Zitate Václav Havel

„We had all become used to the totalitarian system and accepted it as an unchangeable fact and thus helped to perpetuate it.“

—  Václav Havel

New Year's Address to the Nation (1990)
Kontext: We had all become used to the totalitarian system and accepted it as an unchangeable fact and thus helped to perpetuate it. In other words, we are all — though naturally to differing extents — responsible for the operation of the totalitarian machinery. None of us is just its victim. We are all also its co-creators.

„His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.“

—  Václav Havel

Living in Truth (1986), An Anatomy of Reticence
Kontext: The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin — and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.

„The history of the human race has generated several papers articulating basic moral imperatives, or fundamental principles, of human coexistence that — maybe in association with concurring historical events — substantially influenced the fate of humanity on this planet. Among these historic documents, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — adopted fifty years ago today — holds a very special, indeed, unique position.“

—  Václav Havel

Speech on the 50th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Prague Castle (10 December 1998)
Kontext: The history of the human race has generated several papers articulating basic moral imperatives, or fundamental principles, of human coexistence that — maybe in association with concurring historical events — substantially influenced the fate of humanity on this planet. Among these historic documents, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — adopted fifty years ago today — holds a very special, indeed, unique position. It is the first code of ethical conduct that was not a product of one culture, or one sphere of civilization only, but a universal creation, shaped and subscribed to by representatives of all humankind. Since its very inception, the Declaration has thus represented a planetary, or global commitment, a global intention, a global guideline. For this reason alone, this exceptional document — conceived as a result of a profound human self-reflection in the wake of the horrors of World War II, and retaining its relevance ever since — deserves to be remembered today.

„Cultural conflicts are increasing and are understandably more dangerous today than at any other time in history.“

—  Václav Havel

The Need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World (1994)
Kontext: Cultural conflicts are increasing and are understandably more dangerous today than at any other time in history. The end of the era of rationalism has been catastrophic. Armed with the same supermodern weapons, often from the same suppliers, and followed by television cameras, the members of various tribal cults are at war with one another.

„Of course, in politics, just as anywhere else in life, it is impossible and it would not be sensible always to say everything bluntly. Yet that does not mean one has to lie. What is needed here are tact, instinct and good taste.“

—  Václav Havel

International Herald Tribune (29 October 1991)
Kontext: Despite all the political misery I am confronted with every day, it still is my profound conviction that the very essence of politics is not dirty; dirt is brought in only by wicked people. I admit that this is an area of human activity where the temptation to advance through unfair actions may be stronger than elsewhere, and which thus makes higher demands on human integrity. But it is not true at all that a politician cannot do without lying or intriguing. That is sheer nonsense, often spread by those who want to discourage people from taking an interest in public affairs.
Of course, in politics, just as anywhere else in life, it is impossible and it would not be sensible always to say everything bluntly. Yet that does not mean one has to lie. What is needed here are tact, instinct and good taste.

„Classical modern science described only the surface of things, a single dimension of reality. And the more dogmatically science treated it as the only dimension, as the very essence of reality, the more misleading it became.“

—  Václav Havel

The Need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World (1994)
Kontext: Classical modern science described only the surface of things, a single dimension of reality. And the more dogmatically science treated it as the only dimension, as the very essence of reality, the more misleading it became. Today, for instance, we may know immeasurably more about the universe than our ancestors did, and yet, it increasingly seems they knew something more essential about it than we do, something that escapes us.

„The most important thing is that man should be the measure of all structures, including economic structures, and not that man be made to measure for those structures.“

—  Václav Havel, buch Disturbing the Peace

Quelle: Disturbing the Peace (1986), Ch. 1 : Growing Up "Outside", p. 13
Kontext: The most important thing is that man should be the measure of all structures, including economic structures, and not that man be made to measure for those structures. The most important thing is not to lose sight of personal relationships — i. e., the relationships between man and his co-workers, between subordinates and their superiors, between man and his work, between this work and its consequences.

