Perhaps the most fascinating and terrifying aspect of Communism was its ability to banish truth from human affairs, and to force whole populations to live within the lie, as President Havel put it. George Orwell wrote a prophetic and penetrating novel about this; but few Western readers of that novel knew the extent to which its prophecies had come true in Central Europe. To me it was the greatest revelation, when first I travelled to Czechoslovakia in 1979, to come face to face with a situation in which people could, at any moment, be removed from the book of history, in which truth could not be uttered, and in which the Party could decide from day to day not only what would happen tomorrow, but also what had happened today, what had happened yesterday, and what had happened before its leaders had been born. This, I realized, was the situation that Burke was describing, to a largely incredulous readership, in 1790. And two hundred years later the situation still existed, and the incredulity along with it.
Having lived in Poland (1981-3) during Martial Law and the crackdown on Solidarnosc, I can identify with the author's perceptions on "real-life" Communism, especially the observation that Communist governments "banish truth from human affairs" and force people to "live within a lie." Revisionist history is a tool of oppression. It relegates the individual to a meaningless speck of matter whose very proof of existence can be removed by the State.
As a free people, it is our obligation to attack the untruths, past and present, that come not only from government, but also, from our educational institutions and societal leaders. The history of the United States is being bombarded by revisionists in the name of political correctness ignoring the context of the times. I find the ignorance of young Americans about our history the stuff that will rend the fabric of our culture and leave us without a national character and identity.
posted on 02/12/2003 7:29:20 AM PST
ignorance of ... our history You hit the nail on the head. Often a willful ignorance. borne from simplification: the past is too difficult for proof, and proof is safe. Think of the simplicity of common reason: everybody agrees on that! Of course, all such simplified proof is exclusive. It rejects evidence that doesn't fit it. And as Aristotle reminds us (who is also part of our history) first principles are without demonstration. Which is just another way of saying, I think, first principles are religious. It is interesting to note that the antagonism to history walks hand in hand with the antagonism to religion.
Your 2 paragraphs at #132 were eloquent, forceful, moving. How do we communicate these truths to our children within the context of a culture in decline? This is not intended as a rhetorical question. Can we make them understand?
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