Monday, December 19, 2011

Twice As Deep

As often happens, two figures in the world arena have died within days. I don't know if these passings come in triplicate, only the next week will tell. For now the death of Vaclav Havel and now North Korean president Kim Jong Il represent a most fascinating juxtaposition. I think I'm correct in assuming Kim was the more widely known. It's fairly difficult to repress and oppress an entire nation without being recognized these days. But Havel, the former playwright turned politico may leave a more lasting legacy.

In the days to come North Korea may not even change as the son will take up where the father left off. But for how long? Even the most evil despots, the most pathological plutocrats all have a bit of a say in their own undoing. Perhaps in North Korea's case, the encroaching technology will open that country wide as a treasure chest as it appears to have done in China. But one person's treasure is certainly not always another's. I'm sure horror stories will follow. Hard to believe the power one person can have over an entire nation, but then even a cursory study of history reinforces that notion. Let's hope the son rebels. Let's hope he wants to travel. Let's hope he is well read.
As for Vaclav Havel, his words will live on. His experience and his ability to articulate it are already beginning to open eyes. In a speech given back in 1994, on the occasion of winning The Liberty Medal, Vaclav Havel noted:
By day, we work with statistics; in the evening, we consult astrologers and frighten ourselves with thrillers about vampires. The abyss between the rational and the spiritual, the external and the internal, the objective and the subjective, the technical and the moral, the universal and the unique constantly grows deeper.
It's difficult to imagine many national leaders putting a couple of sentences like those together. It begs the question: what if more world leaders were writers?
Speaking today on NPR writer Ariel Dorfman noted that Havel was more concerned about moral authority than anything else. Makes him the direct opposite of Kim. Maybe the abyss, in some ways can be filled with some of Havel's ideas, his caveats, his wisdom.
Hard not to think about Fidel Castro as the third leg of this trifecta. We are just about 1/5 into the second decade of the 21st century. Let's hope the universal moves in tandem with the unique.

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