The world lost a true hero in December with the passing of Vaclav Havel, the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia, whose efforts on behalf of human freedom are legendary, richly deserving of the Nobel Prize, for either Peace or Literature or both. How ironic that his death coincided with that of his complete opposite, Kim Jong Il of North Korea, whom I trust will receive his just reward, but who, unfortunately, departed this life in bed.
As a colleague and soul mate of fellow dissident Natan Sharansky, Havel made a convincing case for preemptive intervention to liberate oppressed people and was an early supporter of U. S. intervention in Iraq, saying “The world could not be indifferent forever to a murderer like Saddam Hussein”. The key word for him was “indifference”, which he considered a major danger in the world, and in an inspiring 1978 essay he warned of “the attractions of mass indifference and the general unwillingness of consumption-oriented people to sacrifice some material certainties for the sake of their own spiritual and moral integrity”. For him, the trump for indifference was the truth, which he considered inherently a moral enterprise. He was an intellectual of the first order and, along with Pope John Paul II and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was hugely responsible for the intellectual leadership of the discrediting of the lies and the world’s indifference to them that ultimately undermined Soviet communism.