Christopher Hitchens & Vaclav Havel

Both have died in the last week or so. They don’t seem to have met. At least I can’t find anything about them meeting anywhere anytime.

They were both heavy smokers & they both died of cancer.

Hitchens was good looking & talked with a super posh accent. He carried on a vendetta against Bill Clinton because after Hitchens had said that he had been at Oxford University at the same time as Clinton, Clinton said that he didn’t remember him & Hitchens from then on carried out a vendetta against Clinton. As with most left wing intellectuals he was a paradoxical figure. He seemed to support wars in the belief that that was the best way to right wrongs. He doesn’t seem to have modified his views in the light of events. He supported Bush against John Kerry. I don’t know why. As a member of the Socialist Workers party (did he ever do any non journalistic work I wonder) he presumably called himself a Marxist. I don’t seem to remember him ever espousing particularly Marxist views. It seems that he liked frequenting really nice restaurants – or at least expensive. Nothing wrong with that I suppose. As well advocating wars as the solution to problems, he poured scorn on Mother Teresa. He thought she did more harm than good. The same could be said of him

Havel was something of a hippie. A film was made of his life as President. It was called Obcan Havel which translates as Citizen Havel. The amount of footage was more than 100 hours, cut down to 90 minutes.  A really interesting film; Havel’s humanity & sincerity shone through. It seemed like his band of benevolent friends had come to town to rule the country. They dressed in jeans & sweaters & turned up at the presidential palace. I remember somebody saying at the time that Vaclav Havel would have to give up writing for a year or 2. He represented the conscience of Czechoslovakia   After independence from the Soviet bloc & the breaking up of his country Czechoslovakia he guided the country through the early stages of what could be called non-socialism. To Vaclav Havel, ethics & morals in politics were all important. He was first known in the West as a dissident playwright & his plays were performed a lot mostly at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond. All of them were about oppression & false values in Czechoslovakia.  He was frequently in Czech jails.  1968, the year of the so-called Prague Spring, was the year of revolt & revolution all over Europe; in August the Red Army & other Warsaw Pact armies invaded Czechoslovakia claiming to have been invited in. But Czech intellectuals were never fully silenced. There was always an underground Czech intellectual movement & Havel was very much part of this. After 1968 came Charter 77 & eventually in 1990 the Velvet Revolution which Gorbachev ceding the whole East & Central Soviet empire.

Vaclav Havel was just such a decent man. A true humanitarian who cared about people on an individual basis as well the general principles of humanity he espoused. These principles are much needed today in 2011

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