Iron and velvet

I was going to write a post about this, but you should read the article instead. It notes, as I did, the passing of two world leaders, within a day of each other, who were worlds apart. Kim Jung-il, ruler of the bleakest state on the planet, and Vaclav Havel, leader of a bright new world.

What the article didn't include, which I would have, are these quotes from Havel's speeches. The first three are from his New Year's Address to the Nation in 1990, not long after he led Czechoslovakia to post-communist democracy:

Our country, if that is what we want, can now permanently radiate love, understanding, the power of the spirit and of ideas. It is precisely this glow that we can offer as our specific contribution to international politics.

Let us teach ourselves and others that politics should be an expression of a desire to contribute to the happiness of the community rather than of a need to cheat or rape the community.

You may ask what kind of republic I dream of. Let me reply: I dream of a republic independent, free, and democratic, of a republic economically prosperous and yet socially just; in short, of a humane republic that serves the individual and that therefore holds the hope that the individual will serve it in turn. Of a republic of well-rounded people, because without such people it is impossible to solve any of our problems — human, economic, ecological, social, or political.

And this one from his speech accepting the Open Society Prize at the Central European University in 1999.

The only thing I can recommend at this stage is a sense of humor, an ability to see things in their ridiculous and absurd dimensions, to laugh at others and at ourselves, a sense of irony regarding everything that calls out for parody in this world. In other words, I can only recommend perspective and distance. Awareness of all the most dangerous kinds of vanity, both in others and in ourselves. A good mind. A modest certainty about the meaning of things. Gratitude for the gift of life and the courage to take responsibility for it. Vigilance of spirit.

If Kim Jung-un were to take his inspiration not from his own forebears but from someone like Havel, what a wonderful world that would be.