are we headed.

    It can all go away (society as we know it), and very quickly. I never thought I’d live in an America where mobs of people were talking about marching to business leader’s homes to hold them “accountable” for crimes against the “working people”. OWS shows us this streak in us.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I don’t think it’s a question of us being like those former Eastern bloc countries (now), but which direction are we headed.

    It can all go away (society as we know it), and very quickly. I never thought I’d live in an America where mobs of people were talking about marching to business leader’s homes to hold them “accountable” for crimes against the “working people”. OWS shows us this streak in us.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@6):

    So any argument involving such a comparison strikes me as ridiculous – immediately.

    Well, yes and no. Any attempt at equivalency would be ridiculous, yes. But any attempt, as Steve suggests (@7) at a mere comparison — in order to learn where we might be headed — shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.

    That said, in this light, I’m far less concerned about actual, organic movements of the people (e.g. OWS) than I am about top-down restrictions of freedom from our government (cf. the Patriot Act, repeated disdain towards habeus corpus, and things like this).

    Indefinite detentions of our own citizens suspected of terrorism. Now that sounds like something people from the old Eastern Bloc could tell us more about. And yet, it passes by with hardly any notice from the media or the public. Chilling.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@6):

    So any argument involving such a comparison strikes me as ridiculous – immediately.

    Well, yes and no. Any attempt at equivalency would be ridiculous, yes. But any attempt, as Steve suggests (@7) at a mere comparison — in order to learn where we might be headed — shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.

    That said, in this light, I’m far less concerned about actual, organic movements of the people (e.g. OWS) than I am about top-down restrictions of freedom from our government (cf. the Patriot Act, repeated disdain towards habeus corpus, and things like this).

    Indefinite detentions of our own citizens suspected of terrorism. Now that sounds like something people from the old Eastern Bloc could tell us more about. And yet, it passes by with hardly any notice from the media or the public. Chilling.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And I’m not sure I agree with you, J. Dean (@1). You read Havel lamenting that “Love, friendship, mercy, humility, or forgiveness have lost their depths and dimension,” and you see that as somehow being bad — because he “extols these things as goals to be attained”.

    Well, so does Scripture: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is very much a goal to be attained! The point of Christianity is not that it alone teaches us how to love our neighbors. It certainly does exhort us to do that, though not uniquely — the pagans are aware of, and show that they are capable of, how to love and show mercy. No, the point of Christianity is that we have a savior who forgives us when we all-too-often fail to show the love and mercy that Scripture holds out as our goal.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And I’m not sure I agree with you, J. Dean (@1). You read Havel lamenting that “Love, friendship, mercy, humility, or forgiveness have lost their depths and dimension,” and you see that as somehow being bad — because he “extols these things as goals to be attained”.

    Well, so does Scripture: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is very much a goal to be attained! The point of Christianity is not that it alone teaches us how to love our neighbors. It certainly does exhort us to do that, though not uniquely — the pagans are aware of, and show that they are capable of, how to love and show mercy. No, the point of Christianity is that we have a savior who forgives us when we all-too-often fail to show the love and mercy that Scripture holds out as our goal.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd @ 8, I’m not so sure that even mere comparisons – made to sound a warning – are valid. What sort of situation are we comparing our situation with? What are we saying might be possible if violations of our liberties get worse? An America where the courts and the police and the military are against the people? Worse yet, where all of the courts and all of the police and all of the military are against all of the people – and all of the people are turned against each other? Because that was the reality in the Eastern Bloc. We have a long, long way to go before that could become our reality, too.

    Don’t get me wrong. I understand what keeps Libertarian-leaning folks up at night. :-D But our government has violated our liberties in every period of our history. There’s nothing new in that. And there won’t be anything new if enough of us remain vigilant and politically active. Or just speak the truth. Our track record, as a people, has been pretty good that way.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd @ 8, I’m not so sure that even mere comparisons – made to sound a warning – are valid. What sort of situation are we comparing our situation with? What are we saying might be possible if violations of our liberties get worse? An America where the courts and the police and the military are against the people? Worse yet, where all of the courts and all of the police and all of the military are against all of the people – and all of the people are turned against each other? Because that was the reality in the Eastern Bloc. We have a long, long way to go before that could become our reality, too.

