Friday, June 4, 2010

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What concerns Havel more is the dizzying effect of globalization on society in ways that undermine democratic trends. These pressures push "national groups and minorities" toward tribalism, which can lead to terrorism. "We've always had war, but the warring sides have never had as much potential [for destruction]," he says. "Terrorists soon will have the possibility to steal a nuclear bomb."

Against this bleak trend, Havel still sees the possibility to expand democracy. He advises democracy seekers in authoritarian regimes such as China never to give up hope.

"You must never expect instant success. You mustn't allow yourself to be upset if people around you say 'why do you keep beating your head against the wall when you know the wall won't fall?'

"I tell them they shouldn't take that into account. You should do things because you consider them to be right and because your conscience tells you to do it. You never know how things will turn out..."

..."American society is extraordinarily pluralistic," which he sees as its main virtue, despite worries here that U.S. pluralism may be morphing into ugly factionalism.

"America's civil society can serve as an example not only to Czechs but to Europe as a whole," Havel insists. "I consider this very important because . . . it is one of the main guarantees against a slide into authoritarian rule."

Vaclav Havel in the Philadelphia Inquirer

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