IV. TECHNOLOGICAL AND SOCIETAL ORIENTATION: NORTHERN POLITY
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL GROUNDING: EUROPE LIVING IN TRUTH
Man pays to everything he encounters a triple interest, compounded of aesthetic, cognitive and affective moments. But man finds it advantageous sometimes to narrow and intensify his concern, and to push nearer to the core of the world by closing his perspectives. In doing so he creates works that are three dimensional, but that concentrate their mass at a point and drive in one chief direction. That is, he creates art, theory and technology.
As we journeyed from Africa, in the "South", to Asia, and Eastern Europe so the emphasis shifted from nature and community to culture and spirituality, albeit that we invariably gave some significant consideration to nature and culture, society and economy. As we now turn "North", to Europe as a whole, so our orientation changes again toward technology and society, albeit building on nature and culture. Moreover, while the prior Southern and Eastern grounding was in human, and more-than-human, community, as well as cultural evolution, respectively, now the emphasis shifts toward the grounding of the social and political system, including law and justice, albeit a system that builds on, or indeed grounds itself in, what has come naturally and culturally before.
Vaclav Havel, late and first president of what has become the Czech Republic, is unique in having been a politician, that is a head of state, who was also a playwright and a philosopher. Moreover, and in that capacity, he was also a noted dissident under the former communist regime. What follows is a distillation of his thinking, drawing from two of his (2,3) most important books, that is Living in Truth and Summer Meditations. What is perhaps integrally European in his approach is firstly his truth-seeking reaction to the "lies" of communism, and secondly his focus on nature and culture, alongside art, technology and society.
Living within the truth, for Havel, to begin with, becomes articulate in a particular way, at the point at which something is born that might be called the independent, spiritual, social and political life of society. This independent life is not separated from the rest of "inauthentic" life by some sharp dividing line. Both types frequently coexist in the same people. Nevertheless the most important attribute of "living with a lie" is marked by a relatively high degree of inner manipulation. It sails, for Havel, upon the vast ocean of manipulated life like a little lifeboat, tossed by the waves but always bobbing back as a
Iredell Jenkins, Art and the Human Enterprise (1)
A DISSIDENT EUROPEAN
visible messenger of living within the truth, appearing on the scene, and articulating the suppressed aims of life. Thus citizens' initiatives, dissident movements, or even oppositions, emerge like the proverbial tip of the iceberg from the independent life of society.
OPPOSING ALIENATING PRESSURE
Such living within the truth, for Havel therefore, is an elementary starting point for every attempt made by people to oppose the alienating pressure of the system. If, as such, it is the only meaningful basis of any independent act of political import, and if, ultimately, it is also the most intrinsically existential source of the dissident's attitude, then it is difficult to imagine that even manifest dissidence could have any other basis than the service of truth, the truthful life and the attempt to make room for the genuine aims of life.
ELEMENTS OF THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL SYSTEM
LOCUS OF RESPONSIBILITY
Historical experience teaches us, according to Havel, moreover, that any genuinely meaningful point of departure in an individual's life usually has an element of universality about it. In other words, it is not something partial, accessible only to a restricted community, and not transferable to any other. On the contrary, it must be potentially accessible to everyone; it must foreshadow a general solution and, thus, it is not just the expression of an introverted, self-contained responsibility to and for the world. In other words a parallel polis (opposition) points beyond itself and only makes sense as an act of deepening one's responsibility to and for the whole, as a way of discovering the most appropriate locus for this responsibility, not as an escape from it.
Some circles, meanwhile, try to integrate values or people from the parallel world into the official structures, to appropriate them, to become a little like them while trying to make them a little like themselves, and thus to adjust an obvious and untenable balance. They muddy what was originally a clear demarcation line between living with the truth and living with the lie. They cast a smokescreen over the situation, mystify society and make it difficult for people to keep their bearings. This of course does not alter the fact that it is always essentially good when it happens because it opens new spaces. But it does make it more difficult to distinguish between admissible and inadmissible compromises.
And another and higher phase of adaptation is a process of internal differentiation that takes place in the official structures. These structures open themselves to more or less institutionalized forms of plurality because the real aims of life demand it.
Above all, any existential revolution should provide hope of a moral reconstitution of society, which means a radical renewal of the relationship of human beings to what Havel calls the human order, which no rigid, bureaucratic political order can replace.
A new experience of being, a renewed rootedness in the universe, a newly grasped sense of higher responsibility, a new-found inner relationship to other people and to the human community, these factors clearly indicate the direction in which we must go. In other words, the issue is the rehabilitation of values like trust, openness, solidarity, love. Havel believes in structures that are not aimed at the technical aspect of the execution of power, but at the significance of that execution in structures held together more by a commonly shared feeling of the importance of certain communities than by commonly shared expansionist ambitions directed outward. They would be structures not in the sense of organizations or institutions, but like a community.
These structures, then, should naturally arise from below as a consequence of authentic self-organization; they should derive vital energy from a living dialogue with the genuine needs from which they arise, and when these needs are gone, the structures should also disappear. Both political and economic life should be founded on the varied and versatile co-operation of such dynamically appearing and disappearing organizations. As far as the economic life of society goes, Havel believes in self-management (see Chapter 12). The principles of control and discipline ought to be abandoned in favour of self-control and self-discipline.