    Don’t get me wrong. I understand what keeps Libertarian-leaning folks up at night. :-D But our government has violated our liberties in every period of our history. There’s nothing new in that. And there won’t be anything new if enough of us remain vigilant and politically active. Or just speak the truth. Our track record, as a people, has been pretty good that way.

  • Dust

    Dr. Veith:

    “It was the writers who did more than anyone else–yes, more than Ronald Reagan and more than the Pope–to bring down the communist system. ”

    Sorry to say, wishful thinking, and failure to understand the power of a bully government. One rifle can stop many unarmed protestors. One match can burn many books. So much for words…spoken or written, and not backed up by force.

    The real power of a government, good or bad, is it’s control of the power of the police and armed forces. Ultimately without it, there is not much the man in the street, or behind the typewriter can do, except talk about it. And bully’s in any form don’t respect words, they only respect power.

    Sticks and stone my break my bones, but words can never hurt me. True in the playground and true in the battlefield.

    Don’t get me wrong, words are important and can be effective, if the people who hear them, read them, are free and allowed to act on them. But one should not underestimate or minimize the ultimate necessity of being able to put boots on the ground, as it were, to bring down a band of armed and dangerous bullys, either in the playground or battlefield.

    That is why it was so critical for the Reagans and Thatchers and Popes of the world to unite and face down the bully of communism. It took a lot of courage to stand up to them, in so far as one reaction could have been to fight back. Alas, they had been destroyed from within with words and an empty ideology, but it still required an outside force to force them to give it up. Even today, it sometimes requires federal action to enforce the law of the land…those are word too, but words are not always enough.

    It could even be argued that the most powerful words and thoughts of Christianity were really not going anywhere very fast, until Constantine and the forces behind him were won over to that side and could use their power to move things along more quickly, by force if necessary, thank you very much! Now was that a divine intervention? Was God using Constantine to advance the cause of Christianity? Whatever, but regardless, it nevertheless took force to make things happen.

    And so it will be that way even to the last day, bullys don’t give up their power easily or willingly…it won’t be pretty to the losers, but the Lord will do it, with real power and might, and we will be more than conquerors….He gave us His word :)

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    Dr. Veith:

    “It was the writers who did more than anyone else–yes, more than Ronald Reagan and more than the Pope–to bring down the communist system. ”

    Sorry to say, wishful thinking, and failure to understand the power of a bully government. One rifle can stop many unarmed protestors. One match can burn many books. So much for words…spoken or written, and not backed up by force.

    The real power of a government, good or bad, is it’s control of the power of the police and armed forces. Ultimately without it, there is not much the man in the street, or behind the typewriter can do, except talk about it. And bully’s in any form don’t respect words, they only respect power.

    Sticks and stone my break my bones, but words can never hurt me. True in the playground and true in the battlefield.

    Don’t get me wrong, words are important and can be effective, if the people who hear them, read them, are free and allowed to act on them. But one should not underestimate or minimize the ultimate necessity of being able to put boots on the ground, as it were, to bring down a band of armed and dangerous bullys, either in the playground or battlefield.

    That is why it was so critical for the Reagans and Thatchers and Popes of the world to unite and face down the bully of communism. It took a lot of courage to stand up to them, in so far as one reaction could have been to fight back. Alas, they had been destroyed from within with words and an empty ideology, but it still required an outside force to force them to give it up. Even today, it sometimes requires federal action to enforce the law of the land…those are word too, but words are not always enough.

    It could even be argued that the most powerful words and thoughts of Christianity were really not going anywhere very fast, until Constantine and the forces behind him were won over to that side and could use their power to move things along more quickly, by force if necessary, thank you very much! Now was that a divine intervention? Was God using Constantine to advance the cause of Christianity? Whatever, but regardless, it nevertheless took force to make things happen.

    And so it will be that way even to the last day, bullys don’t give up their power easily or willingly…it won’t be pretty to the losers, but the Lord will do it, with real power and might, and we will be more than conquerors….He gave us His word :)

    Cheers!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@10), you sort of seem insistent on learning nothing from history or other countries, based on the objection that our situation today isn’t exactly like theirs was. Which means that, no matter how much we may (hypothetically, for your sake) be trending towards a mistake that has been made by others, until we actually recapitulate it fully, you see no reason to be concerned. Of course, by the time we are in that situation, it will be too late. How is this helpful?

