Recently I've been fascinated by the question of how to achieve meaningful change in a free society. I've also been reading a great deal of Vaclav Havel's writing. Last week I quoted from Havel's Open Letters. This week I've been reading Havel's Summer Meditations, and I came across the following quote:
Genuine politics — politics worthy of the name, and the only politics I am willing to devote myself to — is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community, and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility, expressed through action, to and for the whole, a responsibility that is what it is — a “higher” responsibility — only because it has a metaphysical grounding: that is, it grows out of a conscious or subconscious certainty that our death ends nothing, because everything is forever being recorded and evaluated somewhere else, somewhere “above us,” in what I have called “the memory of Being” — an integral aspect of the secret order of all the cosmos, of nature, and of life, which believers call God and to whose judgment everything is subject. Genuine conscience and genuine responsibility are always, in the end, explicable only as an expression of the silent assumption that we are observed “from above,’ that everything is visible, nothing is forgotten, and so earthly time has no power to wipe away the sharp disappointments of earthly failure: our spirit knows that it is not the only entity aware of these failures.
How do we get our society to this from the horrible state it is in? Havel answers:
As in everything else, I must start with myself. That is: in all circumstances try to be decent, just, tolerant, and understanding, and at the same time try to resist corruption and deception... In other words, if there is to be any chance at all of success, there is only one way to strive for decency, reason, responsibility, sincerity, civility, and tolerance, and that is decently, reasonably, responsibly, sincerely, civilly, and tolerantly... I see the only way forward in that old, familiar injunction: "live in truth."