Monday, February 26, 2018

"'What's wrong with the workers of the world uniting?'"

Václav Havel Library
     "The greengrocer had to put the slogan in his window, therefore, not in the hope that someone might read it or be persuaded by it, but to contribute, along with thousands of other slogans, to the panorama that everyone is very much aware of.  This panorama, of course, has a subliminal meaning as well:  it reminds people where they are living and what is expected  of them.  It tells them what everyone else is doing, and indicates to them what they must do as well, if they don't want to be excluded, to fall into isolation, alienate themselves from society, break the rules of the game, and risk the loss of their peace and tranquility and security."

     Václav Havel, "The power of the powerless" (October 1978) VI, trans. P. Wilson, in Living in truth:  twenty-two essays published on the occasion of the award of the Erasmus Prize to Václav Havel, ed. Jan Vladislav (London:  Faber and Faber, 1987), 51 (36-122).  The headline comes from p. 42 in sec. III.
The primary excusatory function of ideology . . . is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe [(sec. III, p. 43)].

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