August 3, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: December 11, 1918 - August 3, 2008


"When all of the rest of the civilized world, as well as the Marxist world, was tossing God into the dustbin of history, Solzhenitsyn realized that only God really matters. He chided the West for embracing materialism and forgetting God, a lesson that is just as true today as thirty years ago." - Bruce Walker, "Death of a Giant"

A Titan. We shall not see his like again. In his incisive summing up, Bruce Walker at American Thinker correctly notes, " Alexander Solzhenitsyn is dead. It is a testament to the banality of our times that most people probably do not know what that means. Since the end of the Second World War there have been a very few truly great men. Out of those tiny few, fewer still have combined a great mind with a great soul."

The works of Solizhenitsyn are many, but the best of him is found, compressed, in a speech he gave at Harvard in June of 1978. To "great man" and "great soul" add "prophet."

"A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. 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. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
Should one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end? -- Solzhenitsyn's Harvard Address, 1978 [Which I commend to you in its entirety.]

Essential obituaries and pocket biographies @ ... Telegraph... AP... AFP... London Times... Irish Times... BBC... Guardian... NYT... Der Spiegel... 1978 Harvard speech... Putin & Gorbachev ... old Buckley column... Daily Mail... Guardian... Moscow Times... Time [ As per the invaluable Arts and Letters Daily ]

Posted by Vanderleun at August 3, 2008 6:10 PM
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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.

According to Jewish tradition, at any given time there are no less than 36 righteous men who sustain the world and keep it from imploding.

Either one was born today, or somebody just got promoted.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at August 3, 2008 6:49 PM

I'd never heard that before. Sobering, that the fate of so many rests in the hands of so few, but I suppose it was ever thus.

Posted by: Julie at August 3, 2008 7:25 PM

In fact on second thought, it sounds like one of those things that can't not be.

Posted by: Julie at August 3, 2008 7:27 PM

Thanks for linking. An amazing story.

Posted by: Mark Miller at August 4, 2008 8:18 AM

In the same Harvard speech, he talked about the state of the media - eerily true, just as he described it:

"The press too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word press to include all media). But
what sort of use does it make of this freedom?

Here again, the main concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no moral responsibility for
deformation or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist have to his readers, or to history? If
they have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we
know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same
newspaper? No, it does not happen, because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a
mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. One may safely assume that he will start writing the
opposite with renewed self-assurance.

Because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors
and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none of them will ever be rectified, they will stay on in the readers'
memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing
readers, without any verification. The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus we may
see terrorists heroized, or secret matters, pertaining to one's nation's defense, publicly revealed, or we may
witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "everyone is entitled to
know everything.""

Hey, MSM: if the shoe fits...

Posted by: newton at August 11, 2008 8:49 PM