Against Fear and Panic: In Memoriam Leonidas Donskis

09/07/2018

Lithuanian political philosopher Leonidas Donskis on populism, fear, and courage. I publish here a fragment from the first chapter of a book of dialogues we were writing together when he suddenly passed away. I received it on September 6, 2016. Leonidas died on September 21. One can read it as this critical intellectual’s testament: “The question arises as to fear of what? The answer is quite simple: It is fear of someone who comes as personification of our own insecurities and uncertainties, who get their first and last names of facial features due to excessive sensationalist media coverages, tabloid editorials, and conspiracy theories. Fear of Islam and Muslims, fear of immigrants, fear of gays and lesbians, fear of godless pinkos, fear of new Jewish world conspiracies, fear of Jews and Banderovites – that is, fascists in the way in which the Kremlin propaganda depicts them – in Ukraine.

Together with privacy exposed in the public, fear has become most precious political commodity. At the same time, it serves as the key to success for every tabloid. For we live in a world of self-generating and self-sustaining fear, panic-mongering, fake images and information, compulsive self-exposure, constant attention-seeking, conspiracy theories, suspicion, hatred, and bullying conflated with critique.

This is not to say that courage bid farewell to this world. Ukraine could serve here as the best proof of courage, bravery, sacrifice, willpower, and magnanimity without which the country would never have had the strength to mobilize and defend itself against Russia’s aggression and political terrorism.

And it becomes the reminder of what it means no to succumb to panic and fear both being the most desirable outcome for the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin. To find the strength to resist nuclear blackmail, toxic lies, and hate crimes committed inside and outside Russia means to be on the winning side nowadays. The more fear we generate in our media, the more success we bring to the Kremlin.”


Pentru Horia Patapievici: La Multi Ani, cu noroc, sanatate si minunate impliniri intelectuale!

18/03/2018

Nobletea spiritului: Unul din marile daruri pe care le-am primit in viata este cel al unor prietenii de neclintit. Intre acestea, cat se poate de intensa, fraterna legatura sentimentala, morala si intelectuala cu Horia Patapievici. In a mea umila opinie, Horia este cel mai important intelectual (ganditor politic) liberal al zilelor noastre in Romania. Ura impotriva lui Horia este ura in raport cu ceea inseamna ideile sale. Vreau sa o spun cat pot de clar: fara Horia n-as fi rezistat in 2006, in timpul cand lucram impreuna in cadrul Comisiei Prezidentiale pentru Analiza Dictaturii Comuniste din Romania. Vorbeam zilnic la telefon. El si Mihnea Berindei tineau permanent legatura cu Monica Lovinescu si Virgil Ierunca. Sunt coplesit de amintiri. Voi spune doar ca, fara Horia, viata mea si a noastra ar fi infinit mai saraca. Am trecut si vom trece prin multe impreuna, dar niciodata, sub nicio forma nu ne-am indoit de inoxidabila noastra solidaritate. A fost, este, va fi! La Multi Ani, cu noroc, sanatate si minunate impliniri intelectuale!

 

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Gabriel Liiceanu și noi

04/01/2018

A creat Planeta Humanitas. A veștejit ticăloșia, mișelia, lichelismul. Refuză să se pensioneze moral. Rămâne un spirit aronian, adică un spectator angajat. Este un camusian, adică posedă un inepuizabil rezervor al revoltei etice. Refuză tăcerea. A fost și continuă să fie insultat, ponegrit, calomniat. Una din cele mai intristătoare forme de obscurantism este intelofobia. Intr-un remarcabil articol apărut pe platforma “Contributors”. Mircea Morariu atrage atentia asupra acestei noi imunde campanii impotriva celui mai activ exponent al spiritului lovinescian (Eugen și Monica) din cultura românească a zilelor noastre. Articolul se incheie cu aceste cuvinte ale lui Vladimir Jankélévitch: “În cele din urmă nu există nimic care nu poate fi uitat, dar rămâne întotdeauna ceva ce nu este scuzabil”. (Washington, DC, 4 ianuarie 2018)


Catholics on the Barricades

12/11/2017

Gaudium in veritate: It is my pleasure to recommend in superlative terms this book by my friend and U-MD colleague, Piotr Kosicki. Superbly written and truly illuminating, this is comparative intellectual history at its very best! Congrats, Piotr, see you on Thursday and Friday at our conference on “One Hundred Years of Communist Experiments.” Thanks for the great inscription!

