2019 May 5, 10:15pm
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Under the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, there was an omnipresent pressure exerted by the political apparatus on culture. Various methods were utilized to pressure citizens into compliance.
Within the system, every individual is trapped within a dense network of the state's governing instruments...themselves legitimated by a flexible but comprehensive ideology, a 'secularized religion'...it is therefore necessary to see, argued Havel, that power relations...are best described as a labyrinth of influence, repression, fear and self-censorship which swallows up everyone within it, at the very least by rendering them silent, stultified and marked by some undesirable prejudices of the powerful...
Havel uses the example of a greengrocer who displays in his shop the sign Workers of the world, unite!. Since failure to display the sign could be seen as disloyalty, he displays it and the sign becomes not a symbol of his enthusiasm for the regime, but a symbol of both his submission to it and humiliation by it. ... An individual living within such a system must live a lie, to hide that which he truly believes and desires, and to do that which he must do to be left in peace and to survive.
Individuals at each level within the bureaucracy must display their own equivalent of the grocer's Workers of the world, unite! sign, oppressing those below them and in turn oppressed by those above. Against this public lie is contrasted a life lived in truth, a title suggested by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and his essay Live Not By Lies. Havel argued that the restoration of a free society could only be achieved through a paradigm based on the individual, "human existence," and a fundamental reconstitution of one's "respect for self, for others and for the universe"; to refuse to give power to empty slogans and meaningless rituals, to refuse to allow the lie to oppress oneself, and to refuse to be part of the lie that oppresses others.
Official power is further eroded by the ideological rituals that the entire power structure depend on, and "that are ever less credible, exactly because they are untested by public discussion and controversy".