    But our government has violated our liberties in every period of our history.

    It is baffling that you find this somehow comforting, a reason to not be worried about any liberties that our current government is taking away from us. “Oh, don’t worry about the torture! We’ve always done that in one form or another! No biggie.”

    And there won’t be anything new if enough of us remain vigilant and politically active. Or just speak the truth. Our track record, as a people, has been pretty good that way.

    This claim, of course, is completely undermined by the previous quote of yours I cited. It would seem that, according to you, our track record has been pretty lousy — that either we haven’t been particularly vigilant, or that our vigilance simply hasn’t prevented our government from violating our liberties.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@10), you sort of seem insistent on learning nothing from history or other countries, based on the objection that our situation today isn’t exactly like theirs was. Which means that, no matter how much we may (hypothetically, for your sake) be trending towards a mistake that has been made by others, until we actually recapitulate it fully, you see no reason to be concerned. Of course, by the time we are in that situation, it will be too late. How is this helpful?

    But our government has violated our liberties in every period of our history.

    It is baffling that you find this somehow comforting, a reason to not be worried about any liberties that our current government is taking away from us. “Oh, don’t worry about the torture! We’ve always done that in one form or another! No biggie.”

    And there won’t be anything new if enough of us remain vigilant and politically active. Or just speak the truth. Our track record, as a people, has been pretty good that way.

    This claim, of course, is completely undermined by the previous quote of yours I cited. It would seem that, according to you, our track record has been pretty lousy — that either we haven’t been particularly vigilant, or that our vigilance simply hasn’t prevented our government from violating our liberties.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd @ 12, I’m not making the arguments you say I’m making. I don’t find it comforting that our government has violated our liberties in every period of our history. Unless there’s comfort to be found in government acting the way the Founders warned us it would act. (The evil men do is predictable. Whew!) What I find comforting is the fact that enough of our citizenry, in every period of our history, have stood up for our liberties. (If the citizenry doesn’t lead the fight to preserve our liberties, who will?) What I also find comforting is our system of checks and balances. It has worked pretty well to preserve our liberties. Thanks, for the most part, to a truly independent (non-Gingrichian) judicial branch with real powers. (Most of the threats to our liberty have come from the executive and legislative branches.) If the power of the judicial branch is ever weakened, relative to the other two branches, I’ll really start to worry (the way I guess you want me to :-D ).

    I think I’ve learned a lot from history, when I can recognize that things over here, now, are nothing like what they were over there, then. And that the conditions that made the worst sort of government possible over there, then, don’t exist here, now. And are a long way from existing here.

    And really, to suggest I wink at torture. You know better.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd @ 12, I’m not making the arguments you say I’m making. I don’t find it comforting that our government has violated our liberties in every period of our history. Unless there’s comfort to be found in government acting the way the Founders warned us it would act. (The evil men do is predictable. Whew!) What I find comforting is the fact that enough of our citizenry, in every period of our history, have stood up for our liberties. (If the citizenry doesn’t lead the fight to preserve our liberties, who will?) What I also find comforting is our system of checks and balances. It has worked pretty well to preserve our liberties. Thanks, for the most part, to a truly independent (non-Gingrichian) judicial branch with real powers. (Most of the threats to our liberty have come from the executive and legislative branches.) If the power of the judicial branch is ever weakened, relative to the other two branches, I’ll really start to worry (the way I guess you want me to :-D ).

    I think I’ve learned a lot from history, when I can recognize that things over here, now, are nothing like what they were over there, then. And that the conditions that made the worst sort of government possible over there, then, don’t exist here, now. And are a long way from existing here.

    And really, to suggest I wink at torture. You know better.

  • SKPeterson

    Dust,

    Lech Walesa begs to differ with you, at least to some extent. From the WSJ obit:

    Lech Walesa, the leader of Poland’s anticommunist Solidarity movement and later democratically elected president of Poland, said Sunday that Mr. Havel was a political philosopher who “fought with his word and pen.”

