The final Economist magazine of 2011 provokes complex responses for many, I’d think. Pages 27-29 offer a painstaking obituary of the former Czech President, Vaclav Havel (1936-2011). The following pages, 30-31, provide an analysis of the US presidential prospects of Republican Party candidates including Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, as they battle for the Iowa nomination.
The contrasts make for uncomfortable reading.
The Havel obituary is entitled ‘Living in Truth’, and reminds us that Havel sought with supreme courage, against the odds, to combat tyranny and exploitation by all – and only – peaceable means. When he eventually (and reluctantly) became President of then-Czechoslovakia he encouraged connections with other world citizens as disparate as Aung San Suu Kyi, Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama. Politically, Havel was perhaps at first naive, but his moral compass and personal example were of the very first order.
Consider, then, Havel’s companions in the 2011 year-end Economist. Not for them the reaching-out to those who seek in their different ways to change our moral worlds for the better. It’s doubtful that even the most fervent upholder of the extreme Right Republican movement (for it is their votes which Gingrich et all seek) would claim that the hustings are an exercise in peace and humility.
The Economist opines that President Havel was
… profoundly uneasy (rightly, in retrospect) with the shaky moral foundations of post-communist capitalism. The economic reformers understood markets, but not mankind: loose rules and weak institutions created a spivs’ paradise, with a malign and lasting legacy of corruption.
Not too different, perhaps, from the current situation in that great long-democratic nation, the United States of America, where the avowed objective of Republican potential presidential candidates (like their British political counterparts) is to minimise the role of the state in every way possible?
The economic reformers understood markets, but not mankind.