A terribly sad day for all the friends of an open society…
“Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.” (Liu Xiaobo, “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement,” Nobel Lecture in Absentia, December 10, 2010, Statement of December 23, 2009, read by Liv Ullmann)
City of liberty, Gdańsk, March 2017: In memory of the great European philosopher Jan Patočka, for whom responsibility was a duty and a virtue. Born in 1907, this student of Edmund Husserl became a spokesman for Charter 77. He died forty
“It is becoming evident that truth and morality can provide a new starting point for politics and can, even today, have an undeniable political power. The warning voice of a single brave scientist, besieged somewhere in the provinces and terrorized by a goaded community, can be heard over continents and addresses the conscience of the mighty of this world more clearly than entire b…rigades of hired propagandists can, though speaking to themselves. It is becoming evident that wholly personal categories like good and evil still have their unambiguous content and, under certain circumstances, are capable of shaking the seemingly unshakeable power with all its army of soldiers, policemen and bureaucrats. It is becoming evident that politics by no means need remain the affair of professionals and that one simple electrician with his heart in the right place, honouring something that transcends him and free of fear, can influence the history of his nation.” (Václav Havel, “Politics and Conscience,” 1984)
Many happy returns, dear Radu Filipescu! For those who don’t know or have forgotten, Radu is one of the main Romanian dissidents. Born: December 26, 1956 (age 60), Târgu Mureș, Romania, the young engineer Radu Filipescu was one of those who heroically resisted Ceausescu’s terror. He acted alone, but he knew he was not alone. Like the members of the White Rose resistance group in Nazi Germany, he distributed leaflets denouncing the tyranny. He was arrested and jailed. A founding member of the Group for Social Dialogue, Radu Filipescu served as a member of the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania. Never acerbic, caustic, or bitter, Radu embodies good faith, moral clarity, and civic courage.
It is not my intention to offer here a biography of my close friend Adam Michnik. I just want to offer some responses, hopefully informed, to the following question: Why does Adam Michnik matter? He matters because in times of infamy, he raised his voice and suffered for this. He matters because he has a moral compass and some of us regard it as persuasively indispensable. He matters because he does not yield to nativism, tribalism, clericalism, militarism, Orbanism, Putinism, LePenism, Trumpism, populism, and other political pathologies. I dedicate this thext to the memory of Leonidas Donskis.
Adam Michnik in Vilnius, Lithuania
Minima moralia: In “Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors,” one of his most influential essays–and also one of my favorites–, Adam Michnik wrote about Piisudski, but in fact about himself: “…his is not simply a national but also a very human perspective. It is not patriotic and political concerns but my own concerns, my own good that inspire me to fight. This will rescue me from sinking into the anonymous, shapeless mass of the depraved, captive, and obedient.” (“Letters from Prison,” University of California Press, 1985, p. 210)
Image: Adam Michnik, Warsaw, December 1981
Cosmopolis: “By his actions, always nonviolent, Michnik established the unity of his premises and conclusions. I would draw your attention to a hypothesis: capable of seeing greatness in the past in people like Gandhi, we may fail to see what takes place in the present. If this hypothesis is correct, Michnik is one of those who bring honor to the last two decades of the twentieth century, even if a film on his life will not be produced soon.” (Czesław Miłosz, Foreword to Adam Michnik, “Letters from Prison and Other Essays,” translated by Maya Latynski, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, p. XV)