    I know we like to think it was our courageous standing up to the Soviet Union that brought about its downfall, but it largely fell of its own enormous weight. From the standpoint of perfect 20/20 hindsight the rot had turned fatal right about the same time the Soviets crushed the Prague Spring and clamped down more on the Warsaw Pact nations. It was under those inauspicious circumstances that men like Havel and Janusz Anderman were key in creating something akin to a republic of letters that allowed for a mostly peaceable transition to a free, democratic Europe that happened despite the Soviet boots on the ground to prevent it.

  • SKPeterson

    Dust,

    Lech Walesa begs to differ with you, at least to some extent. From the WSJ obit:

    Lech Walesa, the leader of Poland’s anticommunist Solidarity movement and later democratically elected president of Poland, said Sunday that Mr. Havel was a political philosopher who “fought with his word and pen.”

    I know we like to think it was our courageous standing up to the Soviet Union that brought about its downfall, but it largely fell of its own enormous weight. From the standpoint of perfect 20/20 hindsight the rot had turned fatal right about the same time the Soviets crushed the Prague Spring and clamped down more on the Warsaw Pact nations. It was under those inauspicious circumstances that men like Havel and Janusz Anderman were key in creating something akin to a republic of letters that allowed for a mostly peaceable transition to a free, democratic Europe that happened despite the Soviet boots on the ground to prevent it.

  • kerner

    Steve Martin @7

    I agree with you that “it can all go away very quickly”. But I’m a lot more optimistic than you. You may naver have thought you would live in an America with the circumstances you describe. But I have lived in an America, in which one president was assasinated, one was shot but did not die, and one was shot at, but not hit, and where two more very prominant political figures were murdered and another candidate for president was shot and paralized. Also, in my state, radical left wing terrorists destroyed a building at our state university, killing someone (accidentally, they said) in the process, and in my home city the national guard once patrolled the streets to get racially motivated riots under control.

    From my perspective, our society have moved in a positive direction in my lifetime. And I really agree with almost everything Tom Herring has said on this thread (a banner day, eh Tom?) :)

  • kerner

    Steve Martin @7

    I agree with you that “it can all go away very quickly”. But I’m a lot more optimistic than you. You may naver have thought you would live in an America with the circumstances you describe. But I have lived in an America, in which one president was assasinated, one was shot but did not die, and one was shot at, but not hit, and where two more very prominant political figures were murdered and another candidate for president was shot and paralized. Also, in my state, radical left wing terrorists destroyed a building at our state university, killing someone (accidentally, they said) in the process, and in my home city the national guard once patrolled the streets to get racially motivated riots under control.

    From my perspective, our society have moved in a positive direction in my lifetime. And I really agree with almost everything Tom Herring has said on this thread (a banner day, eh Tom?) :)

  • kerner

    Hmm, reading my last post, I wish to clarify: I have also lived in an America in which people were denied access to public facilities (and a lot of other things) because of their race, and young men were conscripted to fight a very unpopular war. The press was dominated by one group with a fairly unified opinion.

    A lot of things I consider very negative were part of the America of my youth, but the are no more. So, even though we have some negative things challenging us now, I still think our country has improved, over all, in my lifetime.

    Even the Church has recovered from some of the hits it took during the 1960′s. But that’s a different subject.

  • kerner

    Hmm, reading my last post, I wish to clarify: I have also lived in an America in which people were denied access to public facilities (and a lot of other things) because of their race, and young men were conscripted to fight a very unpopular war. The press was dominated by one group with a fairly unified opinion.

    A lot of things I consider very negative were part of the America of my youth, but the are no more. So, even though we have some negative things challenging us now, I still think our country has improved, over all, in my lifetime.

    Even the Church has recovered from some of the hits it took during the 1960′s. But that’s a different subject.

  • Dust

    SK…words are important, yes, and courageous too in the case of those writing in the underground during the soviet occupation. guess something similar happened in Germany in the 1500′s and in this country in the 1700′s, and am sure in may other places too. am not denying that fact… but generally in every case, words were not enough. There has to be some force behind it to ultimately get the bully to give it up!

    am thinking of what happened in Hungary, when the people were protesting the soviet occupation….knowing that the Americans were going to come in and back them up WITH FORCE, make them even more willing to risk all and put themselves on line out in the streets. My feeling is they would have thought twice about it and not even done it without the assurance of US intervention.

