Understanding the twentieth century is mandatory for grasping the meanings of the twenty-first: Special thanks to Krisztina Kós and Central European University Press. It’s been a wonderful collaboration and I look very much forward into the next projects. These volumes owe a lot to the conferences organized in Washington, DC by the Romanian Cultural Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars with support from the University of Maryland, Georgetown University and the Embassy of Romania (2007-2012).
Minima moralia: “August 14, 1982. Dear Olga, Orientation toward Being as a state of mind can also be understood as faith: a person oriented toward Being intrinsically believes in life, in the world, in morality, in the meaning of things, and in himself. His relationship to life is informed by hope, wonder, humility, and a spontaneous respect for its mysteries. He does not judge the meaning of his efforts merely by their manifest successes, but first of all by their ‘worth in themselves’ (i.e., their worth against the background of the absolute horizon).”– Václav Havel, “Letters to Olga,” 1982
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