Second Thought

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Disturbing the Peace

From Disturbing the Peace by Vaclav Havel, President of Czechoslovakia

"We are going through a great departure from God which has no parallel in history. As far as I know, we are living in the middle of the first atheistic civilization. This departure has its own complex intellectual and cultural causes. ... I feel that this arrogant anthropocentrism of modern man, who is convinced he can know everything and bring everything under his control, is somewhere in the background of the present crisis. It seems to me that if the world is to change for the better it must start with a change in human consciousness, in the very humanness of modern man.

"Man must in some way come to his senses. He must extricate himself from this terrible involvement in both the obvious and the hidden mechanisms of totality, from consumption to repression. ... He must rebel against his role as a helpless cog in the gigantic and enormous machinery hurtling God knows where. He must discover again, within himself, a deeper sense of responsibility toward the world, which means responsibility toward something higher than himself. Modern science has realized this (though not the proprietors of the 'scientific world view'), but it cannot find a remedy. The power to awaken this new responsibility is beyond its reach; such a thing can be resolved neither scientifically nor technically. It may seem like a paradox, but one I think will prove true, that only through directing ourselves toward the moral and the spiritual, based on respect for some 'extramundane' authority—for the order of nature or the universe, for a moral order and its superpersonal origin, for the absolute—can we arrive at a state in which life on this earth is no longer threatened by some form of 'megasuicide' and becomes bearable, has, in other words, a genuinely human dimension. This direction, and this direction alone, can lead to the creation of social structures in which a person can once more be a person...."

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December 16, 1991

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