I would like to thank Keith Burgess-Jackson for his post on Alexander Solzhenitsyn on Saturday, the 29th. It served up some good food for thought, and after watching the documentary Obama 2016 I think it worth some more elaboration.
I wonder how many of todays young people remember the name Alexander Solzhenitsyn, or his story. Let’s start with the fact he is the 1970 Nobel Laureate for Literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature". This was at a time of the cold war and the relationships between the Soviet Union and the West were at best strained.
Solzhenitsyn’s autobiography at www.nobelprize.org will give you a sense of the man, but certainly not the details of his multiple imprisonments, as a threat to the state, within the Soviet Union.
As long as I can remember it has been fashionable within the academic world to support the supposition that socialism is a better form of government, and the capitalists are out to oppress the average worker to exploit them for their labors. The unions climb on to this train, and the educated elite of the third world seems to buy into it as well, until of course, they rise to power and then the ideals of socialism give way to their own selfish exploitation.
But how does someone who has lived with a real socialist structure, in the form of communism, view that society. I think we have but to look to his 1978 speech at Harvard to sort through the issues. I would like to draw a couple of excerpts from it, but here is the link to the speech in its entirety. Alexander Solzhenitsyn at Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises, June 8, 1978
On Courage “The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society.”
Well Being “When the modern Western States were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration). Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades.” …“The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.”
Socialism “It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world a way to successful economic development, even though in the past years it has been strongly disturbed by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of not being up to the level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.I hope that no one present will suspect me of offering my personal criticism of the Western system to present socialism as an alternative. Having experienced applied socialism in a country where the alternative has been realized, I certainly will not speak for it. The well-known Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant book under the title Socialism; it is a profound analysis showing that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death. Shafarevich's book was published in France almost two years ago and so far no one has been found to refute it. It will shortly be published in English in the United States.”
If you consider these thoughts were first voiced over 34 years ago they are remarkable for their relevance to our society today. I recommend you read his talk in its entirety.