Friday, December 23, 2011

Havel

"Words that are not backed up by life lose their weight, which means that words can be silenced in two ways: either you ascribe such weight to them that no one dares utter them aloud, or you take away any weight they might have, and they turn into air.  The final effect in each case is silence: the silence of the half-mad man who is constantly writing appeals to world authorities while everyone ignores him; and the silence of the Orwellian citizen."
-Vaclav Havel

When I was studying in Prague, I had the opportunity to see Havel.  It was right after the 9/11 attacks, at the Forum2k summit.  Amid a bevy of Nobel prize winners and other leading global luminaries, Havel's presence still loomed large.  Despite his diminutive stature, he carried the tremendous weight and soft power of moral authority.  I remember distinctly watching Havel, Shimon Peres and Elie Wiesel slip away together to chat.  I was the only one besides their security to see the three men disappear, and I sighed at the thought of being a fly on the wall in that room.

Havel was among the few bohemian leaders who remained rooted to the world we inhabit.  It will be quite a while until a man like him graces us again.

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