Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1978 Harvard Address abridged

Here is a link to  Solzhenitsyn Harvard Address, A World Split Apart. I shortened it, which is very hard to do because it is a great speech. It had a bigger impact on me at the time, as a teenager trying to figure things out, than Star Wars. I never expected western civilization to make it to the twenty first century! I recommend listening and reading the full speech. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died on August 3 2008.

 

The truth is that the split [in our World Split Apart]  is a much [more] profound [one] and a more alienating one, that the rifts are more than one can see at first glance (the cold war). This deep manifold split bears the danger of manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a kingdom — in this case, our Earth — divided against itself cannot stand.

The WORLD split involves more pieces than Russia and the USA

There is the concept of Third World: thus, we already have three worlds. Undoubtedly, however, the number is even greater; we are just too far away to see. … As a minimum, we must include in this category China, India, the Muslim world, and Africa, if indeed we accept the approximation of viewing the latter two as compact units.

There is this belief (a misguided idea) that all those other worlds [non-western ie Muslim world, Russia, Japan] are only being temporarily prevented (by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity and incomprehension) from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction.

 It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not at all developing into similarity. Neither one can be transformed into the other without the use of violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side’s defects, too, and this is hardly desirable.

Problems with the Western World:

1 Lack of Courage:

But they (western intellectuals) 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 declining courage has been considered the beginning of the end?

2 Well-Being (we are getting lazy because we have it so good)

3 Legalistic Life (we assume if its legal it must be moral – bad assumption)

4 The direction of Freedom toward evil:

 for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror.

Strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still is criminality and there even is considerably more of it than in the pauper and lawless Soviet society.

5 Misinformation by the Press (all media)

How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification. The press — The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus, we may see terrorists described as heroes, 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.” But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era. People also have the right not to know and it’s a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls [stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk.]

In the communist East a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has granted Western journalists their power, for how long a time, and with what prerogatives?

I wonder what he thinks of blogs…

6 Only Fashionable thinking is allowed.

…nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges.

7 Socialism

The well-known Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant book under the title Socialism; it is a profound analysis showing that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death.

8 The USA is Not a Model

Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive.

After the suffering of many years of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their offensive; you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

9 Shortsightedness

However, the most cruel mistake occurred with the failure to understand the Vietnam war. Some people sincerely wanted all wars to stop just as soon as possible; others believed that there should be room for national, or communist, self-determination in Vietnam, or in Cambodia, as we see today with particular clarity. But members of the U.S. anti-war movement wound up being involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide and in the suffering today imposed on 30 million people there. Do those convinced pacifists hear the moans coming from there? Do they understand their responsibility today? Or do they prefer not to hear?

 a hundredfold Vietnam now looms over you.

 

But if a full-fledged America suffered a real defeat from a small communist half-country, how can the West hope to stand firm in the future?

In this case the shield would be China. But I would not wish such an outcome to any country in the world. First of all, it is again a doomed alliance with Evil; also, it would grant the United States a respite, but when at a later date China with its billion people would turn around armed with American weapons, America itself would fall prey to a genocide similar to the in Cambodia in our days.

10 Loss of Willpower

Western thinking has become conservative: the world situation should stay as it is at any cost; there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development.

one must be blind in order not to see that oceans no longer belong to the West, while land under its domination keeps shrinking.

The two so-called world wars (they were by far not on a world scale, not yet)

The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE FALL OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION IS HUMANISM

How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness?

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries… It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

Then, however, we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal.

It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs.

man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer.

All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the 20th century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the 19th Century.

Humanism and Socialism – an unexpected kinship

Karl Marx was able to say that “communism is naturalized humanism.”

Not by coincidence all of communism’s meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with a capital M, and his earthly happiness.

Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism; radicalism had to surrender to socialism; and socialism could never resist communism.

In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. But Western intellectuals still look at it with interest and with empathy.

Humanism in the West

As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.

We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.

In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests suffocate it. This is the real crisis.

The split in the world is less terrible [then the end of our spiritual life] – The split in the world [the cold war] is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

TWO POSSIBLE OUTCOMES – The end of the world or spiritual awakening

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.

 

 

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