„Czechs and Slovaks may be closer today than ever before. There is no animosity, and they are united in their goals: to fully participate in the European and global integration processes and, in their own interest, to gradually forsake some of their countries' sovereignty in favor of increasing influence in the life of communities vastly larger and more powerful than countries are. We live in an interconnected world, and we — Czechs and Slovaks — walk hand in hand in it. And that, of course, is what is most important.“

—  Václav Havel

New Year's Address on Czech Radio & Television (1 January 2003)
Kontext: Seemingly endless negotiations finally led to the division of Czechoslovakia. It had one great advantage: it proceeded calmly, without violence, major conflicts, or significant unsolved issues. This unusually positive split brought us worldwide respect. But it also had one disadvantage: a matter of such importance as the division of a country into two new ones was not decided by the citizens in a referendum, as would be appropriate in a democratic society. Rather, it was mostly treated as a technical matter, almost as if it were an accounting operation. Perhaps for this reason, the end of Czechoslovakia was accompanied by an unpleasant aftertaste and awkward feelings. No significant part of the citizenry protested the division then, but no significant part celebrated it either. It was as if there was nothing to say, as if the public had more or less breathed a sigh of relief at the endless, traumatizing bargaining finally being behind us.
All that is now long-gone — is history — and after all this time, I can not help but feel that no matter how queerly it happened then, it is a good thing that it happened. Evidently, most peoples must taste full statehood for at least a while in order to learn to cooperate with others. Czechs and Slovaks may be closer today than ever before. There is no animosity, and they are united in their goals: to fully participate in the European and global integration processes and, in their own interest, to gradually forsake some of their countries' sovereignty in favor of increasing influence in the life of communities vastly larger and more powerful than countries are. We live in an interconnected world, and we — Czechs and Slovaks — walk hand in hand in it. And that, of course, is what is most important.

„Many people hardly ever see a politician as a person anymore.“

—  Václav Havel

The Onassis Prize For Man and Mankind (1993)
Kontext: Many people hardly ever see a politician as a person anymore. Instead, a politician is a shadow they watch on television, not knowing whether he is speaking impromptu or reading a text written for him by anonymous advisers or experts from a screen hidden behind the cameras. Citizens no longer perceive their politician as a living human being, for they never have and will never see him that way. They see only his image, created for them by TV, radio and newspaper commentators.

„Seemingly endless negotiations finally led to the division of Czechoslovakia. It had one great advantage: it proceeded calmly, without violence, major conflicts, or significant unsolved issues.“

—  Václav Havel

New Year's Address on Czech Radio & Television (1 January 2003)
Kontext: Seemingly endless negotiations finally led to the division of Czechoslovakia. It had one great advantage: it proceeded calmly, without violence, major conflicts, or significant unsolved issues. This unusually positive split brought us worldwide respect. But it also had one disadvantage: a matter of such importance as the division of a country into two new ones was not decided by the citizens in a referendum, as would be appropriate in a democratic society. Rather, it was mostly treated as a technical matter, almost as if it were an accounting operation. Perhaps for this reason, the end of Czechoslovakia was accompanied by an unpleasant aftertaste and awkward feelings. No significant part of the citizenry protested the division then, but no significant part celebrated it either. It was as if there was nothing to say, as if the public had more or less breathed a sigh of relief at the endless, traumatizing bargaining finally being behind us.
All that is now long-gone — is history — and after all this time, I can not help but feel that no matter how queerly it happened then, it is a good thing that it happened. Evidently, most peoples must taste full statehood for at least a while in order to learn to cooperate with others. Czechs and Slovaks may be closer today than ever before. There is no animosity, and they are united in their goals: to fully participate in the European and global integration processes and, in their own interest, to gradually forsake some of their countries' sovereignty in favor of increasing influence in the life of communities vastly larger and more powerful than countries are. We live in an interconnected world, and we — Czechs and Slovaks — walk hand in hand in it. And that, of course, is what is most important.

„None of us is just its victim. We are all also its co-creators.“

—  Václav Havel

New Year's Address to the Nation (1990)
Kontext: We had all become used to the totalitarian system and accepted it as an unchangeable fact and thus helped to perpetuate it. In other words, we are all — though naturally to differing extents — responsible for the operation of the totalitarian machinery. None of us is just its victim. We are all also its co-creators.

„The existence of a higher authority than man himself simply began to get in the way of human aspirations.“

—  Václav Havel

The Need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World (1994)
Kontext: Modern anthropocentrism inevitably meant that He who allegedly endowed man with his inalienable rights began to disappear from the world: He was so far beyond the grasp of modern science that he was gradually pushed into a sphere of privacy of sorts, if not directly into a sphere of private fancy — that is, to a place where public obligations no longer apply. The existence of a higher authority than man himself simply began to get in the way of human aspirations.

„The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought.“

—  Václav Havel

New Year's Address to the Nation (1990)
Kontext: The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore one another, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimension, and for many of us they represented only psychological peculiarities, or they resembled gone-astray greetings from ancient times, a little ridiculous in the era of computers and spaceships.

