I was saddened to hear about the passing of Vaclav Havel, who's a bit of a personal hero. A playwright and a politician, an essayist and a revolutionary, he used art and words to fight totalitarianism.
Havel led a movement that exemplifies one of the core ideals of The Oncoming Hope: that acts of peace can be just as aggressive as acts of violence.
In a century when Czechoslavia became a pawn in all the major geopolitical wars of the 20th century, Havel relied on the most old-fashioned weapon: words.
His words followed four main themes: that every human being has personal responsibility to make the world a better place. That even the tiniest white lies can lead to intellectual dishonesty. That you cannot govern from ideology, only through care and responsibility. That power must not be used in service of preserving that power.
Most importantly, he championed the notion that ideals cannot and should not be compromised for the sake of expediency, or you poison the well entirely.
These are the ideological bases for non-violent revolution. Like Gandhi, he protected principle at all costs. Unlike Gandhi, he lived to govern the nation he helped to liberate, and governed its peaceful transition into two states.
I've had the pleasure of visiting both the Czech Republic and Slovakia in recent years. There's something in the air in both of those countries, something intangible, a freedom from the guilt that mars the history of so many European nations. A forward motion, perhaps, that comes from the immaculate conception of their nationhood.
As our political culture devolves into something almost as mature as a children's playground, Havel reminds us that politics should not be treated as an end unto itself, it's a tool to protect our free and just lives as humans.
I leave you with his motto: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred."
Do yourself a favor. Read Reason's account of Havel and how he was inspired by the Velvet Underground and other rock acts.