Vaclav Havel

23 Dec

I don’t feel qualified to offer an obituary for Vaclav Havel.

All I want to do is say that he was a damn’ good man and we need more like him.

I first came across Vaclav Havel when I came across a documentary about him back when he was a dissident and a playwright. He had just been released from doing a spot of jail time for the heinous crime of making fun of the bunch of despotic clowns who happened to be in power at the time.

I can’t claim to be an expert on his work as a writer, but what I’ve seen of his plays tells me that he had a really lovely sense of the ridiculous. In a way, he seemed to be following in the tradition of Aristophanes ie making serious points by making fun of people, but without any sense of malice.

I was delighted to hear that he had been elected president. It was a clear sign that the Czech people had not only got it right when it came to their revolution (ie kick the bastards out, but don’t kill anyone) but that they were also getting it right when it came to creating a new state for themselves after the revolution. (This is where most revolutions go wrong. Overthrowing a despotic government is hard work, but keeping the revolution in the hands of civilised people as opposed to having it confiscated by murderous scumbags is the real trick).

I think my faith in Vaclav Havel, and the Velvet Revolution in general, was confirmed by what has become known as the Velvet Divorce. I gather that Vaclav Havel wasn’t in favour of Slovakian independence, but there’s no doubt that he played his part in ensuring that the process was managed peacefully and with a minimum of friction. (As a matter of fact the whole business barely raised a ripple in the news media at the time, a sure sign of things going well).

The fact that he  appointed Frank Zappa as a good will ambassador (a move bitterly, if discreetly, opposed by the US administration due to some of Zappa’s choice, and richly deserved, comments about J. Danforth Quayle, who was Vice President at the time) is just icing on the cake for me.

So that was Vaclav Havel. Not a saint, maybe. He always came across as a fallible human being, not some manufactured political icon with a polished media image. He didn’t conform to the standard Hollywood model of heroism. ie he did not go running around in a sweaty vest shooting ‘the bad guys’. He was a witty, articulate man who had the courage to put himself in harm’s way in the name of human rights and, so far as I know, he never harmed anyone (Other than deflating a few egos.

 He was the kind of hero we need.


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