Friday, February 3, 2012

Havel Lives

by Karel Schwarzenberg, Desmond Tutu and Richard von Weizsäcker

Project Syndicate

February 3, 2012

The death of Václav Havel, the former president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, has been marked with mourning around the world. For his friends, the loss is overwhelming, but we all take comfort from the fact that his courage and his ideas helped to change our world for the better, and are still continuing to do so.

Throughout his life, Havel was an unconquerable fighter for freedom and human dignity. He was the leader of the Velvet Revolution, which brought communism to a peaceful end in his homeland, a dissident intellectual who, by his unswerving conscientiousness and disciplined, down-to-earth idealism, led his compatriots in their struggle to overcome the totalitarian mindset in the years after they regained their freedom. Indeed, that mental liberation remains a living, essential part of Havel’s legacy.

But Havel not only changed his society and Europe; he also set an example for all who struggle for freedom. That his words and ideas are now finding resonance not only in Europe, but also in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere attests to the cogency and rigor of his vision. Each day, it seems, the power of the powerless is confirmed anew.

Havel’s stress on truth, and on not collaborating in lies, may have been the deepest core of his thought. It is truth that makes us free. And our power as free people arises from our refusal to consent willingly to lies. The powerful cannot force us to lie, except by altering our minds.