August 7, 2008

Live Not By Lies: A Pledge for the Present Moment


In the past week or so there's been a resurgence in the discussion of how one conducts one's political life when one holds conservative beliefs while living deep within rabid liberal enclaves, enclaves that can punish one's livelihood, social life and even children, when a free American citizen freely expresses their political beliefs.

(See neo-neocon -- A plea to the closet Republicans of Marin: come out, come out, wherever you are See... Bookworm Room - Marin County's hidden conservatives ... See GayPatriot - More Narrow-minded Prejudice against Gay Republicans See ... Hollywood Takes on the Left See... lookingforlissa: A mindset is a difficult thing to change - but not for the reasons you think) These are just a smattering of contemporary examples.

Take heart then from this unwavering declaration of a man who lived deeper inside the totalitarian mindset and society than could possibly be imagined in America today. After all, it can't happen here. Can it?

Live Not By Lies

by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

As printed in The Washington Post, p. A26 Monday, February 18, 1974.

So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood -- of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one's family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies -- or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one's children and contemporaries.
And from that day onward he:
  • Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.
  • Will not utter such a phrase neither in private conversation nor in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf nor at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, nor in a theatrical role.
  • Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.
  • Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.
  • Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand nor raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.
  • Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.
  • Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question.
  • Will immediately speak out at a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.
  • Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

.... No, it will not be the same for everybody at first. Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice.

But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude.

And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul- don't let him be proud of his "progressive'" views, and don't let him boast that he is an academician or a people's artist, a merited figure, or a general -- let him say to himself: "I am in the herd, and a coward. It's all the same to me as long as I'm fed and warm."

The Washington Post first printed this essay by Alexander Solzhenitsyn on Feb. 18, 1974. Solzhenitsyn's original was dated Feb. 12, the day he was arrested by secret police.

Posted by Vanderleun at August 7, 2008 10:37 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Quite a challenge to live that way, and most certainly not for the faint of heart nor the weak of will. But he who succeeds can, at the end, look back and take comfort from the fact that in living for something more than transitory needs and self-interest, he has managed to transcend mere animal nature and become fully Human. And that is no small achievement.

Thanks for posting this, Gerard

Posted by: Julie at August 7, 2008 12:55 PM