    Alas, the US did not deliver and that was the end of their revolution…one of words, courageous, bold, and truthful, but most of the time, words alone will not change a bully’s mind. ….sometimes, but not often enough.

    Which, by the way, if you don’t believe it, is possibly another symptom of a moral illness in our society today?

  • Dust

    SK…words are important, yes, and courageous too in the case of those writing in the underground during the soviet occupation. guess something similar happened in Germany in the 1500′s and in this country in the 1700′s, and am sure in may other places too. am not denying that fact… but generally in every case, words were not enough. There has to be some force behind it to ultimately get the bully to give it up!

    am thinking of what happened in Hungary, when the people were protesting the soviet occupation….knowing that the Americans were going to come in and back them up WITH FORCE, make them even more willing to risk all and put themselves on line out in the streets. My feeling is they would have thought twice about it and not even done it without the assurance of US intervention.

    Alas, the US did not deliver and that was the end of their revolution…one of words, courageous, bold, and truthful, but most of the time, words alone will not change a bully’s mind. ….sometimes, but not often enough.

    Which, by the way, if you don’t believe it, is possibly another symptom of a moral illness in our society today?

  • Dust

    I might add to my comment in 17….think of what happened in Iran a year or so ago, the populist uprising….once it was clear that the US would not back them up, not with rhetoric and certainly not with force, the bully of Iran shut it down, with force, brutal, cold, ruthless force. The bully knows more than we do, his words are not enough, he enforces them with force, or threat of force, and fear of force, or do you not know that is how it works?

  • Dust

    I might add to my comment in 17….think of what happened in Iran a year or so ago, the populist uprising….once it was clear that the US would not back them up, not with rhetoric and certainly not with force, the bully of Iran shut it down, with force, brutal, cold, ruthless force. The bully knows more than we do, his words are not enough, he enforces them with force, or threat of force, and fear of force, or do you not know that is how it works?

  • –helen

    Let me know when someone has dismantled the “Patriot Act” so I can contemplate flying w/o fear of assault by the TSA?

  • –helen

    Let me know when someone has dismantled the “Patriot Act” so I can contemplate flying w/o fear of assault by the TSA?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    This thread reminds me of the nurse who sustained a nasty papercut to her index finger, saying to the patient – “Ouch, I feel your pain, just look at this” – but the patient couldn’t answer, being in a coma after a failed mafia hit……

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    This thread reminds me of the nurse who sustained a nasty papercut to her index finger, saying to the patient – “Ouch, I feel your pain, just look at this” – but the patient couldn’t answer, being in a coma after a failed mafia hit……

  • Dust

    One last comment, sorry….but one of my favorite quotes of Reagan (he may have been quoting someone else?) is the line that he said sort of summarizes his style of governing “it’s amazing how much you can get done, when you don’t really care who gets the credit”

    Am sure Reagan could care less if we give him the credit for his “courageous standing up to the Soviet Union” or if you give the credit to the those who wrote words against it, as far as he is concerned, it got done, that good enough for him and many, many others :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    One last comment, sorry….but one of my favorite quotes of Reagan (he may have been quoting someone else?) is the line that he said sort of summarizes his style of governing “it’s amazing how much you can get done, when you don’t really care who gets the credit”

    Am sure Reagan could care less if we give him the credit for his “courageous standing up to the Soviet Union” or if you give the credit to the those who wrote words against it, as far as he is concerned, it got done, that good enough for him and many, many others :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    one word for you KK, one you are fond of using….sigh :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    one word for you KK, one you are fond of using….sigh :)

    cheers!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Dust,

    In the case of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, which is what this post is about, the very troops in their tanks that were sent to crush the uprising–as happened in Hungary and in Tienanmen Square–in this case joined the protesters! This is because the Communists no longer controlled the minds of their population, including those in the military and state police. Bully governments can’t send out the police power when the police won’t obey them either.

    We had lots of bellicose presidents who stood up against the Soviets, some to the point of actually using force against them: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan. They defended our country and tried to stop Soviet expansion, but they didn’t cause communism to collapse within the very countries where it held absolute sway. That required an internal movement, which was fueled by the writers, artists, Christians (I’ll give the pope some credit), and others.

