two lives (truth and love must prevail over lies and hate)
How strange and rare to have such contrasting figures to eulogize simultaneously; both men led their nations but could not have been more different. Kim Jong Il inherited a totalitarian fortress state with an enslaved populace and passed it to his son intact. Vaclav Havel was a prisoner for his politics and his plays and became the first free President of Czechoslovakia in 1989. You should read about the Velvet Revolution and recall that Communism in Czechoslovakia vanished without a shot fired the next time you hear someone sneering about how political street protest never accomplished anything.
Havel is a personal hero and it is difficult to express my admiration for the man. It baffles me that a thug like Che Guevara, a murderer who embraced a failed and inhuman philosophy whose greatest success was helping Castro establish a totalitarian regime is celebrated as revolutionary hero while a man like Vaclav Havel is relatively obscure. Perhaps it was because he was successful at what he did. Nobody died in his revolution; his regime never had execution squads or secret police. His motto was ‘truth and love must prevail over lies and hate’.
Then there’s the writing. I am particularly fond of ‘Largo Desolato’, which was translated into English by Tom Stoppard. It’s a comedy about an intellectual locked in his house; he has written a book with a paragraph the authorities want him to renounce. He has asked them for time to think about it. Every time the bell rings his anxiety increases. It’s funny but it couldn’t be performed in Czechoslovakia and he couldn’t leave the country to see it. Also, he spent the previous ten years mostly in and rarely out of prison because of doing things like writing the Charter 77 manifesto in response to the imprisonment of the psychedelic rock band Plastic People of the Universe. (I actually have an album by Pulnoc, a sort of spin off band that sounds more like the Velvet Underground than anything else.)
Vaclav Havel deserves your closer examination because his life teaches us that many of the impossible beautiful things can actually be; that children are not the only ones who blush and that truth and love must prevail. Vaclav Havel was an artist, an intellectual and a hero of a nonviolent revolution who governed wisely and prudently, raising the economic status of her citizens and bringing Czechoslovakia from the Soviet Bloc to the European Union, all without firing a shot or imprisoning those who argued with him, bringing true democracy to his nation. The difference he made in the world is incalculable and will be felt for generations to come..
Kim Jong Il is dead and best forgotten quickly.