Vaclav Havel

December 19, 2011 by staff 

Vaclav HavelVaclav Havel, Jeremy Kinsman retired from the Canadian Foreign Service in 2006 after 40 years during which he was posted to the UN, Washington and much of Europe. He was Canada’s ambassador to Moscow in 1992 and followed this up as our lead representative in Rome, London and at the European Union in Brussels. Apart from writing regularly for, he is a lead writer on foreign affairs for Policy Options magazine, a distinguished visiting diplomat at Ryerson University in Toronto and resident international scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. He directs an international democracy program for the Community of Democracies.
We are all hugely diminished today by the passing of a man, small of height but towering in moral stature and courage over those he called the “professional rulers.”

Vaclav Havel was a playwright and essayist who found himself unable to live in accommodation with totalitarian, police state and, indeed, foreign occupation of his proud country.

He became his people’s beacon of freedom, an inspirer and organizer of resistance to the “anonymous, impersonal and inhuman power” – the “dictatorship of a political bureaucracy” – that tried to smother his voice and kept him either locked up or under complete and constant surveillance.

They didn’t succeed.

Through his writing and example, and through his creation of the dissident movement Charter 77, he conveyed the imperative “that the truth had to be spoken loudly and collectively, regardless of the certainty of sanctions and the uncertainty of any tangible results in the immediate future.” \

Vaclav Havel, in 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the beginnings of today’s Czech Republic. (Reuters)
His diagnosis of the “profound crisis of human identity brought on by living within a lie,” which referred to the autocracy of Soviet rule, stands gigantically as valid today in so much of the world.

As he wrote to the 1989 PEN Congress in Montreal, which Czech authorities barred him from attending in person, freedom is indivisible.

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