„It's not hard to stand behind one's successes. But to accept responsibility for one's failures… that is devishly hard!“

—  Václav Havel

As quoted in "Václav Havel: Heir to a Spiritual Legacy" by Richard L. Stanger in Christian Century (11 April 1990) http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=767
Kontext: It's not hard to stand behind one's successes. But to accept responsibility for one's failures... that is devishly hard! But only thence does the road lead... to a radically new insight into the mysterious gravity of my existence as an uncertain enterprise and to its transcendental meaning.

„This forgotten awareness is encoded in all religions. All cultures anticipate it in various forms. It is one of the things that form the basis of man's understanding of himself, of his place in the world, and ultimately of the world as such.“

—  Václav Havel

The Need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World (1994)
Kontext: What makes the Anthropic Principle and the Gaia Hypothesis so inspiring? One simple thing: Both remind us, in modern language, of what we have long suspected, of what we have long projected into our forgotten myths and perhaps what has always lain dormant within us as archetypes. That is, the awareness of our being anchored in the earth and the universe, the awareness that we are not here alone nor for ourselves alone, but that we are an integral part of higher, mysterious entities against whom it is not advisable to blaspheme. This forgotten awareness is encoded in all religions. All cultures anticipate it in various forms. It is one of the things that form the basis of man's understanding of himself, of his place in the world, and ultimately of the world as such.

„Today's world, as we all know, is faced with multiple threats. From whichever angle I look at this menace, I always come to the conclusion that salvation can only come through a profound awakening of man to his own personal responsibility, which is at the same time a global responsibility.“

—  Václav Havel

The Onassis Prize For Man and Mankind (1993)
Kontext: Today's world, as we all know, is faced with multiple threats. From whichever angle I look at this menace, I always come to the conclusion that salvation can only come through a profound awakening of man to his own personal responsibility, which is at the same time a global responsibility. Thus, the only way to save our world, as I see it, lies in a democracy that recalls its ancient Greek roots: democracy based on an integral human personality personally answering for the fate of the community.

„The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power.“

—  Václav Havel

Living in Truth (1986), An Anatomy of Reticence
Kontext: The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin — and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.

„Life cannot be destroyed for good, neither … can history be brought entirely to a halt.“

—  Václav Havel

Open letter to Dr. Gustáv Husák, Communist President (8 April 1975)
Kontext: Life cannot be destroyed for good, neither … can history be brought entirely to a halt. A secret streamlet trickles on beneath the heavy lid of inertia and pseudo-events, slowly and inconspicuously undercutting it. It may be a long process, but one day it must happen: the lid will no longer hold and will start to crack. This is the moment when something once more begins visibly to happen, something truly new and unique … something truly historical, in the sense that history again demands to be heard.

„They are periods when there is a tendency to quote, to imitate, and to amplify, rather than to state with authority or integrate. New meaning is gradually born from the encounter, or the intersection, of many different elements.“

—  Václav Havel

The Need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World (1994)
Kontext: Periods of history when values undergo a fundamental shift are certainly not unprecedented. This happened in the Hellenistic period, when from the ruins of the classical world the Middle Ages were gradually born. It happened during the Renaissance, which opened the way to the modern era. The distinguishing features of such transitional periods are a mixing and blending of cultures and a plurality or parallelism of intellectual and spiritual worlds. These are periods when all consistent value systems collapse, when cultures distant in time and space are discovered or rediscovered. They are periods when there is a tendency to quote, to imitate, and to amplify, rather than to state with authority or integrate. New meaning is gradually born from the encounter, or the intersection, of many different elements.

„If we accept it as such, we will understand that it is up to us all, and up to us alone to do something about it. We cannot blame the previous rulers for everything, not only because it would be untrue, but also because it would blunt the duty that each of us faces today: namely, the obligation to act independently, freely, reasonably and quickly.“

—  Václav Havel

New Year's Address to the Nation (1990)
Kontext: Why do I say this? It would be very unreasonable to understand the sad legacy of the last forty years as something alien, which some distant relative bequeathed to us. On the contrary, we have to accept this legacy as a sin we committed against ourselves. If we accept it as such, we will understand that it is up to us all, and up to us alone to do something about it. We cannot blame the previous rulers for everything, not only because it would be untrue, but also because it would blunt the duty that each of us faces today: namely, the obligation to act independently, freely, reasonably and quickly. Let us not be mistaken: the best government in the world, the best parliament and the best president, cannot achieve much on their own. And it would be wrong to expect a general remedy from them alone. Freedom and democracy include participation and therefore responsibility from us all.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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