 

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https://yalebooks.yale.edu/…/978030022…/catholics-barricades


A avut, are si va avea dreptate…

05/11/2017

A century after the Bolshevik revolution: Raymond Aron was, as Allan Bloom wrote shortly after the philosopher’s death in 1983, “the man who for fifty years . . . had been right about the political alternatives actually available to us. . . . [H]e was right about Hitler, right about Stalin, and right that our Western regimes, with all their flaws, are the best and only hope of mankind.”


Meanings of the twentieth century…

08/09/2017

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).

 

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La Multi Ani, Andrei Pleșu!

23/08/2017

He embodies brilliantly three gifts: the gift of friendship, the gift of love, and the gift of wisdom. Happy Birthday to Andrei Pleșu, a noble citizen of the European Republic of Letters!

Image: Launching my book “Fantasies of Salvation” at the Embassy of Romania, Washington, DC, November 1998.

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Hope, wonder, humility…

14/08/2017

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

 

Václav Havel a Olga Havlová

 

 


Multiple Identities

04/06/2017
If I were to say who I am, my first response would be that I’m a democratic intellectual. In other words, one opposed to any form of collectivistic and totalizing “group thinking.” I’m proudly a non-belonger and I abhor all forms of regimentation. I enjoy and practice eclecticism. I dislike stigmas, labels, straitjackets, Procrustean beds. I don’t identify myself with abstractions such as tribe, nation, class, race, etc On the contrary, I regard them as insuperably and insufferably fallacious, conducive to ideological and political follies. They surreptitiously invade and cynically enslave our loyalties, allegiances, and emotions. I love the Republic of Letters, increasingly beleaguered and absolutely indispensable. I don’t idealize Reason, but I know that without it we are lost in the forest of superstitions, lies, and prejudices. So, I take Settembrini’s side in his struggle with Naphta. I dedicate this post to the memory of S. N. Eisenstadt (1923–2010), a great Weberian scholar, a mentor and a dear friend, the author of a most insightful essay titled “Multiple Identities”. I learned from him what it means to defend open spaces. Meeting Shmuel was one of the luckiest moments of my intellectual life. Blessed be his memory…

 

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Seminar on Stalinism: Hannah Arendt Invited by Zbigniew Brzezinski (1972)

28/05/2017

For years, Zbigniew Brzezinski ran the Columbia University Seminar on Communism. On April 26, 1972 Professor Hannah Arendt (New School of Social Research) spoke on “Stalinism in Retrospect.” Members Present: Byung-joon Ahn, Joseph Maier, Seweryn Bialer, William E. Odom, Paul Borsuk, Grant Pendill, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jaan Pennar, Lenard Cohen, Alexander Rudzinski, Bogdan Denitch, Jane Shapiro, Felice Gaer, Sophia Sluzar, Charles Gati, David Wilson, Ki-shik Han, Alexei Yakushev, Russell Hardin, Sharon Zukin, Janos Horvath, Peter Ludz.

Professor Arendt explained that Nadezhda Mandelstam tells us details that we did not know, it is true—but that we hardly would have dared to hope were true: namely, that there must have been a certain number of people who at no time changed their values.17 At no time did such people believe that history moves forward, sacrificing victims in its inexorable path. These people did know what was and was not a crime even during that period. Professor Arendt reflected on how very difficult it must have been to “keep such integrity of one’s own mind” during those years. Other may have doubted during those years, but Nadezhda Mandelstam never doubted, Professor Arendt explained—she knew. She was able to distinguish among what she believed, what she had to do, and what was simply lying. Professor Arendt described “Hope Against Hope” as “one of the great human documents” of the century. The book is all the more remarkable, she continued, because this woman is not an artist; she is not a writer; “she is only a great moral personality.”