Post by achebeautiful on Aug 7, 2008 19:06:06 GMT -5
A World Split Apart by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The split in today's world is perceptible even to a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries readily identifies two world powers, each of them already capable of entirely destroying the other. However, understanding of the split often is limited to this political conception, to the illusion that danger may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the split is a much profounder and a more alienating one, that the rifts are more than one can see at first glance. This deep manifold split bears the danger of manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a Kingdom -- in this case, our Earth -- divided against itself cannot stand.
Post by achebeautiful on Aug 7, 2008 19:11:00 GMT -5
Here's an article I read today that led me to Alexander Solzhenitsyn's 1978 Harvard speech. Enjoy...
Death of a Prophet by Cal Thomas
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's work and life can best be described as those of a prophet. The prophet died last Sunday at the age of 89. Solzhenitsyn was not only a critic of the Soviet Union, of communism and Socialism, he showed the West - and particularly the United States - more than a few of its own flaws.
Thirty years ago this summer, Solzhenitsyn gave an address at Harvard that was biting in its critique, exemplary in its wisdom and visionary in its predictions for what the future would hold should America and the West remain on their present path. It was a monumental speech that many academics - at Harvard and elsewhere - who had cheered Solzhenitsyn while he resided in the gulag, hated, but I loved.
Solzhenitsyn warned the West not to be deluded by what he said was a false belief that all nations yearn to be like us. This thinking is at the heart of President Bush's doctrine for dealing with the Arab and Muslim world. Solzhenitsyn called this "the blindness of superiority" and warned against thinking that only "wicked governments" temporarily prevent other nations from "adopting the Western way of life."
The Russian novelist observed that a "decline in courage" has affected the West and especially, "the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?"
Solzhenitsyn said that in the West, the pursuit of happiness through self-gratification and materialism has replaced moral and character development: "The constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression. The majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about." And yet, "Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask."
What about America's emphasis on individual rights? Solzhenitsyn said the result has been to ignore the welfare of the many: "The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations."
There was more to disturb the self-satisfied intellectual elite. Surely faculty members at Harvard must have gnashed their teeth in the face of this remonstrance: "Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror." According to Solzhenitsyn, life organized around laws and the individual has shown an inability to "defend itself against the corrosion of evil."
Solzhenitsyn did not spare the media's role in the decline of the West. He said the media's constant parroting of the maxim "everyone is entitled to know everything" is "a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information."
Again, this was 1978, just two years after Ted Turner created WTBS, just six years after HBO was launched in Pennsylvania. Today, cable programming is filled with the vain, the vulgar and the vacuous and Solzhenitsyn's critique rings even more true in 2008.
Solzhenitsyn loved America, but said he couldn't recommend it in its present state as a model for his country: "Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive."
There's plenty more and every student and politician - indeed, every American - ought to read, or re-read the speech. It was a sobering and prophetic address and contains far more substance than anything we'll hear at the upcoming political conventions.
I find it interesting that alot of the stuff he pointed out about the West is even more clear today. Alot of the stuff I see in the media that I don't like, he already pointed out 30 years ago! It will take courage to change this.
Post by achebeautiful on Aug 8, 2008 10:51:42 GMT -5
I completely agree with you, Leona, and that is why I think it is very important to take this time of his passing to recall his writings and speeches. There is so much to learn from him, and so many pitfalls to avoid if we only heed his words.
Post by achebeautiful on Aug 8, 2008 11:02:48 GMT -5
Do you find it incredible, as I do, that his writings are so profound and bold and courageous, and yet gentle, simple and straightforward? I feel as if the man had something deep in his spirit that did not allow him to avoid sharing the message that he had in his heart, no matter how unwelcome or unaccepted it might be by the audience who would receive it. I feel as if he saw the burden and the weight and the oppression that people lived under, and had to share the truth, even if it would cost him dearly for it. That is truly a man of greatness, isn't it?
His message was so strong, and he didn't need to exacerbate it with inflammatory language. He simply and gently spoke the truth....and that truth alone was enough to upset many.