Renouncing Humanity


Perhaps the greatest illusion that we, people of the democratic opposition, had laboured under was our conviction that we lived in societies comprising honest and noble people who had simply been silenced. We believed we were the voice of those who had been silenced and that is why our rebellion was fundamentally a moral one. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn told us “not to live the lie”. Leszek Kołakowski asked us to “live with dignity”. John Paul II exhorted us: “Don’t be afraid!” and he promised that “truth would set us free”. Václav Havel believed in the “power of the powerless”. For us, dissidents, this ethical motivation strengthened our morale but it also turned us into elitists. Being a dissident required being in open conflict with the dictatorship and everything it entailed: oppression, loss of opportunities, exclusion and often imprisonment. Yet our conviction that our voice was the voice of the enslaved nation was only part of the truth. In defending the historical truth and religious and civil liberties we articulated the collective consciousness. Yet our call for active resistence and for breaking the barriers of fear and apathy remained unheard. The ethical perfectionism of a Sakharov, a Havel or a Kuroń simply could not be shared by everyone, certainly not by the majority. The majority stayed silent and we assumed this was out of fear. Yet fear was not the only reason for the silence of the majority.

more from Adam Michnik at Salon) here.