Why Havel Matters

As the WSJ writes, “A man for all seasons on behalf of liberty,” Havel inspired the world.  The Czech leader also mused that it was harder to put in place his philosophy as his country’s political leader than it was to develop his ideas.  (Interesting that most critics find his art sub-par.)   David Remnick assembles this most worthy reading list that conveys the important issues, thinkers, and ideas of the era.

[A] top-ten list, the first entry being Havel’s greatest hits, and the rest books and writers whom Havel admired—contemporaries or near contemporaries who lived in the same region and under similar regimes.

via News Desk: Reading List: Havel and Beyond : The New Yorker.

And thanks to CFR for assembling Havel’s own “lasting words,”  among which should be the memory of how Havel encouraged Americans to mitigate their isolationist tendencies in the face of the Cold War’s end.  The “Declaration of America’s Interdependence” is, for me, one of Havel’s most important contributions as it updates the post-WWII consensus embodied in our increasingly outdated international organizations.

He grasped, as Max Fisher eloquently observed in the Atlantic, lessons that we need today, including  personal and global responsibility in the face of multiple threats, the importance of a climate freedom and guarantees of peace, and the need to change human nature–a ‘global revolution of human consciousness’ as Fisher quotes Havel’s 1990 statement before the U.S. Congress.

Havel’s track record as a political leader was mixed, which should continue to give us pause as we think about what is happening as Iraq moves out to live on its own, Afghanistan prepares for its own  possible future alone, China continues its peaceful rise and geopolitical power and economic might shifts toward Asia.  Even so, his ideas are his most important contribution:

I favor ‘anti political politics, politics not as the technology of power and manipulation, of cybernetic rule over humans or as the art of the utilitarian, but politics as one of the ways of seeking and achieving meaningful lives, of protecting them and serving them. via Richard Eskow, Huffington Post.


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