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Searching for What is Truth at this Time | A Lesson from Václav Havel

by Augusto Cuginotti

Vaclav Havel

Václav Havel passed away today. There is a great story I heard from a good friend who had the pleasure to meet and talk to him about his activism and work.

The story was told and retold and I remember sharing it with the delegates of the World Spirit Forum in Switzerland when we were talking about peaceful activism some years ago. Here it is, not sure how faithful, but definitely a great story:

There was a time during the Soviet influence on Czechoslovakia, in the land now split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, that dissidents of the regime existed but could only meet in the dungeons of the city where they would host their talks and publish their manifestos. Mr. Václav Havel was one of them.

The control of the regime was absolute, so Mr. Havel had no hope that it could be overthrown or that anything could possibly be changed by a group of unhappy citizens. Nevertheless, not seeking revolution but searching for what was truth for the time, great conversations happened and impressive written material was produced and published by underground presses.

As more people would get in contact with the words from the dissidents, more would join the conversations and read the publications.

One day somethings extraordinary happened. Someone working for the regime got in contact with the material and got puzzled and interested by its content. He managed to join some of the conversations and read some of the texts while still working for the same regime that was being criticised.

Personally, the man was comfortable working for the regime, but yet there was something calling him to explore what the dissidents were talking about. His motivation was not revolution, but the search for the truth at that time.

After this first man others came – they did not start a revolution themselves, but they did anonymously feed the new story emerging, the one that was closer to the reality of the time, the one that triggered the Charter 77 movement and the Velvet Revolution.

Read and Listen:

  • Listen to Václav Havel addressing the European Commission
  • Visit Václav Havel’s official website