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S. 754 / H.R. 2029

Privacy and Control: CISA

CISA was reintroduced and passed -- secretly buried in a 2000 page budget bill.

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Solzhenitsyn, pt. 1

In 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, an expelled Russian Nobel winner, spoke at the Harvard Commencement. His message that the US is crumbling from its own moral weakness is even more relevant today.


by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Alexander solzhenitsin cc

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, photo by Mikhail Evstafiev, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Photos_by_Mikhail_Evstafiev

After just a couple of days of Loyal 9 being live, early Loyal 9 member Cheri J. contacted us with a lead. "You HAVE to include the 1978 Alexander Solzhenitsyn Harvard address among the great speeches and documents in the Library section. Very Prophetic."

We agree.
It's available now, all hour of it, as the latest Video of the Week in the L9 Library.

Instead of a structured essay in this space this time, we wanted to include some of our favorite excerpts from the first half of the speech. Usually known for his criticism of the Soviet system, Solzhenitsyn's accusations here are not kind to the West. But, he says, "truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit...I want to stress that it comes not from an adversary but from a friend."

from his speech . . .
A DECLINE IN COURAGE
A Decline in Courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?


[ON THE DANGER] OF WELL-BEING
When the modern Western States were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration). Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?

Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.


LEGALISTIC LIFE
Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes, based, I would say, on the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting and manipulating law, even though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames. An oil company is legally blameless when it purchases an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to buy it.

I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses. And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure.


Comments






Romm
UT
14 May 2013
at 09:12PM

Did you happen to watch Dr. Benjamin Carson's speech at the National Day of Prayer this past February? Great talk. Everyone should watch it.

Olivia
UT
15 May 2013
at 01:36PM

This last paragraph is gold; not too far off from MLK's own critique of a "cold" legal system with which he was all too familiar: "But, America, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific [and civic] progress. It appears to me that your moral progress lags behind your civic progress, your mentality outdistances your morality, and your civilization outshines your culture. How much of your modern life can be summarized in the words of your poet Thoreau: 'Improved means to an unimproved end.'"


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