We Are All Co-Creators

Allow me a little personal observation. When I flew recently to Bratislava, I found time during various discussions to look out of the plane window. I saw the industrial complex of Slovnaft chemical factory and the giant Petrzalka housing estate right behind it. The view was enough for me to understand that for decades our statesmen and political leaders did not look or did not want to look out of the windows of their airplanes. No study of statistics available to me would enable me to understand faster and better the situation into which we had gotten ourselves.

But all this is still not the main problem. The worst thing is we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore each other, to care only for ourselves, Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility, or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions, and for many of us they represented only psychological peculiarities, or they resembled gone-astray greetings from ancient times, a little ridiculous in the era of computers and spaceships. Only a few of us were able to cry out loud that the powers that be should not be all powerful, and that special farms, which produce ecologically pure and top-quality food just for them, shuld send their produce to schools, children’s homes, and hospitals if our agriculture was unable to offer them to all. The previous regime, – armed its arrogant and intolerable ideology, – reduced man to a force of production and nature to a tool of production. In this it attacked both their very substance and their relatiuoinship, It reduced gifted and anonymous people, skillfully working in their own country, to nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy, and stinking machine, whose real meaning is not clear to anyone. It cannot do more than slowly but inexorably wear down itself and all its nuts and bolts.

When I talk about contaminated moral atmosphere, I am not talking about the gentlemen who eat organic vegetables and do not look out of the plane windows. I am talking about all of us. We had all become used to the totalitarian system and accepted it as an unchangeable fact and thus helped to perpetuate it. In other words, we are all, – though naturally to differing extents, – responsible for the operation of the totalitarian machinery. None of us is just its victim. We are all also co-creators.

Vaclav Havel’s first major public address as President of Czechoslovakia on January 1,1990
from Open Letters
Selected Prose
Vaclav Havel

Open Letters