    Things don’t always happen in this way, but it did this time.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Dust,

    In the case of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, which is what this post is about, the very troops in their tanks that were sent to crush the uprising–as happened in Hungary and in Tienanmen Square–in this case joined the protesters! This is because the Communists no longer controlled the minds of their population, including those in the military and state police. Bully governments can’t send out the police power when the police won’t obey them either.

    We had lots of bellicose presidents who stood up against the Soviets, some to the point of actually using force against them: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan. They defended our country and tried to stop Soviet expansion, but they didn’t cause communism to collapse within the very countries where it held absolute sway. That required an internal movement, which was fueled by the writers, artists, Christians (I’ll give the pope some credit), and others.

    Things don’t always happen in this way, but it did this time.

  • Dust

    Truth be known, the military was probably getting tired of also being treated like second class citizens. Without the money coming in from a strong economy, the Soviet empire could no longer afford to take care of it’s military in a fashion to which it had become accustomed, as they say. Having to wear the same old, out of style uniform after years and years of the latest fashions and high quality materials was taking it’s toll on their self esteem. Not to mention the lack of spare parts, so equipment that kept breaking down, stayed broken down much longer than in the good ole days, and the gasoline that made them go was much harder to come by and joy rides were a thing of the past, what with the officers watching every penny. And the food, did we mention the food? No longer the best and freshest fruits and veggies or the choicest cuts of beef, pork, chicken and fresh fish. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if they hadn’t known about the good life, now only affordable for the top tier bureaucrats, autocrats, those in the upper levels of the crumbling system. No, if they could have just kept that military machine a little better equipped, things may not have turned out just so. But it did this time, and everybody wants a piece of the credit :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Truth be known, the military was probably getting tired of also being treated like second class citizens. Without the money coming in from a strong economy, the Soviet empire could no longer afford to take care of it’s military in a fashion to which it had become accustomed, as they say. Having to wear the same old, out of style uniform after years and years of the latest fashions and high quality materials was taking it’s toll on their self esteem. Not to mention the lack of spare parts, so equipment that kept breaking down, stayed broken down much longer than in the good ole days, and the gasoline that made them go was much harder to come by and joy rides were a thing of the past, what with the officers watching every penny. And the food, did we mention the food? No longer the best and freshest fruits and veggies or the choicest cuts of beef, pork, chicken and fresh fish. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if they hadn’t known about the good life, now only affordable for the top tier bureaucrats, autocrats, those in the upper levels of the crumbling system. No, if they could have just kept that military machine a little better equipped, things may not have turned out just so. But it did this time, and everybody wants a piece of the credit :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    To answer the question of this post, does this society have a moral illness? Duh! Just to start out with our obsession with entertainment and the easy life, celebrities, sex, big houses, fast cars…when they are willing to pay outrageous amounts of money to go to college, when they are no longer grateful and satisfied with the simple pleasures of life….yes we have lots of moral illnesses in our society, sorry to say and it may be a system crumbling from within as well?

    What dissidents do we need? Seems to me the prophets of the OT had it right back then, and to me they ring just as true today! Just replace Israel, Judah, etc. with the good ole US of A and in many ways, it’s a purr-fect fit :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    To answer the question of this post, does this society have a moral illness? Duh! Just to start out with our obsession with entertainment and the easy life, celebrities, sex, big houses, fast cars…when they are willing to pay outrageous amounts of money to go to college, when they are no longer grateful and satisfied with the simple pleasures of life….yes we have lots of moral illnesses in our society, sorry to say and it may be a system crumbling from within as well?

    What dissidents do we need? Seems to me the prophets of the OT had it right back then, and to me they ring just as true today! Just replace Israel, Judah, etc. with the good ole US of A and in many ways, it’s a purr-fect fit :)

    cheers!

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Havel and Walesa played great roles, and JPII, Reagan and Thatcher did too, as did Gorbachev by implementing Glasnost etc just when he did. But the biggest reason? The Eastern Block countries were bankrupt. So, they started lending money from the West – and then they got deeper and deeper in debt. Socialism didn’t pay the bills, and they went down against old fashioned capitalism. Oh yes, that is why they really supported the Liberation Movements in South Africa, because the argument seems to have been that SA gold could recapitalise the failing Soviet economies. Only, they couldn’t do so in time, and by the time De Klerk liberalised SA, freed Mandela, and put SA on the road to free and fair elections, communism was largely history.

    It is about money. It always is. The words of poets, and the rhetoricc of politicians, can be winds in the sails, but if the economics is against it, it is unlikely to work. But if the poets speak against that which brings poverty, man do they ever energize the masses. Thus Vaclav Havel.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Havel and Walesa played great roles, and JPII, Reagan and Thatcher did too, as did Gorbachev by implementing Glasnost etc just when he did. But the biggest reason? The Eastern Block countries were bankrupt. So, they started lending money from the West – and then they got deeper and deeper in debt. Socialism didn’t pay the bills, and they went down against old fashioned capitalism. Oh yes, that is why they really supported the Liberation Movements in South Africa, because the argument seems to have been that SA gold could recapitalise the failing Soviet economies. Only, they couldn’t do so in time, and by the time De Klerk liberalised SA, freed Mandela, and put SA on the road to free and fair elections, communism was largely history.

    It is about money. It always is. The words of poets, and the rhetoricc of politicians, can be winds in the sails, but if the economics is against it, it is unlikely to work. But if the poets speak against that which brings poverty, man do they ever energize the masses. Thus Vaclav Havel.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “Does our free society now share that moral illness?”

    Yes. And the U.S. being a “free” society makes us that much more culpable.

    “What dissidents do we need?”

    Lutheran Culture Warrior Dr. Gene Veith is an example of a much needed dissident.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “Does our free society now share that moral illness?”

    Yes. And the U.S. being a “free” society makes us that much more culpable.

    “What dissidents do we need?”

    Lutheran Culture Warrior Dr. Gene Veith is an example of a much needed dissident.

  • Dust

    So KK, pretty good, especially from one who has been there? But are you now just saying it’s about money, not force, and in the absence of either, words are powerful?

    cheers!

  • Dust

    So KK, pretty good, especially from one who has been there? But are you now just saying it’s about money, not force, and in the absence of either, words are powerful?

    cheers!

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dust, no – but economics is the most powerful motivator. Not the only motivator.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dust, no – but economics is the most powerful motivator. Not the only motivator.

  • Dust

    KK yes, economics is a powerful motivator…that’s not the same as class struggle is it? Hope not!

    In any case, agree with you that it’s not the only motivator, but not that it’s the most powerful motivator…neither are words, for that matter. Physical force trumps everything – always has and always will!

    Well, at least for those who do not know or have a higher calling :)

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    KK yes, economics is a powerful motivator…that’s not the same as class struggle is it? Hope not!

    In any case, agree with you that it’s not the only motivator, but not that it’s the most powerful motivator…neither are words, for that matter. Physical force trumps everything – always has and always will!

    Well, at least for those who do not know or have a higher calling :)

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    By the way, Truth in 27…is that what you call an example of truth? Looks like shameless blog kissing to me :)

  • Dust

    By the way, Truth in 27…is that what you call an example of truth? Looks like shameless blog kissing to me :)

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Yes, #27 is an example of truth. A Lutheran Culture Warrior such as Dr. Gene Veith is a much-needed dissident in a society with as much moral illness as ours.

    As far as shameless blog kissing, does this count:

    3 Rousing Cheers for Lutheran Culture Warrior Dr. Gene Veith!!!

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Yes, #27 is an example of truth. A Lutheran Culture Warrior such as Dr. Gene Veith is a much-needed dissident in a society with as much moral illness as ours.

    As far as shameless blog kissing, does this count:

    3 Rousing Cheers for Lutheran Culture Warrior Dr. Gene Veith!!!

  • Dust

    Truth…yes of course, that counts! But am now thinking you are either his publicist or agent :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Truth…yes of course, that counts! But am now thinking you are either his publicist or agent :)

    cheers!

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dust @30: Really??? And you see no connection between the class struggle and economics? Take an aspirin and call me in the morning. And physical force is merely the outward expression of inner motivation.

    You really do need your Christmas break, don’t you?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dust @30: Really??? And you see no connection between the class struggle and economics? Take an aspirin and call me in the morning. And physical force is merely the outward expression of inner motivation.

    You really do need your Christmas break, don’t you?


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